Medicare is the federal health insurance program for people who are 65 or older, certain younger people with disabilities, and people with End-Stage Renal Disease (permanent kidney failure requiring dialysis or a transplant, sometimes called ESRD). If you or your spouse have worked full time for 10 or more years over a lifetime, you are probably eligible to receive Medicare Part A for free.
Part A covers inpatient hospital stays, care in a skilled nursing facility, hospice care, and some home health care. What Medicare covers is based upon, Federal and state laws, National coverage decisions made by Medicare about whether something is covered, local coverage decisions made by companies in each state that process claims for Medicare. These companies decide whether something is medically necessary and should be covered in their area.
How Medicare Works
Original Medicare is coverage managed by the federal government. Generally, there is a cost for each service. In most cases, you can go to any doctor, other health care provider, hospital, or other facility that is enrolled in Medicare and is accepting new Medicare patients. With a few exceptions, most prescriptions are not covered in Original Medicare. However, you can add drug coverage by joining a Medicare Prescription Drug Plan (Part D). With Original Medicare you don not need to choose a primary care doctor. In most cases, with Original Medicare, you don’t need a referral to see a specialist, but the specialist must be enrolled in Medicare. You may already have employer or union coverage that may pay costs that Original Medicare does not. If not, you may want to buy a Medicare Supplement Insurance (Medigap) policy.
How to sign up for Medicare
If you are receiving Social Security benefits before turning 65, you should automatically receive notification of your enrollment in Medicare shortly before your 65th birthday or your 25th month of disability. Other individuals must apply by calling or visiting their Social Security office to receive Medicare. If you are not yet receiving Social Security or if you have not received a Medicare enrollment notice, you should contact the nearest Social Security office for information. Applications for Medicare can be made during a seven-month period beginning three months prior to the month of your 65th birthday.
It is best to apply during the three months prior to the month of your 65th birthday. If an application is made during that time, your coverage will begin on the first day of your birth month. Applying later will delay the start of your benefits. You may also apply for Medicare during the General Enrollment Period from January 1 through March 31 every year after your 65th birthday. Your coverage then starts July 1 of the year you signed up and you will pay a 10 percent surcharge on the Part B premium for each 12 months you were eligible but not enrolled. If you have limited income and resources, your state may help you pay for Part A, and/or Part B. You may also qualify for Extra Help to pay for your Medicare prescription drug coverage.