6 Tips for Making Timely Decisions Regarding Medicare - dummies

6 Tips for Making Timely Decisions Regarding Medicare

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Medicare is a federal government insurance system that helps tens of millions of seniors and people with disabilities pay for their health care. It’s the only truly national health care program in the United States — meaning that it’s available regardless of your income, the state of your health, or where you live nationwide — and it has been enduringly popular since it began in 1966.

Yet Medicare works like no other insurance you may have known in the past. To avoid total confusion, you’re wise to gain at least a broad understanding of how the program is put together and how its rules may affect you personally.

Despite assertions to the contrary, Medicare is not a one-size-fits-all system. It comes with many options, which require you to make decisions within certain time frames. Here’s a quick checklist for getting it right:

  • Enroll at the right time, according to your circumstances. If you misunderstand or ignore the rules, you face permanent financial penalties and may go without coverage for several months.

  • Research your options. You need to understand the differences between being in the traditional Medicare program and enrolling in a private Medicare Advantage health plan.

  • Determine how to make smart choices if you opt for traditional Medicare. That means deciding whether you need to add Part D prescription drug coverage and, if so, how to choose the drug plan that works best for you. It also means deciding whether you want to purchase Medigap supplemental insurance and, if so, understanding when you should buy it to ensure you receive all-important federal guarantees and protections.

  • Figure out how to make smart choices if you opt for a Medicare Advantage plan. That means comparing plans according to your needs and preferences and understanding your options if you change your mind and want to return to traditional Medicare.

  • Get help making your choices if you need to. Learn how to get personal help from legitimate, informed sources (and avoid scamsters and frauds) before you proceed.

  • Understand your right to change your coverage every year and at other times in certain circumstances. Be sure you understand the purpose of various enrollment periods, their deadlines, and the process of switching to another plan or type of coverage in detail.