What you should know about Medicare

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Medicare, it’s one of the few things you can actually look forward to as you age. Once you turn 65, all that money that you’ve been paying towards it finally comes to fruition. But what else do you need to know about it?

Application

Did you know you need to apply? Yes, you should actually start applying when you turn 64. The process is long and drawn out, like many things dealing with the government. You have to apply 3 months before your 65th birthday and enrollment ends 4 months after this birthday.

That’s why it’s suggested to start the process early so you don’t need to rush and worry about it on a strict deadline.

If you miss the enrollment period, you have to pay a penalty. This can vary from 10% for every 12 months you delay enrollment or 1% per month.

Here’s a guide to enrolling and avoiding those penalties.

Parts of Medicare

You probably have heard terms like Medicare Part D or Medicare Part B, but what do they mean?

Medicare Part A
This means hospital insurance, as well as skilled nursing facilities, hospice care, and home health. If you worked and paid Social Security tax for at least 10 years, you get this for free! But if you did less than 10 years, you have to pay a monthly premium.

Medicare Part B
This refers to medical insurance: doctor visits, medical equipment, x-rays, lab tests, ambulance, etc. You pay a monthly premium for this coverage.

Medicare Part C
This is the Medicare Advantage Plan. This plan is not provided directly by the government, instead it’s through private health insurance companies that contract with the government. According to MedicareInteractive.org, “Part C is the part of Medicare policy that allows private health insurance companies to provide Medicare benefits. These Medicare private health plans, such as HMOs and PPOs, are known as Medicare Advantage Plans. If you want, you can choose to get your Medicare coverage through a Medicare Advantage Plan instead of through Original Medicare.”

Medicare Part D
This refers to prescription drug insurance. It’s only provided through private insurance companies that contract with the government.

How do you pick a plan?

This is tricky because you now have 4 very different insurances that cover varying aspects of your health. You can choose to stick with Part A which just covers hospital-type care. But if you need many prescription drugs, you’ll want to add Part D.

With Part A, you can see a doctor, but ensure first that they take Medicare.

Here’s a helpful article from Medicare.gov that may help you make the choice.

Social Security and Medicare

If you are on social security, that you should automatically be enrolled into Part A and/or Part B once you turn 65. Just double check to be certain so you don’t miss the enrollment period and end up paying penalties.

Pay for extra expenses

If your Medicare coverage doesn’t pay for every expense, you can get something called a “Medigap” policy. This can help supplement your Medicare plan.

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