| Thu, Mar 29, 2012 @ 09:00 AM

Getting Ready for Medicare

Posted by Medicare Made Clear

Getting Ready for MedicareIf you’re new to Medicare, you may be wondering about all the different plan choices available to you. You also may be feeling a little overwhelmed by all of the information. If so, don’t worry. A lot of people have found themselves in your shoes.

Here are a few steps to help you begin to prepare for Medicare.

1.      Know Your Enrollment Dates

You don’t want to miss your Initial Enrollment Period (IEP). Your IEP begins three months before the month you turn 65, runs through your birth month and ends three months after your birth month. If you are eligible for Medicare due to disability, your IEP begins 24 months after you first become eligible for Social Security benefits. If you don’t sign up during your IEP, you may face increased premiums later on. Most people receive notification of their eligibility well before their IEP.

2.      Understand Your Needs

Take time to consider your health care needs and preferences. Here are some questions to help guide your thinking:

  • How much did you spend on health care last year? Do you expect similar costs this year?
  • Are you eligible for any health care coverage other than Medicare, through your or your spouse’s employer, for example?
  • Which prescription drugs do you take regularly? How much do you spend on your prescriptions?
  • Are you in good health generally? Do you have a chronic condition such as diabetes, heart disease or asthma?
  • Which doctors and hospitals do you use? Are you willing to change doctors to save on health care costs?
  • How much do you travel, and where? Do you need coverage for traveling out of state or overseas?

3.      Learn About the Parts of Medicare

Based on your answers to the questions in #2 above, you can start to consider your coverage choices. It can be confusing at first, because Medicare has several parts that provide different types of coverage. Here’s a quick run-down.

  • Original Medicare is a government-sponsored program consisting of Part A (hospital coverage) and Part B (doctor visits and outpatient care). It doesn’t include coverage for most prescription drugs. If you’re receiving Social Security benefits, you’re automatically enrolled in Part A and Part B. At the time of enrollment, you can decide to accept or reject one or both at that time.
  • Medicare Advantage plans (also called “Medicare Part C”) are provided by private insurance companies contracted by Medicare. These plans offer all of the benefits included with Original Medicare, along with additional benefits, which vary depending on the plan. Most Medicare Advantage plans include prescription drug coverage as well. If you choose a Medicare Advantage plan, you have to be enrolled in Medicare Parts A and B, but your benefits are administered by the plan instead of by Medicare.
  • Medicare Part D plans are provided by private insurance companies to help with the cost of prescription drugs. You can get coverage through a standalone prescription drug plan or as part of a Medicare Advantage plan. If you choose Original Medicare and want prescription drug coverage, you’ll need to purchase a standalone Part D plan. Also, you must have both Parts A and B to be eligible for a Part D plan.
  • Medicare supplement insurance, sometimes known as “Medigap,” works with Original Medicare (and not Medicare Advantage plans) to help pay some of the costs that Original Medicare doesn’t cover. Medicare supplement insurance plans are sold by private insurance companies. Whether or not you buy a plan is up to you.

Beyond the Basics

Once you have a good grasp on your needs and what you’re looking for, you can start to look at your plan choices. Medicare.gov is a good resource. You can learn about Original Medicare, as well as search for Medicare Advantage, Medicare supplement insurance and Medicare Part D plans offered where you live. With a little research, you can find the right plan—or combination of plans—for you.

For more information, contact the Medicare helpline 24 hours a day, seven days a week at 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227), TTY 1-877-486-2048. If you have questions about Medicare Made Clear, call 1-877-619-5582, TTY 711, 8 a.m. – 8 p.m. local time, seven days a week.

Resources:

Enrollment Road Map – MedicareMadeClear.com

Original Medicare Benefits – Medicare.gov

Medicare & You 2012 from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services – Medicare.gov