What you need to know to get started
If you are near the age of 64, a Medicare application is required to avoid financial penalties. Seniors must apply for Medicare between 64 years and 9 months of age and 65 years and three months. The application is easy and can be completed online, but the decisions that need to be made to complete the application are not so easy. So, start learning and be informed so you can apply and make those decisions.
Though the application is fairly straightforward, there are a few questions that are regularly raised about Medicare. Here are a few:
- What are Parts A, B, C, D?
- What is Original Medicare? What is Medicare Advantage?
- Which is better for me?
- I’m not retired so must I get Medicare?
- What is Medigap? Do I need it?
- How much does all of this cost?
It is beyond the scope of this article to answer these questions or explain the details of Medicare, including its many nuisances, but we will point you to resources that are helpful and accurate.
In addition to the sources we suggest, we recommend you speak with a Medicare advisor, perhaps someone from the insurance agency you use for your homeowners, auto and other insurances? Assistance can be found at several area health insurance and financial advisors.
“We will sit down and give them at least an hour consultation for free,” said Rhonda L. Wise of Beacon Associates. “We don’t charge for our services, we get paid by the insurance carriers by way of a commission. So they would come and sit with us in our office for a private consultation, or they can go to any of our workshops that we provide across the area.”
“They can absolutely give us a call, tell us that they’re looking for help with Medicare, and we have several people that can guide them through that decision-making process, of what might be best for them,” said Tamy Hagen of Savage and Associates, Inc.
“Everybody’s specific need is different. When you’re making a medicare decision, sometimes you’re actually making a decision for the rest of [your] lifetime.”
Additionally, many sources for Medicare advisors are online – just do a simple Google search for “medicare advisors near me”.
To sign up for Medicare, you must first create an account with the Social Security Administration (www.ssa.gov). Later, you will also open a MyMedicare account that will have a different user name and password. Write down your user names and passwords; from experience, we know that losing this information causes problems.
The ssa.gov site provides plenty of articles and descriptions that attempt to explain Medicare. This site will send you to Medicare.gov. Use the months before filing your application to review these sites for answers to your questions.
Unfortunately, like so many government sites, the information found at the ssa.gov and Medicare.gov sites can be difficult to manage and understand. Two sites we found that give solid information in understandable terms are myMedicarematters.org and Medicareinteractive.org. Both sites are comprehensive, easy to explore, contain search buttons, and give links to other sites. Take some time with these sites and any others you find.
After doing your homework, if still confused or unclear, try contacting www.insurance.ohio.gov for an online seminar and other assistance. Lastly, you can make an appointment with the local Social Security Administration office for in-person help (expect a long wait for an appointment.)