Contact Us
Mental Health
Financial advice
Youth Matters
Techno Corner

Malti Patel

Q. How do I apply for Medicare?

A. Most people qualify for Medicare when they turn 65. You qualify for it if you're eligible for Social Security or Railroad Retirement benefits. Or you may qualify on a spouse's (including divorced spouse's) record. Others qualify because they are government employees not covered by Social Security who paid the Medicare part of the Social Security tax.

In addition, if you've been getting Social Security disability benefits for 24 months or get Social Security disability benefits and have amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig's disease), you'll qualify for Medicare. You also may qualify if you have permanent kidney failure and receive maintenance dialysis or a kidney transplant.

If you are already getting Social Security benefits, you'll automatically be enrolled in Medicare Parts A and B. However, because you must pay a premium for Part B coverage, you have the option of turning it down. You will be contacted by mail a few months before you become eligible and given all the information you need.

If you are not already getting benefits when you turn 65, you should call or visit a Social Security office three months prior to your birthday you should sign up for Medicare. You should do this even if you plan to continue working or do not think you have enough work credit under Social Security because Medicare enrollment period rules are strict and there is penalty clause for not applying/informing Medicare.

Q. What are the differences between Medicare Parts A, B, C and D?

A. There are four parts to Medicare: Medicare Part A, Hospital Insurance; Medicare Part B, Medical Insurance; Medicare Part C (Medicare Advantage), which was formerly known as "Medicare + Choice" and the new Medicare Part D, prescription drug coverage. Generally, people who are over age 65 and getting Social Security automatically qualify for Medicare Parts A and B. So do people who have been getting disability benefits for two years, people who have amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig's disease) and receive disability benefits, and people who have permanent kidney failure and receive maintenance dialysis or a kidney transplant.

Part A is paid for by a portion of Social Security tax. It helps pay for inpatient hospital care, skilled nursing care, hospice care and other services.

Part B is paid for by the monthly premiums of people enrolled and by general funds from the U.S. Treasury. It helps pay for doctors' fees, outpatient hospital visits, and other medical services and supplies that are not covered by Part A.

Part C (Medicare Advantage) plans allow you to choose to receive all of your health care services through a provider organization. These plans may help lower your costs of receiving medical services, or you may get extra benefits for an additional monthly fee. You must have both Parts A and B to enroll in Part C.

Part D (prescription drug coverage) is voluntary and the costs are paid for by the monthly premiums of enrollees and Medicare. Unlike Part B in which you are automatically enrolled and must opt out if you do not want it, with Part D you have to opt in by filling out a form and enrolling in an approved plan.

Q. How do I apply for Medicaid?

A. Medicaid is a medical assistance program that is partially funded by the federal government but run by each state. Medicaid pays for basic medical care for people and families with low incomes and resources.

People who are blind or disabled, age 65 or older, children, or members of families with dependent children may be eligible. Using broad federal guidelines, each state runs its own Medicaid program. The state decides who is eligible and the amount of medical care and services it will cover.

Q. How and where can I apply for the extra help for the prescription drug program?

A. You have several options for applying. You can:

" Apply online.

" Complete the application mailed to you by Medicare and return it in the postage-paid envelope.

" Call 1-800-772-1213 if you did not receive an application and think you may be eligible. They will mail you a form or help you on the phone to complete the application.

" Look for information about Social Security events or meetings in your local community that will discuss the prescription drug program, and attend one of them.

" Visit your local Social Security office

These questions and answers are courtesy of Malti Patel, 1607 Wood Creek Lane, Allen, Texas-75002. Patel recently published a book "Lifting the Mists: A simple guide to a complex welfare system for elderly immigrants and their families." Contact Patel at to order the book.

Contact Information
The Editor:
Send mail to with questions or comments about this web site. Copyright © 2004 Khaas Baat.

Anything that appears in Khaas Baat cannot be reproduced, whether wholly or in part, without permission. Opinions expressed by Khaas Baat contributors are their own and do not reflect the publisher's opinion.

Khaas Baat reserves the right to edit and/or reject any advertising. Khaas Baat is not responsible for errors in advertising or for the validity of any claims made by its advertisers. Khaas Baat is published by Khaas Baat Communications.