Open enrollment for Medicare comes around once per year, making it a high-pressure time for many people looking to shop for coverage. However, it doesn’t need to be a headache. When you know your needs and what kind of coverage you want, then you can navigate open enrollment with ease.
Let’s take a closer look at Medicare and what you need to know when you’re shopping for plans.
Medicare is the federal government’s medical coverage plan that applies to people over 65. The plan was introduced in 1965 as a subsidiary of the Social Security Administration, and it has changed a lot over the years. So much, in fact, that it can be confusing, even for people who have been enrolled for years.
Today, Original Medicare consists of two parts: Part A and Part B. Part A is the coverage that applies to your hospital insurance, while Part B is your medical insurance. Those might sound similar, but they’re actually pretty distinct; Part A covers your hospital expenditures or nursing home care, while Part B covers things like the cost of visiting the doctor.
Some people sign up for more robust coverage than just Original Medicare’s Parts A and B, however. Part C, also called the Medicare Advantage Plan, is a bit different, in that Part C plans are offered by private insurers through the official government marketplace. Part C plans can cover more than Original Medicare, in which case they will often cost you more.
However, in some cases, Part C plans could be “budget-friendly” plans, leaving out some coverage that Original Medicare includes in order to pass the savings on to the customer. In these cases, carefully consider the trade-offs before you sign up for these plans. You’ll have to wait a year before reverting to Original Medicare or upping your Part C plan to one with more coverage, so going with a smaller plan could be problematic.
Anyone with Original Medicare can sign up for a prescription drug plan, also known as Part D of Medicare. These plans cover self-administered prescriptions, primarily, and are great for people who find the recurring costs of their medication are too expensive.
Keep these four parts in mind when you’re shopping for coverage, and you’ll have a much easier time making your selection. Just remember, after you lock in your Medicare plan for the year, you’ll need to wait until the next Open Enrollment period to make any changes.