Know your Medicare options

Know your Medicare options

Whether you’ve recently turned 65 and are enrolling in Medicare for the first time, or are looking to change your coverage during Medicare’s annual enrollment period, here are answers to three common questions about Medicare.

  1. When can I enroll in a Medicare plan?

Timing is everything, and a lot depends on your specific situation. You have a seven-month window around your 65th birthday to enroll (your birthday month plus the three months before and the three months after). It’s best to sign up early to avoid gaps in coverage and late-enrollment penalties.

For people already enrolled in Medicare, annual enrollment runs from Oct. 15 to Dec. 7 and allows you to make changes to your plan or enroll in a new plan. If you have a qualifying life event, like a move, you can get a special enrollment period to switch plans during the year.

  1. What are the different parts of Medicare?

Medicare has four main parts – A, B, C and D. Original Medicare includes Parts A and B. Part A provides coverage of inpatient care in hospitals and skilled-nursing facilities, as well as hospice care and some home healthcare. Part B provides coverage of the costs of doctor visits, outpatient hospital services, some home health services, and durable medical equipment. It also covers some preventive healthcare. Part C, also known as Medicare Advantage, is an option that combines Original Medicare Parts A and B into one plan offered by private health insurers.

Medicare Advantage plans often also include prescription drug coverage and other additional benefits not included with Original Medicare. Part D helps with the cost of prescription drugs.

Finally, there’s also what’s known as Medicare Supplement plans. These plans help cover some of what Medicare Parts A and B don’t pay, such as portions of coinsurance, co-payments and deductibles.

  1. How should I compare different Medicare coverage options?

When it comes to Medicare, one size does not fit all. Luckily, you have the ability to choose from multiple coverage options. Take the time to explore those options and understand the benefits and costs of each plan so you can find the coverage that works best for you. Ask yourself a few key questions:

  • Is your current coverage still meeting your personal health needs, and will your benefits change next year? If you’re enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan, you should have received a document called the Annual Notice of Changes. Make sure you take a look at that document so you’re not caught off guard by any changes to your plan.
  • Is your coverage a good fit for your budget? Pay attention to more than just the monthly premium. You should also understand the other out-of-pocket costs.
  • Are you comfortable with the doctors and hospitals available with the coverage you’re considering?
  • Are your medications on the drug list? The list for plans can change from year to year. Make sure your drugs will still be covered next year.
  • Does the plan offer additional benefits that are important to you, such as dental and vision care or a gym membership?

Source: United Healthcare of Washington