"A lot of people retire this time of year. Summer's coming up, the weather is getting a little bit warmer. People are wondering – what should we do in retirement?" said Michael Reeves, assistant director of Medicare sales at Regence.
When it comes to preparing ahead and avoiding unnecessary penalties, there are certain essential timeframes to keep in mind.
"Most people think of it as 'I'm turning 65, I've got to get Medicare,' but if you're planning on working past 65, you don't necessarily have to sign up for Medicare right away," Reeves explained.
For a variety of factors, more Americans are retiring later. It could be a social security strategy, the requirement for workplace insurance for a family member, or they simply need to work to save money.
"It's okay to let Medicare wait for you," Reeves explained.
What should you do to avoid those annoying fines if you don't sure if waiting is the best option for you?
First, start thinking about health insurance long before you are 65. Reeves recommends starting planning for retirement about a year before that, when you turn 64, whether you want to retire at 65 or not. That way, when the time comes to enroll or take action to avoid penalties, you'll be ready.
"When you turn 65, you have seven months to enroll in Medicare." "That includes the month of your birthday, three months before it, and three months after it," he explained. "You can enroll at any time, and there will be no penalties."
However, if you have "credible coverage," which most frequently means coverage through your work, you can avoid the full timetable. However, there are some further actions that must be taken to ensure that the penalties are waived. Check with your employer because you'll most likely require them to fill out a document to assure a Special Enrollment period during which you can join up without penalty.
If you're self-insured and getting your insurance through an individual exchange or the state, Reeves recommends sticking to the standard seven-month timetable.
Other factors to consider when developing a Medicare and retirement plan include:
Consider your service providers: are they part of the network?
Prescription medicines are an expensive monthly expense, and plans vary in price.
What are your plans for your retirement?
"Are you someone who wants to stay at home and in your neighborhood?" Or do you want to travel? To leave? Whether you're traveling across the countryside, taking a cruise, or traveling onboard, make sure you choose a health plan that meets your needs," Reeves advised.
Consider your health savings account, or HSA. To avoid a tax penalty, you and your employer should stop contributing to it six months before you retire.
"I tell them to wait: if you have a good HSA, let's keep contributing, work towards that, and build it up nice and let it come with you in Medicare when the time is right for you," Reeves said.
At the conclusion of the day, Reeves stressed the importance of being prepared and having a plan. That's when local agents and resources come in handy.
"It may not always be the best idea to seek advice from a neighbor, because their situation may not be the same as yours," he explained. "So, make sure you're calling a local resource, the experts."
For additional information, go to medicare.gov.