How Do I Get Started with Medicare?

“Will you still need me, will you still feed me, when I’m sixty-four?”
Remember those Beatle lyrics? Chances are when you heard them, 64 sounded old! But, now that you have passed that landmark by a year, 65 seems young. You can retire. You can get senior discounts. And, you are eligible to sign up for Medicare.
Signing up for Medicare can be like walking blindfolded in a jungle if you don’t learn the ins and outs ahead of time. We are here to help! This article will provide information about signing up if you are 65 and not working. Next week, we will cover signing up if you are 65 and still working or if you are covered under other insurance.
Are you qualified?
Two conditions must exist for you to be able to sign up for Medicare:
1. You have reached your 65th birthday.
2. You are under 65 but have a disability that meets the requirements for Medicare coverage (more on this in later articles).
This is the easy part. From then on, it gets more complicated. You have to decide what type of coverage you want. There is Part A, Part B, Part C or Part D and more, like Medigap, which fills in the gaps of coverage by the Original Medicare. We will go into each one of these in depth later but for now, here are brief definitions:
Parts A and B are called Original Medicare as they have been available since the beginning.
Part A – Basic coverage for nursing care. Includes professional nursing services in a hospital, nursing home or rehab center (short term) or home healthcare if you qualify. It covers a semiprivate room, meals, lab tests and other services while in a hospital or nursing facility. Services provided by home health care or hospice programs, if you qualify.
Part B – Medical insurance for all approved medical and surgical services, tests, flu shots, mammograms, etc. and some medical equipment. Usually covers 80% of costs.
Part C – Medicare Advantage. Managed healthcare through HMOs (health maintenance organizations) or PPOs (preferred provider organizations). They may have additional benefits such as vision, hearing and dental care. May include drug coverage.
Part D – Insurance for outpatient prescription drugs. These medications that you take yourself. There are several plans available. There is usually an annual deductible.
Enroll and then wait
There is a seven-month period from when you enroll to when you actually receive Medicare. You can start the process three months before you turn 65. Then you wait through your birthday month and, then another three months. This is called the IEP or Initial Enrollment Period.
If you apply three months before your 65th birthday, coverage will start on the first day of your birthday month. But, if your birthday is on the 1st, coverage will start the first day of the prior month. (We said it was a jungle!)
If you enroll in your birthday month or during the last three months of your IEP, the start date for coverage will be delayed.
So, as you’ve passed 64, start planning your enrollment. Mind the deadlines of IEP. Decide the coverage you want. To complicate things, if you are already receiving Social Security benefits, the SSA will automatically sign you up for A and B. So be sure to open that envelope with the SSA return address!
Next: Applying for Medicare (or not) while you are still working or still covered by another insurance policy.

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