It is important to have reliable healthcare as we age. However, many people do not have access to healthcare during retirement because they lose their health insurance when they stop working. Medicare provides insurance for individuals who are 65 years of age and older and people with specific disabilities. 

4 Parts of Medicare

  • Medicare Part A – Hospital Insurance
  • Medicare Part B – Medical Insurance 
  • Medicare Part C – Medicare Advantage Plans
  • Medicare Part D – Prescription Drug Coverage

Medicare provides essential healthcare for elderly individuals and people who have permanent kidney failure that results in the need for dialysis or a kidney transplant. Without Medicare coverage, many seniors would not receive the routine healthcare needed to maintain good health. However, Medicare coverage is not automatic. People must enroll in Medicare to receive benefits.

Medicare Coverage - What You Need to Know

  • What does Medicare cover?
  • How much does Medicare cost?
  • When should you apply for Medicare benefits?
  • How do you apply for Medicare coverage?
  • Can you get help to pay for Medicare premiums? 

What is Medicare?

An individual can obtain Medicare in two ways. They can apply for Original Medicare or Medicare Advantage. When you first apply for Medicare, you must choose between these two options. You can change your mind and switch options during certain times of the year.

What is Original Medicare?

Original Medicare includes Medicare Part A and Medicare Part B. You can also join a separate prescription drug coverage program as part of Original Medicare. 

With Original Medicare, you can use any doctor or hospital in the United States that accepts Medicare insurance. Many people also purchase supplemental coverage to help cover the out-of-pocket costs and copayments that are not covered by Original Medicare.

What is Medicare Advantage?

Medicare Advantage is a more inclusive healthcare insurance policy through Medicare. It is a “bundle” of insurance policies that include Medicare Part A, Medicare Part B, and generally Medicare Part D. 

Medicare Advantage plans usually have lower out-of-pocket costs compared to Original Medicare plans. However, people with Medicare Advantage plans usually must choose doctors and hospitals from within a network approved by the insurance company. In addition to basic insurance coverage, Medicare Advantage plans also offer extra benefits such as dental, vision, hearing, and other insurance coverages.

What is a Medigap Policy?

Medicare pays for many services and healthcare needs, but it does not pay for everything. There are “gaps” in what Medicare covers. For example, individuals are responsible for copays and deductibles. Some items and services may not be covered by Medicare insurance.

Medigap policy helps cover the costs that Original Medicare does not pay. It is an insurance policy that you must purchase separately. If you have Medigap insurance, Medicare pays its share of covered health care costs. Then, your Medigap policy pays its share of the costs after Medicare completes its payment. It supplements an Original Medicare policy; therefore, Medigap coverage must be clearly identified as Medicare Supplement Insurance. 

Each Medigap insurance policy must provide standardized basic benefits, regardless of what insurance company offers the coverage. In most cases, the cost of the insurance coverage is typically the only difference between Medigap policies offered by various insurance companies. Insurance companies charge different premiums for the same covered benefits, so it helps to shop around to find the lowest premium. 

You must have Medicare Part A and Medicare Part B to purchase Medicare Supplement Insurance. Medigap coverage is not available if you have a Medicare Advantage Plan. There is an additional premium that you must pay to the insurance company for Medicare Supplement Insurance. Medigap coverage only pays for the covered person. It does not cover your spouse. Spouses must have individual Medigap policies. 

How Much Does Medicare Cost?

The cost of Medicare coverage depends on a few factors. In many cases, people who are age 65 or older qualify for premium-free Part A Medicare insurance if they worked and paid Medicare taxes into the system. For the most part, if you are eligible to receive or are receiving Social Security retirement benefits or retirement benefits under the Railroad Retirement Board, you qualify for premium-free Part A benefits. 

The following costs are based on the 2020 Medicare premiums. The cost of Medicare can change yearly. 

