Medicare is a federal program that makes health care more affordable for those approaching their golden years. While Medicare is only available for senior citizens 65 years old and up, it’s never too early to learn about the program. In fact, the earlier you’re able to prepare for Medicare by learning about the different parts, the more equipped you’ll be to make smart choices about your health coverage.
Because the enrollment period only starts 3 months before your birthday and ends 3 months after, you have 7 months to sign up. That’s a relatively short window to choose the best coverage that suits your health needs. Because of this limited enrollment window, read on to learn what you need to know about Medicare now while you have ample time.
Understanding the Program
First, you need to familiarize yourself with all of the parts of the program. For this guide, we’ll just be sharing an overview of each of the parts and how they go together. The bulk of the confusion surrounding Medicare is how the 4 parts actually provide coverage.
Medicare Part A covers hospital stays, and you can think of this as your room and board for extended stays in a medical facility or hospital. Next, there’s Medicare Part B. You might hear this called “traditional Medicare,” since it covers things like outpatient care, lab tests, and office exams. Note that Medicare Part B does not include vision care or dental care, and those things are covered through Medicare Part C or supplemental plans.
Medicare Part C is an alternative to traditional Medicare. You’ll also hear it called Medicare Advantage, and it’s when you purchase a plan through a private insurance company. This allows for more freedom not only in the cost but also in the coverage. Finally, Medicare Part D is your prescription drug coverage. That’s the basic breakdown of the program.
Estimate Your Costs
Unfortunately, healthcare is not free. Traditional Medicare will cover only 80% of a patient’s bills. That means you’ll still need to have money saved to cover your medical costs as you age. As we mentioned before, not all plans include coverage for dental care or vision, so you’ll need to decide if those costs will need to be included as well.
Use a health care cost calculator to decide just how much you need to have prepared just in case. While the best way to prevent needing to spend a lot on health care is to stay in good health, we can’t always predict what will happen as we age.
Check Your Doctor
If you like the doctor you’re currently seeing, it’s worth checking if they’re covered under Medicare plans. Medicare B usually includes a list of in-network doctors, and your favorite primary care physician might not be on it. Additionally, if you need to see any specialists, these might not be covered.
Many Medicare Advantage plans provide more flexibility when it comes to choosing your own doctor. This is particularly important if you’re already receiving treatment for a specific illness and you expect to continue to need health care.
Don’t Ignore Medicare
While some people choose to assume they won’t need medical insurance as they age, that’s probably not the case. It’s expensive to ignore Medicare after 64, and it’s not in your best interest if you want to live a long, healthy life. Not only are there limitations and fees involved if you miss your enrollment window, but the government applies a 10% premium penalty for every year you go without coverage after your 65th birthday.
It’s not worth risking your health to save a few bucks a month. Instead, do your research in advance so you know what to choose when your 65th birthday rolls around. Your health is the most important thing you have, so don’t let it go to waste.