About ten thousand people a day turn 65 in the United States, making them eligible for Medicare health insurance. If you are about to turn 65 you might want to know what being Medicare eligible means to you and how you can best prepare.
The most important thing to be aware of is your Initial Enrollment Period (IEP), which is the time period that most people apply to receive their Medicare benefits. Your IEP begins three months before the month of your 65th birthday, includes your birth month, and carries on three months after, for a total of seven months. If you don’t apply during this time period you could face penalties later.
If you already have health insurance coverage through your employer, you may qualify for a Special Enrollment Period. If you have credible health insurance through an employer you can delay your enrollment in Medicare Part B until your current employer’s health insurance ends. You should enroll in Medicare Part A anyway.
Be sure you have all the documentation and information you need to apply. This would include all personal information; contact information of a loved one in the event of emergency; contact information of your doctor and other health providers; up-to-date medical history, including current medications, treatments and condition; details of your current coverage, if any; bank account information for automatic payments.
It’s important for you to learn the basics of Medicare so you understand how the system works, the terminology, and what the various options are, i.e., Original Medicare, Medicare Advantage, Medicare Part D, and Medigap. If you get stuck, Medicare.gov offers a wealth of information.
Learn what Medicare Advantage options are available to you, and what they can offer. These are alternative plans offered by private insurance companies that have all the benefits of Original Medicare Parts A and B but also add benefits that Original Medicare does not cover, such as dental, hearing, vision, and wellness services, and usually a prescription drug plan as part of the package.
Medicare Plan D covers your prescription drugs. Consider whether Original Medicare plus a prescription drug plan would be best for you, or whether a Medicare Advantage Plan that includes prescription drug coverage would be better. Nearly all people on Medicare have prescription coverage, and there is a penalty for late enrollment.
If you need financial assistance, contact the Social Security Administration and find out which programs are available to assist you. The SSA’s Extra Help program helps millions of people afford the medications they need.
In conclusion, there’s a lot to keep in mind when you enroll in Medicare for the first time, but if you take it step by step it will be easier.