Tag Archives: Medicare Advantage

Why Aetna Medicare Advantage Is Essential For You

Medicare Advantage coverage is actually a Medicare policy which involves an exclusive company helping you to control your own Medicare Part A and also Medicare Part B insurance coverage. It is a leading insurance policy offering the consumer medical insurance cover services. There are several other programs that provide comparable Medicare policies or any other health care policies for that matter. A lot of thoughts reported that just what elevates it from the rest is their capacity to deliver extra benefit providers without any extra charge.

To discuss the Medicare Advantage strategy, you first need to understand Medicare as well as components. Medicare health insurance is an insurance program made to covers people who are over 65 and others with ailments. Medicare Part A is a federal government assured hospital insurance policy which can be found without charge on the individuals. It addresses principle inpatients treatment inside hospitals and rehab amenities. Part B is known as a payable choice which insures various other healthcare services which Component A will not cover, deterring support in discovering particular sickness along with services for treatment of an existing ailment. These two parts bundled to get known as very first Medicare.

Medicare Advantage plan comes into the picture when you pay out a bill every month and you’ll get the exact same benefits but with the inclusion of eyesight, hearing, dental treatments, weight loss as well as wellness and fitness packages. That doesnt matter should you opted whether or not to obtain the Medicare Advantage strategy or packages from just about any alternative company, there are numerous plan possibilities that you could select from. There is the HMO option that enables that you receive attention by a community of given physicians. There is PPO option that provides anyone the leniency to choose medical professionals not in the group. There is the PFFS option which usually permit you to to see virtually any physicians that accept to the plan conditions. Finally, addititionally there is the SNP option that’s specially planned to be able to focus on distinct demands of the individual.

If you are in planning to get insurance plan, then you may want to re-think of having this kind of Medicare Advantage plan. The reason is that the Advantage package features a cheaper recurring rates when compared with MediGap. Moreover, if you select the Medicare Advantage plan, you are eligible to a wellbeing programs. Several collaborating health spas as well as physical fitness facility tend to be than happy to grant complimentary memberships to you personally. The Medicare Advantage companies will certainly at times allow markdown policies so that you can enjoy.

Throughout duration of the monthly payment that have to be made, prices change with respect to the offerings you decide to obtain, the area that you reside and the situation of one’s health. Regardless of what though, ahead of deciding upon having the Medicare Advantage program, make sure that you fully grasp all the terms and guidelines so you would know that this is the best insurance policy for an individual.

Some Seniors Supporting Medicare Health Insurance Plan Cuts

One of the primary questions about Congress’ moves towards healthcare reform is how they are planning to pay for it. A variety of budget cuts and tax increases have been proposed by the House of Representatives and the Senate in order to provide affordable health care. Many are especially worried about the impact of the Senate’s proposed decrease in Medicare health insurance plan spending. However, AARP (American Association for Retired Persons) recently announced that they support the Democratic bill, which includes approximately $460 billion in Medicare cuts. Why would they back legislation that may harm people over the age of 65, half of whom are card-carrying members?

Detractors would point to their history of supporting many laws proposed by Democrats, and say that the group is too cozy with that party. AARP takes a different view; CEO A. Barry Rand told its members that the proposal would not reduce any guaranteed benefits associated with the government-sponsored health insurance plan. Moreover, he pointed out that Medicare has recently been plagued by inefficiency, waste, and fraud–eliminating such expenses should cover most of the shortfall. Some believed that such wasteful spending is inevitable when the federal government is involved, making their support of a public option (effectively taking the form of “Medicare for all” health insurance plan) ludicrous.

Republicans such as Senator John McCain warn that the cuts will target some of the add-on benefits many seniors have come to expect from Medicare Advantage. These benefits often include gym memberships to maintain their fitness, in addition to higher quality vision and dental care. A Medicare Advantage health insurance plan is sold by private insurers as a supplement to standard Medicare. Proponents of the healthcare reform bill admit that Medicare Advantage programs will face the bulk of the cuts in federal funding, but accuse the health insurance plan providers of using the partially subsidized premiums primarily to finance corporate profit margins for their shareholders and exorbitant salaries of their executives.

