New to Medicare? Here’s Where to Start

Man stares at paper with transparent Medicare card beside him

Medicare is a complex, national healthcare program for people 65 and older and some people with disabilities. It can be hard to understand, but Medicare World is here to make it simple for you. Here’s what you need to know if you’re new to Medicare.

1. Learn about the different parts of Medicare

  • Part A covers hospital insurance, inpatient care, skilled nursing facilities, and hospice care.
  • Part B covers medical insurance, outpatient care, medical supplies, and preventative services.
  • Part C, or Medicare Advantage, gives you the same benefits as Original Medicare (Part A and Part B). Some plans offer extra coverage for things like dental, vision, hearing care, and prescription drug coverage. Part C also comes with a maximum out-of-pocket limit on what you can spend each year.
  • Part D covers prescription drugs. If you don’t have prescription drug coverage through Medicare Advantage, you will need to enroll in a separate stand-alone Part D plan.

2. Find out when you can enroll in Medicare

Most people will be automatically enrolled in Part A when they turn 65. If you’re already receiving Social Security, you will be automatically enrolled in Part B as well.

If you need to enroll in Medicare, you will do so during your Initial Enrollment Period (IEP). This seven-month period is the three months before your 65th birthday, your birthday month, and the following three months. If you don’t enroll when you first become eligible, you could face a late enrollment penalty that sticks with you the entire time you have Medicare, so it’s crucial to enroll on time.

If you miss your IEP, you can enroll during the annual fall Open Enrollment Period, which is October 15 through December 7.

infographic for where to start if you're new to medicare

3. Decide what kind of Medicare coverage you want

You have several options when it comes to what kind of Medicare coverage you want. You can choose Original Medicare, Original Medicare with Medigap, or Medicare Advantage.

Medigap, or Medicare Supplement, is there to help you cover some of the out-of-pocket costs of Medicare, like copays and deductibles. Medigap has 10 plans (A-N) that are standard across the country, with the exception of Massachusetts, Minnesota, and Wisconsin which have their own standard plans. Medigap is generally a good idea if you have a chronic illness or expect recurring doctor visits.

4. Sign up for MyMedicare.gov once you’ve enrolled

With your MyMedicare.gov account, you can track your healthcare claims, view your Medicare Summary Notices (MSN), order a replacement Medicare card if yours is lost or stolen, and check your eligibility. Click here to set up an account.

5. Attend your Welcome to Medicare preventative visit

During the first year of your Medicare Part B coverage, you can get a free, one-time Welcome to Medicare Exam (WME). It will give you a full review of your health and teach you about the preventative services you need to stay well, like cancer screenings and immunization shots. Your doctor can also refer you to specialists for any other healthcare needs during this time.

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