Cost of Medicare Part A

If you do not qualify for premium Part A benefits, you pay $458 per month for coverage if you paid Medicare taxes for less than 30 quarters. If you paid Medicare taxes for 30 to 39 quarters, your premium for Part A coverage is $252 per month. 

It is important to note that if you do not purchase Part A coverage when you are eligible, your monthly premium may increase by 10%. The late Medicare enrollment penalty applies to your Part A Medicare policy for twice the number of years you were eligible for Medicare but did not sign up.

Cost of Medicare Part B

The 2020 Part B premium is $144.60, but that premium increases depending on your income. You are also charged a late Medicare enrollment penalty if you do not sign up for Medicare Part B when you are eligible. The 10% penalty is applied to the premium for Part B for as long as you have Part B coverage.

Cost of Medicare Parts C and D

The premiums for Parts C and D depend on the policy you choose and the insurance provider. You can shop around for the coverage that meets your needs and is affordable based on your income and resources. When comparing Part C and Part D plans, make sure to compare the coverage, monthly premium, deductibles, copayments, and coinsurance. Individuals with higher incomes will pay more for Part D coverage than individuals with lower incomes.

Who is Eligible for Medicare?

In most cases, Medicare coverage is available for people who are 65 years of age and older. However, if you are disabled or have End Stage Renal Disease, you may also qualify for Medicare insurance. 

Individuals can qualify for premium-free Part A Medicare if:

  • They are 65 years of age or older AND
  • They are receiving retirement benefits from the Railroad Retirement Board or under the Social Security Act; or,
  • They are eligible to receive Railroad benefits or Social Security retirement, but have not yet applied for the benefits; or,
  • They or their spouse had Medicare-covered government employment.

Use our Medicare Eligibility Form to find out if you qualify for Medicare.

The 4 Parts of Medicare

Being new to Medicare can be confusing. The various Medicare policies cover different health care services. The parts also have different costs. Most people who are 65 years of age or older and receive Social Security retirement have Medicare Part A. Many seniors also purchase additional Medicare insurance to pay for necessary health care expenses as they age.

Medicare Part A – Hospital Insurance 

What is Medicare Part A?

Part A is commonly referred to as Hospital Insurance. It is part of the Original Medicare operated by the federal government. Part A covers room and board expenses related to hospital stays, such as the cost of a hospital room and meals while in the hospital.

Medicare Part A can also pay for some treatment by hospice care, home health care, and skilled nursing facilities. However, nursing home costs and home health care costs are limited. Medicare is not designed to pay for long-term skilled health care costs.

Part A covers hospice care if it is determined that you are terminally ill and have six months or less to live. Hospice coverage includes doctor and nursing services, hospice aide services, physical and occupational therapy, prescription drugs, and some coverage for short-term respite care for caregivers. 

However, Part A does not cover long-term care, such as what you would get in a nursing home or long-term care facility. It only covers facilities where help with personal care (bathing, eating, bathing) isn’t the only care you receive. 

Some home health services are covered and may include physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech therapy services, among others. 

Coverage If You Are Under 65

You can qualify for Medicare Part A benefits if you are under 65 and you have end-stage renal disease (ESRD), permanent kidney failure that requires either ongoing dialysis or a transplant or you receive disability benefits because you have Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) which is also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. 

Also, you must have received disability benefits from Social Security or the Railroad Retirement Board for at least 24 months. You are automatically enrolled in Part A and Part B after you get either of these disability benefits for 24 months, which do not need to be consecutive. You can also qualify if you worked the required amount of time under Social Security, the Railroad Retirement Board, or as a government employee, or you are the spouse or dependent child of someone who meets these requirements.

Part A Eligibility

You are automatically enrolled in Part A at age 65 if you paid Medicare taxes while you were working and you did so for at least 10 years (40 quarters). If your spouse qualifies for Part A benefits without a premium, then you may also be eligible for premium-free benefits based on his or her work history. If you don’t meet work requirements, you can still sign up for Part A, but you will need to pay a monthly premium. 

