enrollmentMany of us know that working for at least ten years and paying Medicare taxes enables us to qualify for Medicare at the age of 65. Medicare itself is quite simple. Once you have filed the appropriate application with the Social Security Administration, your Medicare begins the month you reach your 65th birthday. Part A of Medicare is free, and covers your inpatient hospital expenses. Part B of Medicare requires a premium and covers outpatient and routine medical care.

What many of us do not know, however, is that Medicare itself does not cover 100% of health care costs. For those expenses, you have the option of purchasing additional coverage through a Medicare Supplemental Insurance plan, commonly referred to as Medigap. You can purchase either of these plans from a private insurance company to help defray the costs not covered by Medicare such as copays or healthcare costs while traveling outside of the United States.

Medigap plans help cover the “gap” between what Medicare pays, and what you have to pay.

If you are going to elect a Medigap plan, you have to make a decision quickly as you approach your 65th birthday. Like most types of insurances, there is an open enrollment period. This period is the small window from your 65th birthday, when you sign up for Medicare and the following six months. If you enroll during the open enrollment period, your coverage can begin immediately and you cannot be denied a plan because of any past or present health issue. This is clearly the most advantageous time to enroll and should be utilized if at all possible. If you find yourself in a situation where you miss the open enrollment period for Medigap, the insurance companies have a lot more options for whether or not they provide coverage for you and at what cost. Once the open enrollment period ends, insurance companies can deny you coverage for your past or present health problems. They can also make you wait a period of time before your coverage begins, so you may incur some large expenses in the duration.

As you reach age 65 and begin planning your enrollment in Medicare, take a good look at the healthcare expenses you expect to incur with basic Medicare Part A and B coverage. From there, you can begin looking at and comparing different Medigap Plans to see if purchasing one of those plans will help save you money.

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