Seniors can sign up for Medicare benefits online beginning today. The new application is for retirees who wish to claim their Medicare benefits before signing up for Social Security.
Before today, the half a million Americans who enroll in Medicare each year without applying for Social Security benefits had to travel to a Social Security field office to claim their due. “Most people do not want the aggravation of calling the 800 number, making an appointment, driving to a field office, and then sitting and waiting,” says Michael Astrue, commissioner of Social Security. He estimates that it will take most seniors just 10 minutes to fill out the new application.
Online applications help the Social Security Administration to process claims faster and reduce wait times in field offices. “We save about 15 minutes per application,” says Astrue. “It allows us to spend less time on automatic, more clerical things and spend more time on the more difficult conversations we do need to have with some people.”
The new application is primarily for seniors who plan to delay claiming Social Security benefits past age 65. While retirees may claim Social Security benefits beginning at age 62, seniors get bigger monthly checks for each year of delay between ages 62 and 70. For example, a senior eligible for $750 monthly for the rest of his or her life at age 62 would get $1,000 each month by waiting until age 66 and $1,320 checks by further delaying the start date until age 70. There is no added benefit to waiting past age 70 to sign up.
However, it is best not to delay signing up for Medicare. Seniors can claim Medicare benefits during a seven-month period that begins three months before age 65. Sign up right away to avoid a Medicare Part B premium increase of 10 percent for each 12-month period of delayed enrollment. Seniors who continue to work and receive health insurance through their job must enroll within eight months of retiring to avoid the premium increase.
To promote the new Medicare online application, the cast of the 1960’s sitcom The Patty Duke Show reunited to film a public service announcement. In the new commercial Patty Lane (Patty Duke) and her old boyfriend, Richard (Eddie Applegate), are now married and he applies for Medicare online. Patty’s father (William Schallert), brother (Paul O'Keefe), and cousin Cathy (Patty Duke) discuss the application around the dinner table. Check it out below.
Online Social Security applications have soared since Duke, who was not paid for her endorsement, began appearing in advertisements for the Social Security Administration in January 2009. The scripts were written by existing SSA employees and no television time will be purchased to run the ads. Says Astrue: “It is a high quality but low budget effort.”