You can also qualify for free benefits if you receive or are eligible to receive Social Security benefits or Railroad Retirement benefits. This also applies if your spouse is eligible to receive either of these as well, even if the spouse is deceased or divorced from the person seeking coverage.

How Social Security Credits Impact Coverage

People can receive free Part A coverage if they work and pay taxes to earn enough Social Security credits. Generally, 40 credits are required for free Part A coverage. Each credit is equal to one quarter of a year of work that you earn $1,300 and pay taxes on. If you earn more than 40 credits, then the overage does not apply to any additional benefits. If you don’t meet the 40-credit minimum, then you will need to pay a monthly premium to be covered for Part A. Your premium will depend on how long you have worked and how close you are to meeting the 40-credit requirement. If you are required to pay for Part A coverage, then you will also be required to enroll in Part B and pay a premium for that as well.

Enrollment in Part A

If you already get Social Security or Railroad Retirement Board benefits, then in most cases you will automatically get Part A and Part B coverage starting the first day of the month you turn 65 years old. You will get a “Welcome to Medicare” package that will be mailed to you about three months before you turn 65. This package will include your Medicare card, among other things. You will also be asked if you want to keep Part B coverage since there is a premium associated with this. 

If you’re under 65 and disabled, you’ll automatically get Part A and Part B after you get disability benefits from Social Security or the Railroad Retirement Board for 24 months. You’ll get the same welcome package about three months before your 25th month of disability benefits. If you have ALS, you’ll automatically get Part A and Part B the same month your disability benefits begin. 

If you do not meet any of the requirements above, then you can sign up for Medicare benefits during your Initial Enrollment Period. This is the 7-month period that begins three months before the month you turn 65 and ends three months after the month you turn 65. 

You can sign up from free Medicare Part A any time after your Initial Enrollment Period starts, but coverage will start six months back from the date you applied, but not earlier than the first month you were eligible for Medicare.

After your Initial Enrollment Period ends, you can sign up for Part A and Part B if you have to buy it during a Special Enrollment Period, as long as you meet certain requirements. Be aware that you may face enrollment penalties or a gap in coverage if you go this route. 

If you don’t qualify for a Special Enrollment Period, you can sign up during the Medicare General Enrollment Period which takes place from January 1 through March 31 each year. Going with this option means you might have to pay higher premiums and your coverage will not begin until July 1 of the year you enroll. 

Medicare Part B – Medical Insurance 

What is Medicare Part B?

Medicare Part B is the second part of Original Medicare provided by the federal government. Part B pays for medical costs that occur outside of a hospital setting. Part B coverage includes doctor’s visits, lab tests, ambulance rides, surgeries, diagnostic imaging, outpatient procedures, and medical supplies such as wheelchairs. Part B also covers dialysis care for individuals who have renal failure. It can also cover preventative care, such as flu shots and pneumonia shots.

Part B Eligibility

If you are eligible to enroll in Part A at no cost, you are eligible to enroll in Part B by paying a monthly premium. If you don’t qualify for Part A at no cost, then you can qualify for Part B if you’re 65 years or older and a U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident who has lived in the United States continuously for five years immediately preceding the month you apply for Part B

Enrollment in Part B

Part B enrollment typically takes place during an Initial Enrollment Period when a person also signs up for Part A. However, if you fail to enroll in Part B at that time, there is also a General Enrollment Period that occurs between January 1 and March 31 each year. If you sign up during this period, then your Part B coverage will not begin until July 1. In some instances, you are automatically enrolled in Part B (see Part A enrollment above for details). If you don’t sign up for Part B when you’re first eligible, then you could end up paying more for coverage as well as a late enrollment penalty. 

Part B Costs

There is a monthly premium for Part B coverage. If your adjusted gross income is above a certain threshold, you may be required to pay a larger premium. Part B premiums are generally taken directly out of Social Security or Railroad Retirement benefit checks, so most people will not have to concern themselves with paying a monthly bill. 

