Medicare insurance is available to all American citizens once they reach the age of 65, or to individuals under the age of 65 due to certain disabilities. If you are aging into Medicare, you may be eligible for federally funded healthcare insurance because of the Medicare taxes you have paid while working. When you apply for Medicare, it is important to understand all of your potential options so that you can select the plan that is best for you based on your finances and your healthcare needs. The primary options for Medicare insurance include Original Medicare, Medicare Part C, and Medicare Part D.
Applying for Medicare
When you are three months away from turning 65, you are eligible to apply for Medicare. This time is known as the beginning of your Initial Enrollment Period, and it lasts for seven months. If you do not apply for Medicare during this time and do not request an extension, you may have to pay additional fees.
When you apply for Medicare, there are a few options to consider when selecting the plan that meets your needs. Things to consider may include whether you want to get your benefits through Original Medicare or Medicare Advantage, and whether you want to enroll in Part D prescription drug coverage, supplemental insurance, and/or additional benefits, such as dental and vision care.
Original Medicare is the federal program that provides your Part A and Part B coverage. Medicare Part A is responsible for covering inpatient health expenses. These could be incurred during hospital stays, inpatient procedures, stays in skilled nursing facilities, or in hospice care. Medicare Part A also pays for all medications, therapies, and other services you receive while you are in an inpatient setting.
Part B, on the other hand, covers outpatient expenses. This coverage includes visits to your primary care physician and other specialists, outpatient procedures or testing, durable medical equipment, or any care that is used to prevent sickness or injury.
If you or your spouse has worked for at least 10 years while paying taxes, Medicare Part A is not associated with any premium payments. Part B does carry a premium payment, which is determined based on your monthly adjusted income.
Medicare Part C
Medicare Part C is also known as Medicare Advantage. These plans are still sponsored by Medicare, but they are provided through private insurers, so they may offer additional benefits in addition to Part A and Part B coverage. Medicare Advantage plans differ from one another, so the specific costs can vary based on the benefits your plan includes.
All Medicare Advantage plans cover the same basic coverage as Part A and Part B, but they may cover additional items as well. For example, some of these plans include coverage for vision, dental, and hearing. Many MA plans also include prescription drug coverage. If you are planning to select a Medicare Advantage plan, be sure to review the included benefits and compare them to other plans.
Medicare Part D
Part D prescription drug coverage provides help in paying for medications ordered by your physician for use at home. Stand-alone Part D plans can be added to Original Medicare or you can enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan that includes Part D coverage.
If you have a chronic illness that requires treatment, a prescription drug plan could be a great option to reduce prescription costs, especially if you are taking various medications each day. It is not mandatory to enroll in a prescription drug plan, but if you don’t enroll when you are first eligible, you may have to pay late enrollment penalties when you decide to enroll later on.