There is definitely some opportunity for cost saving. Studies show that a senior citizen covered by a private health insurance plan (e.g. Medicare Advantage) costs the government 14% more than one on regular Medicare. It remains to be seen if the benefits to seniors outweigh the continuous additions to the budget deficit. McCain admonished the AARP for using Medicare funding as a “piggy bank” to pay for other health care programs, thereby driving it closer to bankruptcy. The organization has also been criticized for not recognizing the wishes of their own membership: there is no doubt some overlap between their membership roster and attendance at the town hall rallies earlier this year.

The Senate is expected to vote on the Medicare cuts today, prior to debate on the complete healthcare reform bill. Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet has proposed an alternative amendment that would result in all guaranteed Medicare benefits being spared–a move which he recognizes could cost him his seat. His proposal could see more support from Democrats wary of alienating the most consistent demographic of voters. Meanwhile, McCain has proposed his own amendment to change the language of the Medicare-related provisions and send the bill back to senatorial committees. They are accustomed to their health insurance plan and understandably resistant to change.

Is AARP likely to succeed in its goal? The likelihood is high. It is 40 million members strong, and has been a powerful lobbying group for decades. Even a fraction of them writing letters or making phone calls can have a significant effect on pending legislation. The impact such a move will have on AARP-branded health insurance plan offerings remains to be seen.

Where To Go For Texas Medicare Supplement Information

In prior articles I explained the basic rules of Medicare in the United States: Medicare is health insurance for people who are older than 65. Most people get Part A – inpatient care in hospitals – free and automatically. Part B, which covers doctors’ services and outpatient care, usually costs a modest premium each month. Parts A and B were the “original” Medicare health plans. Since they don’t cover everything, the government came up with Part C and Part D. Part C, sometimes called Medicare Advantage, lets people get coverage through an HMO or other private insurance. Part D helps to cover prescription drugs. Unfortunately, it’s all quite confusing and I always recommend people get good advice from a Medicare expert. Further, there is often a need for private supplemental health insurance. These are generally regulated from state to state, and this is where your Texas Medicare Supplement comes in.

Medicare supplement insurance, also called “Medigap” because it fills gaps in the original plans, is available to people who are enrolled in Medicare Part A and Part B. What are those gaps? Mainly the increasing flood of co-payments and deductibles, but also areas that the original Medicare simply wasn’t designed to cover or only provides limited coverage for. This could also include nursing facility co-insurance, foreign travel, certain preventive care costs, and more. If one or more of these areas is important to you, you need to look into supplemental Medigap insurance.

While Medigap is standardized it must follow State laws, which is why there are Texas Medicare supplements that are a bit different from those available in other states). In total, there currently are 12 Medigap plans, named Plan A through Plan L. Each Medigap plan offers a different set of benefits, and costs can vary. Note that the benefits for each of the twelve Medigap plans is always the same, no matter what insurance company you buy Medigap supplements from. Costs, however, can vary from company to company.

On the surface, all those many Medigap plans look confusing and many people do not get Medigap because they think Medicare will cover whatever health expenses they have. Unfortunately, with the ever-escalating healthcare costs, even co-payments and deductibles can add up to large amounts, and items that are not covered can quickly become prohibitively expensive. This is why some sort of Texas Medicare supplement insurance is important. It can provide peace of mind and financial stability.

Note that there are significant overlaps between Medigap plans. Several of them provide almost, but not quite, the same coverage and it’s important to pick the right one. It also makes no sense to pay for benefits that are already covered elsewhere. For example, Medigap plans E and I appear to offer virtually the same benefits, but if you look closer you see that Plan I covers excess Medicare Part B charges and at-home recovery and Plan E doesn’t, but Plan E covers preventive care not covered by Medicare. Likewise, if a person already has good coverage, one of the more basic Medigap plans may be all that’s needed.

If you get the idea that obtaining proper coverage is a bit complex, you’re right. This is one area where getting advice from experts really helps (and pays). The government has some good information that explains all the options. Better yet, consult with an expert in Texas Medicare supplements.