If you initially decide not to enroll in Part B coverage, then the monthly premium will increase by 10% for each 12 month period that you are eligible when you finally do enroll. That penalty is permanent and you will end up paying it for as long as you have Part B coverage. 

After you meet your Part B deductible, you will normally pay 20% for all approved Medicare services as your share. Be aware that there is no out-of-pocket limit for Part B and not all services you require may be covered. 

Medicare Part C – Medicare Advantage Plans

What is Medicare Part C?

Medicare Part C plans are available through private health insurance companies as part of Medicare Advantage plans. Part C pays for health care costs that are not covered by Part A and Part B. Part C also offers benefits that Part A and Part B do not offer, such as dental, vision, and hearing.

Medicare Advantage Plans are offered by private insurance companies that are approved by Medicare. They must offer the same level of coverage as Part A and Part B. Companies who provide insurance agree to follow Medicare’s rules regarding care and what is covered, but may provide those services differently and have different fee structures regarding out-of-pocket expenses.

The most common types of Medicare Advantage Plans are Health Maintenance Organizations (HMOs), Preferred Provider Organizations (PPOs) and Private-Fee-for-Service (PFFS) plans. In some instances, Medicare Advantage Plans may offer a higher degree of coverage than Part A and Part B, including services such as hearing, vision and dental benefits, among others. Medicare Advantage Plans also offer drug coverage and include a yearly maximum for out-of-pocket amounts. After that limit is reached, there are no charges for covered services.

Part C Eligibility

If you are enrolled in Medicare Part A and Part B, then you are eligible to enroll in Part C. The only caveat is that you must make sure you live in an area where you will be eligible to enroll in Part C. 

Enrollment in Part C

You can only enroll in Medicare Advantage Plans or make changes to what coverage you already have at certain times of the year. Those periods include:

  • During your Initial Enrollment Period
  • The Annual Election Period, which runs from October 15 through December 7 each year 
  • Special Enrollment Periods, which can take place when you move out of a service area or if you have another type of qualifying life event

If you no longer want to be enrolled in a Part C plan, you can opt out during the Medicare Advantage Disenrollment Period between January 1 and February 14 each year. If you opt out, you can only switch to Medicare Part A and Part B, but not a new Medicare Advantage Plan.

Part C Costs

Medicare Part C costs will vary depending on what levels of copayment or coinsurance costs are covered, as well as what overall services are covered. You will need to do diligent side-by-side comparisons to determine what plan is best suited for your individual needs. 

Medicare Part D – Prescription Drug Coverage 

What is Medicare Part D?

Medicare Part D is a prescription drug plan. Medicare Part D is an optional plan that people can use to lower the cost of their prescription medications. Part D also covers some vaccines not covered under Part B. The plan is available through private insurance companies and covers many of the generic drugs and brand-name prescription drugs on the market. The plans vary by company. Some plans are more extensive and cover a wider variety of prescription medications. 

Medicare Advantage plans may also provide drug coverage as well, but not in all cases. Those that do are known as Medicare Advantage Prescription Drug Plans.

Part D Eligibility

If you are eligible for Medicare Part A and Part B, then you are eligible for Medicare Part D. You must live in the service area of the Part D plan that you want to enroll in. 

Enrollment in Part D

You can enroll in Part D through a Medicare-approved private insurance company. This can take place during your Initial Enrollment Period, the Annual Election period from October 15 to December 7, and immediately following the General Enrollment Period between April to June 30. You can also enroll at any time that you qualify for the Extra Help program

Part D Costs

Part D costs will vary from plan to plan because different insurance companies will provide various levels of coverage. You will need to pay a monthly premium for Part D, plus a yearly deductible. You will also need to make copayments or coinsurance which are paid after meeting the yearly deductible. You will also have some minor costs if you are enrolled in Extra Help. And, if you enroll in Part D late, you will pay an enrollment penalty as well.

