Health insurance (really, any type of insurance) can be complex and confusing, but it’s safe to say that Medicare tops the list. That’s why we sat down with Russell Turner from Navigating My Medicare to have a chat about all things Medicare… and what people really need to know.
Let’s start with the basics. Who is eligible for Medicare?
The simplest eligibility requirement for Medicare is the one most people know — you become eligible for Medicare when you turn 65 years old. However, what folks may not know is that you can also be eligible for Medicare if you’re under 65 and you’ve been on disability for 24 months.
So let’s say I’m getting ready to turn 65… what do I do now?
As you’re nearing your 65th birthday, you enter a time that’s called your Initial Enrollment Period. That’s your first chance to sign up for Medicare. Your enrollment period lasts for seven months beginning three months before you turn 65. Once that window opens, you can sign up for parts A and B of Medicare by contacting your local Social Security office, visiting ssa.gov or setting up a free consultation with me.
What’s the difference between part A and part B?
Details like this are why Medicare can be so complicated and why it can be helpful to consult with a Medicare specialist. Essentially, Medicare is split into two parts. Part A is your hospital insurance (covering inpatient care, hospitalizations, etc.) and Part B is your classic medical insurance (which covers doctor’s visits, tests, specialists, etc.)
How do you know which parts to enroll in?
The good news is that most people will receive Medicare Part A for free. That’s because you’ve typically paid into Medicare taxes for a while by the time you’re eligible for Medicare. Part B, on the other hand, does have a standard monthly premium. That being said, it’s important to know that Part A and Part B aren’t your only options when it comes to Medicare. There are several other plans and options with Medicare but going through them all would take us a little too far into the weeds. The most important thing to know is that you can enroll in Medicare supplements to fill in the gaps in original Medicare. For example, when you turn 65, you could enroll in original Medicare and then add a supplement/Medigap policy, a drug plan, or a Medicare Advantage plan.
What happens if you don’t enroll in Medicare when you turn 65?
That’s actually a very common question since many people are still working full-time and entitled to employer-provided health insurance coverage at the age of 65. What you want to do in this situation is to compare your current health insurance to Medicare. Are the plans comparable? How much are the premiums with your work insurance and the deductibles?
When can you change Medicare plans?
If you choose not to enroll in Medicare when you become eligible, or if you do but want to change your coverage later, then you have to wait for an enrollment period to open. The enrollment periods differ depending on your circumstances and the type of plan. It’s always best to talk to a specialist to find out which enrollment period applies to you.