Everything You Need To Know About Medicare Supplement Policies

A Medicare Supplement policy is private health insurance that is used to supplement the Original Medicare Plan. This policy is also called “Medigap Insurance.” It is specifically designed to assist with health care costs, or “gaps,” that the Original Medicare Plan does not cover. Medicare Supplement policies often cover co-insurance, deductibles, and many other fees that Medicare doesn’t cover. If you receive benefits from the Original Medicare Plan and you purchase a supplement policy, then both plans will pay a portion of the Medicare-approved amount for covered health care costs. All of the Medicare Supplement policies are available for purchase through private insurance companies.

Keep in mind that a supplement policy is not considered a “Medicare Advantage,” because it is not meant to be a way to receive Medicare benefits. Only “standardized” Medicare Supplement policies can be sold through insurance companies. These standardized supplement policies are named by letters (A through L). A few states, such as Texas and Louisiana, allow you to buy another type of Medicare Supplement policy called Medicare SELECT.

The different types of Medicare supplement policies all offer the same basic benefits and insurance companies cannot change these policies. Typically, the only variation between policies through different insurance companies is the cost of the policy. Strict regulation through federal and state laws governs what is covered in these Medicare supplement policies, and these regulations are designed to protect those that receive Medicare.

What Medicare Supplement Policies Do Not Cover

Medicare Supplement policies do not cover any care that is considered long-term, such as care in a nursing home, hearing aids, eyeglasses, vision or dental care, and private-duty nursing. All new supplement policies are guaranteed to be renewable-meaning the insurance company will never terminate your policy as long as you pay the premium. Even though some previous Medicare policies paid the cost of prescription drugs, no new Medicare Supplement policies are allowed to include prescription drug coverage. So, if you would like to receive prescription drug coverage, it is advisable to join a Medicare Prescription Drug Plan (Part D) offered through private companies that are Medicare-approved.

When to Buy a Medicare Supplement Plan

The open enrollment period is the best time to apply for a Medicare supplement plan. This time to enroll only lasts for 6 months and begins on the first day of the month in which you are both age 65 or older and enrolled in Medicare Part B. During the enrollment period insurance companies cannot use any medical “underwriting,” which means that they can’t refuse to sell you their supplement policy, make you wait for coverage to begin, or charge you excess for a policy due to your health problems. The insurance company can never require a pre-existing condition waiting period if you buy a supplement policy when you have a guaranteed time period to purchase it.

Before your open enrollment period begins, you can send in your application for a Medicare supplement policy. Sometimes you may have coverage that ends once you turn age 65, so this may be very important if you want to guarantee continuous health coverage.

Your open enrollment period is extremely important because you can buy any supplement policy the company sells during this period. If you wait too long to apply for Medicare coverage and pass the time span of your open enrollment period, there is no promise that an insurance company will sell you a policy. When your open enrollment period is over, insurance companies are permitted to decide whether they will accept your application and how much they will charge you for the policy by the use of medical underwriting.

Medicare Supplement Policy Costs

The cost of Medicare supplement policies can differ widely because the premiums that insurance companies charge will vary from company to company. The coverage with each policy is always the same, no matter what company you choose, so keep that in mind when you are shopping around for a supplement policy. Also, remember that the cost goes up once your open enrollment period ends.

What is Medicare SELECT?

As mentioned earlier, some states offer another type of supplement policy known as Medicare SELECT. Medicare SELECT can be any of the standardized Supplement Plans A through L; however, you must use certain hospitals and sometimes, specific doctors in order to receive your full insurance benefits (except in emergency situations). Medicare SELECT policies are generally cheaper than other Medicare Supplement policies, but you will have to pay whatever costs Medicare doesn’t pay in non-emergency situations.

Ca Medicare Vital Info And Facts

Lots of individuals become confused when studying Medicare. There are scores of distinct companies and schemes so the entire area can be complicated when attempting to see the point of what is in effect being offered. There can even be deviations between counties. So that you can make it to an informed evaluation on what type of Ca Medicare is largely fitting to your state of affairs and future, you want to have some basic information on the assorted aspects. To begin with you must be educated that largely Medicare beneficiaries are above age of 6 , but if you are younger than this and acutely disabled then you can additionally sign up.

