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If You Have Misconceptions About Signing Up for Medicare, You’re Not Alone

Given the complexity and unfamiliarity of the program to most Colorado Springs adults approaching retirement age, it’s no surprise that there are plenty of misconceptions about signing up for Medicare. But getting Medicare right, and separating fact from fiction, proves critical to your health and well-being (physically and financially) during your Golden Years.

We at Preferred Insurance want to debunk some myths about Medicare and the process of enrolling in the program to ensure a smooth transition into the much-deserved retirement years for you. Armed with facts, and with the help of an experienced Medicare broker, you can ensure you maximize your benefits and minimize any mistakes that could lead to unpleasant surprises.

Here are four common misconceptions about signing up for Medicare:

Medicare Is Free Healthcare for the Rest of Your Life!

While Medicare will pay for most of your medical costs, it certainly isn’t free. As is likely the case with your current health coverage, you will have plenty of out-of-pocket expenses like premiums, deductibles, coinsurance, and copays for many of the services you receive. And these costs can pile up quickly and just as quickly drain your retirement savings. For example, Medicare has no lifetime cap on your 20 percent copays and coinsurance under Parts A and B like you had on your private insurance plan. For something like cancer, this could be a devastating burden.

That is why so many Medicare enrollees also sign up for private supplemental insurance plans — called Medigap plans — that help fill in these substantial gaps in Medicare coverage.

Additionally, some services Medicare Parts A and B do not pay for at all, such as prescription drugs, hearing, dental, and vision coverage. For such benefits, you can enroll in a private Medicare Advantage plan that includes the coverage of Part A and Part B along with these other services.

Medicare and Medicaid Are the Same Things

Medicare and Medicaid are two separate programs with different benefits and eligibility requirements. Medicare is a federal program established in 1965 that covers most healthcare costs (but not all, as noted) for Americans 65 or older and those younger than 65 who have certain disabilities. Eligibility for Medicare is unrelated to how much money you have or your income. That distinguishes Medicare from Medicaid, which is a state and federally funded program that provides medical care and related financial assistance for low-income individuals.

In Colorado, Medicaid is called Health First Colorado and the website is called Connect for Health.

While enrollment in Medicare is automatic for some people, others will have to take affirmative steps to sign up. And if you want to obtain the benefits of Medicare Parts C and D or need a Medigap plan to cover out-of-pocket costs not covered by original Medicare, you’ll need to do the same.

The government will automatically enroll you in Medicare Parts A and B and will send you a Medicare card in the mail, if:

  • You are turning 65 and are receiving Social Security or Railroad Retirement Board benefits.
  • You are under 65 and have received disability benefits for 24 months.
  • You have Lou Gehrig’s disease (ALS) and start getting disability benefits.

You Can Sign Up for Medicare at Any Time

If you do not fit into one of the above categories, you will need to sign up for Medicare yourself during what’s called the Initial Enrollment Period (IEP). Typically, an IEP is the seven-month period that begins three months before the month you turn 65 and ends at the end of the third month after your birthday month. While you can still enroll in Medicare after the end of your IEP, you will get hit with penalties for missing your enrollment window, including a 10 percent increase in your Part B premium.

The only exception to signing up during an IEP is for people who continue working past age 65 and have creditable health coverage through their employer. Such individuals can enroll in Medicare during a Special Enrollment Period immediately after they lose their employer coverage. The Special Enrollment Period allows them to get Parts A and B within eight months, but they must enroll in Part C or Part D within two months or pay a penalty.

Need Help Understanding and Enrolling in Medicare? Preferred Insurance Can Help

Medicare can be complicated. Understanding your costs, and whether you need supplemental coverage to reduce or eliminate those expenses, comes a lot easier with an experienced guide. Serving small businesses and individuals in the Colorado Springs and Denver area, Preferred Insurance can answer your Medicare questions and provide practical, affordable solutions during these uncertain times.

Contact the helpful, knowledgeable brokers at Preferred Insurance today to arrange for your free consultation to discuss your Medicare or other health insurance needs. 

Read More from Preferred Insurance on Medicare

Medicare 101: The Basics of Medicare Health Insurance In Six Minutes

7 Advantages of Working With an Independent Medicare Broker

Do I Really Need Medicare Supplemental Insurance?