Have you ever felt like Medicare regulations are a black box? There’s an alphabet soup of plans, a book of fine print and a calendar full of dates to remember. The whole thing seems like a mystery with too few clues to solve.

HealthMarkets is here to unlock that black box. Our Guide to Medicare answers questions you may not even have known you had about getting Medicare, from the beginning of the process on. Download it today for a step-by-step guided journey through Medicare definitions, enrollment, dates and more.

What will the Guide teach you?

Well, here is just a preview:

Medicare is divided into parts.

Medicare parts are named by letter. They all offer different kinds of health insurance coverage. It goes like this:

  • Part A: hospital insurance
  • Part B: medical insurance
  • Part C (Medicare Advantage): Parts A, B, and usually D
  • Part D: prescription drug coverage

There are other Medicare plans not named by letter, but they come with their own alphabet soup:

  • Medigap (Medicare Supplement Insurance)

Some people get Part A & Part B Automatically

Medicare Parts A and B

If you’ve worked in the U.S. for at least 40 quarters and have applied for Social Security benefits, the federal government will automatically enroll you in Medicare Part A when you turn 65. At that time, you also have the opportunity to enroll in Part B. All you need to do is wait for the daily mail. Three months before your 65th birthday, you’ll be sent some enrollment information to fill out, and then you mail back some forms. Voilá. Done.

Medicare Part C

However, you can choose another option: Medicare Part C, also called Medicare Advantage. Medicare Advantage plans are offered by private insurance companies. By law, they’re required to offer all the same benefits that Medicare Parts A and B do, but they also offer extra benefits. These are different for each plan, but they often include prescription drug coverage and things like vision or dental insurance.

Medicare Part D

Then there’s Medicare Part D. Medicare Part D plans are available through private insurance companies and help cover prescription drugs. The premiums and out-of-pocket expenses for Part D will vary by plan.

If you have Medicare Advantage, you often won’t need to worry about prescriptions because Part D plans are often included in Medicare Advantage policies.


Medicare Supplemental Insurance, also called Medigap, is supplemental coverage offered by private insurance companies that can help you cover Medicare Parts A and B deductibles, copays, or other out-of-pocket expenses.

Your Medicare enrollment dates depend on your birthday.

Well…the first day of the month of your birthday, to be specific. Your first opportunity to enroll in Medicare occurs three months before the month of your 65th birthday (when the government sends you that package in the mail), and lasts until three months after it. That time period is called your Initial Enrollment Period, or IEP.

Getting Medicare during your IEP is easy; It’s a very good idea to enroll then. If you don’t, you might pay a penalty for Medicare Part B. You’ll also have to wait until a specified period of time, called the General Enrollment Period, or GEP, to enroll in Medicare. The GEP doesn’t depend on your birthday—it is from January 1st to March 31st of each year. So if you miss your IEP back in April, for instance, you’ll have quite a while to wait before you can enroll.

The start date for your coverage depends on when you sign up for Medicare. Check out the guide for more information.

HealthMarkets offers Medicare Advantage, Medicare Part D and Medigap plans and we’re here to help you with all your Medicare questions and can help find the right plan for you. Let our guide help you manage the Medicare mystery. And if you run into more questions, never hesitate to call us, 24/7, at (800) 488-7621.


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