There are lots of plans all of which present a different variety of insurance, these will come with different prices and premiums. Any cost of a Medicare plan is apt to rise on a yearly basis to fit inflation and the existing expenses of health care. Also you ought to take in that precise benefits can alter each year so you have to keep yourself updated with the current news broadcasts.

Medicare is made-up of 4 distinct sections. Part A is what is also known as hospital insurance. This will cover the cost of most kinds of in-patient care such as hospital or hospice. To be considered for this portion without having to pay a premium each month, you would have to be holding at least 40 quarters of Social security credits. If you only have 30 to 40 credits then you must pay a monthly premium of $254 . If you have less than 30 credits then the monthly charge is increased to $461.00 throughout 2010.

Part B of Medicare handles outlay from outpatient treatment. This will insure the person for any outpatient treatment, laboratory tests, physical therapy, speech therapy, and also doctor’s fees. It may too insure some costs of medical materials, and ambulance transfer. Part B is voluntary; you are not forced to enlist. Lots of citizens who are still in work may have a similar plan from their workplace health insurance scheme so it is normal to wait pending retirement before choosing this preference.

During 2010, the rate of the Part B monthly premium is set at $110 , but if you already joined the system in 2009 you will just have to pay the last premium of ninetysix dollars . The logic for this is that these persons will not be given a cost of living correction in their Social Security benefit unless Government changes the policy. But if your year-end pay packet has increased then you will have to pay the newer prices.

It is vital to understand that Medicare does not bestow a full comprehensive scheme for all your medical linked requirements. A few parts such as hearing aids, dental treatment, eyewear, and long term private or nursing home care will have to be met out of your own pocket.

Medicare Advantage is a different name for Medicare Part C. This is an option which replaces the fee for service portion of Medicare. The government sponsored program will pay private insurance businesses to insure the health costs of beneficiaries’ schemes. To be eligible for this type of cover you must have formerly selected to enlist for Parts A and B of a Medicare program. If you want to join Part C you will remain qualified for all the advantages that are offered with the Medicare policies.

The discrepancy is that you will accept the reimbursement from a private plan. Many of these may also include the costs of prescribed medicines, if so the program is referred to as an MA-PD. Without the prescriptions cover it is called an MA-only program. It is repeatedly the case that a Medical Advantage scheme has true advantages over the initial variety of Medicare.

You must be aware that a Medical Advantage plan may be more pricey than the typical format, nonetheless in some circumstances it may be cheaper. An added consideration is that it may demand that you can only use physicians and medical services that are part of the Advantage network. There are 5 special programs that fall under the Medical Advantage class. These are: PPOs (Preferred Provider Organizations), HMOs (Health Maintenance Organizations), PFFS (Private Fee-for-Service policies), MSAs (Medical Savings Accounts), and SNPs (Special Needs plans).

The concluding division of Medicare, Part D, is related to medications. It will provide cover no matter what the salary or physical status of the exact individual. To be entitled you would have to join and pay premiums towards a prescription scheme.

Evaluating the advantages of Medicare and Medigap Insurance plan

Medigap is officially called Medicare supplement insurance. To buy a Medigap Insurance plan one must have Medicare Part A and Part B. The options available to you with Medicare Advantage plans or Medigap policies depends on where you live which is not the same in case of traditional Medicare. Thus it is advisable to look for plans available near your location and that matches your specific requirements when making a choice between a Medicare Advantage plan and Medigap policy.

As per regulation an individual who has a Medicare Advantage plan cannot purchase a Medigap Insurance plan. Medicare Advantage plans which are usually health maintenance organizations or HMOs must provide similar coverage as that of traditional Medicare. However, both the plans demand different co-pay amounts and can also give some added coverage. Thus benefits like vision, dental or drug coverage may also be provided. Apart from the Medicare Part B premium a beneficiary also has to shell out premium for extra coverage benefits or for lower co-pays.

Medicare Insurance plan has deductibles, copayments, coinsurance, and restrictions on how much Medicare will contribute towards the medical costs. Such a lacuna in coverage can mean a substantial amount of payment and Medicare supplement insurance or the Medigap Insurance Plan provides an opportunity to buy additional insurance to seal these gaps.

