Approaching 65 is different for everyone. You may already be retired, thinking about retirement or planning to keep your job for a while. No matter when you retire, you need to make sure you have the right health insurance coverage.
Here are 10 things to check off your list when planning for Medicare enrollment at age 65 or after.
1. Review your current health plan coverage
What kind of coverage do you have now? Will your health needs change once you turn 65? Will you travel and need extra coverage? Knowing what health care services you use the most and where you plan to be will help you decide what benefits you’ll need covered under your Medicare plan.
2. Get to know Medicare Star Ratings
Each year, The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) measures health plans in a number of areas. The scale ranges from one to five stars, with five being the top score a plan can get. Some of the categories plans are rated on include preventive care, prescription drug services and customer support. Think of these Medicare Star Ratings as a way to tell which plans are doing a great – or not so great – job. You can find a plan’s star rating on Medicare Plan Finder or on their website.
3. Browse Medicare and health insurance websites
Not all Medicare plans are the same. It’s a good idea to research what options are out there, even if you’re not purchasing in the near future. By visiting health insurance websites, you’ll get a sense of company values, the extra perks they offer, and their Medicare Star Ratings.
4. Learn about your options at Medicare meetings
Most health insurance companies that offer Medicare plans host informational Medicare meetings around your city. A Medicare expert from the company will walk you through your options and answer your questions. It’s a great place to learn more about Medicare and get one-on-one time with a trusted source. Most companies post their Medicare meetings on their website.
5. Keep track of your medicines
It’s important to take a quick inventory of the meds you’re on, even if it’s just one or two. It’s probably a good idea to talk with your doctor and get a list of the drugs you’re taking so you can see if your drugs are covered by the plans you’re considering. This will help you look for plans with the right amount of prescription drug coverage for your needs.
6. Ask your doctor(s) if they accept Medicare
Some doctors choose not to take Medicare as insurance. If you’re hoping to keep your doctor after you transition to Medicare, make sure he or she sees patients with Medicare. You can contact the insurance company you’re thinking of buying from and ask if that doctor takes the plan, or contact the doctor’s office directly.
7. Take time to learn the parts of Medicare
Just like any other new topic, especially one as complex and important as Medicare, it’s a good idea to start with the fundamentals. Having a solid grasp of the parts of Medicare will help you understand your plan options and what kind of coverage you’ll need later. You’ll also be able to ask the right questions when it’s time to talk to a Medicare sales rep or insurance broker.
8. Get up to speed on the Medicare enrollment periods
Understanding when and how to apply for Medicare is just as important as understanding the details of Medicare coverage. There are several key Medicare enrollment periods. Spend some time learning them so you can be ready for your enrollment day.
9. Check your eligibility for Medicare benefits
Medicare.gov provides an easy-to-use tool where you can find out when you’re eligible for Medicare and when your Initial Enrollment Period begins. All you have to do is provide your birthdate and some basic work history. If you’re approaching 65, now is a great time to learn these key dates to help guide your Medicare planning.
10. Enroll in Medicare Parts A and/or B (Original Medicare)
Before you can sign up for a private Medicare plan, you first need to enroll in Original Medicare, which is hospital and medical coverage provided by the federal government. If you’re receiving Social Security benefits, you should get your Medicare card in the mail from the Social Security Administration (SSA) three months before you turn 65. If you don’t see it, give them a call at 800-772-1213. You can also email them, or stop by their office. They’ll confirm your eligibility and answer questions you may have.