In January, I’ll blow out the candles on my 65th birthday cake. A family member recently reminded me that I will soon be eligible for Medicare, but this is something I’ve been thinking about all year.
It used to annoy me to contemplate growing another year older, yet when it comes to Medicare, it pays to think ahead. When you’re a baby boomer who is about to face Medicare upon turning 65, it’s important to pay attention to the mountains of material about Medicare that begin to fill your mailbox. Here’s some handy advice I’m following ahead of my 65th birthday:
- 7 – 11 months before you turn 65: start exploring Original Medicare, the traditional fee-for-service program offered directly through the federal government, and the additional Medicare coverage options available to you through private insurance companies
- 6 months before you turn 65: continue to learn about your Medicare coverage options and whether you will need to actively enroll in Medicare; decide whether you wish to delay enrolling in Medicare Part A, Part B or Part D; and what the potential consequences of delay are
- 3 months before you turn 65: enroll in Medicare before you turn 65 to avoid a gap in coverage, choose how you will access your Medicare benefits (Original Medicare with or without a supplement, or Medicare Advantage) and whether you need to enroll in Part D. Choose a Part D plan.
- The month of your 65th birthday: be sure you’re enrolled in Medicare by now; there’s still time to get additional coverage in place “before it’s too late”
Truth be told, enrolling in Medicare can be quite daunting. Medicare is a big rite of passage for older Americans, but the landscape is hardly well lit, nor is the enrollment process intuitive. It’s like trying to paint your living room walls white, but encountering thousands of different paint chips … all of them some variation on white! Which do you choose? You’re advised to pick the version(s) of Medicare that’s right for you, but how do you know if it’s right for you now and right for you years down the road?
But there’s help out there. I encourage you to download the free guide, 5 Tips for Those New to Medicare, available on Medicare Interactive, a free resource from the Medicare Rights Center. The guide features helpful tips and links to short articles that are legally vetted by Medicare experts. Medicare Rights conveys solid information so we are equipped with the knowledge necessary to make Medicare decisions with greater confidence. Good luck!
“Enrolling in Medicare if you are turning 65 and do not receive Social Security or Railroad Retirement benefits” – this Medicare Interactive article contains a handy “Medicare Roadmap” at the end, an easy-to-use decision making tool that will give you some good guidance
The Medicare Rights Center National Helpline: 1-800-333-4114 (this resource is great for helping you make wise Medicare decisions)