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Medicare Enrollment 2024 Explained

Medicare Enrollment 2024 Explained

Al Waller: Today, we're going to be talking about one of the most important topics for older adults in the United States - Medicare. It's rather surprising that only 22% of people are well-versed with Medicare, as per research conducted by nonprofit Transamerica Institute. This could be because many adults rely on employer-sponsored health insurance most of their lives, so when they retire, they may not be well-versed on Medicare.

Welcome to ClearPath – Your Roadmap to Health & WealthSM. I'm your host, Al Waller. Joining me today is Mihaela Vincze, public health expert, for nonprofit Transamerica Institute® and she’s going to be breaking down Medicare—what it is, why it’s important, how to enroll, and where to turn to if you have any questions.

Well, Mihaela, it’s a pleasure to have you back.

Mihaela Vincze: Thank you, Al. It's great to be here.

Al Waller: So, let's start with the basics. What exactly is Medicare?

Mihaela Vincze: Medicare is a federal health insurance program that provides coverage for people who are 65 or older, as well as those with certain disabilities or chronic conditions.

Al Waller: I see. Why is it important to be informed about Medicare?

Mihaela Vincze: Being informed about Medicare can provide financial security and peace of mind for you and your family. It could be helpful information for you to know, even if you’re young and not yet eligible.

Al Waller: Yes, you never know when you’ll need to help out an older family member or friend understand their coverage.

Mihaela Vincze: Yes, that’s so true. I have it written in my calendar for my mother, so I can remind her when she’s eligible!

Al Waller: That’s not a bad idea. Now, let’s dive into what Medicare is. I’m sure many listeners have heard of the Medicare alphabet—Parts A, B, C, and Part D. What do these different parts entail?

Mihaela Vincze: Ah, yes. The Medicare alphabet.

  • Part A. Part A covers hospital stays and skilled nursing facility care on a short-term basis.
  • Part B. Part B covers doctor visits and outpatient care.
  • Part A and Part B. Part A and B make up what’s known as “Traditional Medicare”.
  • Part C. Part C is also known as Medicare Advantage, is a combination of Parts A and B, and is offered through private insurance companies.
  • Part D. Part D provides prescription drug coverage.
  • There are also Medicare Supplement Plans, known as Medigap, which are extra insurance to pay for your carethere are 10 of them—each identified by a letter (A, B, C, D, F, G, K, L, M, and N). For today’s purposes, we’re only going to be covering the first four I touched on (Part A – Part D).

Al Waller: Ok so to recap, Part A covers hospital stays, whereas Part B covers doctor’s visits and that sort of thing, Part C is a combination of both Part A & B—"Medicare Advantage”... And Part D is drug coverage! Is that right?

Mihaela Vincze: That’s exactly right, Al! And just remember Medicare Advantage is provided by private insurance companies.

Al Waller: Well, now that we know what Medicare is, and we know the different parts-- how can someone enroll in Medicare?

Mihaela Vincze: Most people become eligible for Medicare when they turn 65, and they can enroll during a seven-month window that begins three months before their 65th birthday. So, keep in mind that you can enroll up to three months before, during your birthday month, and three months afterwards. It’s a tight window, so make sure you have it on your calendar! If you're already receiving Social Security benefits, you'll automatically be enrolled in Medicare Part A and B.

Al Waller: What about people who aren't yet receiving Social Security benefits?

Mihaela Vincze: They can apply for Medicare:

  • Online at socialsecurity.gov/medicare/signup
  • By calling the Social Security Administration
  • By visiting a local Social Security office

Al Waller: That’s simple enough. Now, what if you enroll in a plan and you want to change it? How does that work?

Mihaela Vincze: The Medicare open enrollment period is a time of year when those who are enrolled in Medicare can make changes to their coverage—it’s important to review your coverage every year to make sure it still meets your needs. In other words, do your homework! The open enrollment period typically runs from October 15th to December 7th each year. During this period, you can switch from Traditional Medicare to a Medicare Advantage plan, switch from one Medicare Advantage plan to another, switch from a Medicare Advantage plan back to Traditional Medicare, or change your prescription drug coverage.

Al Waller: October 15 through December 7th! Got it.

Mihaela Vincze: Yes—and one more thing worth noting. Due to the pandemic, many states were not verifying eligibility for Medicaid. As a result, many individuals recently have lost their Medicaid coverage since they are no longer eligible. That said, it is important to know that losing Medicaid coverage could make you eligible for a Special Enrollment Period for Medicare. This means that you can still sign up, even if you have missed the standard enrollment period. There are other circumstances that could also make you eligible for the Special Enrollment Period—like natural disaster.