Catastrophic coverage becomes available once you top out on your yearly out-of-pocket expenses. This is about $5,000 per year and once you hit this limit, you automatically pay only a small copayment or coinsurance for the balance of the year. 

When Should I Apply for Medicare Coverage?

Most people sign up for Medicare coverage when they apply for their Social Security benefits. The first opportunity to sign up for Original Medicare is three months before turning 65 years of age and three months after your 65th birthday. 

When to Apply for Part A and Part B

If you already receive Social Security benefits, you will automatically be signed up for Medicare Part A and Part B when you become eligible. About three months before you turn 65, you receive a Welcome to Medicare packet from the government. If you plan to delay your Social Security retirement, you need to sign up for Medicaid to avoid penalties. 

Because you can only sign up for Medicare coverage during specific periods, it is crucial to know when to sign up for Medicare. Your premiums can go up if you do not sign up for Medicare when you first become eligible for insurance coverage. Failing to apply for Medicare on time can result in higher Medicare premiums for the rest of your life.

When to Apply for Part C and Part D

If you choose the Medicare Advantage plan and/or a Part D Medicare Prescription Drug Plan, you must sign up for these plans during specific periods. You can apply for Medicare Advantage Plans and Medicare Prescription Drug Coverage beginning three months before your 65th birthday through three months after your 65th birthday. Changes to these plans can only be done during certain times of the year. 

The Medicare Open Enrollment Period for changes to Medicare Advantage and Part D Medicare Prescription Drug Plans runs from October 15 to December 7 each year. During this time you can do certain things such as:

  • Switch from Original Medicare coverage to a Medicare Advantage Plan or change back to an Original Medicare plan from an Advantage Plan
  • Switch to another Medicare Advantage Plan
  • Change your provider for Part C and Part D
  • Add or remove a Part D drug coverage plan

The Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period allows you to switch to another Medicare Advantage Plan if you are already enrolled in a Medicare Advantage Plan. You can also drop your Medicare Advantage Plan and return to Original Medicare. However, you cannot switch from Original Medicare to a Medicare Advantage Plan, join a prescription drug plan if you are in Original Medicare, or switch from one drug plan to another drug plan if you have Original Medicare during this period. The period runs each year from January 1 through March 31.

Other Important Medicare Enrollment Periods

In addition to the Initial Coverage Election Period, other enrollment periods may affect you whether you are enrolling for the first time or making changes to your existing Medicare coverage.

Annual Open Enrollment Period

Every year, current Medicare enrollees can review their existing coverage and switch to a different plan for the following year. The dates for this are October 15 through December 7.

General Annual Open Enrollment Period

People who did not sign up for Part B at the required time can use the period of January 1 to March 31 each year to sign up. If you do sign up during this period, your Part B coverage will not start until July 1 and you might have to pay a penalty as well. 

Special Enrollment Period for Part B

You can enroll in Part B without penalty after 65 if you can show you had group health insurance from an employer that you or your spouse were working for since you turned 65. This SEP runs 8 months from the time you or your spouse stopped working. 

Special Enrollment Period for Part D

You can delay enrolling in Part D drug coverage beyond age 65 if you have creditable drug coverage from another source. This means Medicare considers the coverage you must be equal to what you can get with Part D. 

Annual Disenrollment Period

People enrolled in Medicare Advantage Plans (Part C) and want to change to traditional Medicare can use the period of January 1 through February 14 to do so. You can also use this period to enroll in Part D coverage as well. In both cases, new coverage begins on the first day of the month after you make your changes. 

Several other Special Enrollment Periods are available in specific circumstances related to Medicare Advantage and stand-alone drug plans. Check with Medicare directly to see if you qualify for one of these SEPs.

How Do I Apply for Medicare?

