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Medicare basics for older adults

“When you first turn 65, that is a special Medicare enrollment period for you,” says Anita Alvarez Richards, a program specialist at Sixty Plus Older Adult Services at Piedmont Atlanta Hospital.

This enrollment period include three months leading up to your 65th birthday, your birth month and three months after you turn 65. If you are retired or not working, Alvarez Richards recommends enrolling during this time frame. If you don’t, you will have to wait until the next open enrollment during the first part of the year and could be penalized.

Simplifying the Medicare Enrollment Process

“A lot of people are overwhelmed and confused, partly because the media has put so much information out there and they don’t know where to turn to,” she says. “They think their Medicare is going away, but it’s not – it’s actually getting better. They’re going to be getting a lot more benefits and saving more money going on Medicare and some of the Medicare-related insurances.”

The process is different for those over the age of 65 who are still working. “A lot of people are still working into their 70s and beyond,” says Alvarez Richards. “If they have insurance now, I tell them to talk to their HR department to learn about what their benefits are going to be and if they’re going to be able to keep their employer insurance. I also tell them that they can go ahead and enroll in Medicare by going into the Social Security website.”

She often recommends that working adults over age 65 with employer health insurance make Medicare their secondary insurance provider. “When they do retire, they can switch over to Medicare as primary insurance very seamlessly,” she explains.

Medicare Parts A, B, C and D

“There are four different part of Medicare,” says Alvarez Richards. “There is Medicare Part A, which pays for hospital visits, skilled nursing care, hospice care and home health care. Medicare Part B pays for outpatient services, such as doctor visits, outpatient facilities, home healthcare and durable medical equipment, like canes, walkers and hospital beds. Medicare Part C is known as the Medicare Advantage Plan and it is sold by private Medicare-approved insurance companies. Medicare Part D is the prescription drug plan.”

If you are 64, start planning ahead for your insurance needs. “For people who are 64 and who are beginning to think about Medicare, I tell them to go ahead and explore their options,” she says. “They can go to the website or they can come to me and I will explain to them the different steps of Medicare and how to go about enrolling in Medicare and Social Security.” Click here for more information about Sixty Plus Insurance Guidance.

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