You’ve heard plenty about Medicare over the years, but if you’re about to turn 65, chances are you could do with a refresher.
So here goes—with hats off to any readers out there turning 65!
What’s the big deal about turning 65?
That’s the age when most Americans become eligible for Medicare. Some people are eligible earlier due to disability or end-stage renal disease, but for most Americans Medicare coverage begins at age 65.
If, like the majority of Americans, you become eligible for Medicare at 65, your initial enrollment period begins three months before the month you turn 65 and ends three months after the month you turn 65. If you enroll during the first three months of your initial enrollment period, your coverage should begin the first day of your birthday month. If your birthday falls on the first of the month, coverage should begin on the first of the previous month.
Waiting to enroll until after the first three months of your initial enrollment period have passed may cause your start date to be delayed, so it’s best to enroll well before your 65th birthday if possible.
How do I know how to sign up for Medicare?
It’s simple to sign up for Medicare online.
Your initial enrollment signs you up for Original Medicare (Medicare Part A and Medicare Part B), which provides the foundation of your Medicare coverage. Medicare Part A helps cover hospital costs, while Medicare Part B normally pays 80% of the cost of covered medical expenses. Although your initial enrollment signs you up for Medicare Part A and Medicare Part B, some people decide not to keep Part B coverage. If you’re considering going without Part B, call MedicareMall toll-free at (877) 413-1556 and we’ll be glad to help you determine whether that’s a wise step.
During your initial enrollment period, you’ll also have the opportunity to consider other coverage options.
Medicare Supplement Plans
Although enrollment in a Medicare supplement (or Medigap) plan is purely voluntary, you need to be aware that Original Medicare was never designed to cover 100% of your medical care. Although Medicare costs have risen almost every year since the federal program’s inception in 1965, Medicare benefits have declined over the years in many areas. As a result, there are real gaps in Medicare coverage and many people choose Medicare supplement insurance plans and the security they can provide by filling the gaps in Original Medicare coverage.
Medicare supplement plans are sold by private insurance companies to people already enrolled in Medicare Parts A and B, and the right plan can save you a lot of money in the short run and especially in the long run by keeping your out-of-pocket healthcare costs to a minimum.
It’s important to shop the market, though, before selecting a Medicare supplement plan. That’s because, even though insurance companies offering the same Medigap plans have to offer the same benefits, companies are free to apply their own pricing and underwriting practices. This means two companies, or five, or ten, can charge very different prices for exactly the same coverage. Fortunately, nobody shops the market better on your behalf than the Medigap representatives at MedicareMall. Call toll-free (877) 413-1556 for a free quote.
Medicare Advantage Plans
Medicare Advantage (also called Medicare Part C) plans are optional Medicare plans offered by Medicare-approved private companies and available to people already enrolled in both Medicare Part A and Medicare Part B. Any Medicare Advantage plan you join will provide the equivalent of all your Medicare Part A and Part B coverage, and has to provide all the benefits covered by Original Medicare except hospice care.
Some Medicare Advantage plans provide additional coverage in various areas of health including dental, vision, and hearing, and most plans also include prescription drug coverage.
Though most Medicare Advantage plans require payment of a monthly premium, some Medicare Advantage plans are zero premium plans. As you consider your initial enrollment options, why not give MedicareMall a call to learn about Medicare Advantage plans available in your area?
Medicare Prescription Drug Plans (Medicare Part D)
Though prescription drug coverage is voluntary, anyone enrolled in Medicare Part A or Part B is eligible for enrollment in a prescription drug plan (or PDP). Prescription drug plans can be added to Original Medicare or provided through Medicare Advantage plans. Medicare Part D prescription drug plans pay for prescriptions purchased at pharmacies, and Part D plans—despite concerns about out-of-pocket obligations during the donut hole phase of Part D coverage—help many Americans save money on prescriptions drugs year after year. Give MedicareMall a call today to learn about PDP options during your initial enrollment period.
So much for the positive—checking out all your options and making wise choices as you enter your Medicare years. Now here are some things you shouldn’t do:
- Don’t enroll in the wrong plan. Just because a plan works well for your friend, or is offered by your employer, doesn’t mean it’s right for you. Making the wrong choice during your initial enrollment can result in high copays and deductibles, and even penalties when you make changes later on. If you’re selecting a plan that limits your provider choices to those within a network, make sure the providers you want to use are within that network. Enroll in the right plan today and you’ll avoid a lot of trouble later on.
- Don’t neglect to compare premiums charged by different companies. Remember, in many cases different insurance companies will charge different premiums for the very same coverage. Think about how even a $50 a month difference can add up—and then think of all the things you’d rather do than throw away $600 a year. You’ve got to shop the market—and MedicareMall has been the leader in that regard for over 20 years.
