If you haven’t qualified for Medicare due to disability, Medicare eligibility begins the year you turn 65. As you approach Medicare eligibility, there are some things to take care of to make the transition run smoother. If you’re nearing retirement age and are considering your Medicare options, below are some things you can do to prepare:

Think About Your Current and Future Healthcare Needs

Before you enroll in Medicare, you’ll want to think about your current and potential future healthcare needs. Do you take prescription medications on a regular basis? Are you likely to continue needing these medications in the future? Do you have a chronic medical condition that requires regular doctor visits? Are you affected by a genetic condition that makes you predisposed to hospitalization?

Thinking about all of these factors will help you to make the right choices when you sit down to compare plans and providers. It might also be a good idea to future-proof a little bit. Even if you aren’t experiencing a lot of medical problems now, things can change years down the road, so it’s best to be prepared. Keep in mind that Original Medicare does not provide a long-term care benefit, so this is something to factor into your decisions.

Research Your Options

Once you feel like you have a good idea about what options will make you feel most comfortable concerning healthcare coverage, you’ll want to look at what options are available in your area. Not all Medicare plans are available in all states from all providers. The plan providers in your area may offer different coverage solutions based on state laws, but all will be required to adhere to Medicare guidelines regarding coverage minimums, pre-existing conditions and other factors that affect your ability to receive adequate coverage.

This is also a time to consider whether you will want to go with Original Medicare or a Medicare Advantage plan. While you can change your options later during the Open Enrollment Period or when special circumstances apply, you’re encouraged to get the right coverage from the start to enjoy greater healthcare choices.

You should also take note of Medigap coverage options if you feel like this is something you will need. Medigap is supplemental Medicare coverage that helps to ease the financial burden of meeting things like coinsurance and copays.

Apply When You’re Ready

When applying for Medicare, remember that you have a seven-month window within which to apply during the year of your 65th birthday. This window, known as your Initial Enrollment Period, includes the three months before the month of your birth, your actual birthday month and the three months that follow your birthday month. You can enroll in Original Medicare at any time during this window without the risk of facing a penalty.

If you’re enrolling in Medicare as the result of being qualified through a disability, the same considerations discussed above will apply to your situation. The difference, however, is that you will need to have received Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) for at least 24 months prior to enrolling in Medicare if you are under the age of 65. This may provide you with a bit more time to consider your options and plan for the future.