Beyond Annuities: Making Sense of Medicare

From MassMutual Ascend Life Insurance Company

At MassMutual Ascend, we don't just offer products to help you reach your retirement goals. We're going above and beyond annuities to provide you with the tools and resources you need to make informed decisions as you plan ahead. If you're like most pre-retirees, enrolling in Medicare is in your near future - and it's not always as simple as enrolling at age 65.

Medicare: The Basics

In the simplest terms, Medicare is health insurance for people 65 or older. There are four parts of Medicare that can help meet your individual needs for health insurance in retirement.

Run by Federal Government

Part A: Hospital Insurance

Medicare Part A helps pay for inpatient care at hospitals, skilled nursing facilities and hospice. It also covers some outpatient home health care. Part A is free if you've worked and paid Medicare taxes for at least 10 years. You may also be eligible because of your current or former spouse's work.

Part B: Medical Insurance

Medicare Part B helps cover services from doctors and other health care professionals, outpatient care, home health care, durable medical equipment and some preventative services. Most people pay a monthly premium for Part B, which is depended on your income level.

Run by Private Companies, approved by Federal Government

Part C: Medicare Advantage

Medicare Part C is an alternative to Parts A and B. It combines several coverage types, including Parts A, B and oftentimes D. It may also include coverage for things like vision, hearing and dental. It's important to note that you must sign up for Part A or Part B before enrolling in a Medicare Advantage plan.

Part D: Prescription Drug Coverage

Medicare Part D helps cover prescription drug costs. Like Part C, you must sign up for Part A or Part B before enrolling in Part D.

Helpful tip: You can review and sign up for all Parts at

Medicare Enrollment

Medicare is surprisingly personal, and everyone's path is unique. Some people get Medicare automatically, while others have to proactively sign up - it depends on when you start collecting benefits from Social Security.

Before Age 65

If you apply for retirement benefits from Social Security (or the Railroad Retirement Board) at least four months before you turn 65, you'll automatically get Medicare Parts A and B when you turn 65.

After Age 65

If you wait until after you turn 65, you'll have to contact Social Security to sign up for Medicare.

Enrollment Periods

Most people sign up for Part A (Hospital Insurance) and Part B (Medical Insurance) when they're first eligible at age 65 to avoid gaps in coverage and late enrollment penalties. But depending on your employment and if you have health insurance through your employer, it may make sense to wait to sign up for Medicare. Ther are three main enrollment periods.

Initial Enrollment Period: When you're turning 65

You're first eligible to sign up for Medicare Parts A and B starting three months before you turn 65, and ending three months after the month in which you turn 65. If you don't have health insurance through your employer, spouse's employer, or other source, it's important to sign up during this period to avoid gaps in coverage and late enrollment penalties. 

Special Enrollment Period: After age 65 with employer group health plan

If you or your spouse have health insurance through an employer, you can sign up with no penalties during the following time periods:

  • While working and still covered by the group health plan
  • Within eight months of the day you or your spouse stop working, even if the group plan continues
  • Within eight months of the group plan ending while you or your spouse continue working

General Enrollment Period

If you still have not enrolled after the eight-month Special Enrollment Period, you've entered the General Enrollment Period, during which you can still enroll between January 1st and March 31st each year - but will likely incur late enrollment penalties. 

Other Factors and Scenarios to Consider

There are several additional factors that can impact your Medicare eligibility, one of which is your physical health. For example, you may be eligible for Medicare at an earlier age if you have a disability or certain terminal illness. Here are some scenarios to consider.

If you...

  • Are under 65 and are receiving disability benefits from Social Security, you'll automatically get Medicare after receiving disability benefits for 24 months, or when you turn 65 - whichever comes first.
  • Have End-Stage Renal Disease (ESRD), you're eligible for Medicare regardless of your age.1
  • Have ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease), you'll automatically get Medicare the same month that you start receiving Social Security disability benefits, which you can apply for at

1Medicare eligibility subject to the following terms: your kidneys no longer work, you need regular dialysis or have a kidney transplant, and if you 1) have worked the required amount of time under Social Security, the Railroad Retirement Board, or as a government employee, 2) are already getting or are eligible for Social Security or Railroad Retirement benefits, or 3) are the spouse or dependent child of a person who meets either of the previous requirements. 

At MassMutual Ascend, we are committed to going above and beyond - so when it comes to your financial future, the impossible feels possible. 

If you have additional questions about your specific situation, visit This website has additional information, tools and resources that can help determine the right path for you. 

Sources:, “Get Started with Medicare”, 2023., “When can I sign up for Medicare?”, 2023., “When does Medicare coverage start?”, 2023., “Which path is right for me?”, 2023., “Parts of Medicare”, 2023., “When to sign up for Medicare”, 2023.


For use with contract forms P1020212ID, ICC22-P1165222NW, P1463016ID, P1459716ID, P1138919ID, P1088011ID, P1088111ID, ICC22-P1165322NW, P1123117ID, P1123217ID, P1133518ID, ICC21-P1152221NW, ICC21-P1151521NW, P1086811ID, P1081610ID, ICC21-P1151621NW, P1074514ID, P1470017ID, P1470218ID, P1135619ID, ICC21-P1152021NW, P1113516ID, P1126818ID, P1126818ID-NoMVA, ICC21-P1152121NW, P1080010ID, P1471718ID, P1471718ID-NoMVA, ICC21-P1476721NW, P1140119ID, P1140219ID, P1146620ID, P1110416ID, ICC20-P1144420NW, ICC20-, 1144420NW-NoMVA, ICC20-P1144520NW, ICC20-P1144520NW-NoMVA, ICC20-P1474420NW, ICC20-P1474420NW-NoMVA, P1134618ID, P1134618ID-NoMVA, P1112916ID, P1129918ID, P1129918ID-NoMVA, P1825218ID, P1833621ID, P1822217ID, P1833421ID, P1850822ID, P1822317ID, P1833521ID, P1841722ID, and P1841622ID. Form numbers vary by state.

MassMutual Ascend is not an investment advisor and the information provided in this document is not investment advice. You should consult your investment professional for advice based on your personal circumstances and financial situation.

This information is not intended or written to be used as legal or tax advice. You should seek advice on legal and tax questions based on your particular circumstances from an independent attorney or tax advisor.

All guarantees based on the claims-paying ability of MassMutual Ascend. Products are issued by MassMutual Ascend Life Insurance CompanySM (Cincinnati, Ohio), a wholly owned subsidiary of Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual).

This content does not apply in the state of New York.

Not a bank or credit union deposit or obligation – Not FDIC or NCUA-Insured – Not insured by any federal government agency – May lose value – Not guaranteed by any bank or credit union


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