Whether you are turning 65 soon or already enrolled, there are some simple points to remember as you plan your Medicare coverage.

Turning 65?

DO set up an online account with SSA.GOV. This will be your “mySSA” account. Register at least four months before your 65th birthday. Your Medicare effective date is the first day of your birthday month, unless you were born on the 1st, then the effective date is the month prior.  

DO decide whether you will be accepting your Social Security benefits at age 65 or waiting until “full retirement age” or beyond. If you accept your Social Security benefit, you will also be enrolled in Medicare Part A and Part B. If not, you will need to proactively enroll in Medicare Parts A and B by logging in to your mySSA account and submitting your Medicare application online.

Do NOT assume your Medicare benefits are in place until you receive a Medicare benefit award letter or your Medicare card, showing both Part A and Part B effective dates. If you have any doubt, call or visit the Social Security Administration.   

DO research the long term impact of your initial enrollment selection. What you choose for your coverage may severely limit your choices in the future. Start researching the different plans available, Supplements and Advantage plans, at least three months before your Medicare effective date.  

Do NOT be overly concerned about Medicare Supplement insurer brand names as coverage type is far more important.  Supplement plans are standardized by Medicare, and there is little difference in plans between different insurers. Shop for the best rate and service, not brand name.

Do NOT focus on the ancillary benefits of an Advantage plan. While those may be attractive, be sure you know the doctor group you will be limited to, the referral process and prescription drug coverage. To most, these elements are far more important than discount gym memberships.

Already enrolled in Medicare?

DO read the Annual Notice of Change you will receive from your drug plan or Advantage plan. It will highlight premium changes, coverage changes and may even tell you that your plan is being discontinued.

Do NOT assume that a benefit or drug coverage that your plan offered this year will remain the same next year.  

DO use the Medicare.gov website or a licensed agent to review your plan options for next year.

Do NOT give your Medicare ID number to anyone over the phone, unless it is someone you personally know. There are many scam calls this time of year.

Remember, Medicare Supplements are NOT part of the Medicare Enrollment period. A Supplement is a private, secondary plan, and it’s usually best to review that type of plan during your birthday window, a 60-day period following your birthday which allows you to make changes to your supplement coverage without having to pass any health screening.  

Randy Foulds of Foulds Health Insurance Agency is an independent broker and Medicare specialist in La Quinta (license #0G69218). He can be reached at (760) 346.6565. 

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