Medicare Insurance plan entails that Medigap insurance companies sell only standardized Medicare supplement plans. Medigap insurers do not get any government subsidy unlike Medicare Advantage providers. To purchase a Medigap policy one must get enrolled in Medicare Parts A and B. These supplemental policies encompass some of the out-of-pocket Medicare costs, like Part A hospital deductible and the 20 percent that you need to pay for doctor visits and other outpatient tests or treatments. Medigap policies can be categorized into 11 types and each policy is tagged by a letter from A through N. The benefits offered by each of the plans are same irrespective of the insurer. The only thing that can be different is the premiums and service offered by the provider.

Medigap policies do not include dental care, hearing aids, long-term care, prescription drugs, private-duty nursing, vision care and eyeglasses. One must enroll in a Medicare Part D prescription drug plan in along with your Medigap policy to get drug coverage. Most Medicare Advantage plans give prescription drug coverage and few of them do not charge any extra premium. A Medigap policy gives you the advantage of accessing any health provider who acknowledges Medicare Insurance plan, without any need for referrals from specialists. Most of the Medicare Advantage plans use Health Maintenance Organizations or Preferred Provider Organizations that have a network of providers.

If you’d like to Evaluate the advantages of Medicare and Medigap Insurance plan provided by Medigap4seniors for seniors peoples! Please visit us @ Medigap4seniors.com or E-mail @ . You may call us @ 888.502.5553.

Facts About Medicare Supplemental Insurance

Medicare supplemental insurance, also called Medigap, is insurance available to Medicare recipients to bridge the gap between those expenses that Medicare covers and the actual cost of the services. Unlike Medicare, which is a government program, this type of insurance is available through private companies, but certain conditions must be met to be able to purchase this special insurance. There are a number of different kinds of insurance to pay for non-covered healthcare expenses, including Medicare Advantage and policies to cover Medicare part D prescription drug costs.

Eligibility for Medicare Supplemental Insurance

Before being eligible for supplemental insurance, a person has to be enrolled in Medicare parts A and B. Six months before reaching age 65 in the open enrollment period, a person can buy a Medigap policy without any medical screening. If a person wants to buy a Medigap policy when the open enrollment period is not taking place, he or she may be required to medically underwritten, which is basically answering some medical questions, and having the insurance company pull medical records from a Medicare recipient”s physician. . Medigap insurance covers out-of-pocket expenses that traditional Medicare does not cover, including the 20 percent people on traditional Medicare pay for doctors and outpatient visits (part B), the hospital deductibles (part A), and other emergency expenses.

While all of the various Medigap policies must offer the same benefits, insurance companies can charge different rates for their policies, so it is important to compare rates. A person who elects to remain in traditional Medicare needs to enroll, at an additional cost, in a Medicare part D plan to cover the cost of prescription drugs. With Medigap, there is no coverage for out-of-pocket prescription drug costs.

Other Options

It”s important to note that there are different kinds of supplemental insurance. Medicare Advantage is actually a combination of a number of different private health plans that are an alternative way to get health care coverage. These plans are required to provide the benefits that Medicare parts A and B cover, but the costs may be different. There may be other benefits associated with these policies, too, but they generally require you to use specific doctors and health care providers in their network.

The most important thing to keep in mind is that if you choose to enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan, you cannot buy a Medicare supplemental insurance plan. When it is time to make a decision about which plan to elect, it pays to do some research. Each plan has advantages and disadvantages, and must be evaluated on an individual basis. Visit websites like www.MedicareMedics.com to do your research and speak to an agent.

