Medicare is individual health insurance for people over 65 and is the federal health insurance program. By and large, it is for people who are 65 or older. For the most part, the different parts of Medicare help cover specific services:
Medicare Part A (Hospital Insurance)
Part A covers inpatient hospital stays. In addition, it also covers care in a skilled nursing facility, as well as hospice care, and some home health care.
Medicare Part B (Medical Insurance)
Part B covers certain doctors’ services, outpatient care, medical supplies, and preventive services. Most people will pay a standard Part B premium which varies depending on income.
When are you eligible for Medicare?
To sign up for Medicare Parts A & B (known as original Medicare) most people will have an Initial Enrollment Period. Thus, this period begins 3 months prior to the month you turn 65, includes the month you turn 65, and ends 3 months after the month you turn 65.
During your Initial Enrollment Period, you may enroll in a Medicare Supplement Plan, also known as a Medigap Plan. Accordingly, since Medicare won’t cover all your health costs, a Medigap plan will help cover the difference. Additionally, you may also consider a Medicare Advantage Plan (Part C) and also enroll in a prescription drug plan (Part D) during your Initial Enrollment Period.
When you can change plans.
If you have enrolled in a Medicare Advantage Plan or a prescription drug plan, you may change plans each year during the Open Enrollment Period. Thus, open enrollments run from October 15 to December 7 each year. Then if you decide to change your plan, your new plan will become effective January 1 of the following year. In any case, you may change your Medicare Supplement Plan at any time. However, you may be subject to Medical Underwriting to qualify for your new Medigap Plan.
Did you miss your Initial Election Period deadline? Then, you may qualify for a Special Election Period (SEP). Accordingly the SEP allows you to enroll in original Medicare, a Medicare Advantage Plan or a prescription drug plan through a qualifying event.
- You are turning 65
- You move to a new area that is not in your current plan’s service area
- Recently moved back to the US
- You lose your current coverage (either Group or Medicaid)
- You now need a SNP (Special Needs Plan) or you no longer need a SNP