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We find that there are some things in life that seem like you’re just “supposed” to know about them, even if they’ve never really been explained.

For many people, insurance falls into this category. It’s complicated and expensive, a “learn as you go” proposition. It’s also critically important to understand. In fact, not having a clear understanding of insurance rules, timelines, and specific requirements can actually put one’s health and financial stability at risk.

For many seniors, Medicare is the perfect example of insurance confusion. Medicare is a gigantic government health insurance program for Americans aged 65 or older, and for some who are younger under specific circumstances. It currently provides health insurance for more than 55 million people.

While the program is by far the largest of its kind, understanding how it may impact you begins with the single most important related item – enrollment. This is because if you’re not enrolled in Medicare, all coverage questions are moot.

Every year, Medicare Open Enrollment begins on October 15th, and ends December 7th. The period is labeled for the coming year, which can be a bit confusing. For example, open enrollment for 2019, begins on October 15, 2018.

Eligibility criteria are simple. You must be age 65 or older, a U.S. citizen, or permanent resident who has lived in the country for five straight years prior to applying, and you have to either receive or qualify for Social Security retirement benefits.

If you receive Social Security retirement benefits at 65, then enrollment in Medicare Part A and B is automatic. Medicare Part A is known as “hospital insurance,” and Part B is “medical insurance” which covers medical services and supplies. If automatically enrolled, you should receive a package in the mail three months before your coverage starts along with a Medicare card. Otherwise, you will need to actively enroll. That’s where Medicare Open Enrollment applies.

You can sign up for Medicare and its various parts, including Part D prescription drug coverage, during the Medicare Open Enrollment period by:

Visiting your local Social Security office.
Calling Social Security at 800-772-1213.
Mailing a signed and dated letter to Social Security that includes your name, Social Security number, and the date you would like to be enrolled in Medicare.
Applying online at www.ssa.gov

For seniors who are already Medicare beneficiaries, you can make changes to various aspects of your coverage during the same Medicare Open Enrollment period without penalty. Even if you are receiving Medicare right now it is important for you to check in on your plan during this time period as there may be significant changes you need to address. This could even include changing your plan if your doctor or medicine is no longer covered.

We know you may have questions about your Medicare coverage. Do not wait to contact our office so that we may work with you to find the solutions you need.