If you’re within a year of turning 65 – the age when Medicare coverage generally kicks in – it’s a good idea to begin gathering informational resources and educating yourself about your coverage options. On any given day, virtually every newspaper will have one story, if not more, on healthcare. Often the focus is on Medicare – the cost, the coverage, and every other aspect of the program. Yet despite this constant focus, many are confused about Medicare. Preparing early can give you answers to your questions well in advance of deadlines. Plus, doing your homework may simplify the enrollment process and enable you to make smart, thoughtful choices.
Medicare.gov offers tips as you prepare for Medicare enrollment and below is a chronological checklist you can use to break down the various tasks.
Seven to nine months before your 65th birthday:
- Begin educating yourself about Medicare. There are a myriad of resources through Medicare.gov as well as through insurance providers.
- Contact the Social Security Administration at 1-800-772-1213 to confirm your eligibility for Medicare benefits.
- Determine if you’ll get Medicare automatically or need to sign up. Medicare has two main parts — Part A (hospital insurance) and Part B (medical insurance). While some get Parts A and B automatically, others need to sign up.
- Review your current health insurance coverage to find out what happens after you turn 65.
Four to six months before your 65th birthday:
- Review your Medicare Supplement insurance plan options and learn how Medicare works with your other insurance.
- Check with your doctor(s) to see if they accept Medicare.
- Decide how you want to get your coverage, including Medicare prescription drug coverage (Part D). There are two main ways to get your Medicare coverage— Original Medicare (Part A and Part B) or a Medicare Advantage Plan (Part C). Learn about these coverage choices.
One to three months before your 65th birthday:
- Complete your Initial Enrollment Questionnaire (IEQ), which asks you about other health insurance you have which might pay before Medicare does, like group health plan coverage from an employer, liability insurance, or workers’ compensation.
- Enroll in a Medicare Supplement insurance plan, if not already enrolled.
- Enroll in a Medicare Part D prescription drug plan, if not enrolled already.
- Enroll in Medicare Parts A and B. If you do not receive your automatic enrollment information in the mail, contact the Social Security Administration at 1-800-772-1213.
- Make sure you sign up on time. You have the option to enroll in Medicare three months before you turn 65, and you can start receiving coverage the first day of your birthday month. You have three months after you turn 65 to qualify under the initial enrollment. (If you don’t sign up for Part A and/or Part B when you are first eligible, you can sign up during the General Enrollment Period between January 1–March 31 each year. Coverage will start July 1 and you may have to pay higher premiums.)
The steps may sound a bit daunting, but with a little forethought and some planning before the deadlines, Medicare enrollment can be relatively simple.