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Are you eligible for Medicare?

Posted February 05, 2014 in Advice Column, Johnston

None of us ever think we will ever get “that old,” but it’s finally happening — you are turning 65 this year.

It seems all the insurance companies that have Medicare related products know because the mailbox is constantly full of advertisements. Where to begin?  SHIIP (Senior Health Insurance Information Program) is a program of volunteers providing information. Look for meetings at your local library or find them at Another option is finding an independent insurance agent who deals with Medicare and its products. Below is a brief summary of the parts of Medicare, timeframes and supplemental types of coverage.

Part A is typically an automatic benefit provided 90 days prior to the first of the month someone turns 65. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) will send out the Medicare Part A-only card in a white larger-than-half-size envelope. A welcome to Medicare booklet accompanies the card that is on cardstock for the beneficiary (recipient of Medicare benefits) to punch out. Part A covers inpatient hospitalization, skilled nursing care and hospice.

Part B  is the benefit that can be “elected.” Depending on the circumstance, a beneficiary can opt in during the seven months surrounding his or her 65th birth month (three months prior, month of and three months after). If Part B is elected during this initial enrollment period, the beneficiary can elect a Medicare Supplement, Prescription Drug Plan (Part D) or Medicare Advantage with no medical questions. If the beneficiary chooses not to take Part B at this time (he or she has creditable coverage) it moves the guarantee period to a special election period or to a later date.

Part C and Part D are private insurance products called Medicare Advantage Plans and Prescription Drug Plans that the beneficiary enrolls in, typically at the time of taking Part B and based on the individual’s medical need, financial circumstances, and other factors can determine what plan or plans are most appropriate.

A great asset is a relationship with an independent insurance agent who can assist with education and provide information regarding Medicare options and timeframes. Between now and 2020, the baby boomers will continue to age into Medicare at the rate of 7,000 – 10,000 a day nationally. Most have relied on their employer for health benefits and this is a new era when picking your own coverage. I encourage you to ask questions regarding Medicare, comparing to employer coverage options and utilizing an independent agent with expertise in the Medicare field, to ensure quality information to make informed choices.

Information provided by Janis Van Ahn, Health Insurance Advisor LLC, 5335 Merle Hay Road, Suite 2, Johnston, 515-225-9994,

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