Medicare can be a bit intimidating, especially if it’s your first time enrolling—and it can take years before you feel fully comfortable with the process.
That’s why we’ve compiled this library of helpful resources to provide you with a fast track. From articles and downloads to useful tips and definitions, get the information you need to enroll with confidence.
The Medicare Annual Enrollment Period begins October 15 and ends December 7.
You are if you’re age 65 or older or have certain disabilities.
If you are already receiving Social Security when you turn 65, you will be automatically enrolled.
If you are receiving Social Security due to a disability, you will be automatically enrolled after 25 months of disability.
If you are not getting Social Security when you turn 65, you need to sign up for Parts A and B by contacting Social Security.
You have seven months to enroll in Part A and B — starting three months before you turn 65 and ending three months after the month you turn 65.
You have the same seven-month window to enroll in a Part C or Part D plan.
If you do not enroll when you are first eligible, you may have to pay penalties.
Every year from October 15 to December 7 (the Annual Enrollment Period), anyone eligible for Medicare can change their health plan.
During the Annual Enrollment Period, you can change to a Medicare Advantage plan or Original Medicare, you can change your Medicare Advantage plan, or you can enroll in a Prescription Drug plan.
There are special circumstances, such as losing your employer coverage or moving to a new service area, that may provide you with a Special Enrollment Period (or SEP) to enroll in a Medicare Advantage or Prescription Drug Plan.
There is a six-month open enrollment window for Medicare Supplement plans that starts the month you turn 65 and enroll in Medicare Part B.
If you turn 65 in January but don’t enroll in Medicare Part B until February, your six-month enrollment window will begin March 1 (the first month you are both 65 and enrolled in Part B).
During this six-month open enrollment period, you can purchase a Medicare Supplement plan even with pre-existing health conditions. An insurance company cannot refuse to sell you a plan or charge you a higher premium than they would charge others who are 65.
You can apply for a Medicare Supplement plan after the Open Enrollment Period, but insurance companies do not have to accept your application (and you may face a penalty from Medicare).
Common Medicare Key Words
A federal health insurance program for people who are 65 or older and younger people with certain disabilities (End-Stage Renal Disease, permanent kidney failure requiring dialysis or a transplant, sometimes called ESRD). Medicare is sometimes referred to as “Original Medicare,” and it consists of Part A and Part B.
Medicare health plans offered by private companies that contract with Medicare to provide all your Part A and Part B benefits. These plans offer more coverage than Medicare alone, often for a lower price, and many of them also offer prescription drug coverage.
The Medicare Open Enrollment Period happens every year (October 15 through December 7). During this period, current Medicare users can choose to re-evaluate part of their Medicare coverage (their Medicare Advantage and/or Part D plan), compare it to other plans and change to another plan.
Sometimes called “Medigap,” these plans fill "gaps" in Original Medicare coverage and are sold by private companies. Original Medicare pays about 80% of the cost of covered health care services and supplies. A Medicare Supplement Insurance plan can help pay the remaining 20%, including copayments, coinsurance and deductibles.
In an insurance policy, the deductible is the amount paid out-of-pocket by the policy holder before an insurance provider will pay any expenses. The term deductible may be used to describe one of several types of clauses used by insurance companies as a threshold for policy payments.
The amount you pay for your health insurance every month. In addition to your premium, you usually have to pay other costs for your health care, including a deductible, copayments and coinsurance. If you have a Marketplace health plan, you may be able to lower your costs with a premium tax credit.
Your expenses for medical care that aren't reimbursed by insurance. Out-of-pocket costs include deductibles, coinsurance and copayments for covered services, plus all costs for services that aren't covered.
The percentage of costs of a covered health care service you pay (20%, for example) after you've paid your deductible.
A fixed amount for a covered service, paid by a patient to the provider of the service before receiving it. A copay may be defined in an insurance policy and paid by an insured person each time a medical service is accessed.
The highest possible amount you could pay for covered services in a plan year. After you reach this limit on deductibles, copayments and coinsurance for in-network care and services, your health plan pays 100% of the costs of covered benefits.
A time outside the yearly Open Enrollment Period when you can sign up for health insurance. You may qualify for a Special Enrollment Period if you've had certain life events, including losing health coverage or moving.