Section 6: What's next
What Happens After I Sign Up?
Enrolling in Medicare is a milestone, but you still have more to do
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IN THIS ARTICLE
• Schedule a Welcome to Medicare visit
• Create an online Medicare account
• Sign up a proxy if you wish
• Alert your health care providers
• Consider going paperless
• Study your coverage
• Anticipate potential needs
• Seek financial help if necessary
• Keep track of what you like
• Learn more
Congratulations! If you’ve enrolled successfully, you should receive your Medicare card and Medicare & You official handbook in about two weeks. You can also do many things on your own to help you get off on the right foot.
1. Schedule a Welcome to Medicare visit with your doctor
This free, preventive, comprehensive exam is available only the first year you enroll. But it will serve as a baseline for comparing your health during annual wellness visits that Medicare will pay for later.
2. Create a secure online account
You’ll need your Medicare number to create a Medicare account, which is different from the online Social Security account that you might have used to sign up for Medicare. Once done, you can access your health info, pay premiums, view original Medicare claims, print a Medicare card and get program updates and alerts.
3. Sign up a proxy, if you wish
You must submit an authorization form if you want a loved one to be able to speak with Medicare on your behalf. This is a separate legal form apart from paperwork you might have filed to allow a health care proxy or surrogate to make medical decisions for you if you’re unable to make them on your own
4. Alert your pharmacy and doctors’ offices
Make sure they know you’ve joined Medicare, have your Medicare card and have information from your Part D prescription plan card. This will avoid the possibility of your former insurer wrongly getting billed.
5. Consider going paperless
You can get your Medicare & You handbook, as well as Medicare summary notices (MSNs), electronically. MSNs are statements you recieve every three months noting services and supplies that were billed to the program. It’s an option in your online Medicare account.
6. Study up on how coverage works
This will be especially important if you have secondary insurance, such as a newly purchased Medigap supplemental policy, a private retiree plan, federal health benefits or Tricare military health insurance. If Medicare is your primary insurer, it will pay up to the limits of its coverage, then send the rest to the secondary payer to cover all or most of what remains.
If you’re a veteran who qualifies for U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) health care, you have additional options within that separate system. If you’re living outside the United States, you may not be able to use all Medicare services.
If you or your spouse is still working, Medicare coverage gets more complex. You have to think about:
• Separate insurance for a younger spouse not yet eligible for Medicare
• The number of employees either your employer or your spouse's employer has and how that private coverage works with Medicare
• How COBRA coverage, continuation of your employer’s insurance when you’ve retired or been laid off, can complement Medicare — but only if you’re offered it after age 65
So the more you understand the process, the better.
7. Be curious
Do you anticipate a visit to the chiropractor or plan to travel outside the United States? What Medicare covers — and important areas it doesn't — can be confusing. Learn more before you talk to your physician. Several government agencies and nonprofit services also can answer questions.
Learn more before you talk to your physician. Several government agencies and nonprofit services also can answer questions.
8. Make sure your finances are in order
If money is tight and you’re worried about paying your Medicare premiums or copayments, check into Medicare’s programs for beneficiaries with limited incomes and not much savings. Medicare Savings Programs (MSPs) can pay your monthly Part B premium and potentially other out-of-pocket expenses. Extra Help can help with Part D prescription drug plan premiums and copayments.
9. Keep track of what you like and don’t
As you figure out what’s working for you and what isn’t in the coverage you’ve selected, remember this: You can change your coverage during the annual open enrollment period every Oct. 15 to Dec. 7.
As you age, you will likely need to visit doctors more, get more medical tests and take more prescription drugs. Take an active role in your health care and review your plans every year, especially Part D if you’re in original Medicare and your Medicare Advantage plan if you decided on the all-in-one private alternative to original Medicare.
You may discover that the list of covered costs, doctors, drugs or pharmacies may change next year for your Medicare Advantage plan, or that copayments, coinsurance, drug coverage or pharmacies won’t stay the same for your Part D prescription plan.
Don’t get surprised. Check out changes in your plan and do some comparison shopping.
10. Learn more
AARP’s Medicare Resource Center has the answers to hundreds of your questions about all facets of Medicare.
Updated February 17, 2023
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