If you are receiving Social Security benefits, you will automatically be enrolled in Part A and Part B Medicare. However, if you are not receiving Social Security and you are not disabled, you must apply for Medicare.

You can apply for Medicare online by using the “Apply for Medicare Only” application on the website for the Social Security Administration (SSA). According to the SSA, there are no forms to sign or documentation to provide. The online application process for Medicare takes about 10 minutes. 

If you do not have access to the internet or do not want to apply for Medicare online, you can visit your local Social Security office or call the Social Security Administration (1-800-772-1213) to apply for your Medicare benefits. If you worked for the railroad, you need to contact the Railroad Retirement Board (1-877-772-5772).

Help for Low-Income Households

Health care costs for seniors can be very expensive. For individuals on a fixed income, it can be difficult to pay for necessary medical care and prescription medications. There are several problems for low-income households that can help with the cost of Medicare and health care expenses.

Medicaid

Medicaid is generally available for individuals who receive Supplemental Security Income. Individuals who receive Social Security Disability or Social Security retirement may also receive Medicaid benefits. Medicaid is operated by each state. Therefore, you must apply for Medicaid benefits through your state’s Medicaid program. You must meet the income and asset requirements to qualify for Medicaid coverage.

If you qualify for full Medicaid coverage, you will receive Part D prescription drugs through Medicare. You will also qualify for additional help in paying for your Part D coverage. 

What is the difference between Medicare and Medicaid?

Medicare does not always provide full healthcare coverage for all services in all instances. This can create gaps in coverage. However, there are programs in place to fill these gaps through supplemental coverage if an individual is not already covered by a spouse’s health insurance or through retiree benefits.

Medicaid vs. Medicare

Medicaid is specifically designed to help low-income families pay for long-term medical and custodial care and is jointly funded by the federal government and run by state governments. As such, coverage may vary from state to state. 

Federal law does require states to provide certain mandatory benefits but gives states leeway with other optional benefits. Mandatory benefits include inpatient and outpatient hospital services, physician services, lab and x-ray services, home health services, and others. Option benefits may include prescription drugs, physical therapy, occupational therapy, and other related services. 

Medicaid assists eligible low-income adults, children, pregnant women, the elderly, and people with disabilities. 

Medicaid is different from Medicare in that it is an assistance program while Medicare is an insurance program. There are no age restrictions and it is based strictly on income. Patients pay little, if anything, for the services they receive. 

Medigap is supplemental health insurance sold by private companies. It helps to pay for healthcare costs not covered by Medicare, such as copayments, deductibles, and coinsurance. It may also pay for services that are not covered by Part A or Part B at all. It effectively bridges the gap in coverage. To qualify for a Medigap policy, you must already be enrolled in Medicare Part A and Part B. You cannot purchase a Medigap policy if you have a Medicare Part C Advantage Plan. 

You will need to pay a monthly premium for a Medigap policy and the costs will vary depending on the types of benefits in your policy and what various companies may charge for the same coverage. It will pay to shop for the best Medigap policy if you are considering this kind of coverage. Medigap policies are usually purchased during an individual’s initial enrollment period. If you attempt to purchase a policy after the fact, a Medigap policy may cost more. 

Medicare Savings Programs

There are several Medicare Savings Programs operated by states that help pay for Part A and Part B Medicare copayments, deductibles, and coinsurance. You must meet certain conditions to qualify for Medicare Savings Programs. There are resource limits and income restrictions for these programs. 

In general, if you are eligible for Medicare Part A and you have limited resources, income, and property, you should contact your stated Medicaid program to see if you qualify for Medicare Savings Programs. 

