One of the biggest questions we get on a daily basis is from people who are either nearing the age 65 or contemplating coming off of group coverage age 65 and older. Most seniors are very aware of the option for Medicare but exactly sure what that means and how to proceed once they're getting closer. Lots of questions and a trial by fire approach to the strange new language of Medicare is to be expected. Let's walk through what you need to do in order to get ready for Medicare.
First, a quick lay of the land. there are actually three parts of Medicare at a minimum that we need to get in order. Let's walk through the two original parts. First, there's Part A which is the part you've been paying into all your life. You may have received notification of auto-enrollment into Part A but it's best to make sure you're all set in the system. There are situations such as when income was primarily through a spouse where potential Medicare recipients can fall through the cracks and it's best not to leave this to chance. There are two primary ways to check your Part A status. You can always call the local Social Security office (in phone book Federal Government section although office will be local), Medicare directly, or visit the Social Security office locally. This was the only way to check status until the internet and we first recommend going online to www.medicare.gov where many enquiries and changes can be now be completed online in a fraction of the time is would take to deal with Social Security via phone or in person. Most requests can be completed from the website and this is the first approach. Once you confirm that you're set up for Part A (Medicare hospital coverage), the next step is Part B.
Part B is different in that you must sign up for it and in most cases, you will pay a premium to have this coverage. Part B is very important in that it covers physician costs and non-facility based care. You can also use the website to sign up for Part B which is our recommendation. Ideally, try to sign up at least 2-3 months prior to the 1st of the month in which you're turning 65 or prior to group coverage ending (the two most common triggers for Medicare eligibility). This should provide plenty of time to account for any hiccups along the way. Part B is voluntary (you do not need to have this coverage) but you will need it in order to get a Medicare supplement insurance plan. Part A and Part B are both required for supplements.
Finally, there's Part D for prescription coverage. Like Part B, you will need to sign up for Part D coverage. With both Part B and Part D coverage, there can be penalties for delaying signing up once you are eligible so it's typically best to lock these down as soon as available depending on your financial and health situation. So a quick recap..
About 2-3 months prior to Medicare eligibility, use the medicare.gov website to make sure your Part A is in effect, sign up for Part B and D. That's Medicare. Now, what about a Medicare supplement? We just need the application prior to the 1st of the month in which you're eligible. Ideally, a good 30 day window prior to that date would be best to account for hiccups along the way as well. With Part A, Part B, Part D, and an F Medicare Supplement plan all set-up a good 30 days prior to 1st of the month you're eligible in should set you on the right path towards mastering the brave, new world of Medicare.