How to Make Your Transition to Medicare a Smooth One

Enrolling in Medicare for the first time can be a daunting prospect.

You’re bound to have a lot of questions.

One of the most pressing is probably how first-time enrollment works and what you need to do.

Don’t be afraid to ask an expert insurance agent for help, but here are the answers to some common questions to get you started.

When is the right time to enroll in Medicare?

There are certain situations in which people are automatically enrolled in Medicare.

If you:

  • Receive Social Security retirement benefits, and/or
  • Receive disability benefits

You don’t have to do anything – you’ll be enrolled automatically.

What about Medicare Part B?

If you’re automatically enrolled in Medicare Part B and decide that you don’t want the coverage, you don’t have to keep it. If your enrollment was via Social Security, you’ll need to get in touch with them to drop it.

You also have the option to delay coverage if you’re covered by your or your spouse’s employer. Delaying the coverage will not cause you to incur a penalty.

What is the Initial enrollment period?

If you weren’t enrolled in Medicare automatically, you’ll have to be enrolled manually. This takes place during what is known as the Initial Enrollment Period (IEP).

It’s a seven-month-long period that begins three months before you turn 65 and extends through your birth month and three months after.

Your enrollment would happen during the IEP if:

  • You’re not already receiving any benefits and you’re nearing your 65th birthday.
  • You aren’t eligible for any retirement benefits.

When is the general enrollment period?

Beginning on October 15 and ending on December 7, you may sign up for Medicare if you missed your IEP.

Keep in mind that signing up late (after your IEP has ended) can cause you to be hit with late penalties that can be as much as 10% more for each 12-month period that you were eligible and declined coverage.

What is the special enrollment period?

It begins when your previous group coverage ends and extends for eight months after. Enrolling during this special period will not cause you to receive a penalty.

What is Medicare Part C?

This is also referred to as a Medicare Advantage Plan and is only offered through private insurers. You also have to be covered by Medicare Parts A and B.

Prescription drug coverage is available through some Advantage plans.

What about prescription drug coverage?

It’s important to understand that you won’t be automatically enrolled in any prescription plan.

You’ll have to purchase it separately as a stand-alone plan or get it through a Medicare Advantage plan.

What are supplemental plans?

Also called “Medigap,” these optional plans can help you fill in the gaps your Medicare coverage may leave, such as coinsurance, copayments, and deductibles.

These are offered through private insurers and are totally separate from Medicare.

To avoid confusion, remember that a Medigap plan only covers one person. For example, you and your spouse would be covered under separate policies.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help

You have the option to enroll in Medicare through an independent third-party provider.

There are several benefits to going this route, like:

  • Free advice. It helps to have someone walk you through the confusing process – especially when it doesn’t cost you anything.
  • No bias. An independent agency isn’t working for just one provider, so they’re free to focus on finding the best plan to meet your needs.
  • Expert advice. Independent agents know what they’re talking about. They have up-to-date knowledge of all the different carriers, which enables them to find the one that’s just right for you.

Being informed is half the battle

A little understanding goes a long way.

From the initial enrollment period to prescription drug plans and Medigap, there’s a lot to think about.

Get informed and don’t hesitate to contact an independent agency to help you through the process.

What part of the Medicare enrollment process causes you the most confusion?

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