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How to transition to Medicare

Who is this for?

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If you’re nearing age 65, this information can help you understand what you need to do to prepare for the transition to Medicare.

The transition to Medicare can be scary, but it doesn’t have to be. You just have to prepare for it in advance. 

Medicare is a health insurance program run by the government to help people over age 65 and people with disabilities. 

Original Medicare includes all the services provided by the government—usually hospital and medical services—but there are also additional plans available through private health insurance companies like Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. 

Many people choose to purchase these Medicare plan add-ons to meet all of their health care needs. Because of this, Medicare has been divided into four sections: 

  • Medicare Part A covers hospital services such as inpatient, hospice, skilled nursing facility and home health care.
  • Medicare Part B covers medical services such as visits to your doctor, other outpatient treatment and medical supplies.
  • Medicare Part C is the Medicare Advantage plan that allows you to get Medicare Parts A and B (and sometimes Part D) through a Medicare-approved private health insurance company.
  • Medicare Part D covers prescription drugs.

What to do before your 65th birthday

There are three main things you need to do before your 65th birthday:

  1. Pick an insurance company. Choose a company you trust to give you the coverage you need to add on to your Original Medicare. 
  2. Decide which type of plan you want. Weigh the pros and cons of each plan to make sure you get the best coverage for you.
  3. Apply for Medicare at least three months in advance. The government charges a penalty to everyone who doesn’t apply for coverage during their first eligibility period.

What types of plans are available?

There are three types of plans available:

  • Medicare Advantage plans are the all-in-one option. Private companies contract with Medicare to provide all the Original Medicare benefits and sometimes additional health care services on top of that. When you need care, you only need to bring your plan ID card.
  • Medigap Plans, or Medicare supplemental plans, fill in the gaps in your Original Medicare coverage. Medigap plans pay for deductibles, copayments and other benefits that Original Medicare doesn’t cover. You’ll need both your Medicare card and your Medigap ID card to receive care.
  • Prescription drug plans are an important addition to your Medicare plan. Most Medicare Advantage plans include prescription drug coverage, but some may not. If you choose a Medigap plan, you’ll need to buy a separate prescription drug plan. You’ll need to bring the ID card for that plan when you pick up your prescriptions.

You can visit Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan’s Medicare website to learn more about the plans and figure out which one might be right for you.

How do I enroll?

If you already receive Social Security, then you’ll be automatically enrolled in Medicare Parts A and B. 

If you won’t be automatically enrolled, you can apply by: 

  • Calling the Social Security Administration at 1-800-772-1213 between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. Monday through Friday 
  • Visiting your local Social Security office

For more enrollment information, visit our Medicare website.

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