Enrolling in Medicare is a complicated — but necessary — process that most seniors have to face. Not only do you have to navigate the complicated enrollment procedure, but you also have to sift through several different plans to find one that meets your medical and financial needs. Here are some quick tips and resources from Alive65 that can help you along the way.
Original Medicare, also called Medicare Parts A and B, is healthcare coverage provided by the federal government. Part A covers hospital services, and Part B covers certain outpatient care services and medical supplies. Part A is free to most Americans, while Part B comes with a standard monthly premium, but both parts require you to pay deductibles and coinsurance for covered services. If you enroll in Original Medicare, you can choose to add prescription drug coverage to your plan with Medicare Part D.
Medicare Part C, or Medicare Advantage, is an alternative coverage option provided by private insurance companies. All Medicare Advantage plans are regulated by the government and must cover everything that is covered by Parts A and B. Unlike Original Medicare, Medicare Advantage plans limit the maximum amount you can pay out of pocket each year. It’s also worth noting that most Medicare Advantage plans include drug coverage.
Another option is to enroll in Original Medical and fill in the coverage gaps with a Medigap plan. Medicare Parts A and B come with quite a few out-of-pocket costs. Medigap plans cover these costs for you. There are several different Medigap plans to choose from, but Plan F and Plan G offer more benefits than many of the others. Both plans cover Medicare Part A deductibles and coinsurance, copayments, and excess charges from both Part A and Part B. The main difference between the two is that Plan F covers the Part B deductible while Plan G does not.
There’s a lot to consider when choosing a Medicare plan. Depending on your lifestyle, medical needs, and your personal preferences, some options may be better than others. For example, Original Medicare with a Medigap plan provides the greatest flexibility to seniors. By enrolling in Original Medicare, you’ll gain access to Medicare’s vast care network. This is great for seniors who travel a lot and want to be able to visit a doctor or hospital anywhere in the country.
On the other hand, Medicare Advantage plans are a good fit for people who want to receive all of their healthcare coverage from one insurance company. These plans can be good for seniors who rarely visit the doctor and would like to keep their premiums low. Many people also choose Medicare Advantage plans for their additional coverage benefits.
You have specific windows of time during which you must sign up for your Medicare plans or you will face penalties. You have about seven months to sign up for a Medicare plan — three months before you turn 65, the month you turn 65, and three months after. If you continue working after the age of 65 and you receive healthcare coverage through your workplace, you have a few more options. For example, you’ll have to enroll in Medicare Part B within eight months of retirement. You can learn more about avoiding late enrollment penalties from CNBC.
It’s crucial to revisit your Medicare plan every year. During the annual Medicare open enrollment period, you can switch between Medicare Advantage plans or return to Original Medicare. Many Medicare Advantage plans change annually. It’s important to stay up to date on your coverage, benefits, and out-of-pocket costs so you can switch to a plan that better meets your needs.
If you’re not quite ready to enroll in Medicare yet, it’s vital that you seek out different medical insurance. Some potential avenues to explore may be being put on your spouse’s health insurance plan or purchasing a plan for yourself from the ACA marketplace. If you meet low-income qualifications, you can also apply for Medicaid.
The Medicare system is complicated, there’s no doubt about that. It’s a good idea to start evaluating your options, including private health insurance, well before it’s time for you to enroll. That way, you’ll have time to thoroughly assess different plans and find the coverage that fits you best.