During the enrollment period for Medicare (October 15 through December 7th this year), questions arise. With all the terminology, clauses, and specific forms to fill out, Medicare enrollment can be a confusing time. Here are some things to keep in mind when thinking about Medicare.
Social Security Administration
The first thing you should know is that all Medicare enrollments go through the Social Security Administration. For any American who is 65 or older, the SSA can provide insurance (there are also special cases where individuals can be younger than 65). You can enroll in Part A, which is just hospital insurance, and/or Part B, which includes standard medical insurance. Part B does require premiums for care, so some individuals elect not to participate. Medicare Part C is often called Medicare Advantage and provides additional coverage, included Part D which is for prescriptions.
When to Enroll
If you are not yet 65 years old and already receive retirement benefits, you do not have to sign up again for Medicare when you do reach the eligible age. You automatically register for Parts A and B beginning the first of your birthday month. However, if you are new to Medicare, you will have to sign up either online, by phone, or at your local Social Security office. You can begin the process up to three months ahead of your birthday to ensure the benefits begin right on time. It is important to understand what you are signing up for once you hit 65, so oftentimes applicants begin the process six months in advance to have all questions answered.
If you complete the forms online, the process should only take ten to fifteen minutes, though you can save, exit, and come back to the application. A Medicare card will come in the mail later. If you miss enrollment at your 65th birthday, there is a general enrollment period from January 1st to March 31st, and this coverage begins July 1st of that year.
Who to Ask
When dealing with governmental agencies, it can be easy to get anxious or frustrated with the process. However, your local Social Security office or the SSA’s website can be the biggest help. They know all the intricacies of the process and can streamline questions. Their phone number is 800-772-1213, and they tend to be busiest on Fridays and Mondays in the morning, particularly at the beginning of the month. You can also ask family and friends how they signed up for Medicare and which Parts they receive. It can often be more helpful to hear a layman’s perspective.
What’s Not Covered?
Unfortunately, hearing aids are one of the major costs not covered by Medicare. Since they are considered elective devices, Medicare does not pay for hearing aids. Part B does cover certain hearing tests and appointments with audiologists, so this is something to take advantage of if you elected to sign up for Part B. Medicare does not cover dental work, foot care, or eye examinations either, since they are also non-life threatening in most cases. Additionally, Medicare does not cover long-term care, so secondary insurance may also be required.
Medicare embraces acronyms, so here’s a basic breakdown of some of the most popular three letter abbreviations.
AWV – Annual Wellness Visit (akin to a yearly physical)
COB – Coordination of Benefits (determines who pays what charges)
HSA – Health Savings Account (money saved specifically for medical expenses)
FSA – Flexible Spending Account (money deducted for specific list of services not covered by health insurance)
CMS – Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (they manage the Medicare program)
EHR – Electronic Health Record (online medical records)
LTC – Long Term Care