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When to Apply for Medicare

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Medicare is a national health insurance plan established under the Social Security Administration. It’s available to people 65 and older and some younger recipients with disabilities recognized by the Social Security Administration. For example, if you have end-stage renal disease (permanent kidney failure), you qualify for Medicare no matter your age. 

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Medicare: An Overview

You must be an American citizen or legal permanent resident to be eligible for Medicare. Medicare is divided into 2 parts:

  • Part A: Hospital insurance. Part A covers care in a hospital, skilled nursing facility, and in some cases, home. 
  • Part B: Medical insurance. Part B covers certain doctor’s services, medical supplies, outpatient care and preventive services. Medicare Part A and B are known as Original Medicare. 
  • Medicare Part C, which replaces Parts A and B, is hospital and medical insurance provided by private insurance plans. Part C plans are also called Medicare Advantage plans. 
  • Medicare Part D is prescription coverage that can be added on to the government’s Part A and Part B plans or a Part C plan. Part D plans can also be added to Private-Fee-for-Service plans and Medicare Medical Savings Account plans. Generally, you can sign up for Medicare 3 months before your 65th birthday. 

Average Medicare Insurance Costs

Based on sample rates listed on Medicare.gov, the average cost for health services and drugs runs between $3,000–$4,000 per year. This amount can vary based on the plan you choose and what’s included. 

HMO and HMO-POS plans are health maintenance organizations that are made up of a network of doctors and hospitals you must choose from. If you want to see a specialist, you’ll usually need a referral. HMOs are also focused on preventive health and maintenance. Preferred Provider Organizations (PPOs) have a large network of doctors and hospitals who all agree to established rates. 

Here are some sample rates for both types of health plans:

How to Get a Medicare Quote

See the list below to decide which plan is best for you. You can perform a basic search by selecting ‘custom quote’ and entering your zip code. Your results will include:

  • Prescription drug plans with Original Medicare
  • Medicare Advantage plans without prescription drug plans
  • Medicare Advantage plans with prescription drug plans 

Your results are based on factors such as your location and budget needs. You can sign up through the site and review the plans and its star ratings. You might prefer to reach out to an individual health plan provider.

The Best Medicare Insurance Providers

The majority of the 64 million on Medicare are covered by Original Medicare, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, but 1/3 are enrolled in Medicare Advantage plans. In fact, the number of Medicare Advantage enrollees has nearly doubled over the past 10 years, from 11.1 million to 20 million.  

We’ve put together a list of the top Medicare providers according to rates and customer satisfaction surveys.

1. Priority

PriorityMedicare’s HMO and PPO plans both received 4.5 stars, an above-average rating, 2nd only to plans with 5 stars (excellent). Both are affordably priced and have extra benefits, including:

  • Free fitness program memberships or at-home fitness kits
  • Preventive dental services, including exams and cleanings
  • Access to more than 68,000 pharmacies nationwide
  • Virtual health visits

Priority’s plans are ranked high for Medicare Advantage 2019 for Michigan, so they’re both excellent choices.

2. Humana

Humana offers affordable Medicare Advantage plans and is ranked 3rd in J.D. Power’s 2019 Medicare Advantage survey. The survey is based on:

  • Coverage and benefits
  • Provider choice
  • Cost
  • Customer service
  • Information and communication
  • Service and billing

3. HAP

HAP’s Primary Choice HMO plan is one of the cheapest in the nation and features a $0 monthly premium and a 3.5-star rating. HAP plans also offer:

  • Money-saving discounts on gym memberships and weight loss programs
  • Easy-to-use mobile app to check your explanation of benefits, claims status and find a doctor
  • Free identity theft coverage and emergency travel assistance

4. Blue Cross Blue Shield

Blue Cross Blue Shield insures more than 106 million Americans — 1 out of 3 Medicare recipients across the country. It’s also a top-ranked provider by J.D. Power and among the top results on the Medicare.gov search engine.

Approximately 95% of the nation’s doctors, hospitals and specialists contract with Blue Cross Blue Shield, the highest percentage among health insurers. BCBS also offers automatic enrollment, doesn’t require referrals and offers many low-cost plans.

5. Aetna

Aetna’s MedicarePlus, a 4-star PPO plan, is a bargain, at $3,010. It’s ranked 8th in J.D. Power’s survey and recommended by Medicare.gov.

You can save money on prescription drugs if you choose the plan’s provider network and can choose your own primary care doctor, specialists and other health care providers.

Aetna’s plans also feature fitness, health coaching and wellness programs.

6. Cigna

Cigna’s HealthSpring plans received a 2019 Senior Choice Gold Award for exceptional benefits and overall performance among Medicare Advantage plans in Texas.

Recipients were chosen from Medicare Advantage plans based on independent cost-sharing analysis. Cigna’s plans are rated above average by CMS and receive high ratings from J.D. Power.

Cigna’s plans also offer health and wellness coaching premiums, prescription drug coverage, free fitness programs and a team approach to health care that promotes a strong doctor-patient relationship.

Do Your Research and Choose Wisely

You may feel pressure to choose a particular Medicare plan from commercials and brochures you receive in the mail, but take your time and research what each plan offers. 

Resources like Medicare.gov, CMS.gov, the Kaiser Family Foundation and of course Benzinga can offer up plenty of information. Make a list of the features you need, compare plans, consider price and service and then sign up for the one that best suits you.

Frequently Asked Questions

1) Q: What are the different parts of Medicare?

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1) Q: What are the different parts of Medicare?
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Medicare has 4 parts named Parts A, B, C, and D. Part A provides hospitalization coverage while Part B provides outpatient coverage, like doctor visits. Parts A and B make up Medicare’s core coverages. Part C is provides private-market Medicare plans, called Medicare Advantage Plans. Part C coverage often includes additional benefits. Medicare Part D provides coverage for prescription drugs. Get a Medicare Insurance Quote through the top providers here.

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2) Q: Is Medicare free?

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2) Q: Is Medicare free?
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Because there are 4 parts to Medicare, there can be different cost structures. Most people won’t have to pay for Medicare Part A (hospitalization). Eligibility for premium-free Part A is based on your work history during which you paid Medicare taxes. Many people do pay a monthly premium for Medicare Part B, however, which covers outpatient medical services, like doctor visits. Deductibles also apply to services covered under Medicare Parts A and B, so you’ll pay a part of the annual cost.

Medicare Parts C and D are optional coverages and have premium costs of their own. Medicare Part C refers to Medicare Advantage Plans that offer additional coverage in exchange for a monthly premium. Part D, the prescription plan, reduces the cost of medications but also requires a monthly premium. Subsidies may be available for low income households to help reduce overall Medicare costs.

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3) Q: Do I need to sign up for Medicare?

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3) Q: Do I need to sign up for Medicare?
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If you signed up for Social Security before age 65, you were enrolled in Medicare automatically but benefits will begin at age 65. In most cases, there are penalties for not enrolling at age 65, so it pays to sign up on time. Click here to get a medicare quote in minutes from the best providers. 

If you have employer coverage, you may be able to delay Medicare coverage while your work plan is still in force. However, the size of the employer determines whether you’ll pay a penalty for not enrolling at age 65. Employees (and their spouses) of companies that offer group health insurance to 20 or more people are usually exempt from late sign-up penalties if they are covered by the employer’s plan.

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