Al Waller: That’s good to know.

Mihaela Vincze: Yes, and you can find the full list of circumstances that can make you eligible for a Special Enrollment Period in the Medicare and You Handbook as well as other helpful information. The latest version will be released in late September—you can view it online or sign up to have a hard copy shipped to your home at www.medicare.gov/medicare-and-you.

Al Waller: That handbook has everything Medicare-related! Now, my next question—are there any costs associated with Medicare?

Mihaela Vincze: You know Al, there are. However, the good news is that generally most people don't pay a premium for Part A, but there are premiums and deductibles for Parts B, C, and D. The costs can vary depending on the type of coverage you choose, your income, and other factors.

Al Waller: It’s good to know that most people might not have to pay a premium for Part A.

Mihaela Vincze: Something to take into consideration is that providers for Traditional Medicare (Part A and Part B) typically are more stable than those for Medicare Advantage. This is because Traditional Medicare is backed by the federal government, whereas Medicare Advantage is offered by private insurance plans that are approved by the federal government. The stability of healthcare providers can have a significant impact on patients, particularly when it comes to continuity of care. If a provider is dropped by Medicare Advantage, patients may be forced to seek out a new provider. This can be a challenging and stressful experience, especially for patients who have an established relationship with their existing provider.

Al Waller: You know, that’s something folks should take into consideration. Are there any changes for 2024 that listeners should be aware of?

Mihaela Vincze: The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services recently released a fact sheet, which shows that a new drug law in 2024 enhances part D prescription drug benefit and keeps part D premium stable as part of the Inflation Reduction Act. The Inflation Reduction Act will also limit both annual out-of-pocket costs and cost-sharing for covered insulin products, as well as eliminates cost-sharing for recommended adult vaccines in 2024.

Al Waller: That’s wonderful news—and may be a lot for our listeners to take in! What should people do if they have questions about Medicare?

Mihaela Vincze: If you have any questions about Medicare, contact your local Social Security office, or visit the official Medicare website—medicare.gov—for more information. There are also independent insurance agents who specialize in Medicare, and they can provide guidance and advice.

Al Waller: Those are wonderful resources to turn to.

Mihaela Vincze: That’s right, Al, but with one caveat. When it comes to Medicare, it’s important to avoid scams from so-called individuals posing as “insurance agents”. Always do your research and only work with agents who are licensed and certified to sell Medicare plans. Be cautious of agents who pressure you to sign up for a plan without fully explaining the details or who demand your personal information over the internet or phone.

Al Waller: That’s a great point you bring up, Mihaela. It might also be a good idea to review any paperwork carefully before signing and ask a lot of questions—also, never hesitate to get a second opinion! Well, thank you for joining us tonight, Mihaela, and for sharing these helpful insights on Medicare.

Mihaela Vincze: My pleasure, Al. It's always great to help people understand their options for health insurance. Remember, today we only covered Medicare Parts A, B, C, and D. There are also supplemental plans (A, B, C, D, F, G, K, L, M, and N) that we didn’t go over on this episode.

Al Waller: If you’d like to check out any of the source materials mentioned today, visit transamericainstitute.org/podcast to review the episode’s transcript.

If you have comments, feedback, or topic ideas, please reach out to [email protected]. Don’t forget to hit that subscribe button so that you don’t miss an episode of ClearPath—Your Roadmap to Health & Wealth.

Until the next time, I’m your host Al Waller. Stay safe, be well, and thanks for listening.

ClearPath – Your Roadmap to Health & Wealth is brought to you by Transamerica Institute, a nonprofit private foundation dedicated to identifying, researching, and educating the public about health and wellness, employment, financial literacy, longevity, and retirement.

You can find our weekly podcast on WYPR’s website and mobile app, wherever you get your podcasts, and at transamericainstitute.org/podcast.

ClearPath – Your Roadmap to Health & Wealth is produced by Transamerica Institute with assistance from WYPR.

The information provided here is for educational purposes only and should not be construed as insurance, securities, ERISA, tax, investment, legal, medical, or financial advice or guidance.

Al Waller is a long-time Baltimore native and employment expert with a 30-year career in leading and advising locally and globally based corporations on matters including: Talent Acquisition and Retention, Employee Relations, Training and Development.
Mihaela Vincze is a public health expert and experienced health care educator. Serving as Transamerica Institute’s health care content developer, she shares insights on health and wellness on ClearPath—Your Roadmap to Health and WealthSM. Mihaela earned her master’s and bachelor’s degrees in public health at California State University, Northridge.