More than 6.3 million people living in California currently use Medicare as their healthcare insurance provider. In addition, over 2.7 million individuals utilize Medicare Advantage Plans through private insurers, and a further 2.3 million people utilize prescription drug plans through Medicare. Medicare offers a number of different plans to their recipients, each of which provides a variety of benefits. If you are planning to use Medicare as a primary or secondary insurer, it is important to know when you should apply for Medicare and the plans that are available to you.

How to Apply for Medicare Insurance in California
Medicare becomes available to everyone at the age of 65. However, you may qualify for Medicare before you turn this age if you meet other criteria, including having a disability for which you are receiving benefits or having been diagnosed with end-stage renal disease. If you fall into one of these categories, you will have a different time frame for application.

For the majority of applicants, you become eligible for Medicare at the age of 65. When looking to apply for Medicare, you need to be aware of the start and end dates of your Initial Enrollment Period. This period is the time that you are eligible to apply for Medicare services without receiving any late-enrollment penalties.

The Initial Enrollment Period begins three months prior to your 65th birthday. When this period begins, you will be able to apply for Medicare coverage online, over the phone, or in person at a local Social Security office, which are located all over the state of California. Your Initial Enrollment Period then extends for three months after your birthday month, with the full period lasting seven months. If you apply after this deadline without seeking an extension, you will be required to pay an enrollment fee if you do decide to apply for coverage.

If you have a disability and are currently receiving Social Security benefits for your disability, you will qualify for Medicare during the 25th month of your benefits. Similarly to the previously mentioned Initial Enrollment Period, those on disability will be able to begin applying for Medicare three months prior to their 25th month, and the period will last for a total of seven months.

Original Medicare or Medicare Advantage Plans in California      The most common options for Medicare insurance are Original Medicare and Medicare Advantage plans. Original Medicare is made up of Part A and Part B. Medicare Part A is designed to cover inpatient expenses, such as hospital stays, inpatient procedures, stays in skilled nursing facilities, and home health care. Part B is primarily focused on outpatient services, including regular checkups, diagnostic testing, therapy visits, preventative care, and lab work.

In addition to Parts A and B, Medicare Part D is another option that can be utilized by Medicare recipients. This Medicare plan is designed strictly for prescription drug coverage. You may decide enrolling in Part D is useful if you take medications daily, have any chronic health conditions, or may need prescription drugs in the future.

Medicare Advantage plans, on the other hand, include the same benefits as Medicare Part A and Part B, but they are offered through private insurance companies. In addition to the Original Medicare benefits, Medicare Advantage plans may also include a variety of other benefits as well, including medications, dental, vision, hearing, and others.

Medigap Plans in California

Another potential Medicare option is the use of Medigap, also known as Medicare Supplement plans. There are different Medigap plans available to California residents, with each one offering different benefits. Some of these plans have specific requirements to qualify, but they generally help provide coverage to help limit out-of-pocket costs. You must be enrolled in Original Medicare to purchase a Medicare Supplement policy.

When you are first eligible for Medicare, you will have an initial enrollment period for Medigap during which you will have a guaranteed issue right to buy any Medigap plan sold in California. This period starts when you turn 65 and are enrolled in Part B. If you do not purchase a Medigap plan during this time, you may be subject to medical underwriting and be charged more or even refused coverage later.

Related articles:

Retiring at 65? Understanding Your Medicare Benefits(Opens in a new browser tab)

Does Medigap Cover Prescription Drugs? (Opens in a new browser tab)