Important Information Surrounding Medicare Plans And Coverage

Aging happens to everyone. It is the one truth that is consistent in life. Along with aging come certain advantages and disadvantages. However it is looked upon retirement happens around the age of sixty-five. Some find retirement as nearing the end while others take on the view that their second lives are starting. With turning sixty-five, in the United States a gift is stowed upon requirement meeting individuals in the name of Medicare.
Medicare is a health insurance program established by the US government to assist in payment of proper health care and expenses related to their health. Not only does it provide health care assistance to those over sixty-five but also those who find themselves retiring early because of a qualifying disability and health condition. Medicare insurance covers a portion of care while Medicare Supplemental Insurance can be purchased on an individual basis to cover the remaining portions.
Medicare Supplemental Insurance is not necessary for all individuals. Medigap as it is often referred to covers gaps within the Medicare policy. Some individual already carry a secondary insurance that will fill in the voids of Medicare. This might include people who have extra coverage through an employer or if retired a former employer. If you opt instead of Medicare to receive Medicare Advantage supplemental insurance is not an option. This is confusing. To help clients understand Medicare and the coverage that exists under the plans it is advisable to look into Medicare supplemental insurance comparison charts.
Many insurance companies offer to explain the different Medigap policies but it is best to find assistance from a company that looks into each situation and explores the options and costs associated through many different insurance agencies. The coverage is completely regulated by the government so the plans consist of the same coverage the differences will come in service and cost from different insurance agencies. A company such as Senior Health Direct which is web based can offer assistance and free information on Medicare and Medigap Supplemental Insurance Plans. Another source of information that can be easily accessed through Internet is the Medicare governments site.
The basic break down of Medicare coverage comes down to two parts; Medicare Part A and Medicare Part B. Part A is often referred to as hospital coverage and Part B is known as medical coverage. Both of these are provided within the umbrella of Medicare. The basic coverage states that eighty percent of approved medical costs, doctors and supplies, are covered by Medicare Part A. Part B provides a specific amount fixed dependent upon the lab service, outpatient treatment and preventatives. Neither of these base Medicare plans offers prescription coverage.
Medicare Part D is a piece of Medicare Supplemental Insurance that can be purchased at an extra expense. This can be purchase through independent insurance firms. This is not the only service Medicare does not cover. It is imperative to look into the different options available within the supplemental programs. Some of the things that might be needed that are not covered are; long-term care, only medical necessary nursing homes are covered, private duty nurses, dental, health care outside the United States, cosmetic surgery, routine foot care and eye care are all covered under supplemental plans and not traditional Medicare.

Medicare Plans-Some Quick points you must know

There are two health insurance plans for senior are available in market and insurance agents are dedicated to helping seniors to find the best information about these plans. There are two are Medicare and Medigap. Medicare plans is available for 65 and older people.

Medicare does not cover everything so that this gap medigap is launched. Medigap have been standardized by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) into ten different plans, There are two health insurance plans for senior are available in market and insurance agents are dedicated to helping seniors to find the best information about these plans. There are two are Medicare and Medigap. Medicare plans is available for 65 and older people.

Medicare is senior health insurance that is sponsored by the Federal Government. Medigap insurance is sold by private insurance companies but regulated and standardized by the government. Medigap insurance plan is dividing into 12 standardized medigap policies from Plan A-L.In 2010 there is a change in the Medicare Plans it gets modernized and this plan is also accepted by insurance department because this is great low cost plan option.

Medicare insurance covers specialized care programs for those who suffer from Alzheimer’s and other similar conditions. Medicare Parts A and B Plans are standardized and benefits will not vary form company to company. Medicare Advantage is also available in the market these plans also provide satisfaction to those with specialized or chronic needs. Plans are available that address chronic conditions such as diabetes or heart problems, or those in nursing homes. Some plans even address the needs of caregivers.

Medicare Advantage plan have some limit options to switch back to Medicare plans. If initially talk about Medicare part B, this is an open enrollment period, means that choose coverage with an Advantage plan or traditional Medicare. Once out of that open enrollment period, companies offering supplement plans have the option to turn you away for health reasons.

Incase your Medicare Advantage plan is not renewing for 2011 If your Medicare Advantage plan is not renewing for 2011, you need to assess you options. It is comforting to know that you have several choices.

Return to traditional Medicare and purchase Part D drug coverage. Enroll in another Advantage plan. Purchase a Medicare supplement and Part D drug coverage.

If your Medicare Advantage plan is not renewing for 2011, so find your options. Your current Advantage plan will end at midnight December 31st. You are not required to stay with the same company should they have an alternative plan available. It is in your best interests to take this time to look at all available options.

Steve Saigh is well known expert for writing articles on topics like Medigap Plans, Medicare Plans, Medicare Supplemental, Medicare Supplemental Plans, Medicare Insurance, Medigap Insurances, Medicare Supplement Plan F, Medigap insurance plans, Affordable health plans and senior health plans.

