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Financial Care for Life > Medicare Planning and Enrollment

Medicare Planning and Enrollment

As you approach retirement, there are a slew of topics to consider as part of your planning. Medicare is at the top of the list for many. Determining when to enroll in Medicare and which parts to enroll in can be daunting even for the savviest retirees. Below are some important items you need to consider and understand when preparing for Medicare enrollment and participation.

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Becoming Eligible for Benefits

All U.S. citizens who are 65 years of age and over are eligible for Medicare. Eligibility is not contingent on being retired or receiving Social Security benefits — it’s automatic once you turn 65. You also qualify for Medicare if you’re under 65 and receive Social Security Disability Insurance or have end-stage renal disease or Lou Gehrig’s disease. If you are receiving Social Security benefits when you turn 65, you’ll automatically be enrolled in Medicare. If you aren’t receiving Social Security benefits when you turn 65, you must apply for Medicare, which you can do here.

Participating in Open Enrollment

Open enrollment occurs annually between October 15 and December 7. Any changes to your coverage performed during this period will become effective on the following January 1.

Applying for Benefits

Most people sign up for both Part A (Hospital Insurance) and Part B (Medical Insurance) when they’re first eligible (usually when they turn 65). Generally, there are risks to signing up later, like a gap in your coverage or having to pay a penalty. However, in some cases, it might make sense to sign up later.

Applying for Survivor Benefits

If you're married and your spouse has a richer work history than you do, you may be able to collect a "spousal benefit," based on your spouse's earnings instead of your own. Spouses can collect benefits worth up to 50% of their other half's benefits. This can be particularly welcome for spouses who never worked, or earned very little.

Understanding Your Coverage Options

Medicare consists of four parts — Part A, Part B, Part C and Part D. Each part offers specific coverage and varies in cost.

  • Part A covers hospital care and related services.
  • Part B covers doctor appointments and outpatient medical care.
  • Part C covers the same benefits of Parts A and B but is offered by private insurers.
  • Part D covers prescription drugs.

Here’s a snapshot of each and the expense associated with each part.

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