Most Americans over the age of 65 (and in some unique cases, those who are under age 65 but receive Social Security benefits) are eligible for Medicare health insurance benefits. If you've recently qualified for Medicare, here are five ways to make the most of this important benefit:
Start with a List of Priorities
Medicare plans vary in detail, including deductibles, services covered, prescription benefits, and more. A good way to help decide on the best plan is to start by making a list of your main priorities. Some people may be fine with a higher deductible plan as long as they get to see the doctor of their choice, while others want to keep their deductible as low as possible.
Know Your Enrollment Period
For most Medicare recipients, the initial sign-up period lasts seven months and begins three months before your 65th birthday. Some people are automatically enrolled when they turn 65, so if you want a plan with specific features or a plan that includes your doctor, it's a good idea to contact your insurance agent a few months before your 65th birthday so they can enroll you in the plan that's best for you.
Search Through Plans
The Medicare website includes a plan search feature that allows you to easily compare plans. You can compare plans by features, prescription benefits, included doctors, deductibles, etc, helping to narrow down your choices. Your insurance agent may be able to help you make sense of all your options if you find the search a bit overwhelming.
Sign Up for a Preventative Care Appointment
One of the best aspects of Medicare is that most plans include annual preventative care appointments at no additional cost. If it's been a while since you've been to the doctor, schedule a checkup appointment where you can get to know the doctor, have testing performed including blood pressure, diabetes, heart health, and cholesterol, and receive recommendations on maintaining your health.
Know Your Network
Most Medicare plans are part of a specific network of doctors and pharmacies. When searching for plans, double check the doctors and pharmacies that are listed as part of that specific plan. Seeing a doctor or going to a pharmacy that is outside of your network usually costs much more.
If you already have a primary care physician or specialist you like and want to continue seeing, you may want to call their office and ask which Medicare network plan they accept on an in-network basis.
Medicare can be a bit confusing at first, but once you are enrolled and begin seeing a doctor you will find that Medicare usually provides quality care at an affordable price.Share