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The first opportunity you have to sign up for Medicare insurance begins three months before you turn 65. You will be given an initial enrollment period of seven months around your 65th birthday. You can enroll up to three months before the month you turn 65 and four months after you turn 65. If you do not sign up during that seven month window, you can enroll each year after turning 65 between January 1st and March 31st, and your coverage will start July 1st of that year. 

There are four different Medicare options you can enroll in. Each of these options offer different benefits, as well as costs. The following four different Medicare options are listed and explained below. 

1. Medicare Part A (Hospital)

Medicare Part A is the least expensive Medicare option. It costs most people no monthly premium if they have paid FICA taxes for at least 40 calendar quarters. That means you or your spouse would have had to work and paid income taxes for 10 years to qualify for no monthly premium.  

Medicare Part A is often referred to as the hospital part of Medicare. It covers inpatient hospital expenses, skilled nursing facilities, hospice services and home health care. Since you do not have to pay a monthly premium, it is recommended that you sign up for Medicare Part A right away so you have it when you need it. 

2. Medicare Part B (Medical) 

In general, Medicare Part B includes a $147 yearly deductible. After the deductible is met, you are responsible for 20 percent of Medicare approved services, and your Medicare Part B will cover the rest of the cost. Your provider must accept Medicare insurance and the services provided must be approved by Medicare. 

Medicare Part B covers necessary doctor's services, outpatient care, medical equipment and many preventive services. It covers preventive and wellness services such as flu shots, mammograms and annual wellness exams without having to hand over any co-payments. 

3. Medicare Part C (Advantage)

The cost varies for Medicare Part C plans as they are offered by private insurers. They are alternatives to Medicare Parts A and B. They are managed care plans. You will often hear people refer to them as HMOs and PPOs. You pay a monthly premium determined by the Medicare-approved private insurance.

Most plans include all the benefits covered under Medicare Part A and B. Some plans also cover prescription drugs and other benefits such as dental and vision coverage for an extra fee. The doctors, hospitals and pharmacies you may use under a Medicare Part C plan are more restrictive than the health care providers you can use under Medicare Parts A and B. You must use health care providers approved by the private plan. 

4. Medicare Part D (Prescription Drugs) 

Medicare Part D carries a monthly premium. Medicare Part D, similar to Medicare Part C, is offered through private insurance companies. Because of this, the co-payments, deductibles and medication coverage varies. Most people who are enrolled in a Medicare Part C plan that includes drug coverage do not also need to have Medicare Part D. 

Medicare Supplemental Plans (Medigap Plans)

Medicare Supplemental Plans, also known as Medigap Plans, are sold by private insurance companies. They require individuals to pay monthly premiums. They are used to cover health care costs that are not covered under your other Medicare plans. It can cover your co-payments, coinsurance and deductibles. In general, Medigap plans do not cover prescription drugs. Remember, Medigap plans are supplements to your Medicare insurance, not an independent insurance plan. 

One of the best ways to navigate through which Medicare plans are right for you is to speak with your independent insurance agent. He or she can provide you with the information you need to make an informed choice. 

Only you are responsible for your health. Call Sound Benefit Solutions at (925) 244-1330 for more information on San Francisco supplemental Medicare insurance.

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