Why are you seeing an endless stream of commercials for Medicare providers? Because right now it’s the annual Medicare enrollment period, which ends on December 7. If you haven’t signed up for Medicare yet, you can do so several months before you turn 65 so your coverage starts on your birthday. If you’re 65 or older and have been laid off from your job and no longer have healthcare coverage, you can sign up for Medicare right away. Once you’ve enrolled, you can change your coverage during this annual fall enrollment period. The most common and puzzling decision Medicare enrollees face is what kind of coverage to get. They can enroll in standard Medicare (Part A and B) and add prescription drug (Part D) and supplemental coverage (known as Medigap). Or they can choose a comprehensive Medicare Advantage plan offered by private insurers that covers Medicare services and prescriptions. While Medicare Advantage plans often have cheaper monthly premiums, they can incur higher out-of-pocket costs and limit your choice of physicians and hospitals. Confused? Fortunately, there are resources you can use to use to compare your options and get human assistance. These include:
- Shiptacenter.org can help you find a local, free State Health Insurance Program (SHIP) representative who can guide you through the Medicare decision-making process.
- Medicare.gov, the official Medicare web site, lets you compare costs and coverage for standard Medicare, Medigap and Medicare Advantage options.
- Ehealth.medicare.com can provide a list of Medicare Advantage providers in your area.
- Askclaire.com, is a popular a free, unbiased Medicare education resource.