Are you turning 65 and eligible for Medicare? Are you turning 65 within the next several months?

If so, you are – or soon will be – eligible for Medicare, the nation’s federal health insurance program primarily for older Americans.

Many people wait until they reach that milestone birthday to explore Medicare.

However, we recommend you start now. If you are not familiar with Medicare, it can be very confusing, especially to newly eligible beneficiaries.

The more you know about it going in, the better.

Medicare basics

In general, Medicare is a financial benefit Americans earn by paying a qualifying amount of taxes into the system during their working years.

It is also a federal entitlement program. This means by law, payments must be made to people meeting Medicare eligibility standards.

(Social Security is also a government program paid for by workers via tax dollars.)

As you will see, Medicare is broad in scale and complex in nature, with a variety of enrollment periods, coverages, eligibility requirements, and costs.

Medicare structure

This is the program’s foundation. Medicare has four parts:

Part A – Hospital Coverage

Part B – Medical Coverage

Part C – Medicare Advantage Plans

Part D – Prescription Drug Plan

While Original Medicare takes care of many health costs for program beneficiaries, it is important that you understand it does not pay all of their expenses.

Hit from all sides

Have you received a deluge of Medicare direct mail pieces?

It is very common. You surely know people who got AARP solicitations in the months before they turned 50 – or it happened to you. These are forms of targeted advertising.

We strongly suggest you familiarize yourself with Medicare & You, the official U.S. government Medicare handbook.

It is updated every year prior to the Medicare Annual Election Period, which begins Oct. 15 and ends Dec. 7.

Medicare & You is available in hard copy, downloadable PDF format, and for viewing on smartphones and other mobile devices, including eReaders such as Kindle and Nook.

The handbook contains a checklist to help you maximize your coverage, and explains there are late penalties when you don’t elect benefits during the required periods.

There is also a chart depicting the two main coverage choices; a summary of what Medicare covers and what it does not cover; definitions of commonly used terms; State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP)  contact phone numbers; and your rights under the program.

In addition, the Medicare in 2019 guide powered by YourMedicare.com, is a helpful resource providing an overview of Medicare in an easy-to-read format.

Medicare resources

New to Medicare or in need of assistance? We recommend you either visit the Medicare website or contact the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services at 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227).

Interpreters are available to provide information and answer questions in numerous languages. There is no cost.

TTY users can call 1-877-486-2048 for assistance.

Because AmeriLife has served the senior market for nearly 50 years, we have considerable experience with the Medicare program and the products offered by various insurance companies.

We partner with many of them, which means you will find more options with us than with, say, an agent employed by one insurer, who can only offer that company’s products.

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YourMedicare.com takes pride in providing you as much information as possible concerning your Medicare options, but only a health insurance broker licensed to sell Medicare can help you compare your plan options from various insurance companies. When you’re ready, we recommend you discuss your needs with a YourMedicare.com Licensed Sales Agent.