How to Sign up for Medicare

Getting older can be a challenging experience.  The healthcare options available to you may seem confusing or unnecessary.  The inexperience you have in this new chapter coupled by ongoing health concerns create a recipe for disaster.  The best way to combat these fears is to know what your options are and how to sign up for them.   With age comes wisdom, and knowing how to navigate the system will demonstrate your wisdom all the more.  Getting the coverage and protection that you need is much easier than it seems.  Here are 3 important parts of enrolling in Medicare that will help guide you through the process.

Timing- The biggest mistake seniors make when enrolling in Medicare is timing.  There is a small window in which enrollment is open.  This window is limited to the three months leading up to your 65th birthday, the month of your birthday, and the three months following your birthday.  Failure to enroll in the specified timeframe can lead to penalties.  To avoid those fees, being proactive with the enrollment is the best way to get started.  This time is called the “First Enrollment Period,” which is self-explanatory.  Getting ahead of the enrollment period allows plenty of time to ensure that you feel comfortable with your coverages prior to utilizing them.

Knowledge- Many seniors end up making a mistake because they feel vulnerable and don’t want to be taken advantage of.  The best way to combat this is through educating yourself on your options.  There are two parts to the enrollment.  The first part is Part A which is for long term care, hospice, and hospital stays.  The second part is Part B is for specific doctor’s appointments, outpatient visits, and medical supplies.  The two parts work together to keep you covered for the spectrum of situations.  There is a Part C which is an elective portion that supplements both A and B.  Think of Part C as the component that expands your options.  With Part A and Part B, you may find yourself limited in terms of physicians that accept Medicare.  Part C is through a separate private company that offers more options and a more thorough coverage portfolio.  Part B is a paid coverage meaning that you can decide you do not want that coverage but it does cause you to lose out on the benefits. Considering the benefit of having additional coverage in the event of an onset illness or accident is something to do by consulting with a reputable Medicare Part C affiliate. They can educate you on the benefit of having the additional protection that can ensure that your out of pocket expenses will be minimal when the time comes. There’s more that can be done than just crossing your fingers and hoping for the best. Keeping in mind the value that comes by having a small monthly premium to improve the quality and accessibility of care when needed will be impactful later on.

Enrollment- Enrollment options vary but regardless, there’s an option for everyone.  The easiest way is attempting to enroll online.  If you have access to the internet on your phone, desktop, or laptop, you will be able to access the website to enroll in care.  On the process is outlined and the application can be filled out there.  The system on the government website is very user friendly and allows for a guided question and answer completion.  You can even check the status of your application after its been submitted through the website.  This avenue does help prevent unnecessary trips to the Social Security office and you can make corrections to the application online.  To ensure that it is completed, you can also track the status of your application for Medicare to verify what stage it is at and if there are any processing issues. This allows you the opportunity to often get ahead of anything that may come up should they require additional information or documentation from you.  If you do prefer to avoid the Social Security office but don’t feel confident about applying through their website, you can also apply by phone.  The Medicare Registration can be reached at 1-800-772-1213.  The office has hours of 7am to 7pm and service they provide will walk you through an application process.  Of course, you can take the old-fashioned way and head to the Social Security office and wait in line.  These processes all vary in the amount of time they can consume but the fastest process is generally over the phone or website.

Preparation is key.  Now that you have a good understanding on the options you will need to select from, you will want to weigh these decisions out.  There are pros and cons to the coverage choices and realistically you want to pick out the one that fits best for you.  However, something to consider is that with age, comes additional health risks.  Rejecting valuable coverage can leave someone in financial ruin without insurance to pay the difference in cost.  By utilizing your knowledge of your needs, and with being proactive in your approach, you will be able to feel confident and empowered in your decisions.  Seeing your friends or family members impacted by a terminal condition or an ongoing health issue may have already led you to see this.  It is all the more important for you to consider your options.  Another benefit of Medicare is that each year you can adjust the coverages from those you have selected the year prior.  Regardless of this opportunity, be careful to say “maybe next year I’ll add Part C,” as the year passes, emergencies can arise. At this important juncture in your life, it is important that you feel poised to handle your own Medicare benefits without the fear of being taken advantage of.  The more you know, the better you can protect yourself.  Knowledge is power, and with age comes wisdom, so you’re likely to make the right decision with all that you’ve learned.

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