Medicare Basics: What You Need to Know and How to Apply

As you approach 65, the landscape of your traditional health care coverage will change. For the first time, you’ll become eligible for Medicare, the government-provided health insurance for Americans aged 65 and older. But navigating the ins and outs of Medicare can be an overwhelming task. So, we’ve broken down the basics into smaller bits so you can digest parts, plans, enrollment periods, and more to formulate the right coverage for your specific needs when the time comes.

What Is Medicare?

Medicare is made up of four fundamental parts. These are known as Parts A, B, C, and D. Essentially, it can be looked at like each part helps subscribers pay for specific health care services. Each part may also have different costs associated with it. How much you pay for Medicare will ultimately depend on which parts you choose and the services you use.

· Part A provides inpatient/hospital coverage

· Part B provides outpatient/medical coverage

· Part C offers an alternate way to receive Parts A, B and D, and may include other extras such as vision and dental

· Part D provides prescription drug coverage

When to Apply for Medicare

Enrollment for seniors begins exactly three months before their 65th birthday, includes their birthday month, and ends three months after. This seven-month window is known as the Initial Enrollment Period. There are other specific Medicare enrollment periods, including:

Medicare General Enrollment Period (GEP)

This is another chance given to those who may not have taken advantage of signing up during their Initial Enrollment Period. The General enrollment period is only for those who wish to sign up for Medicare Part A and/or Part B and lasts from January 1st to March 31st each year.

Medicare Annual Enrollment Period (AEP)

During Annual Enrollment, subscribers can make changes to their coverage and enroll in a Medicare plan each year, from October 15th to December 7th. This is also when you can switch from Original Medicare to a Medicare Advantage plan if you wish.

Medicare Special Enrollment Period (SEP)

A Medicare Special Enrollment Period allows you to enroll in Medicare or change your coverage outside of basic enrollment periods. Still, you must qualify based on specific circumstances, such as losing employer-based insurance coverage.

What Kind of Coverage Should I Apply for

Original Medicare is made up of two parts, Part A and Part B. Part A covers hospital care, such as any inpatient stays. Medicare Part B includes more general medical coverage, such as doctor visits, physical therapy, lab testing, and durable medical equipment. But remember, Original Medicare does not offer complete coverage for all your health care expenses, so if you’re like most of the country’s subscribers, you’ll want to add supplemental insurance such as Medicare Advantage plans and/or Part D plans. Contact a private insurer like Anthem, who can walk you through your different coverage options and help you decide what the right Medicare plan is for you.

Be Prepared When Enrollment Happens

Taking a proactive approach to your changing healthcare options can help give you peace of mind. Start by finding the answers early on to questions such as when to apply to Medicare, which can then result in better financial security and ease anxiety in your golden years. Make sure you take the necessary steps and contact a Medicare-approved insurer as soon as possible to begin reviewing options and give yourself plenty of time to pick the best plan for your situation.

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