Apply for Medicare Part C
Part C of Medicare is Medicare Advantage. Private insurance companies offer these plans, unlike Parts A and B, which you get through the government.
A Medicare Advantage policy includes the inpatient and outpatient benefits of Parts A and B, respectively. However, the carrier pays instead of Medicare. Advantage plans also come with extra benefits you won’t get through Original Medicare, such as prescription drug, dental, vision, and hearing care coverage.
The process of signing up for Part C is different from enrolling in Original Medicare. Yet, you’ll still need to have Parts A and B before picking up an Advantage plan.
How Do I Sign Up For Medicare Advantage?
First, you’ll need to enroll in Medicare Part A and Part B through the Social Security Administration – unless you enroll automatically due to Social Security benefits. If, after researching coverage options, you decide an Advantage plan is right for you, applying for Part C is simple.
Advantage plan options for each person depend on location. You can find a plan available near you in which to enroll online. You’ll complete the process through the online portal. After your application is complete, you’ll receive a confirmation.
When enrolling, you’ll need to have the following information readily available:
- Your effective date for Original Medicare
- Your Medicare number – you can find this on your red, white, and blue Medicare card
Keep in mind that Advantage plans mostly take the form of HMOs and PPOs. Thus, they’re similar to offerings from an employer.
Consequently, you should choose a policy whose network includes your doctors. If you take or will soon be taking any prescription drugs, also check the formulary of the plan of your choice to make sure it includes the prescriptions you’ll need.
When Can I Apply for Medicare Part C?
Your first chance to enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan is your Initial Coverage Election Period (ICEP). Your ICEP coincides with your Initial Election Period, starting on the first day of the month, three months before your 65th birthday, and ending on the last day of the third month after your 65th birthday. The ICEP for those who enroll in Medicare after first becoming eligible begins three months before the Part B effective date.
The next opportunity to enroll in Part C is during the Annual Enrollment Period, which occurs between October 15 and December 7. Every year, you can also use this opportunity to change Advantage plans if you wish to do so. The Annual Enrollment Period applies to Part D prescription drug coverage as well.
After the Annual Enrollment Period, the Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period allows Part C beneficiaries to do the following:
- Switch to another Advantage plan
- Leave their Advantage plan to return to Original Medicare (with the option to add prescription drug coverage)
Additionally, you can get a Special Enrollment Period if you have a qualifying life event. These include moving out of your plan’s service area, losing Medicaid eligibility, release from incarceration, and termination of your Advantage plan’s contract.