Between changing jobs, getting married, or moving, most of us will change our insurance several times during our lives. And when we reach retirement age, we’ll change again as we transition to Medicare.
But no matter how many times you’ve applied in the past, navigating the process can still be confusing.
If you’re preparing to change insurance or apply for Medicare, keep reading to learn three things you can do to make the process easier.
Top 3 Things You Should Know About Getting Insurance
1. Don’t Miss Your Deadline
One of the most tricky parts of applying for new health insurance coverage is figuring out the timing. You can generally apply for coverage during open enrollment periods. This window will depend on your insurance carrier. For Medicare, the open enrollment period runs from January 1st to March 31st each year. You’ll also have a special initial enrollment period that starts three months before you turn 65 and ends three months after the month of your 65th birthday.
There are some cases in which you can apply for coverage outside of the open enrollment period. In order to do so, you’ll need to meet one or more requirements for a special enrollment period. Requirements include qualifying life events like losing your current employer-provided coverage, getting married, or moving outside of a coverage area. If you do meet one of these requirements, you’ll have 60 days from the date of the qualifying life event, such as the date of your wedding or the date of your move, to apply for new coverage.
Miss that deadline, or the deadline for open enrollment, and you could find yourself waiting a full year before you can apply for coverage again. This could potentially leave you and your family uncovered and unprotected.
2. Understand What is and Isn’t Covered
Perhaps the most important thing to understand when you’re shopping for insurance coverage is how much coverage can vary from one plan to the next. Regular care like doctor’s visits, common prescriptions, or trips to the ER could be completely covered by one plan, yet have no coverage under another.
If you’re new to Medicare, you might think that there is just one type of coverage. But Medicare is actually broken down into four parts. The first two, Parts A and B, are offered by the federal government. Known as Original Medicare, these cover things like hospital stays, doctor visits, home care, and preventative care.
But Parts A and B don’t cover prescriptions, dental care, or additional medical supplies like hearing aides. You can purchase the second two parts of Medicare, Parts C and D, through a private insurance company. With the average American adult spending more than $1,200 a year on prescriptions, having additional coverage can go a long way toward keeping your costs in check.
3. Applying is Easy if You Have Everything You Need
While understanding the different parts of Medicare can be confusing, actually applying is simple, as long as you’re prepared.
As you approach your 65th birthday or your next open enrollment period, make sure you have your Social Security card, your original birth certificate, and a copy of your W-2. If you were not born in the U.S., you’ll also need proof of your citizenship or legal citizenship status.
With those documents ready to go, it will take just minutes to fill out your Medicare application.
Getting the Insurance Coverage You Need
While most of us understand the importance of health insurance, navigating the deadlines and various coverage options can be confusing. But by figuring out the deadlines that apply to you, understanding what is and isn’t covered, and having your application materials ready, you can master the process and quickly get the coverage you need.