Q: What are the basics?
A: Medicare is a complex program and can sometimes be confusing. The best place to start when you are new to Medicare is to familiarize yourself with the differences between Medicare and the health insurance you have now. Learn what makes a person eligible for Medicare, the different parts of Medicare insurance and what those parts cover, times to enroll in Medicare, and how putting off enrollment can result in penalties. These initial steps will help smooth the transition from your current insurance to Medicare once you are eligible.
Q: What are your coverage options?
A: Everyone has different health care needs. This means that the coverage that is right for your friends or family may not be right for you. Will you enroll in Original Medicare, or do you prefer a Medicare Advantage Plan that may limit your provider networks or have different costs but offers additional coverage? If you have current employer insurance, you may decide not to enroll in Medicare until you have retired. If you are already retired, you might find that Original Medicare plus retiree insurance works better for you than Original Medicare plus a Medigap (or vice versa). Find out the full range of your coverage options.
Q: Should you enroll in Part D?
A: You should make sure you enroll in Part D prescription drug coverage when you become eligible for Medicare (assuming you do not have other creditable drug coverage). However, there are many Part D options for you to explore. Keep in mind, too, that sometimes retiree insurance offers prescription drug coverage that is as good as or better than Medicare Part D. If that is the case, you might decide not to take Part D because you are already covered. Finally, if you have difficulty affording your drug costs, you may want to consider applying for programs that can help pay these costs.
Q: Are you eligible for programs that help lower Medicare costs?
A: There are several programs for people with low incomes that help pay for Medicare-related costs, such as premiums and copays. Some of these programs are federal, and others are state-specific. Find out whether you meet the eligibility requirements and take full advantage.
What resources exist to help you navigate Medicare? Medicare is a complex and beneficial program, and a variety of trusted sources can help you navigate your rights and options. A few are listed here:
- Social Security Administration
- State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP)
- Medicare Rights Center
Q: What do I need to do to enroll in Medicare at age 65?
A: If you are eligible for automatic enrollment, you should not have to contact anyone. You should receive a package in the mail three months before your coverage starts with your new Medicare card. There will also be a letter explaining how Medicare works and that you were automatically enrolled in both Parts A and B. If you get Social Security retirement benefits, your package and card will come from the Social Security Administration (SSA).
Q: How do I enroll in Medicare?
A: Your first, and best, step is to contact us. We can help you navigate the Medicare system quickly and efficiently. If you want to get a head start, however, follow the steps below to actively enroll in Medicare.
If you decide to enroll in Medicare during your Initial Enrollment Period, you can sign up for Parts A and/or B by:
- Visiting your local Social Security office
- Calling Social Security at 800-772-1213
- Mailing a signed and dated letter to Social Security that includes your name, Social Security number, and the date you would like to be enrolled in Medicare
- Or, by applying online at www.ssa.gov
- If you are eligible for Railroad Retirement benefits, enroll in Medicare by calling the Railroad Retirement Board (RRB) or contacting your local RRB field office.
Keep proof of when you tried to enroll in Medicare, to protect yourself from incurring a Part B premium penalty if your application is lost.
Take down the names of any representatives you speak to, along with the time and date of the conversation.
- If you enroll through the mail, use certified mail and request a return receipt.
- If you enroll at your local Social Security office, ask for a written receipt.
- If you apply online, print out and save your confirmation page.
© Medicare Rights Center. Used with permission.
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