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No. 3: Plan Medicare and supplements
No. 3: Plan Medicare and supplements © docent/

No. 3: Plan Medicare and supplements

After Social Security, enrolling in Medicare is one of the biggest decisions facing retirees, says Murray. Medicare is complex, and enrollment dates differ depending on which part of Medicare you are enrolling in. Here's an overview.

Medicare Part A covers hospitalization; as long as you've worked and paid Medicare taxes long enough, that coverage is free. Medicare Part B covers medically necessary services such as lab tests and doctor visits. If you are already signed up for Social Security or Railroad Retirement Board benefits before you turn 65, you will automatically begin receiving Part A and Part B at that time. If not, sign up for both 3 months before your 65th birthday.

Medicare Part C refers to Medicare Advantage plans, under which you receive health care services through a health maintenance organization or preferred provider organization. Medicare Part D is the prescription drug benefit program. The initial enrollment period for both programs begins in the 3 months before you turn 65, including the month you turn 65, and ends 3 months later. There are exceptions to these dates, which are outlined in the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services' tip sheet, Understanding Medicare Part C & D Enrollment Periods.


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