Congratulations on successfully enrolling in Medicare! In approximately two weeks, you can expect to receive your Medicare card as well as the official handbook called Medicare & You. Additionally, there are several actions you can take independently to ensure a smooth start:
- Set up a Welcome to Medicare visit with your doctor
This visit is a free and comprehensive preventive examination that is only available during your first year of enrollment. It will establish a baseline for your future annual wellness visits, which will be covered by Medicare.
- Set up a secure online account
To create a Medicare account, separate from any online Social Security accounts you may have, you will need your Medicare number. Once created, this account will give you access to your health information, premium payments, original Medicare claims, the ability to print a Medicare card, and receive program updates and alerts.
- Designate a proxy, if desired
If you wish to authorize a loved one to speak on your behalf with Medicare, you must submit an authorization form. This is a distinct legal form from any paperwork you may have completed for a healthcare proxy or surrogate to make medical decisions on your behalf when you are unable to do so.
- Inform your pharmacy and doctors' offices
Ensure that your pharmacy and healthcare providers are aware of your Medicare enrollment, have a copy of your Medicare card, and possess information from your Part D prescription plan card. This will prevent any potential miscommunication and incorrect billing from your previous insurer.
- Go paperless, if preferred
By opting for electronic communication, you can receive your Medicare & You handbook, as well as Medicare summary notices (MSNs), digitally. This option is available within your online Medicare account.
- Educate yourself on how Medicare coverage works
This step is particularly important if you have secondary insurance, such as a Medigap supplemental policy, a private retiree plan, federal health benefits, or Tricare military health insurance. If Medicare is your primary insurer, it will cover expenses up to its limits before transferring the remaining costs to the secondary payer to cover the rest or the majority.
If you are eligible for U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) health care, as a veteran, you have additional options within that separate system. Keep in mind that if you travel or reside outside the United States, not all Medicare services may be available to you.
If you or your spouse is still working, Medicare coverage gets more complex. You have to think about:
- Separate insurance for a younger spouse not yet eligible for Medicare
- The size of your spouse’s or your employer and how that private coverage works with Medicare
- How COBRA coverage, continuation of your employer’s insurance when you’ve retired or been laid off, can complement Medicare — but only if you’re offered it after age 65.
- Stay Curious
If you have upcoming visits to a chiropractor or plan to travel outside the United States, it's important to understand what Medicare covers and areas it may not cover. Familiarize yourself with Medicare's coverage details before discussing them with your physician. Additionally, there are various government agencies and nonprofit services available to provide answers to your questions.
- Ensure Financial Preparedness
If you have concerns about affording Medicare premiums or copayments, especially if you have limited income and savings, explore Medicare's programs designed for beneficiaries in such situations. Medicare Savings Programs (MSPs) can assist with payment of your monthly Part B premium and potential out-of-pocket expenses. Extra Help can aid in covering Part D prescription drug plan premiums and copayments.
- Keep Track of Preferences
As you assess the effectiveness of your chosen coverage, it's essential to monitor what aspects are working for you and what needs improvement. Remember that you have the option to change your coverage during the annual enrollment period from October 15 to December 7. Take an active role in managing your healthcare, particularly when reviewing Part D in original Medicare and your Medicare Advantage plan, if you opted for the all-in-one private alternative.
It's possible that there may be changes in covered costs, doctors, drugs, or pharmacies in the upcoming year for your Medicare Advantage plan. Copayments, coinsurance, drug coverage, or pharmacies might also undergo modifications for your Part D prescription plan. Stay informed and avoid surprises by examining any changes to your plan and engaging in comparison shopping.
- Expand Your Knowledge
Lehigh Partners Senior Benefits Blog offers comprehensive answers to hundreds of questions covering various aspects of Medicare. It serves as a valuable source for further information.