If you are just aging-in to Medicare, you may be very interested in all of the media attention it has been getting during the past few months in light of the Annual Election Period, or Open Enrollment. Even though the AEP occurs every year giving Medicare beneficiaries the opportunity to make changes to their coverage, this year AEP started and ended earlier than ever before, adding to the excitement and importance of the advertising campaign. If you are approaching Medicare eligibility, you may have noticed the advertisements for different benefits, choices, or potential costs, but it’s important to start with the basics so you can make the right choice for your individual needs.
If you are just turning 65, you have a 7-month Initial Enrollment Period, from 3 months prior to your 65th birthday, the month of your 65th birthday, and ends 3 months after your 65th birthday. During this Initial Enrollment Period, you can sign up for Part A and/or Part B. If you have met Medicare requirements, you most likely will receive Part A premium-free, but if you choose to sign up for Part B, you will have to pay a monthly premium. It is important to enroll in Part B when you are first eligible to avoid late enrollment penalties. If you do not sign up for Part A and/or Part B when you are first eligible, you do have a General Enrollment Period from January 1 through March 31, but you may have to pay a higher premium due to late enrollment in Part B.
As you approach eligibility, you may choose to receive your Medicare benefits through Original Medicare, which is coverage managed by the Federal government, or through Medicare Advantage plans, which are offered by private insurance companies who contract with Medicare. If you choose Original Medicare, you may decide that you need supplemental insurance to help pay some of the expenses that Original Medicare does not cover. You have a 6-month Medigap enrollment period that begins on the first day of the month in which you’re 65 or older and enrolled in Part B. During this time, you have a guaranteed right to purchase a Medigap policy. (Some states have additional open enrollment periods.) Original Medicare and Medigap policies do not cover the costs of prescription drugs, so you may consider adding a Prescription Drug Plan (PDP) to help cover the costs of medications you need now or in the future.
If you choose to enroll in a , you will have many choices to make. MA plans must offer at least the same coverage as Original Medicare, but most offer additional benefits. These additional benefits can include, but are not limited to, prescription drug coverage, vision care, dental services, hearing exams, or even membership in a fitness club. Plan comparison is crucial when you are choosing Medicare health care coverage for the first time. On-line comparison sites like Joppel.com can help you narrow down your choices of Medicare Advantage, Medigap, or Prescription Drug plans. Plans can vary state to state and within the same area, you might find a difference in costs and benefits. As you age-in to Medicare, you should take the time to explore your options and find the right coverage for your personal needs and preferences.
Medicare has neither reviewed nor approved this information.