Get Ready For Medicare: What You Need To Know If Your 65th Birthday Is Coming Up

If you're going to turn 65 soon, you know that you're going to be eligible for Medicare. However, this isn't a seamless process in which you magically receive a membership card on your birthday. You do have to apply for most of Medicare, and there's more than one part that you need to ensure you have. As your enrollment period approaches, keep these things in mind to make the process as smooth as possible.

You Might Not Get a Reminder

Certain groups are automatically eligible for Medicare coverage because of their participation in certain programs. For example, if you are collecting Social Security benefits already, you are eligible for Medicare Part A and will get a reminder from the Social Security Administration. But if you aren't in one of the eligible groups, you need to enroll yourself. Of course, most people heading toward 65 are thrilled to finally get into Medicare, so chances are you're not going to forget that you're eligible. Just remember to fill out all of the paperwork.

Grab That Window

Any Medicare paperwork that you have to fill out is due during your initial enrollment period, or IEP. This period covers seven months -- three before your birthday and four afterward. If you miss that enrollment period, you can get a second chance between January and March of each year, which is the general enrollment period, but you would have to pay a late-enrollment penalty. So, it's cheaper if you enroll during that initial period.

It Isn't Just One Medicare Plan

Medicare is an umbrella term. It encompasses a whole passel of programs, several of which you need to sign up for as soon as possible. There's Medicare Part A, which is the basic hospitalization and home care package. This is the one that's free to those who have worked for a certain number of years and paid into the Medicare system. Then there's Medicare Part B, which you have to enroll in and that covers your usual doctor visits. Medicare Part C, or Medicare Advantage, is the private-insurer version of Medicare Parts A, B, and D, which is the prescription plan that goes with Parts A and B if you don't sign up for C or if your C plan does not include prescriptions.

It looks complicated at first, but the system is a lot more user-friendly than you might realize. Even if you can't enroll yet, you can still start researching all the plans and calling companies like Senior Advisors for information. Knowledge is power, as the saying goes, so start researching, and welcome to Medicare.