If you or a loved one is approaching age 65, navigating the surplus of Medicare plans available and understanding enrollment requirements can be overwhelming. Knowing when, where and how to enroll can help make your transition to Medicare easier.
When You Can Enroll
Typically, you become eligible for Medicare coverage when you turn 65. Medicare provides health insurance for people 65 and older and some others with disabilities or certain conditions. You’re automatically enrolled in Medicare if you receive Social Security benefits and/or Railroad Retirement Board benefits. A red, white and blue Medicare card and an initial enrollment welcome packet will be sent to you in the mail three months before you turn 65.
Then, there’s a seven-month window, called the Initial Enrollment Period, when you can enroll in a Medicare plan.
- Three months before your 65th birthday
- The month of your birthday
- Three months after your birthday
- For example, if your birthday is April 1, you can enroll January 1 – July 31
It’s recommended to start this process early to allow plenty of time to review all your options.
Many people are surprised to learn that they can enroll in Medicare at 65, even if they’re not retiring. In some cases, Medicare plans offer more benefits than commercial health plans and can also be more affordable for those enrolled. It’s always best to speak to your employer, a health plan representative or a local insurance agent to help determine the best plan for your situation.
What You’ll Need to Enroll
As stated above, most people are enrolled in Medicare automatically. If you’re not collecting Social Security and/or Railroad Retirement Board benefits, then you must sign up for Medicare when you’re ready to enroll. You can either sign up during your initial enrollment period, or when you’re ready to retire. If you have creditable coverage while working, you can delay Medicare without a penalty. When you are ready for Medicare, you can complete an application online. The process can typically be completed in less than ten minutes. If you’re uncomfortable submitting your materials electronically, you can also complete an application at your local social security office.
It important to know that Medicare helps with the cost of health care, but it doesn’t cover everything. Drugs, vision, dental and hearing are not covered by the traditional Medicare program. Private insurance companies, like Network Health, provide additional benefits and coverage beyond Medicare with Medicare Advantage Plans.
Before enrolling in a Medicare plan, you’ll need the following.
- Medicare Part A – Part A is hospital insurance. It covers inpatient hospital stays, hospice care and the care provided within skilled nursing facilities. You should sign up for Part A during the first three months of the Initial Enrollment Period.
- Medicare Part B – Part B covers standard medical insurance, which includes outpatient procedures and personal doctor visits. Like Part A, you’ll need to sign up for Part B within the first three months of the Initial Enrollment Period.
- Red, White and Blue Medicare Card – You will need to have your Medicare card to complete the enrollment process.
Finding the Right Fit
With so many different Medicare options available, it can be easy to find yourself distracted by the “perks” or “extras” that many plans advertise. While there is nothing wrong with perks, it is crucial to focus on finding a plan that truly addresses your health needs first.
Whether it’s a Health Maintenance Organization (HMO) or a Preferred Provider Organization (PPO) Medicare Advantage plan, these plans exist to ensure you have the care and coverage you’ll need no matter what occurs down the road. Make sure that the provider network for the plan you choose includes the doctors, hospitals and any other care professionals you want to see. Check that any prescriptions you take are covered, too.
Network Health Medicare Advantage Plans include MSA, HMO and PPO plans with a Medicare contract. Enrollment in Network Health Medicare Advantage Plans depends on contract renewal. Y0108_2734-01-1019_M Accepted 10082019