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How work affects your Medicare decisions

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OKLAHOMA CITY - If you've decided to work past the age of retirement, you may have wondered about your health insurance plans.

Medicare can be confusing in any situation, but when you are working, it can be even harder to decipher.

Original Medicare consists of Part A, which provides hospital coverage and is free for most people, and Part B, which covers doctor's bills, lab tests and outpatient care.

Part B also has a monthly premium of $104.90 in 2016, though it is higher for people earning $85,000 or more a year.

If you receive Social Security, you will be enrolled automatically in parts A and B when you turn 65.

However, if you aren't receiving Social Security, you will have to apply online, at your local Social Security office or by calling 800-772-1213.

If your current employer has fewer than 20 employees, Medicare will be your primary insurer and you should enroll in Medicare Part B during your Initial Enrollment Period. The Initial Enrollment Period is a seven-month period that includes the three months before, the month of and the three months after your 65th birthday.

If you miss the window, you'll have to wait until the General Enrollment Period, which runs from Jan. 1 to March 31 with benefits beginning on July 1. You will also incur a 10 percent penalty for every year you wait beyond the Initial Enrollment Period.

If your employer has more than 20 employees, your employer's group health plan will be your primary insurer as long as you are an active employee. You don't need to enroll in Part B when you turn 65.

However, if you decide to enroll in Medicare, it will supplement your employer insurance by paying secondary on your claims. Once your employment ends, you'll have eight months to sign up for Part B without a penalty.

You will also need to verify your prescription drug coverage. Call your benefits manager or insurance company to find out if your employer's prescription drug coverage is considered "creditable," meaning it is as good or better than the Medicare prescription drug benefit.

If it is, you don't need to enroll in a Medicare Part D prescription drug plan. If it isn't, you should purchase a plan during your Initial Enrollment Period.

For more information, visit Medicare's website or call your State Health Insurance Counseling Program at 800-763-2828.