There are still Medicare benefits for seniors to choose from during the remaining months of 2011. Choices remain for seniors who are both aging in and for those who are already beyond 65 years old. Here we will primarily focus upon those who are aging in. Part 2 will focus on everyone already over 65.
If you are already receiving Social Security, you will be automatically enrolled in Part A Medicare when you reach 65 years old. If not, go to the Medicare web site or visit your local Social Security office before your birthday month to enroll. Part A covers hospitalizations, blood transfusions during hospitalization, home health care, hospice care, and skilled nursing facility stays.
With regards to Part B, if you don't sign up during your eligibility window, but then decide to enroll later, your premium goes up 10% for each 12 month period. As an example, if you wait five years to sign up, your premium would then be 50% higher than someone who signed up on time.
If you have health insurance through your work or your spouse's work, you can delay enrolling in part B. But if your employer has fewer than 20 workers or if you are on a company retirement plan, you must enroll in part B as soon as you turn 65. Your workplace or retiree plan will become your secondary plan. Remember that Part B which pays 80% of doctors, supplies, outpatient services, physical or speech therapy does not have a cap after the 80% is paid by Medicare. At this point, most people would buy a separate private Medicare supplement plan commonly known as a Medigap plan, which picks up where Medicare leaves off. There are ten government approved Medigap plans. The best plan for you depends upon your health history and financial resources.
You also have an option of choosing Part C, which is commonly known as Medicare Advantage. This is a managed care type plan which covers all your benefits under Part A and Part B, and often will cover Part D and may include dental and vision care. This year Medicare is requiring Advantage plans to limit your out-of-pocket expenses to no more than $6,700 with some policies offering even lower limit.
If you are all right with managed care and visiting doctors within the plan's network, Medicare Advantage might work for you. However, if you want some flexibility, you travel a lot, or you spend your time between two homes, Original Medicare plus Medigap plus Part D prescription drug coverage is usually better.
Nevertheless, before deciding on a prescription drug plan, make a list of the medications you are taking. Check to see if they are covered under the plan you are considering. If and when you enroll, you will pay a regular plan premium which varies according to coverage. You will need to check your Plan D every year because the list of covered drugs can change.