October means pumpkins, caramel apples, and for seniors the beginning of Medicare Open Enrollment. If you’re 65 or over, now is the time to start thinking about your options. New enrollees and current beneficiaries can sign up for plans from Oct. 15 to Dec. 7, 2013. If you’re already enrolled, you don’t have to make changes, but it’s a good time to review your plan.
Understand the Basics
Medicare with all of its parts can be pretty confusing, especially if you’re new to Medicare or are helping someone else enroll. There are a few basic things you should know:
- Open Enrollment runs from Oct. 15 – Dec. 7, with coverage starting on Jan. 1, 2014.
- There are 4 parts to Medicare:
- Part A (inpatient hospital insurance)
- Part B(outpatient hospital/physician insurance)
- Part C (Medicare Advantage) Seniors can purchase this kind of plan through a private insurance company to help pay for their healthcare costs. These plans are typically less expensive than a supplement.
- Part D (prescription drug coverage)
- Already enrolled? Use this enrollment period to change your plan. Call 800-Medicare.
- Haven’t enrolled yet? Use this enrollment period to enroll for the first time.
- The new Healthcare.gov website is separate from Medicare.
You should not use that website to enroll for benefits. Visit Medicare.gov instead.
Who Can Enroll
You’re eligible to receive Medicare benefits as soon as you turn 65. By entering a few pieces of information about yourself on Medicare.gov, you can check your enrollment anytime. If you’re 65 and still working, things may be a little different for you. Here’s what you need to know.
What You Need When Enrolling
When you enroll, make sure you have all the important information you’ll need to sign up. Here’s what you’ll need:
- Social security number
- Date of birth
- If you have another type of health insurance, have the plan’s information handy (this includes group plan information, employment information & your dates of coverage).
Once you’ve submitted your application, you will get an application number. Record this number someplace safe. You’ll need it to track or access your application in the future.
Things to Consider When Choosing a Plan
Medicare.gov points out that it’s important to think about what parts of your plan you enjoy, and check from year-to-year to make sure they’re still available.
Think about the following:
- Where are the doctors’ offices?
- What are their hours?
- Which pharmacies can you use?
- Can you get prescriptions by mail?
- Do the doctors use electronic health records or prescribe electronically?
- With traditional Medicare, you pay 20%, Medicare pays 80%. You may want to consider a Medicare supplement plan to help pay for the 20% you’re responsible for paying.
Visit Medicare.gov for compare plans, get more information, and to enroll.