Medicare is a national health insurance program for qualifying U.S. citizens. Once most Americans reach the age of 65, they are eligible for this basic coverage that includes inpatient and outpatient care. You’ve likely been paying taxes into Medicare for years via automatic with-holdings from your wages. When you finally reach the age of eligibility, don’t miss out on this coverage by forgetting application deadlines. Here are four enrollment periods to mark on your calendar to make sure you get the Medicare coverage you need:
The Initial Enrollment Period
If you are already receiving Social Security benefits, you will automatically have access to Medicare Part A and Part B. For everyone else, and there is an initial enrollment period. This is a seven-month window that starts three months before your 65th birthday. Missing this deadline could see your benefits delayed as you will have to wait until the next enrollment period, and could cause you to face late enrollment penalties.
The best time to apply is before your birthday, as coverage will start as soon as you turn 65. If you are eligible for Original Medicare, you can immediately apply for a Medicare Advantage plan (Part C). Offered from private, Medicare-approved insurers, this type of plan gives you additional coverage for services such as dental and hearing, as well as drug prescriptions (Part D). You can submit a Medicare application in-person or online or enroll over the phone.
The Annual Election Period
You can make changes to your Medicare plan from October 15th to December 7th each year. These changes won’t take effect until January 1st of the next year and will be locked in place throughout the duration of the year.
The Special Enrollment Periods
There are some circumstances where you can qualify for a special enrollment period. For example, if you have moved states, relocated to a nursing home, retired, or your eligibility has changed, you may be able to modify your Medicare plan. Discuss your needs with your health insurance provider to find out whether you meet the requirements.
The Medicare Advantage Enrollment Period
For anyone with an existing Medicare Advantage (Part C) plan, there is one other important deadline to remember. If you ever need to stop your coverage or switch plans, this can be done between January 1st and March 31st. Once your request has been received, these changes will be implemented from the first of the following month.
Getting Your Health Insurance Right
Health insurance is essential. Original Medicare has a number of benefits, but you will likely need a range of other extras.
A Medicare Advantage plan will support your existing Medicare coverage while streamlining your insurance with one simple bill. Look for a plan that includes hearing services, dentistry, eye care, and drug prescriptions. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, 89% of adults ages 65 and older take prescription drugs, so even if you don’t need them now, you likely will in the future.
Remember, if you miss the deadline, you may have to wait another year, so it makes sense to get it right from the start!