As you near retirement, you may receive a lot of information about the Medicare options available to you. While it might feel overwhelming at first, learning about Medicare doesn’t need to be complicated. Get started and learn the basics of Medicare by checking out our Medicare 101 retirement guide. 

Once you understand the workings of Medicare, it’s important to understand if you’re eligible and when to enroll in a Medicare plan.  

Medicare eligibility  

Who is eligible?  

Medicare benefits are available to United States citizens and permanent legal residents who have resided in the United States for five consecutive years.  

How do I become eligible?  
  • Age – When you turn 65 years old  
  • Disability – If you’re under 65 and have received Social Security disability benefits for 24 consecutive months  
  • Medical Condition – If you have been diagnosed with end-stage renal disease (ESRD) or Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease 

Medicare Starter Kit  

This kit provides an overview of the plans available to you from Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Nebraska (BCBSNE), so you can review and compare your options. 

Enrolling in Medicare  

When can I enroll?  

You may enroll or change your Medicare coverage during certain election periods, shown in the table below. 

Election Period When What You Can Do
Initial Enrollment Period (IEP) Starts three months before you turn 65 and ends three months after you turn 65.   When you are first eligible for Medicare, you have a seven-month initial enrollment period to sign up for Medicare Part A and/or Part B. You may also join a Medicare Advantage plan or a Medicare Part D prescription drug plan. 
Annual Enrollment Period (AEP)  Annually from Oct. 15 to Dec. 7 Make changes to your Medicare Advantage or Medicare Part D prescription drug plan for the upcoming year. 
Open Enrollment Period (OEP) Annually from Jan. 1 to March 31 During this time, you can make a one-time election to switch Medicare Advantage plans or disenroll from a Medicare Advantage plan and move to Original Medicare.
Special Enrollment Period (SEP) A period when circumstances allow you to enroll in a Medicare Part D prescription drug plan and/or Medicare Advantage plan.  You can make changes to your Medicare Advantage and Medicare Part D prescription drug plan depending on certain life events.

Prepare for enrollment  

Consider asking these questions before enrolling in Medicare. 

  1. When do I plan to retire? If I plan to keep working past 65, what decisions need to be made at 65? 
  2. When should I apply for Original Medicare? 
  3. What current health services do I use and how are they covered under different Medicare options? 
  4. Do I need prescription drug coverage? 
  5. What will my out-of-pocket expenses be? 
  6. If I travel often or for several months each year, will my health plan cover me in other parts of the country? 

Free resources to support your transition to retirement 

Download our Medicare Starter Kit to help you understand your options, so you feel prepared to make a decision that is right for you. 

BCBSNE offers a wide range of health insurance plans for retirement, including Medicare Advantage, Medicare Supplement, dental plans and prescription drug coverage, that allow you to choose the right Medicare plan when you’re ready to retire.   

For more articles like this, visit Insurance 101.