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Medicare 101: What You Need to Know Before Enrolling

Enrolling in Medicare is a multi-step process, and knowing not only when to apply but also which plan to choose can be overwhelming. Whether you’re turning 65 soon or are already eligible, use this information as a guide to help you meet important deadlines, avoid late enrollment penalties, and manage your finances.  

1. There are multiple enrollment periods. 

Initial Enrollment Period (IEP): a seven-month window when you are first eligible for Medicare. This period starts 3 months before the month of your 65 birthday and ends 3 months after the month you turn 65. 

Example: if your 65th birthday is August 10, your IEP would begin May 1 and end November 30.

General Enrollment Period (GEP): if you miss your initial enrollment period, you can sign up between January 1 and March 31 each year. 

Annual Enrollment Period (AEP): open between October 15 and December 7 for those enrolled in Medicare who want to make changes to existing coverage plans, such as switching from Original Medicare to a Medicare Advantage plan. 

Special Enrollment Period (SEP): you may qualify for SEP based on certain qualifying events or circumstances. Typical qualifying events include losing your employer or spousal coverage unexpectedly. 

2. Retirement isn’t required.

Those 65 and older can enroll in Medicare regardless of employment status. If you are still working, you will want to compare the benefits of Medicare coverage to their employer group coverage to determine which plan best aligns with their needs, lifestyle, and budget. 

Note: Medicare coverage can vary according to company size, and organizations with less than 20 employees require you to enroll in Medicare once you turn 65. 

3. Social Security can trigger automatic enrollment. 

If you are already taking Social Security benefits prior to turning 65, Social Security will automatically enroll you in Medicare Parts A and B. No action is required on your part. However, if you need additional coverage, such as the Medicare Advantage or Medicare Supplements, Medicare Choice Group can advise you on next steps.

If you plan to begin withdrawing at age 65, however, Social Security will enroll you automatically. 

Alternatively, if you have not yet started Social Security (and plan to delay withdrawing), you will need to sign yourself up for Parts A and B. 

4. Pay attention to your existing Health Savings Account 

Stop all contributions to your health savings account (HSA) six months in advance of enrolling in Medicare. If not, you may be at risk of paying penalties. 

The good news is you can still use the funds from your HSA to cover health care costs once you’re on a Medicare plan.  

5. There are four parts to Medicare – and hundreds of plan options.   

Medicare is a four-part system – A, B, C, and D – each with its own coverage and pricing. It is important to understand the differences as well as which type of care is not covered by Medicare. 

If you want to purchase additional coverage, there are also alternative options, like Medicare Advantage plans and Medicare Supplements, to support your needs. 

Ready to Enroll? 

Whether you’re wondering which plan is right for you or you’re ready to enroll, Medicare Choice Group can help you take the next step. Talk to our team of Medicare experts online or at (855)-482-0574.

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