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How to Avoid the 5 Most Common Medicare Enrollment Mistakes

medicare-enrollment-mistakes

Medicare enrollment doesn't have to be hard, you just have to know what the potential pitfalls are and how to avoid them. Here are the most common mistakes many Medicare beneficiaries make and tips for making sure your enrollment is quick and easy.

1. Not being properly prepared for Medicare Enrollment.

Many people assume they're automatically enrolled in Medicare Parts A and B, when they turn 65. If you're already receiving Social Security benefits when you turn 65, this is probably true. If not, you'll have to apply for Medicare Parts A and B online at the Social Security website, by phone at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY: 1-800-325-0778), or by walking into your local Social Security office. It's always better to be safe than sorry, so it's a good idea to contact Social Security to verify your Medicare enrollment status and make sure you have your red, white and blue Medicare card.

Being prepared also means having a clear ideas of what care and services you need. Creating lists of your physicians, medications, even medical services and equipment, makes it easy to include these important factors in your plan decision-making process.

2. Missing the Medicare Enrollment Period.

Medicare offers specific enrollment periods and missing these windows may result in you having to pay fees, incur higher costs or possibly even cause a gap in your coverage. Your Medicare Initial Enrollment Period provides 7 months on either end of your 65th birthday to enroll—the three months before and after your 65th birthday and your birthday month. Highlighting this window on your calendar helps keep you on track, so you can finalize enrollment without being subject to any costly penalties.

Hopefully you'll enroll on time. Just in case, here are your options if you miss your Medicare Initial Enrollment Period. Also, there are certain circumstances that may make you eligible for a Medicare Special Enrollment Period.

3. Not receiving the care and services you need.

Basic coverage provided by Original Medicare, which is Medicare Parts A and B, may be all you need. Medicare Part A covers inpatient hospital care. Medicare Part B covers outpatient services, including doctor visits, medical equipment, lab tests, ambulance services and preventative services. It's important to be aware that neither covers health services, such as hearing, vision, dental, and prescription drugs.

It's important to take time to consider your healthcare needs, finances and lifestyle before decide on your plan. Many people choose a Medicare Advantage Plan because in addition to covering everything included in Medicare Parts A and B, many also include dental, vision, hearing and prescription drug coverage in one convenient plan.

Learn more about coverage differences between Medicare plans.

4. Missing out on other important benefits.

There are options available that may provide additional benefits based on specific circumstances. It's worth your peace of mind to get advice on whether you may qualify for:

  • Silver Sneakers—Some plans include this free fitness program that makes it easy to stay in shape.
  • Dual Eligibility—Individuals with both Medicaid and Medicare may qualify for Medicare Savings Programs that help lower costs.
  • Extra Help—Depending on your income, you may be eligible for help with your Prescription Drug Plan.
5. Not understanding your costs.

Surprises are great, except when they come as unexpected bills. It's important to understand your costs before finalizing your Medicare enrollment.

Here are the four major types of Medicare costs you'll have to consider:

  • Premium: The monthly cost for your insurance plan.
  • Deductible: The portion you're responsible to pay for care and services before insurance pays.
  • Co-pay/Co-insurance: The portion of each medical claim you'll pay. Typically a set amount, such as $25 for this service, or a percentage, like 20% of each bill.
  • Formulary: A list of prescription drugs covered under the plan that includes prices.

Some Medicare Advantage Plans offer premiums as low as $0, but all Medicare beneficiaries must continue to pay their Part B premiums.

Get Help with Your Medicare Enrollment

There certainly is no lack of Medicare information online, but sorting through it all on your own can be overwhelming and confusing. Licensed agents often represent one provider, so you may miss out on other options that might provide more benefits or help lower costs. If you want to be sure you're weighing all the options to find your best-fit plan, our Medicare Advocates are available to assist you, including helping you find, compare, and enroll in Medicare plans. For assistance, call 1-800-991-4407 / TTY 711 from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. ET, Monday through Friday.

You can also find and compare Medicare plans through our convenient Medicare Online Enrollment Portal.