Hundreds of thousands of people are adopting America as their new home every year. In the past ten years, more than seven million immigrants have become naturalized citizens in the United States. The average number of people who became naturalized each year from 2001 to 2016 is 682,752.
Medicare is unlike any other healthcare system they are used to. Therefore, educating them about their potential new health insurance is a must.
What is Medicare?
Medicare is the federally regulated health insurance program for Americans who are either 65+ years old or disabled. An American citizen can obtain Medicare coverage once they age into it or once they have been receiving Social Security disability benefits for at least two years.
There are two original parts of Medicare, Part A and Part B. Medicare Part A is your hospital stay coverage, while Medicare Part B is your outpatient doctor service coverage.
If you have lived in the United States for at least ten years, and have been paying Medicare taxes the entire time, you can earn premium-free Part A just like an American born citizen. However, if you (or as spouse) haven’t paid into the system for at least ten years, then you will owe a monthly premium for Part A.
As of 2019, your Part A monthly premium will either be $437 or $240, depending on how long you’ve been paying into Medicare.
Unlike its counterpart, Part B’s premium isn’t paid for through Medicare taxes. Instead, you have to buy Part B and pay for it each month, regardless of your work experience. In 2019, most people pay $135.50 per month for Medicare Part B.
Additional Parts of Medicare
Other parts of Medicare include Medicare Part C, Part D, and Medigap plans. Part C is also known as Medicare Advantage; a type of Medicare plan to help lower your out-of-pocket costs. Part D is your retail prescription drug coverage through Medicare. Medigap plans are another type of plan to help lower your out-of-pocket costs with Medicare.
All three of these are technically optional. However, you can be billed a late penalty if you don’t enroll in a Part D plan when you’re first eligible. Your penalty is based on how long you waited to enroll in Part D, starting from the time you became Medicare eligible.
Each one of these parts of Medicare has an additional premium that you pay per month on top of your Part A and Part B premiums. Premiums for these plans and parts depends on factors such as age, location, plan, carrier, and more.
When and How You Can Get Medicare as a New Citizen
Once you have finalized your naturalization and are officially an American citizen, you can get Medicare as soon as you meet one of the qualifications mentioned above. You will have a seven-month enrollment period to enroll.
The period will start on the first of the month, that is three months before your 65th birthday. Your enrollment period will end on the last day of the month, that is three months after your birthday. For instance, if your birthday in June 23rd, your enrollment period will begin March 1st and will end September 30th.
To apply online for Part A and/or Part B, you can go to ssa.gov. You can also apply in person at your local Social Security office. To apply for the other parts mentioned, you will need to apply through the carrier themselves or a broker such as Boomer Benefits who represents them. You will not enroll in these types of plans through Medicare.
If You Can’t Afford Medicare
Because Medicare Part A can be expensive if you haven’t worked in the United States for very long, you may decide to delay enrolling in Medicare until you can afford it. This is fine to do if you have creditable coverage.
To obtain creditable coverage, you must actively work for an employer who has at least twenty employees, and you must be enrolled in their group health plan. This not only helps you save up a little longer for Medicare but also allows you to pay into Medicare taxes a bit longer so you can try to lower your Part A premium.
If you have any questions about enrolling in Medicare as a new U.S. citizen, call your local Social Security office.