As you get closer to your 65th birthday, you may have more questions about Medicare and your coverage options. Understanding Medicare, how it works and when you decide to enroll in a Medicare plan, is one of the first few steps to finding the right coverage for you.  

This article is designed to provide you with helpful information as you make your transition to Medicare. Let’s get started. 

What is Medicare?  

Medicare is health insurance for: 

  • People aged 65 or older 
  • People under age 65 with certain disabilities 
  • People of any age with end-stage renal disease (permanent kidney failure requiring dialysis or a kidney transplant) or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, “Lou Gehrig’s disease”) 

What you need to know about signing up for Medicare

Let’s face it, signing up for Medicare can be confusing. To help you get started, consider which of these situations applies to you.

You’re turning 65 and plan to retire

When you’re first eligible for Original Medicare, you have a seven-month Initial Enrollment Period to sign up for Part A and Part B. This includes the three months before you turn 65, the month you turn 65 and three months after you turn 65.

During this seven-month window, you can also join private insurance plans, such as Medicare Advantage, Medicare Supplement and Medicare Part D prescription drug coverage.

You’re turning 65 and plan to keep working

If your employer has 20 or more employees, check with your benefits manager to determine how the IRS defines your group health plan. There’s a chance you may be able to delay enrollment in both Medicare Parts A and B and avoid the lifetime late enrollment penalty if you decide to enroll later.

If your employer has fewer than 20 employees, be sure to sign up for Medicare Parts A and B when you’re first eligible. Otherwise, you may have to pay a lifetime Part B late enrollment penalty if you decide you want Part B later. Medicare pays before any other health plan you may have.

Original Medicare – Parts A and B

Medicare Parts A and B are referred to as Original Medicare and provide a defined set of benefits and services.

  • Medicare Part A (hospital insurance) – Covers care at hospitals or nursing facilities, home health and hospice care.
  • Medicare Part B (medical insurance) – Covers doctor visits, preventive services and medical supplies.

What does BCBSNE offer?

BCBSNE provides coverage beyond Parts A and B. These plans may include benefits that Original Medicare doesn’t cover, could lower your health care expenses in the long run or both.

Get ready for retirement

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.