Congratulations on becoming an official Medicare member after months of research, monitoring deadlines, and successful sign-up. However, your enrollment journey may not be completely finished yet. There are still a few steps you can take to maximize your Medicare benefits, regardless of your chosen coverage. Here are some important tasks to include on your to-do list:
- Remember to keep track of when your coverage begins. Medicare coverage doesn't automatically start on your 65th birthday; it depends on the date you signed up.
- Most people sign up for Medicare during the Initial Enrollment Period (IEP), which is a seven-month period that includes the three months before your birthday, the month of your birthday, and the three months after.
- If you sign up during the first three months of your IEP, your coverage will start on the first day of the month of your 65th birthday. The only exception is if your birthday falls on the first day of the month, in which case your coverage will start a month before your birthday month.
- If you sign up during your birthday month or the three months after, please refer to the chart below to determine the date when your coverage will begin.
- If you qualify for a Special Enrollment Period, such as when your employer coverage ends, your coverage will start on the first day of the month following your enrollment.
Make note of when you receive your Medicare card
When you enroll in Medicare, you will receive a government-issued Medicare card that is red, white, and blue. If you are automatically enrolled, expect to receive your card in the mail about three months before your 65th birthday. If you sign up during your Initial Enrollment Period (IEP), you should receive your card within 30 days of approval.
If you have Medicare Advantage (Part C) or a prescription drug plan (Part D), the private insurer administering each plan will send you separate ID cards. Your plan ID card will be your primary card for these services, and you should receive it shortly after signing up. Contact your insurer for more information on this process.
Schedule a "Welcome to Medicare" visit with your doctor
Within the first 12 months of signing up for Medicare, you have access to a free, one-time checkup called the "Welcome to Medicare" visit. During this visit, your doctor will record your vitals such as height, weight, blood pressure, body mass index, and vision. They will also gather your personal and family health history, check for risk factors related to certain diseases, and screen for depression if necessary. This visit serves as a baseline for your future annual wellness checkups and gives you an opportunity to create a health plan to reach your goals. Make sure to bring your medical records, including immunization records, your family health history, and a list of any prescription drugs, over-the-counter drugs, vitamins, or supplements you currently take.
Understand the costs of your Medicare coverage
Enrolling in Medicare is an important step towards achieving your health goals. However, it's essential to remember that Medicare does not cover all expenses. As you plan for out-of-pocket costs, consider the following factors:
- Your choice of Medicare coverage
- How frequently you utilize healthcare services
- Whether your health needs may require hospitalization
Medicare costs can change annually, so it's crucial to review your plan's annual documents to determine if your current coverage meets your needs.
If your income is limited, find out if you qualify for Medicaid or other financial assistance programs to help with your healthcare and prescription drug costs. Explore more about financial assistance options available to you.
Review your Evidence of Coverage
Medicare Advantage and prescription drug plans have an Evidence of Coverage document that outlines the benefits covered and the associated costs. Make sure to thoroughly read and understand this document to evaluate if it meets your healthcare needs for the upcoming year. Typically, plans offer the Evidence of Coverage document online, so reach out to your plan insurer for more information on accessing it.
Congratulations on becoming a Medicare member! Learn more about how your Medicare plan can support you in achieving your health and wellness goals.