1. Apply for Medicare
Anyone who is a United States citizen or green card holder who has legally stayed in the United States for at least five years is eligible to apply for Medicare three months before they turn 65. Don’t miss the deadline! You can get fined! To apply, you will need to have your Social Security Number (SSN) along with valid identification (passport, citizenship, or green card). If you are applying for your spouse, then you must also bring your marriage certificate. Medicare benefits include Part A (hospital insurance) and Part B (medical insurance).
2. Part A and Part B only cover 80% of my premium?
Yes! What’s in the remaining 20%? Aside from deductibles and co-pays, Medicare does not cover long-term care, dental care, Chinese medicine, hearing care, and other benefits. Therefore, choosing a suitable plan for you is very important. Individuals can choose the inexpensive HMO plan that is practically free, or the time-saving PPO plan that helps you avoid referrals. Some plans have benefits that include doctor visits, blood tests, hospitalization, etc. For seniors with chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, and cardiovascular disease, it’s important to choose a plan carefully.
3. Buy prescription drug coverage (Part D)
Part D is prescription drug coverage. Under the 2006 regulations, individuals who had Medicare benefits were required to purchase this to avoid getting fined.
Enrolled in Medicare? Important note! Medicare Open Enrollment Period is from October 15 to December 7. If you want to make changes to your plan, medical network, or other plan benefits, this is the time to do so. If you miss this deadline, you will need to wait another year before you can make any more changes to your plan!
4. Cancel your existing health insurance plan
If you are eligible for Medicare but continue to use your original health plan, the insurance company has the right to deny your claims. If you are over 65 and enrolled in Medicare, but are still receiving subsidies from Covered California, you must return the subsidies at the end of the year when filing taxes.
“I am 65, have not retired yet, and I am still insured under my company’s group health plan”
For those who are 65, have not retired yet, and are still insured under their company health insurance plan, you still need to apply for Medicare! You can choose to apply for Part A benefits only while still using your company’s health insurance. Once your company’s health insurance expires, you should apply for the other Medicare benefits as soon as possible. If you are not enrolled in a health plan for a certain amount of time, you can get fined.
It’s important to note that with the latest requirement in 2017, not all employer health insurance prescription drug coverage meets Medicare’s requirements. Make sure that the health insurance provided by your company meets those requirements. Contact a certified insurance agent for any questions you may have. If there are changes you would like to make, the best time to do it is from October 15, 2017 to December 7, 2017.
“My parents just immigrated… can they apply for Medicare?”
If you or your parents are over 65 and have just immigrated, they cannot receive government health benefits quite yet. They have to be in the United States for at least five years to be able to apply. If you didn’t sign up for Part A and/or Part B when you were first eligible, and you aren’t eligible for Special Enrollment Period, you can sign up during the General Enrollment Period from January 1st to March 31st each year. Your coverage becomes effective July 1st of that same year.
Whether you are applying for Medicare for the first time or want to make adjustments to your already existing plan, you need to take into consideration your health plan coverage and your medical needs.
How should you decide? It is best to consult with a certified Medicare agent to discuss how to apply and how to change plans. With their expertise, you’ll know for sure that you’ll find the plan that best fits your medical needs.