Americans in their retired years need and deserve the peace of mind of knowing they can receive quality medical care without taking large sums out of pocket. The federal government offers just such a safety-net: Medicare. Put most simply, Medicare is health insurance for those 65 or over, and it’s funded chiefly through payroll taxes while you’re still employed. President Lyndon Johnson signed the plan into law in July 1965.
Those 65 or over can sign up with Medicare as a sole, joint or back-up insurance plan. The effective date of coverage is the first day of the month in which you turn 65. You must enroll in Medicare in order to be covered.
Medicare consists of four parts. Part A pays for hospital bills. Part B is optional coverage that pays for doctor visits and other medical services; most subscribers will pay $96.40 or 115.40 monthly, depending on their circumstances. Part C is another extra-cost option; it includes so-called “Medicare advantage plans” plans, offered by private insurance companies. Part C generally encompasses Parts A and B (often at an enhanced level of coverage), as well as Part D, which features private plans that supplement the prescription drug coverages in A and B. Clearly this gets complicated, so call 1-800-MEDICARE to discuss your specific situation. The “Medicare & You” handbook is another excellent resource, usually updated each year. Check out the 2011 edition at http://www.medicare.gov/publications/pubs/pdf/10050.pdf.
While Medicare may be a godsend, it can also be a mine field. Educating yourself on the ins and outs of this unique program can prevent you from being denied coverage when you need it most. Following are some of the most common misconceptions about Medicare.
Helpful hint: If you feel you have a specific problem that can’t be addressed by calling the routine Medicare number above, try the Medicare Rights Center at 1-800-333-4114.