If you’re eligible at age 65, your initial enrollment period begins three months before your 65th birthday, includes the month you turn age 65, and ends three months after that birthday. However, if you don’t enroll in Medicare Part B during your initial enrollment period, you have another chance each year to sign up during a “general enrollment period” from January 1 through March 31. Your coverage begins on July 1 of the year you enroll. Read our Medicare publication for more information.
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The standardized Medigap plans each cover certain Medicare out-of-pocket costs to at least some degree. Every Medigap plan covers up to one year of Medicare Part A coinsurance and hospital costs after Medicare benefits are used up. But, for example, Medigap Plan G plans don’t cover your Medicare Part B deductible, while Medigap Plan C plans do. So, if you’d like to enroll in a Medicare Supplement insurance plan, you might want to compare the Medigap policies carefully.
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Even if your prescriptions are covered, there may be hurdles to accessing them, so check the plan's rules. Starting in 2019, Medicare Advantage plans are allowed to require "step therapy," which means, in certain cases, you’ll need to try a less expensive drug before you'll be covered for a more expensive one. Or you may be steered toward a preferred pharmacy instead of your local drugstore.
Under the 2003 law that created Medicare Part D, the Social Security Administration offers an Extra Help program to lower-income seniors such that they have almost no drug costs; in addition approximately 25 states offer additional assistance on top of Part D. It should be noted again for beneficiaries who are dual-eligible (Medicare and Medicaid eligible) Medicaid may pay for drugs not covered by Part D of Medicare. Most of this aid to lower-income seniors was available to them through other programs before Part D was implemented.
The original program included Parts A and B. Part-C-like plans have existed as demonstration projects in Medicare since the early 1970s, but the Part was formalized by 1997 legislation. Part D was enacted by 2003 legislation and introduced January 1, 2006. Previously coverage for self-administered prescription drugs, if desired, was obtained by private insurance or through a public Part C plan (or by one of its predecessor demonstration plans before enactment).
Just to make life truly confusing, the various options offered by Medigap are also sorted by letter. The choices are Plans A, B, C, D, F, G, K, L, M, and N. What these plans include is standardized by Medicare. The cost for them can vary, however, so it's worth shopping around. Joseph Graves, insurance agent and founder of “I Hate Buying Insurance,” says many people enroll in Plan F, the most expensive choice, because it covers nearly all the gaps. A person with Plan F coverage will have few or no out-of-pocket expenses, however, by the end of 2019, plan F will no longer be available to new Medicare enrollees.
We provide our Q1Medicare.com site for educational purposes and strive to present unbiased and accurate information. However, Q1Medicare is not intended as a substitute for your lawyer, doctor, healthcare provider, financial advisor, or pharmacist. For more information on your Medicare coverage, please be sure to seek legal, medical, pharmaceutical, or financial advice from a licensed professional or telephone Medicare at 1-800-633-4227.
The Minnesota Department of Health offers information about Medicare plans in Minnesota. The agency serves as a resource for those who need help paying their Medicare premiums and those interested in obtaining prescription drug coverage. The office also offers guidelines for handling complaints about health-care coverage and providers. Information on other types of health-care coverage are also covered by this website, including long-term care insurance. Downloads of publications on specific topics are also available, as well as links to additional resources available through state and federal offices.
Part A Late Enrollment Penalty If you are not eligible for premium-free Part A, and you don't buy a premium-based Part A when you're first eligible, your monthly premium may go up 10%. You must pay the higher premium for twice the number of years you could have had Part A, but didn't sign-up. For example, if you were eligible for Part A for 2 years but didn't sign-up, you must pay the higher premium for 4 years. Usually, you don't have to pay a penalty if you meet certain conditions that allow you to sign up for Part A during a Special Enrollment Period.