- Don’t skip any of your free Medicare annual checkups. Take advantage of all the free screenings your doctor recommends. Medicare preventive services can save you a lot of money over the years, and can even save your life.
- Don’t wait too long to enroll in Original Medicare. If you don’t sign up during your initial enrollment period, you’ll have to wait until the following year’s General Enrollment Period lasting from January to March. Such a delay can be costly. You may go without coverage you need, and you should also be aware that Medicare Part B premiums—if your enrollment is delayed by a year or more—increase by 10% for each year you could have enrolled but didn’t.
- Don’t wait too long to enroll in a Part D prescription drug plan. Although prescription drug coverage is voluntary, it’s a wise investment that can save you a lot of money in the long run. If you don’t join a Medicare prescription drug plan as soon as you become eligible for Medicare, you may face penalties and limited enrollment opportunities if you want to join later.
- Don’t forget to budget your annual healthcare expenses. Choose coverage that falls within your budget. If you select a Medicare Advantage plan, be aware of the doctor visit copays, deductibles, coinsurance, and other charges you’ll have to pay out of pocket. To make budgeting easier, you may prefer one of the Medigap plans designed to keep out-of-pocket costs low or nonexistent. Medigap Plan F, for example, is the most comprehensive Medicare supplement plan available, and covers all Medicare-approved costs not covered by Medicare Part A and Medicare Part B. That makes Plan F a great tool for people on fixed incomes or anyone who wants to budget medical expenses. With fixed premiums and generally no unexpected out-of-pocket costs, Plan F is the Medigap plan chosen by nearly half of Americans who purchase Medicare supplement insurance—and the Medicare supplement plan we recommend most often to our clients.
- Don’t fall prey to Medicare scammers. Scammers tend to come out of the woodwork during Medicare Open Enrollment Periods, but there’s nothing—short of your sound judgment—to stop them from getting at your assets at other times as well. Scammers tend to look for victims who’ve accumulated assets, own their own homes, and have good credit—and this describes many if not most Americans nearing age 65 and the start of their Medicare years. Don’t let your guard down for a second, and don’t hesitate to report any suspicious activity by calling 1-800-MEDICARE or filing a Medicare fraud and abuse report.
- Don’t forget that penalties are likely to apply when you wait too long to begin coverage or make changes in existing coverage. Remember that you can get hit by higher premiums or penalties if you don’t enroll in Medicare Part B and Part D when you first become eligible. You should also be aware that failing to make desired changes during Medicare Open Enrollment Periods can cause headaches and make a shambles of your healthcare budget.
- If you choose Medicare Advantage, don’t forget to make sure the healthcare providers you want to use are within your plan’s network. Some Part C plans will allow you to see doctors outside the network, but you can expect to pay extra for that privilege. If you don’t want to be limited to providers within a network, you’ll probably want to give serious consideration to Medicare supplement insurance. Every healthcare provider who accepts Medicare accepts Medicare supplement insurance.
- Don’t count on Medicare to meet your vision, dental, and hearing insurance needs. Medicare coverage is very limited in these areas, and many seniors pay large out-of-pocket expenses for even routine dental, vision, and hearing care. MedicareMall helps fill the void by offering affordable senior dental plans and dental discount plans covering such services as cleanings, fillings, crowns, and root canals. Special vision plans help cover problems associated with aging and provide coverage for regular eye examinations and prescription eye wear MedicareMall also offers senior hearing plans that focus on making hearing aids available to our clients. Unfortunately, neither Medicare nor Medigap plans pay a cent toward hearing aid costs, which can be astronomical if you’re not covered by a good hearing plan.
Now that you’re approaching Medicare eligibility (or are already there), all indications are that Medicare will remain firmly in your corner for the foreseeable future.
Of course, a lot of what you get out of Medicare depends on making wise choices and avoiding unwise ones that can add a lot of uncertainty to your life.
There are some great resources available to tell you more about Medicare. Two of the best are the US government’s official Medicare website and the official US government Medicare handbook, Medicare & You, which provides an excellent overview of the entire Medicare program.
Medicare can go a long way toward helping you maintain your good health—if you have the experience and knowledge to take advantage of it. If you have any questions about Medicare or how to enroll in Medicare, contact MedicareMall now and let us save you money and lead you with confidence through the Medicare maze!
If your 65th birthday is approaching, tell us how you feel about kicking off your Medicare years!
Turning 65? Welcome to Your Medicare Years! © 2012 MedicareMall.com