Your 65th birthday is coming up and you are looking forward to your retirement and enjoying your golden years. While you are busy planning for your big birthday, you also need to make sure that you are planning for your enrollment into Medicare.
A recent survey found that 41% of people 54+ years old believe that they will automatically be enrolled in Medicare. Unfortunately, this isn’t true for most future Medicare beneficiaries and missing your enrollment period can result in late fees that can follow you for the rest of your life.
In order to avoid those late fees and any other troubles you might run into with Medicare, here is a quick breakdown of everything you need to know about Medicare enrollment.
What is Medicare
First of all, let’s tackle what Medicare is. Medicare is government-funded health insurance for people 65 and older and for those with disabilities. It helps to pay for your medical needs such as hospital visits and medical equipment.
There are two different options when it comes to Medicare: Original Medicare and Medicare Advantage. Original Medicare includes Part A, which covers hospital insurance, and Part B, which covers medical insurance. You can pair Original Medicare with Medigap plans to cover other things you think you need. This option allows you to customize your plan specifically to you.
Medicare Advantage is more of a bundle option; you can search Medicare Advantage plans that are offered through private insurers and regulated by the government. Each plan contains different benefits. You can obtain dental and vision care, so you can find the bundle that provides the coverage you need.
When Should You Enroll in Medicare?
No matter what type of Medicare you decide to enroll in, it’s important that you enroll during your Initial Enrollment Period. While most people are familiar with the Open Enrollment Period that takes place during the fall, some may not know that if you miss your Initial Enrollment Period and wait until the fall you can rack up Late Enrollment Penalties.
Your Initial Enrollment Period takes place during the seven months around your 65th birthday. The enrollment period begins three months before your birthday month and goes until three months after your birthday month.
It is important to take the steps to enroll in Medicare because as stated earlier, you likely won’t be automatically enrolled. The only people who will automatically be enrolled in Medicare are:
- Those who have been collecting Social Security disability benefits for 24 months
- If you have ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease) or ESRD (end-stage renal disease)
- Those who are already receiving Social Security before age 65
Unless you are included in one of these groups of people, it is critical to sign up during your Initial Enrollment Period in order to avoid late penalties.
Medicare Annual Enrollment Period
If the Initial Enrollment Period is when you are first signing up for Medicare, then what is the Annual Enrollment Period for? The AEP takes place every year during the fall. This year it goes from October 15 – December 7. It gives you the chance to review, change or add to your plan.
This is the time to examine your healthcare needs and whether your current Medicare coverage is enough. If you feel that you need more, then you can find over plans that you can switch to or you can add on to your current coverage.
If you are happy with your current plan, it is still important to do a little bit of research. You should be shopping around as plans and premiums change annually. For instance, your current plan may change. It may no longer cover a prescription that you need. It may be that your doctor may no longer be in your covered network. You don’t want to miss out on this important knowledge. You will want to go into the new year without the coverage that you need.
In order to stay on top of these changes, it’s important to do your research and to open all Medicare mail. Each year you will receive mail from Medicare. This will tell you whether your plan is discontinued next year or the Annual Notice of Change, which will state that your plan is available next year and show the changes that are happening to it.
Avoiding Medicare Scams During Open Enrollment
As you research and open all of your mail, you may notice that you are receiving offers or information that doesn’t fit with what you have read on the Medicare.gov site. This information could be from fraudsters who are trying to scam you out of your Medicare benefits or information.
Scammers take advantage of your Initial Enrollment Period and the Annual Enrollment Period to try and get misinformation out to seniors or to get their personal information. There are a few ways that scammers may try to take advantage of your Medicare benefits and a few things you can do to avoid getting scammed.
One of the most popular Medicare scams is when someone calls you from a number that seems official and says that they are from Medicare. This person will then ask you for your Medicare number. Never give your Medicare number to someone who calls you. One of the most important things to know when avoiding Medicare scams is that Medicare will never call you and ask for your Medicare number. Typically, information from Medicare is shared through the mail. If you receive a call from someone claiming to be from Medicare, they are likely a fraudster.
If you do receive a call from someone claiming to be from Medicare or Social Security, hang up and then find the organization’s main number and call them. Once you have called the actual organization, you can ask if they are trying to get a hold of you.
Stay informed about current trends in Medicare scams so you can be alert and ready to combat any attempts to scam you from your Medicare information.
Your golden years can be some of your best as you enjoy retirement and spending time with friends and loved ones. Get the healthcare coverage and benefits you need and deserve through Medicare. Make sure you are enrolling during your Initial Enrollment Period and stay up-to-date on your coverage with each AEP.
Guest post provided by Kendra Leak @ Eligibility.com
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