US citizens become eligible for Medicare when they turn 65. If you are months away from your 65th birthday, it’s best to get started on your Medicare application. Here’s what you should know about Medicare:
Types of Medicare
There are four types of Medicare:
- Part A covers inpatient services in hospitals and nursing facilities
- Part B covers doctor services, outpatient services, preventive services and medical supplies
- Part C is offered by medical insurance companies that contract with Medicare to provide all Part A and Part B benefits in a single plan, in addition to extra services such as dental and vision care. Sometimes, it may even cover prescription medication.
- Part D covers prescription medication.
When Does Enrollment Begin?
Enrollment for Medicare begins as you approach your 65th birthday. It lasts seven months split into three months before the month of your birthday and three months afterward. For example, if you are to turn 65 on 1 January 2018, enrollment begins on 1 October 2017 and ends on 30 April 2018.
How Do I Enroll in Medicare?
If you already receive Social Security benefits or Railroad Retirement pay, you do not need to enroll in Medicare since it happens automatically (for Part A and B) on the first day of the month of your 65th birthday. You should receive your Medicare card in the mail, three months prior to your birthday.
If you are approaching 65 and you are not getting social security or railroad retirement pay, you should enroll in Medicare. You can do this by either calling Social Security at 800-772-1213 or by visiting a local Social Security office.
If you are actively employed and your employer offers health insurance coverage (COBRA coverage and VA benefits do not count), you may not have to apply for Part B coverage immediately. You may want to consult with an elder law attorney to determine if it would be reasonable to delay enrollment in the coverage.
Payments for Part B Medicare
Every person pays for Part B Medicare insurance. The funds are usually deducted from your Social Security payments.
Premiums are calculated every year. The 2017 standard premium was $134. However, many people pay less after cost-of-living adjustments. Premiums may be higher for people with high incomes and for people who did not enroll when they were eligible to do so.
Medicare Part C Coverage
Insurance companies contract with Medicare to provide seniors with Part A and B coverage in a single plan. These plans are also called Medicare Advantage plans. These plans may also cover medication and dental, vision and wellness care.
Medicare Part D
If you do not have Part C cover that’s inclusive of medication, you should enroll for Part A, B and D coverage. When you delay enrollment in Part D, you risk paying 1 percent higher premiums for every month you were eligible to enroll but delayed.
What is a Medigap policy?
Because of its numerous deductibles, coverage exclusions, and copayments, Medicare often only pays for 50 percent of all seniors’ medical costs. The balance can be settled by private insurers offering Medigap policies to cover the gaps not covered by Medicare. You can check local insurers to see if they offer a Medigap policy.