New to Medicare A Guide to Your Initial Enrollment Period

Are you new to Medicare? If you or a loved one are nearing the age of 65 or are otherwise eligible for Medicare coverage, you probably have questions surrounding Medicare enrollment, out-of-pocket costs, coverage and more.

Medicare Initial Enrollment Period Guide

Eligibility

If you’re aging into Medicare (rather than qualifying for another reason, like certain health conditions), you’re eligible to receive Medicare benefits on the first day of the month in which you turn 65. (If you are born on the first of the month, your benefits start the first of the prior month.) If, for example, your birthday is May 27, 1946, your coverage will begin May 1, 2011. You have a period of seven months during which you may enroll. Your Initial Enrollment Period (IEP) begins three months before your 65th birthday, runs through your birthday month, and ends three months after your birth month.

If you’re nearing your IEP, it’s a good idea to start doing your research before it begins. Allow yourself plenty of time to select the Medicare plan(s) that meet your needs and your budget. If you don’t enroll during your IEP, you may pay penalty fees or have to wait until the Annual Enrollment Period (AEP) to make your selection.

Research

There are several Medicare coverage choices available through both government run and privately insured programs, and plan availability varies depending on where you live. It is important to shop around before enrolling in Medicare.

Original Medicare is administered by the federal government and consists of Medicare Part A (hospital insurance) and Medicare Part B (medical insurance). Medicare Part A is of no cost to you if you or your spouse made payroll contributions to Social Security for a minimum of 10 years. You will, however, pay a premium for Medicare Part B, and the amount will depend on your annual income. In 2011, Part B premiums range from $115.40 to $369.10 per month.

Medicare Part D helps pay the cost of prescription drugs. If you’re interested in Medicare Part D you must enroll through a private insurer. If you delay enrolling when you first become eligible, you may pay a penalty on your premium in the future unless you qualify for an exception.

Medicare Advantage (Part C) plans are offered by private insurance companies approved by Medicare. Part C plans combine coverage for hospital stays and doctor visits in a single plan. You may choose a Medicare Advantage plan that includes prescription drug coverage, or select one without.

Medigap, also known as Medicare Supplement Insurance, are also provided by private insurance companies. Designed to help with costs not covered by Original Medicare, there are 10 standardized Medigap plans labeled -A- through -N-. These plans typically cover some coinsurance, deductibles and excess charges that Medicare does not cover. The application process and terms are different for Medigap plans than the other plans discussed here; enrollment isn’t limited to a certain time of year. Read -Choosing a Medigap Policy: A Guide to Health Insurance for People with Medicare- for more information.

Enrollment

Once you are eligible and have selected the Medicare plan(s) that you feel best meet your needs, it’s time to enroll. If you’re already receiving Social Security you will automatically be enrolled in Medicare Parts A and B. If you’re not yet receiving Social Security you will need to enroll with your local Social Security office. In order to enroll in a Medicare Advantage or Medigap Plan, contact the insurance company who provides the coverage you’ve selected. If you miss the Initial Enrollment Period you will need to wait until the Annual Election Period (AEP) to enroll. Again, Medigap plans work a little differently, so read more about Medigap coverage in your state.

Review or Change your Selection Annually

You have an opportunity once a year to change your Medicare Coverage. In 2011, this Annual Election Period runs from October 15 to December 7.

Before AEP begins, it’s a good idea to evaluate your medical costs, your healthcare needs, and any changes that may have been made for the coming year’s plans. This will prepare you to make changes to your coverage selection if you choose to. (Changes in the coming year’s plans are announced by the Center for Medicare Services annually; see www.cms.gov for details.) Unless you qualify for an exception, this is your one annual opportunity to change your Medicare selection.

For more information contact the Medicare helpline 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227), TTY 1-877-486-2048. You can also contact the UnitedHealthcare Medicare Made Clear hotline to learn more 1-877-619-5582, TTY 711, 8 a.m. – 8 p.m. local time, 7 days a week.

The family of UnitedHealthcare Medicare Solutions plans are insured or covered by an affiliate of UnitedHealthcare, a Medicare Advantage organization with a Medicare contract and Medicare-approved Part D Sponsor.

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