Medicare Enrollment – What do I need to know?

If you or someone close to you is nearing age 65, then you are probably trying to figure out Medicare.  Medicare is the national health insurance program in the United States administered by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. It is health insurance for Americans 65 years and older and younger people with some disability status as determined by the Social Security Administration.

Your initial enrollment period (unless you qualify based on a disability) for Medicare Part A occurs 3 months before you turn 65 and three months following. Each year following between October 15 and December 7 you can change plans for the following year. Signing up for Part B occurs from January-March of each year. There are also penalties if you don’t buy Medicare Part A when you are first eligible. For more information about enrollment, visit this page on the Medicare website.

Medicare Part A premiums are waived if you are 65 or older and a United States Citizen or have been a permanent legal resident for five continuous years, and you or your spouse has paid Medicare taxes for at least 10 years. If you paid Medicare taxes for less than 10 years or 40 quarters there are monthly premiums you need to pay. Medicare Part B costs $148.50 (2021) or higher depending on income. For more information on Medicare costs visit Medicare’s website. There are other costs such as deductibles and co-insurance as well. 

So if you are confused when I use terms like Medicare Part A or B, let me provide you with a brief explanation. 

  • Part A is known as hospital coverage. 
  • Part B is your medical coverage such as visiting your doctor. 
  • Part C is private insurance in place of Part A and B. 
  • Part D is prescription drug coverage. 

The plans are required to offer the same coverage as Medicare Part A & B, but often provide additional coverage. Premiums will vary depending on the coverage provided. Another decision you need to make is whether you want additional coverage if you have Medicare Part A and B. This is often referred to as Medigap coverage. For more information on the various parts visit the Medicare website.

If you are still confused, don’t worry. There are a lot of resources out there for help. Each state also runs a SHIP (State Health Insurance Assistance Program) program. To find a SHIP representative in your state, visit the State Health Insurance Assistance Programs National Network. You can also visit the Medicare website for information.  

University of Maryland Extension in partnership with University of Delaware Cooperative Extension will offer a workshop on October 25, 2021 and November 8, 2021. To register for either workshop, click on the date.

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