Medicare is a federal government-managed health care program for senior citizens. Medicare consists of Part A, which provides hospitalization coverage, Part B, which covers doctor visits, and Part D, which covers prescription drugs. Part C may be chosen in place of traditional Medicare and is available from private insurers. Medicare Part A offers automatic enrollment while other parts require action by the enrollee.
You will be automatically enrolled in Medicare Part A. Coverage will begin on the first day of the month of your 65th birthday, assuming you have met the requirement of at least 40 quarters of qualified employment paying Social Security taxes. No action is required, and you will receive your Medicare card in the mail about three months before your 65th birthday. No premium payment is required for Medicare Part A enrollment.
You are eligible to enroll in Part B at the same time as you are enrolled in Part A. Because Part B is optional and requires the payment of a monthly premium, you must elect to either accept or decline the coverage. If you want Part B, you will have a seven-month window in which to enroll, and enrollment instructions will be included with your initial Medicare enrollment package. If you decline Part B, you pay a penalty if you choose to enroll at a later date.
You may carry medicare Part C, or Medicare Advantage, instead of Medicare Part A and Part B. However, you must first enroll in Part A and Part B, then select a Medicare Advantage plan from a private insurer during your initial Medicare enrollment period. You can also switch to a Medicare Advantage plan during the annual enrollment period that runs from Nov. 15 to Dec. 31 each year.
Medicare Part D, which provides prescription drug coverage, is also an optional plan that requires an additional premium. If you decide to enroll in Part D coverage, you can do so during the annual enrollment period of Nov. 15 to Dec. 31. If you are enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan, it may is provide prescription drug coverage. You can also obtain separate prescription drug coverage from a private insurer.
Chris Joseph writes for websites and online publications, covering business and technology. He holds a Bachelor of Science in marketing from York College of Pennsylvania.