Jane Yamamoto-Burigsay
Courtesy: Social Security Administration

Every July, communities across America celebrate our nation’s independence with fireworks, family and friends, just as we did a few days ago. A strong community also creates independence as we help each other recognize our full potential.

Social Security has been helping people maintain a higher quality of life and a level of independence for over 80 years. Medicare has been doing the same for over five decades. Most people first become eligible for Medicare at age 65. For many older Americans, it is their primary health insurance; without it, they might not enjoy an independent lifestyle.

Medicare can be a little confusing to newcomers, so we’ve broken it down into segments. The four parts of Medicare are as easy as A, B, C and D.

  • Part A (hospital insurance) helps cover inpatient hospital care, skilled nursing care, hospice care and home health care. Most people get Medicare Part A premium-free since it is earned by working and paying Social Security taxes.
  • Part B (medical insurance) helps cover services from doctors and other outpatient health care providers, outpatient care, home health care, durable medical equipment and some preventive services. Most people pay a monthly premium for Part B. Some high-income individuals pay more than the standard premium. If you do not enroll in Medicare Part B during your initial enrollment period and then decide to do so later, your coverage may be delayed and you may have to pay a higher monthly premium for as long as you have Part B.
  • Part C (Medicare Advantage) allows you to choose to receive all of your health care services through a provider organization. This plan includes all benefits and services covered under Part A and Part B, usually includes Medicare prescription drug coverage, and may include extra benefits and services at an extra cost. You must have Part A and Part B to enroll in Part C. Monthly premiums vary depending on the state in which you live, private insurer, and whether you select a health maintenance organization or a preferred provider organization.
  • Part D (Medicare prescription drug coverage) helps cover the cost of prescription drugs. Many people pay a premium for Part D. However, people with low income and resources may qualify for Extra Help to pay the premium and deductible. If you do not enroll in a Medicare drug plan when you are first eligible, you may pay a late enrollment penalty if you join a plan later. You will have to pay this penalty for as long as you have Medicare prescription drug coverage. To see if you qualify for Extra Help, visit www.socialsecurity.gov/prescriptionhelp.

Will you be age 65 soon? Even if you decide not to retire, you should apply for Medicare. You can apply in less than 10 minutes using our online Medicare application. Visit www.socialsecurity.gov/medicare to learn more about applying for Medicare.

Jane Yamamoto-Burigsay is Social Security’s public affairs specialist in Hawai‘i.



Question:  I’m creating my budget for next year. How much will my benefit increase at the beginning of the year?

Answer:  The annual cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) is tied to the Consumer Price Index as determined by the Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics. In the years when a COLA is due, you can enjoy your COLA starting in January. Please visit our website at www.socialsecurity.gov/OACT/COLA/latestCOLA.html to see if a COLA is in effect for this year.

Question:  I am receiving Social Security retirement benefits, but recently went back to work. Do I have to pay Social Security (FICA) taxes on my income?

Answer:  Yes. By law, your employer must withhold FICA taxes from your paycheck. Although you are retired, you do receive credit for those new earnings. Each year, Social Security automatically credits the new earnings. If your new earnings are higher than in any earlier year used to calculate your current benefit, your monthly benefit could increase. For more information, visit www.socialsecurity.gov or call us at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778).


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