Understanding Medicare

When you reach a certain age, it becomes important to start thinking about Medicare. But our institutions don’t always do the best job of educating us about this important policy and our roles as Medicare recipients and patients. What is Medicare, exactly? What do we have to do in order to make sure that we are signed up for it? And are there things that Medicare doesn’t cover?

Below, we’ll lay out everything you need to know about Medicare and your responsibilities. Making sure that you have the right healthcare coverage shouldn’t be difficult!

What is Medicare?

Medicare is a health insurance plan run by the United States government. It was created in 1965 by an act of Congress that was signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson — who then signed the first Medicare card himself, since he was old enough to qualify for the program! Medicare was expanded by subsequent legislation. It still exists primarily, but not exclusively, to ensure that older Americans have health insurance.

Beginning at age 65, Americans qualify for Medicare coverage. That doesn’t mean that everyone has to sign up, but Medicare is often the most cost-effective solution for healthcare coverage in one’s golden years.

Medicare does not cover everything, but it is possible to sign up for supplemental health insurance to patch those spots. These optional Medicare supplement plans are sometimes called “gap” or “Medigap” plans.

When Can You Sign Up for Medicare?

Like other health insurance plans, Medicare plans run from January to December. And, like other plans, Medicare accepts new applicants primarily during one time of year. The Medicare annual enrollment period happens at the beginning of every year. Online resources make signing up easy.

Of course, most of us don’t have a birthday right at the beginning of the year. It’s important to note that you can sign up for Medicare in the months following your 65th birthday, regardless of what time of year it is. You get seven months to sign up after your 65th birthday.

Those aren’t the only times that you can sign up for Medicare, but they are the most common options. You can qualify for a special enrollment period if one or more of a few special situations applies to you. For instance, you can get Medicare mid-year if a change in your employment status leads to you losing healthcare. You can find more details online about the situations that will allow you to enroll mid-year.

Signing up for Medicare isn’t too tough, but you can make it easier by using online tools and resources that will streamline the process. You can also get help from senior-focused groups like the AARP.

Options for Supplemental Care

Depending on your medical needs and future plans, you may find it advisable to sign up for a Medicare supplement plan. These plans, which are also called “Medigap” plans, are designed to ensure that you have affordable coverage for the things that Medicare leaves out. For instance, if you enjoy traveling abroad, you should know that Medicare does not cover health services that you receive outside of the country. That can make an accident or illness that affects you on vacation very expensive!

With the right Medicare supplement plan, you won’t have to worry. For more information on Medicare supplement plans, check out resources online or speak to an expert over the phone.

Medicare can seem complicated. But, at its core, it’s a very simple idea: the government is providing health insurance to seniors. Signing up online can be easy, and you’ll rest easier knowing that you’re covered.