Q: I want to apply for Medicare Part B medical insurance this year. When is the deadline to apply?

A: If you didn’t sign up for Medicare Part B medical insurance when you first became eligible for Medicare, you now have an opportunity to apply — but time is running out. The deadline for applying during the general enrollment period is March 31. If you miss the deadline, you might have to wait until 2013 to apply. Medicare Part B covers some medical expenses not covered by Medicare Part A (hospital insurance), such as doctors’ fees, outpatient hospital visits and other medical supplies. You can learn more about Medicare by reading our electronic booklet, Medicare, online at www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs/10043.html.

Q: Can you help me understand how Medicare affects my Tricare (military insurance)?

A: For service members who are entitled to Medicare Part A (hospital insurance) and Part B (medical insurance), Tricare provides what is called Medicare “wraparound” coverage. Medicare is the primary payer for these beneficiaries, and Tricare serves as a supplement, paying the Medicare deductible and patient cost share.

If you are entitled to Medicare Part A based on disability or permanent kidney failure, contact the Department of Defense to find out how this might affect your Tricare benefits. You might need to be enrolled in Medicare Part B to keep your Tricare coverage. For general information about Tricare, you can go online to www.tricare.mil/mybenefit/ProfileFilter.do.

Individuals who are awarded retroactive Social Security disability benefits also might become entitled to Medicare Part A for months before they receive the disability award notice. Effective October 2009, Tricare beneficiaries who are awarded retroactive benefits based on disability or permanent kidney failure do not have to enroll in Part B for those months in the past and can keep their Tricare coverage as long as they enroll in Part B currently. You should contact the Department of Defense to find out whether you need to enroll in Medicare Part B so you can keep your Tricare.

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 provides for a 12-month Medicare Part B special enrollment period for Tricare beneficiaries who are entitled to Medicare Part A, but did not enroll in Medicare Part B during their initial enrollment period. The Department of Defense will notify eligible individuals about this period.

For information, go online to www.socialsecurity.gov/legislation/tricareinfo.html.

Send questions to Robert Fenn, Social Security Administration, Second Floor, Federal Building, 2 S. Main St., Akron, OH 44308. Fax: 330-375-5616 or e-mail: Robert.Fenn@ssa.gov.