Aging gracefully is something we all want from our lives. Whether you’re planning for retirement or you’re helping a loved one make the right decisions as they prepare for retirement, you need to know a few things about Medicare before your enrollment period comes around.
Applying for Medicare isn’t as simple as you might think. Most people describe the process as frustrating, and this all stems from a lack of understanding about how Medicare coverage really works. If you’re like most Americans, you get your health insurance through your employer. This federal program is not the same as “traditional” employer insurance.
When it’s time to apply for Medicare, you’re not sure how to find the best coverage for you. Plus, you’re not even certain what all Medicare covers in the first place. Finally get your Medicare questions answered in this guide.
What is Medicare?
First, let’s define exactly what Medicare is so that you can make a smart decision about your health. Many Americans confuse Medicare for Medicaid which is the coverage created under the Affordable Care Act or Obamacare. Unlike Medicaid, Medicare is only for citizens who are 65 years of age or older or those who have certain disabilities.
There are four distinct parts of Medicare coverage known as Part A through Part D. Here’s a brief description of each type of coverage:
- Part A – This covers your inpatient hospital stays, including hospice care and some home health care.
- Part B – Part B is similar to your traditional health insurance from your employer. It covers things like doctor’s visits, outpatient care, and other preventative care.
- Part C – Part C is an optional coverage option in which you choose a private insurance provider for your inpatient and outpatient care. This is also referred to as Medicare Advantage.
- Part D – Finally, the last part of the Medicare puzzle is your prescription drug coverage.
Finding Additional Coverage
What many people don’t understand about Medicare coverage is that it doesn’t cover all of your medical costs. In general, Medicare will cover about 80% of approved care. This still leaves gaps in coverage that need to be paid either out of pocket or with a supplemental health insurance plan.
As you retire and approach Medicare years, you’ll need to take a closer look at additional coverage and what makes sense for your health needs. Research the best Medicare Supplement providers to get a better understanding of your options.
What to Know Before Enrolling
Before you take the step to enroll in Medicare, there are some things you have to know. First, once you turn 65, Medicare will be considered your primary insurer. This is even the case if you’re still employed and have health insurance through your employer.
You can begin applying for the program before your 65th birthday. The enrollment period begins 3 months before your birthday, but make sure you don’t miss the enrollment period. Applying later will lead to penalty fees.
If you have a specific doctor you’d like to continue seeing or additional needs, consider a Medicare Advantage plan. This will give you more flexibility, not only in cost but also in providers. This will also usually include some kind of supplemental coverage, such as the one for vision or dental.
Finally, if you’re already on social security which you can enroll in starting at age 62, you will automatically be enrolled in Medicare Parts A and B when you turn 65. It’s always a good idea to double check this process anyway to make sure the transition is smooth. You never want to experience any gaps in healthcare coverage.
Applying for Medicare doesn’t have to be complicated. As long as you do your research and follow the best practices above, you’re prepared to handle anything come your 65th birthday. Medicare is a great program that makes healthcare more affordable for those who need it more. Make sure you’re taking full advantage of this federal program by staying informed and educated.
Samantha Tetrault is a full-time blogger and writer from Orlando, FL. She writes about health and wellness for freelancers on her own blog, Samanthability.com.