Reaching retirement age means starting a new chapter in your life, and for many seniors in the United States, it also means you can begin taking advantage of Medicare benefits. Started in 1965, Medicare is an insurance program provided to Americans age 65 and older as well as some people who have qualifying disabilities under 65. It helps to pay for a range of medical services, including visits with your doctor, hospital admission, diagnostic testing and more.
For many seniors, enrollment in some parts of Medicare is automatic, but for others, there are steps that need to be taken to begin enjoying Medicare benefits. Below, you’ll learn how to enroll in Medicare using a few different methods. You’ll also learn about the various parts of Medicare insurance so that you can make informed healthcare choices.
Receiving your Medicare ID card
If you’ve elected to receive Social Security benefits, you will be automatically enrolled in Medicare Part A. You will receive a welcome packet containing your Medicare ID card, and this card will be required to enroll in a Medicare insurance plan.
How to enroll in Medicare
To enroll in Medicare, you can visit the Social Security Administration (SSA) online at ssa.gov. This website provides an online portal where seniors can view and manage Social Security benefits as well as sign up for Medicare coverage. You can enroll in Medicare through this website by following the prompts on the screen.
Seniors can also call 1-800-772-1213 to speak with someone from the SSA about enrolling. This option may require you to mail in documents, so be prepared to take down notes if you call to inquire about your Medicare benefits.
The parts of Medicare coverage
Before enrolling in Medicare, it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with the parts of the program that make up full coverage. This information will help you select the options that are right for your healthcare needs. You’re encouraged to work with your doctor to make these choices as your doctor may have additional information about your health that can help you find the right Medicare benefits.
Medicare Part A
Medicare Part A is hospital insurance. It covers inpatient care in hospitals and skilled nursing facilities (SNFs) that accept Medicare. Medicare recipients are provided with 60 days of inpatient coverage each benefit period for hospital admission and 20 days of inpatient care for admission to SNFs. During a covered admission, Medicare benefits cover all treatment provided by the facility to which you are admitted. Part A also covers hospice care.
Medicare Part B
Medicare Part B is outpatient insurance for medically necessary services and supplies. It provides coverage for clinical care provided in doctors’ offices or labs and some costs associated with durable medical equipment (DME). Under Medicare Part B, costs are split between Medicare recipients and the Medicare insurance program. Medicare covers 80% of outpatient costs under Part B, and Medicare recipients pay the remaining 20%.
Medicare Part D
Medicare Part D is prescription drug coverage. People who get their Parts A and B benefits through Original Medicare choose to enroll in a stand-alone Prescription Drug Plan (PDP). Others choose to enroll in a Medicare Advantage that includes prescription drug coverage (MA-PD). Drug coverage helps to pay for medications prescribed by a Medicare-participating physician that can be purchased from retail pharmacies or through mail order delivery services. Each Part D plan has a monthly premium and may include a copay due when you purchase a prescription. Part D plans vary in costs and drugs covered, so compare plans in your area before enrolling.
How to enroll in Medicare Advantage
Once you are eligible for Original Medicare and enroll in Parts A and B, you can choose to get your benefits through a Medicare Advantage plan. MA plans combine the benefits of Original Medicare with additional coverage. These plans may be right for seniors and retirees who want access to additional benefits or have all their benefits under one umbrella. To learn more about your options, you’re encouraged to work with an independent Medicare Advantage insurance broker who can impartially shop plans in your area to provide options.