Medicare open enrollment season is almost here, which means that those eligible will be able to make changes to their Medicare coverage. Post-retirement healthcare can be confusing, but there’s no need to feel overwhelmed. For new enrollees or those who have been cardholders for a while now, there is no better time to learn more about Medicare. Here are eight of your most common Medicare questions with the answers you’ve been searching for.
What is Medicare?
The first question and arguably the most important: what is Medicare in the first place? Medicare is government health coverage offered to those age sixty-five and over. People who have been receiving Social Security Disability income for at least twenty-four months are also eligible, as are ESRD and ALS patients.
How do I enroll in Medicare?
Enrolling in Medicare is relatively straightforward. As long as you meet the eligibility criteria listed above, you can directly contact a health insurance agent or the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) to complete your enrollment.
What does Medicare cover?
Medicare is divided into four parts: Parts A, B, C, and D. Parts A and B are known as Original Medicare.
Part A provides hospitalization coverage and is usually free for most enrollees. Part B covers non-emergency medical services such as doctor’s visits and outpatient procedures. Part D covers prescription drugs and is only offered through private insurance carriers.
Part C is also known as Medicare Advantage. Medicare Advantage plans are only offered through private health insurance carriers. The carrier is responsible for administering the enrollee’s plan benefits, not the government. Medicare Advantage places a limit on your yearly out-of-pocket healthcare costs.
What does Medicare not cover?
Original Medicare usually does not cover additional benefits such as vision, dental, or hearing aid coverage. Medicare Advantage plans may cover these areas, so speak with a representative to find the best coverage for you.
Are there different types of Medicare plans?
Yes. You can choose to enroll in either Original Medicare or a Medicare Advantage Plan with a private carrier. In both cases, you’ll also have the option to add on a Part D plan for prescription drug coverage.
Original Medicare plans don’t require you to stay in a network, as long as the provider you’re working with accepts Medicare (most do). Medicare Advantage plans come in HMO and PPO options, similar to standard health insurance coverage.
How do I know which Medicare plan is right for me?
Most people need to spend a lot of time researching their Medicare options and assessing their present and future needs. Although choosing a Medicare plan can be an extensive process, finding the right fit for your needs is critical as you near the retirement age.
There are also plenty of resources to help you pick the right Medicare plan. You can contact Medicare directly or speak with a local health insurance agent.
If I keep working past age sixty-five, what happens to my Medicare benefits?
If you are planning to continue working, you may have the option to delay your Medicare benefits. This option will largely depend on your employer, though, so be sure to consult with them first. Ask about your Medicare eligibility and creditable coverage options to help you make the best decision.
Can I switch my Medicare plan if I find a better option?
Yes, you can. You are eligible to switch Medicare plans once each year during the Annual Enrollment Period (AEP). The AEP runs between October 15th till December 7th every year.
Medicare comes with a hefty dose of information to sift through, but doing a little research and taking stock of your needs is a safe first step. And if you do initially choose a plan that you’re less than happy with, you can always reevaluate every year during the AEP season.