UNITED STATES—Hello Toni: You have been referred to me as a resource that can answer questions I have about Medicare.  I am turning 65 in January and have not discovered what I need to do to begin Medicare since I am still working?

If I retire soon, do I stay on COBRA or enroll in Medicare plans? What if I get another job? Friends and co-workers tell me one thing about Medicare, but the massive amount of telemarketing calls I am receiving are telling me something else.

I am baffled at where I should begin. I am sure there are others in Medicare land, who also need answers to these worrisome, yet semi-simple Medicare questions. Thanks, Terry, Bellaire, TX.

Terry: Our motto at the Toni Says office is that “your Medicare needs are not the same as your friends,” so discussing your Medicare wants and needs with those who do not know Medicare’s specific rules, can confuse you and may give you wrong information that can affect your Medicare in the wrong way.

Below are a few Medicare questions you asked about and which we typically discuss during a Toni Says® Medicare consultation:

1)       Is the Medicare enrollment process automatic?

Answer: Medicare enrollment is automatic only if you have already claimed your Social Security benefits by the time you turn 65. When not receiving your Social Security check, you will not receive your Medicare card and will need to apply online if you are not working full-time with employer benefits or covered under your spouse’s employer benefits.

Failing to sign up at the right time is costly especially after 65 and leaving employer benefits. Read question 3 of this article when leaving employer health benefits past 65 and need to enroll in Medicare Part A and B properly. You will want to file CMS-L564 with Social Security and an application for Medicare Part B.

2)       Should I enroll in Medicare even if I am offered COBRA health insurance when I leave my job?

Answer: Yes. Enroll in Medicare. Although you might need COBRA to cover a spouse or dependent child, Medicare should be your primary insurance coverage once you are 65 or older and not “working full-time” with company benefits. You will want to enroll in Medicare Parts A and B. Explore which option is best for your Medicare situation either a Medicare Supplement that works with “Original Medicare” and a stand-alone Medicare Part D plan or a Medicare Advantage plan with Part D coverage.

In today’s health insurance world, many COBRA health plans will allow the COBRA retiree who has Medicare Parts A and B to opt out of the COBRA plan, while the family remains on COBRA.

3)       What if I become unemployed or retire, enroll in Medicare, and then go back into a full-time job?

Answer: If your new employer provides health insurance, you can disenroll from Medicare Part B by contacting Social Security (1-800-772-1213) and request the form to delay your Medicare Part B because you now have medical benefits provided by you or your spouse’s current employer.

You can re-enroll in Medicare Part B when you finally retire without paying late enrollment penalties by having your employer sign and file CMS-L564 “Request for Employment Information” form with Social Security.

For a Medicare Checkup, call the Toni Says® Medicare call center at 832-519-8664 or email info@tonisays.com regarding your Medicare plans and options.

Toni King, author of the Medicare Survival Guide® is giving a $5 discount on the  Medicare Survival Guide® Advanced book and now the brand new Toni Says® Medicare recorded webinars on various Medicare topics are available with a bundle discount at www.tonisays.com.