Prescription Drug Plans
Before doing the happy dance, there are a few things you need to know. Let’s go over the basics, like what you get from the government and what you need to get on your own.
On the month of your 65th birthday you can start using your Medicare benefits. That’s the good news.
The bad news is that what you get from the government is not full coverage. It was never designed to be full coverage and never will be. So, let’s cover what you get and what you need to do.
The government offers Original Medicare, commonly referred to as Medicare Part A and Medicare Part B. This is your guaranteed benefit. You also have options. The options are Medicare Part C and Medicare Part D. Let’s go over the “Parts”.
Medicare Part A is inpatient insurance for your hospital care. For most of us there’s no cost to sign up. That’s because it’s funded through payroll taxes.
If you filed for Social Security benefits at age 62, you will be enrolled in Medicare Part A automatically on the month of your 65th birthday. If this is your situation, you’ll need to enroll in Part B.
If your 65th birthday is right around the corner (within 90 days) and you haven’t filed for Social Security benefits, you need to get cracking and apply for Medicare Part A. Do this even if you plan to continue working past age 65.
Medicare Part B is medical insurance. It pays for your doctor visits, lab tests, and preventative care. You’ll pay a monthly fee (premium) for Part B. How much you pay is based on your annual income.
Most people enroll in Medicare Part B as soon as they qualify. If you’re still working, and have full coverage, your situation may be different (see: I Want to Keep My Employer Health Insurance).
IMPORTANT: If you don’t sign up for Medicare Part B when you’re first eligible (and don’t have coverage through an employer), you’ll have to pay a hefty late enrollment penalty.
Medicare Part C, better known as Medicare Advantage, is a private health plan (e.g., HMO, PPO, etc.) option. The “advantage” is that plans must offer everything in Part A and Part B, but they may also include additional service, such as prescription drug coverage. We keep an up-to-date catalog of Medicare Advantage plans.
Medicare Part D is prescription drug coverage. This is critical coverage because Medicare Part B does not pay for outpatient prescriptions. And, as we all know, prescriptions are expensive. Plus, here’s another gotcha. As with Part B, you will be penalized if you don’t join a Part D plan when you are first eligible. Here’s where you shop for your Medicare Part D plans.