There are four programs that you may qualify under for help with Medicare costs:

  • Qualified Medicare Beneficiary (QMB) Program - Pays for Medicare Part A and Part B premiums and cost-sharing expenses. You must be eligible or currently enrolled in Medicare Part A to qualify for this program.
  • Specified Low-Income Medicare Beneficiary (SLMB) Program - If you earn slightly more than the maximum for the QMB program, then you may qualify for this program instead which helps with Medicare Part B premiums. It does not pay other cost-sharing expenses.
  • Qualifying Individual (QI) Program - If you don’t qualify for QMB or the SLMB program, then you should apply to this program. It helps with Part B premiums and automatically qualifies you for the Extra Help program. Funding is limited and benefits are available on a first-come, first-served basis. 
  • Qualified Disabled and Working Individuals (QDWI) Program - This is different from the other three programs and only pays for Medicare Part A premiums.

Each program has specific monthly income limits and resource limits based on individuals and married couples. 

PACE 

PACE or Programs of All-inclusive Care for the Elderly is a Medicaid and Medicare program to help people remain at home longer. The programs help people pay for necessary care and health care costs to avoid going into a nursing home or skilled care facility. The care is provided in the home, at a PACE center, or in the community. 

A person must be at least 55 years of age or older and live in the service area covered by the PACE organization to qualify for the PACE program. The person must also need nursing home-level care, but be able to live safely in the community with the assistance of the PACE program.

PACE programs cover services such as:

  • Adult day care
  • Home care
  • Meals
  • Nursing home care
  • Prescription drugs
  • Nutritional counseling
  • Emergency services
  • Home care
  • Medical specialty services
  • Occupational therapy
  • Laboratory services
  • Physical therapy
  • Dental care
  • Social worker counseling
  • Social services
  • Preventative care
  • Transportation to a PACE center

The monthly premium for PACE services depends on your financial situation. To see if you qualify for PACE, you can contact your Medicaid office or a PACE program near you.

Lower Prescription Costs

Extra Help from Medicare assists low-income individuals who need help paying for prescription medications. The Extra Help program also assists in paying the premiums, coinsurance, and deductibles for Part D Medicare prescription drug coverage. To qualify for Extra Help, you must meet certain income and resource requirements, much like qualifying for Medicaid and other low-income assistance programs. 

Some people automatically qualify for Extra Help. If you have full Medicaid coverage, receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits, or receive help from a state program to pay for Part B Medicare premiums, you automatically qualify for lower prescription costs through Extra Help. 

You may qualify for Extra Help one year, but not qualify the next year because of changes in your income and resources. If you receive a notification that you are losing benefits under the Extra Help program, you can apply to see if you might still qualify for help with prescription drug costs.

Children’s Health Insurance Program

CHIP or the Children’s Health Insurance Program provides low-cost health insurance or free health insurance coverage for children up to age 19 years. Through CHIP, children can receive the routine health care and emergency health services they need. Families can apply online, in person, by phone, or by mail to see if their children are eligible for CHIP. 

Supplemental Security Income

SSI or Supplemental Security Income is a program administered by the Social Security Administration. SSI provides income for individuals who have a disabling condition and who have limited resources and income. However, SSI also provides income benefits to individuals who are over 65 years of age without a disabling condition who meet the financial limits for receiving SSI benefits. 

Individuals can apply for SSI online or in person at their local Social Security office. 

When to Apply for Medicare

Apply for Medicare as soon as you are eligible to ensure that you receive the healthcare benefits you deserve. Also, applying for Medicare when you are eligible can help keep Medicare premium costs as low as possible. Make sure you are aware of the initial enrollment period based on your age and other factors. 

Medicare eligibility requirements and Medicare plans can be confusing. The sooner you being researching your options for Medicare coverage, the more prepared you will be to make decisions regarding Medicare benefits and options such as:

  • Medicare supplement plans, 
  • Medicare Advantage Plans, 
  • Health insurance options;
  • Medicare spending;
  • AARP Medicare, 
  • Medicare Easy Pay, 
  • Traditional Medicare; and, 
  • Other Medicare Coverage. 

If you need help with Medicare, you can call the Medicare phone number (1-800-772-1213), or you can access more information about Medicare here on Benefits.com.