So your birthday is right around the corner, and this year that means you’re ready for Medicare. It does, doesn’t it? Are there requirements other than age? Where do you even sign up?
If you’re thinking seriously about Medicare for the first time, these questions and many more are probably swirling in your mind. The ins and outs of Medicare can be complex and confusing, but you’ll be fine if you follow a few do’s and don’ts when planning and using your Medicare coverage.
Do Your Homework
Medicare offers multiple plans and coverage options, all of which come with registration deadlines. Choosing the right plan for you and getting coverage in place requires you to be familiar with your options, so be sure to read up and ask lots of questions. Be sure to visit the government’s official Medicare page, Medicare.gov, for all the facts and accurate information.
Don’t Wait for Contact
You may be eligible for Medicare at age 65, but the government won’t contact you to let you know. This is because everyone’s situation is unique and not everyone enrolls at 65.Be prepared to enroll on your own when you’re ready rather than waiting for the government to get in touch. However, it should be noted that if you are already receiving retirement benefits then your enrollment in Medicare is automatic.
Do Know When You Need to Enroll
If you don’t enroll in Medicare at age 65, you could be charged penalties and fees. This does not apply, however, if you are covered under an existing insurance policy through an employer (yours or your spouse’s) or if you are living abroad without a job at age 65. Every person has an “initial enrollment period. This is actually a period of seven months during which you would enroll. It begins three months before you turn 65 and ends 3 months after.
Do Know the General Enrollment Period
If you missed your initial enrollment period, you have another option. There is a general period of enrollment that begins on January 1 and ends on March 31 every year. However, you may have to pay a penalty by missing your period of initial enrollment.
Do Know What Special Enrollment Period Is
Special enrollment? Yes. If you are currently covered by other medical insurance-perhaps through your employer, you can skip your initial enrollment period. When your group coverage ends or you simply want to switch to Medicare, you can do so. This is called the “special enrollment period.” It is a period of eight months that begins at either one of two times. 1. You are no longer employed or 2. Your group coverage ends. As a rule, there is no penalty for special enrollment.
Do Know What Medicare Advantage Is
You may know Medicare Advantage as Medicare Part C. Private insurers offer Advantage plans. These plans will include Medicare Parts A and B and may include additional benefits. One example is coverage for prescription medication. In order to enroll in Part C Medicare you must have both Medicare Parts A and B.
Do Know Enrollment for Advantage Plans
The best time to enroll is during your initial enrollment period. This is called the Initial Coverage Election period. This period begins three months prior to your receiving Part A and B Medicare. It will end right before you start receiving your Medicare benefits. Specifically, on the last day of the month.
Don’t Believe Everyone
Although the federal government will not contact you about Medicare enrollment as you approach 65, many other organizations probably will. Many will offer legitimate information, but some will not and may attempt to enroll you in Medigap polices and other insurances before you need them. Make sure you are getting your information from credible sources. Even well-meaning friends could steer you wrong.
Do Expect Expenses
Medicare coverage is not free. You will have to pay insurance premiums just as you did for your healthcare coverage in the past. You may also be required to pay a copay at the doctor’s office or when receiving certain healthcare services. These costs may be covered by another insurance plan working in tandem with Medicare, so you’ll need to understand how all of your insurances work together if you have coverage in addition to Medicare.
Don’t Worry About Current Health Issues
You cannot be denied Medicare coverage because of any preexisting conditions or medical problems. You will be eligible for coverage even if you have had health problems in the past or are currently battling illness.
Do Apply Regardless of Work History
If you haven’t worked long enough, you may not be eligible for certain Medicare plans. This doesn’t disqualify you from Medicare completely, however.You may still be able to buy into a plan or receive coverage thanks to your spouse’s work record or a former spouse’s work record.
Don’t Ignore the Formulary
Medicare offers several different prescription drug plans, and each covers different medications. These medications are listed in the plan’s formulary. If you take maintenance medications, be sure to choose a prescription plan that covers your medicine. Otherwise you could be forced to pay for these medications yourself.
Do Get Help
If you find yourself confused and questioning anything about your Medicare enrollment and plan options be sure to get help. The government’s official Medicare site can link you to assistance as can the Healthcare.gov website. Simply provide your zip code to the website to find local agencies who can help you enroll and answer your questions.