Medicare Open Enrollment: What You Need To Know

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It's no secret that Medicare provides senior and disabled Americans with affordable health care. Every year, millions of people across the United States sign up for Medicare during the Open Enrollment Period. Open Enrollment for Medicare plans for 2016 starts tomorrow.

There are four different components of Medicare, all available during Open Enrollment. Part A covers hospital insurance, and is free if you have worked and paid Social Security taxes. Part B covers medical insurance, and requires a monthly premium. Part A and Part B are collectively known as "Original Medicare."

Part C, or Medicare Advantage, is a provision that allows private insurance companies to provide Medicare benefits. Enrollees have the option to receive Medicare coverage through a Medicare Advantage plan instead of Original Medicare. Part D covers prescription medications. A relatively new feature, it's skyrocketed to popularity in the 10 years since it went into effect. A recent study found that 72% of all Medicare enrollees subscribe to Part D.

To help people through the Open Enrollment process, I've created the following guide:

Am I Eligible for Medicare?

To qualify for standard hospital and medical coverage (also known as Original Medicare), you must be 65 or older, permanently disabled or diagnosed with either End Stage Renal Disease (ESRD). This generally covers all inpatient and outpatient care at hospitals, doctor's offices and other related treatments.

Which Parts Do I Need?

Original Medicare (Parts A and B) or Medicare Advantage (Part C) are the two ways to get covered. Some people choose to get additional coverage, like Part D. Part D makes it easy for people to access the medicines they need. To enroll, you must also have either Original Medicare or an Advantage plan that covers prescriptions.

If you fall into any of these categories, take note: You can register for 2016 coverage beginning Thursday.

Here's how you can make sure you're enrolled:

Review your options or existing plan

If you're new to Medicare, take some time to learn what portions of the program make sense for you. If you're already enrolled, look out for notices regarding changes to your plan. These will help you make the best decisions regarding your coverage.

October 15th - Open Enrollment begins

Current Medicare users can change health and/or prescription drug plans for 2016. New subscribers can request to enroll as early as three months before their 65th birthday. You can submit applications here.

December 7th - Open Enrollment ends

This is the final day to submit requests to change or enroll in plans for 2016.

January 1st, 2016 - New coverage takes effect

The first day of the new year, and the first day of your new coverage!

October 15th is just a day away, so I encourage you to review your Medicare options beforehand. I'll write more blogs throughout the Open Enrollment Period and beyond, so be sure to check in over the next few months. To discover more about Medicare and its Prescription Drug Benefit, visit our Part D section.