After years of hard work, you’re reaching the point in life when you’re eligible to enroll in Medicare. There are several options available when it comes to choosing health coverage from this government-sponsored program, so be sure to evaluate your health needs before deciding on a plan.

Of course, if you find that your health needs change over the course of a year then you have the option of making alterations to your coverage during Medicare’s annual open enrollment period that runs from October 15 through December 7.

What is Medicare?
There are different parts of the federal health insurance program:

  • Medicare Part A is hospital insurance and covers some of the costs associated with hospital stays, card in a skilled nursing facility, hospice car and some home health care.
  • Medicare Part B is medical insurance and covers certain services from health care providers, outpatient care, medical supplies and preventive services.
  • Medicare Part C is also known as Medicare Advantage and is offered through a private company that contracts with Medicare to offer Parts A and B. Those enrolled in an Advantage plan covers services that are paid for through Original Medicare and most offer prescription drug coverage. Plans through this type of coverage include Health Maintenance Organizations (HMO), Preferred Provider Organizations (PPO), Private Fee-for-Service Plans, Special Needs Plans and Medicare Medical Savings Account Plans.
  • Medicare Part D provides beneficiaries with Original Medicare prescription drug coverage. Insurance companies offer these plans and are required to follow the same rules as Medicare drug plans.

Tips and tricks for enrolling in Medicare
Signing up for the Medicare plan that suits you best can be confusing due to the plethora of options you have available to you. But before you get lost in the sea of choices, keep in mind the following tips:

  • Make sure that you learn more about Medicare before signing up as it can save you a lot of money down the road.
  • It’s important to enroll when you’re supposed to so that you aren’t charged any late penalties. The enrollment age is 65, so if you don’t have insurance from an employer or your spouse is no longer working and receiving coverage, then you’ll want to choose a Medicare plan.
  • Medicare won’t alert you when it’s time to sign up so it’s up to you to know the time frame – three months prior to your 65 birthday and three months after, if you’re hoping to avoid any fees.
  • Medicare isn’t free unless you qualify for a low-income program, so you’ll likely be paying monthly premiums in addition to deductibles and copayments.
  • There is no family coverage with Medicare, which means that your dependents won’t be able to receive health insurance through your plan.
  • There are gaps when it comes to what Medicare covers although there is a wide range of health services, prescription drugs and medical equipment that are covered.
  • Individuals cannot be denied Medicare coverage as a result of poor health. Anyone who qualifies is entitled.
  • Even if you haven’t worked long enough to qualify for Medicare you may be able to buy into the program or qualify on your spouse’s work record.