By James Hall, Senior Care Fitness
Medicare is a complex system that can be confusing for most seniors, but with the right resources, you can make sense of all of the different parts and plans. You also need to know when to put those resources to use and when to seek coverage. With this in mind, here are some tips to make understanding and enrolling in Medicare less stressful and time-consuming.
Research All Medicare Parts
As you take your first look at Medicare, you may think you're looking at an alphabet. That’s because there are different Medicare parts that apply to various areas of coverage that can help keep seniors healthy. Parts A, B, and C are the most basic components of Medicare plans, offering coverage for hospital and medical care, as well as supplemental coverage for things like eye exams. Some seniors also opt for Medicare Part D, which is the prescription drug coverage that helps seniors pay for any medications they may need.
If you’re only enrolled in Part A or B, however, you could be left paying for many medical and health care expenses out of your own pocket. That’s why you should also look into Medigap plans that can help offset deductibles, such as Part F, or provide other assistance, like Part G, so you can have the complete coverage you require.
Understand Medicare Limitations
Knowing what is covered by various parts of Medicare is important, but it’s also important to know what’s not covered. While many of these gaps, like dental care, prescription drugs and vision care, can be filled by supplemental plans and Medicare Advantage, there is one that can not: long-term care. As of now, there is no Medicare coverage for long-term care, which should be a major concern for seniors. That’s because most seniors will need some sort of long-term care in their lifetime, but most seniors will also struggle to cover the costs of that care. In fact, up to 15 percent of those seniors will need an additional $250,000 to pay for the care needed over their lifetime. As you plan to enroll in a Medicare plan, think about creating your own financial plan for paying for long-term care. This plan can include signing up for additional insurance or checking into additional benefits, so long as you know Medicare will not help with expenses. Having a long-term care plan in place is crucial when it comes to protecting your health.
Know Important Enrollment Dates
Unfortunately, you can’t just sign up for Medicare or change an existing plan anytime during the year. You have to wait for your enrollment period in order to complete these actions, and when that period is can depend on a few key factors. If you are new to Medicare, you can sign up for a plan anytime during the three months before or the three months after your eligible birthday, and the start date for your new plan is determined by when you choose to enroll.
If you miss that window, you will need to wait until the Open Enrollment Period (OEP) to sign up. Also, you will likely need to pay a fee for signing up late. The only way to avoid the fee and enroll is if you are switching from group/employer insurance to Medicare after your 65th birthday, which would be considered a Special Enrollment Period (SEP). Finally, to make changes to an existing plan, you need to do so during the Annual Enrollment Period (AEP) in the fall.
Medicare can really start to make sense when you have enough resources and tools. So, before you enroll in Medicare coverage, be sure to use the links above to check out some Medicare tips and basics that can guide you through this complicated process. Also, be sure to save your enrollment dates or sign up for emails so that you won’t miss your Medicare window.