Every day, roughly 10,000 people in the US turn 65 and become eligible for Medicare. So, if your 65th birthday is fast approaching, you’re not alone. There are plenty of people going on this same journey with you—with the same hopes, expectations, and questions.
Turning 65 comes with a number of incredible joys and benefits. You may be looking forward to retirement or having grandchildren. You could finally be ready to take that dream vacation you’ve been saving up for, or turning your “empty nest” into the home you’ve always fantasized about.
But this milestone birthday also comes with a number of important questions and things to consider. One of the biggest topics on many people’s minds as they head toward 65 is Medicare. How do you enroll? What does it take to get started? And what other options are out there to help you out—ones that go above and beyond what traditional Medicare can offer?
Let’s dive into these important Medicare FAQs—so you can focus on enjoying 65 (and beyond!) with family, friends, and peace of mind:
“How Do I Sign Up for Original Medicare?”
One of the most important things to understand as you head toward your 65th birthday is how to enroll in Medicare Parts A and B, also thought of as, and often called, “original” or “traditional” Medicare.
What do you need to do to enroll? And are there any restrictions or time limits you should know about?
If you’re already receiving retirement benefits from the Social Security Administration or the Railroad Retirement Board, then you will most likely be automatically enrolled in Medicare when you turn 65, or when you become eligible. Your Medicare card will be mailed to you, and your coverage will begin on the first day of the month you turn 65.
If you do not receive these retirement benefits/if the above does not apply to you, you will have to enroll in Medicare yourself, manually. You can use various resources—you can enroll online, via mail, or in-person—to sign up for Medicare, Parts A, B, and D (Medicare’s prescription drug coverage). Generally, you can think of the seven months around your 65th birthday—the four months before, and the three months after—as your Initial Enrollment Period. This is the time window wherein most people are first eligible to sign up for Medicare.
But are you still working? Many people who are still working when they turn 65 are going to want to keep their current coverage through their employer. If you’re eligible to start receiving Medicare, but you’d like to keep receiving your current coverage, you can generally hold onto your existing coverage for some time by enrolling in premium-free Part A and declining enrollment in Part B. If you choose this route, you can enroll in Part B in the future, during a Special Enrollment Period. With Special Enrollment, you can enroll in Part B up to eight months after the end of your coverage through your current employer.
“Can I Fill in the ‘Gaps’ Left By Original Medicare?”
As you consider everything that goes into your Medicare coverage, you may find that there are certain “gaps” in the coverage which you may not have anticipated—these can range from expensive out-of-pocket costs to a costly break in your prescription drug coverage. That perscription coverage break is also known as the Medicare Prescription “Donut Hole.”
Over the years, many Medicare recipients have found that routine and unexpected healthcare costs tend to drive up their medical bills over time—and that traditional Medicare plans, on their own, aren’t always enough to keep up with the mounting costs.
That’s where Medicare Supplement Insurance plans, commonly called “Medigap” plans, come in.
Medicare Supplement Insurance is private health insurance that’s designed to help pay for some of the out-of-pocket health care costs that original Medicare doesn’t cover, like copayments, coninsurance, and deductibles. Many healthcare providers and Medicare recipients consider Medicare Supplement Coverage to be the “Gold Standard” in insurance for older adults.
Even with an original Medicare policy in place, you can easily spend thousands of dollars every year on out-of-pocket medical expenses. Supplement Insurance is there to help “fill in the gaps” in your coverage, and defray these hefty costs before they can pile up.
What’s more, Medicare Supplement plans can help simplify the healthcare process, often significantly. Having Medicare Supplement coverage typically means less hassle and paperwork for you. For instance, with Supplement Insurance, your plan’s provider will pay its portion of your bills automatically, meaning that you usually won’t need to worry about paying doctors or care providers directly. Medicare Supplement plans are also generally accepted by any doctor who accepts Medicare, meaning that you also won’t need to worry about staying in-network or getting a referral to see a specialist.
“How Do I Get Started With Medicare Supplement Insurance?”
When can you enroll in a Medicare Supplement plan? Broadly speaking, you are eligible to receive Medigap coverage if you are already enrolled in Original Medicare, Parts A and B.
Arguably, the best time to sign up for Medicare Supplement coverage is during your unique Medigap Open Enrollment Period. This personal Open Enrollment Period is the six-month window that begins on first day of the month that you are both aged 65 or older, and are enrolled in Medicare Part B. (So if, for example, you turn 65 on August 4, but don’t join Medicare Part B until September 15, your Medigap Open Enrollment Period will begin on October 1st—the first day of the month that you are both 65 years old and enrolled in Part B.)
During this six-month Open Enrollment window, Medicare beneficiaries can purchase any Medicare Supplement plan that’s available in their state, with guaranteed issue. This means that insurance companies may not use your medical history or pre-existing conditions to charge you more for coverage, or deny you coverage on the basis of a pre-existing condition.
“What Are the Benefits of Medicare Supplements?”
Many older adults and Medicare beneficiaries report that signing up for Medicare Supplement coverage is one of the best personal and financial decisions they’ve ever made. And it’s easy to see why. The benefits of having Medicare Supplement coverage can be enormous. In short, Medicare Supplement can help you take control of your healthcare choices while also allowing you to safeguard your hard-earned money.
And this financial safety could make all the difference for you and your family over time—giving you greater peace of mind not only about your personal healthcare costs, but also your family’s overall financial future. By filling in the “gaps” left by Original Medicare coverage, Medicare Supplement Insurance may allow you and yours to:
- Protect your savings and keep your lifestyle intact. Taking steps to minimize your potential out-of-pocket expenses could allow you to save more money over time. And that can put you in a better position to save or spend as you see fit, without having to constantly fret over medical expenses.
- Provide for your loved ones. With Medicare Supplement coverage in place, you can rest easier, knowing that you won’t need to tap into your savings or lean on your family to cover unexpected medical bills. This means you can secure your financial legacy by leaving a nest egg for your loved ones, paying down other debts, and taking steps to ensure your family’s financial future.
- Go out and enjoy your life goals. The freedom, security, and coverage offered by a Medicare supplement plan may give you the chance to finally go out and pursue your biggest life goals before and after retirement. From tackling a major home improvement project to finally traveling the world, there’s no limit to what you can accomplish when you live life with less stress and more free time, secure in the knowledge that you’re protected from unexpected medical costs.
“Is There Anyone Out There Who Can Help Me?”
Yes, there is. Is there anything more you’d like to know about Medicare Supplement insurance? Want to confirm when your Initial Enrollment Period or Medigap Open Enrollment period will start? Interested in learning more about the Supplement Insurance policies that may work best for you? The Enrollment Specialists are here to help you enroll and get the plan you need, when you need it.
Led by our founder and principal consultant, Matt Peebles, the Enrollment Specialists can help you customize the insurance policy that will best suit your needs. We’ll truly get to know you and what makes your circumstances one of a kind. This way, we can work with you to make sure you enroll in the Medicare Supplement plan that will help you reach your most important goals, making sure your costs are always minimized and your coverage is at its peak.
And unlike other insurance brokers, Matt won’t disappear once he’s helped you find the perfect Medicare Supplement option. Whenever you have a question or concern, for the entire life of your policy, our health and life insurance superhero will be available to help swoop in and save the day. With Matt as your advocate, you won’t ever need to deal with the hassles of call centers, online chat rooms, or canned responses. Instead, you’ll have a real person you know and trust, who’s always just a quick phone call or email away.
Ready to plan ahead and fill in the gaps in your Medicare coverage? Want to be able to say, “I Got A Guy” for all things Medicare? Drop us a line today to get the conversation started.