The Medicare Program has a lot to offer – especially if you understand how it works
As we age, our health-care costs increase. We go to the doctor more often, require more prescription medications and sometimes need in-home care. However, for many
of us, aging also means living on a fixed income relying on Social Security and savings to cover our living expenses. Medicare was created to help seniors pay for increasingly expensive health-care costs without going broke. It’s an important government program that today provides health insurance for more than 60 million people.
If you’re confused about how Medicare works, you’re not alone. Many people planning for retirement struggle to understand all of the program’s ins and outs. It doesn’t cover everything, and as with all health insurance, there ‘s plenty of fine print.
At its core, Medicare is a basic health-insurance program provided by the federal government. Most Medicare recipients are seniors-people 65 or older. However, people with certain disabilities or illnesses can also qualify regardless of age. Because Medicare is administered by the federal government, there are no state-by-state eligibility requirements , although some benefits may vary depending on where you live.
For most people, Medicare will cut the costs of health care significantly. However, what’s known as “Original Medicare” doesn’t cover everything, and you’ll still have out-of-pocket costs. These costs can be substantial if you don’t choose a plan wisely, or if you fail to anticipate what your health-care needs might be in the future, so it’s essential to research your options.
Learn Your ABCs (and Ds)
Original Medicare includes two parts: Medicare A and Medicare B. Additionally, Parts C and D have been added for other types of coverage. Each part covers a different type of care, and you’ll choose how you enroll.
- Medicare A covers hospital-based care. If you’ve worked and paid taxes for at least 10 years, you won’t have to pay a monthly premium for Medicare A.
- Medicare B covers visits to your doctor’s office, outpatient care, preventative services and medical supplies. This part does require a monthly premium, though it’s likely to be much less expensive than your previous health insurance.
- Medicare C is a way of bundling parts A, B and usually D. Also known as Medicare Advantage, these plans are offered by Medicare approved private companies and are often more comprehensive than original Medicare.
- Medicare D covers prescription medications.
As you approach eligibility, it’s important to educate yourself about how Medicare works. Knowing what’s available and how the different parts work together will help you ask the right questions, consider your options and choose the right plan, ensuring you have the affordable care you’ll need well into the future.
How to Get Medicare
Once you turn 65, you become eligible for Medicare. If you’re collecting Social Security Payments when you turn 65, you may be automatically enrolled in parts A and B. If you’re not collecting Social Security or disability payments, you’ll need to actively enroll. Either way, you’ll still want to review all of your options and select the plan that’s best for you.