How to choose the perfect Medicare plan just for you

Website breaks process down into 5 digestible steps

By Michelle Ganley - Graham Media Group
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Are you new to the world of Medicare? There can be a lot to take in. But it shouldn't be overwhelming, no matter how tricky your circumstances might be.

Luckily for everyone, the website/blog The Motley Fool broke down the enrollment process step by step, so that you can find the best Medicare package to fit your needs.

Here's what the experts had to say.

1.) Determine your enrollment window.

Many people are aware that they become eligible for Medicare at the age of 65. But did you know enrollment actually starts three months before the month you turn 65, and ends three months after the month you turn 65? That's quite a mouthful, we know.

Either way, that means you have seven months to complete your initial enrollment.

"It's best to start the Medicare enrollment process as early as possible, because if you wait until your 65th birthday or later to enroll, your coverage might not kick in until after your previous health insurance policy expires," the website said.

And that could leave you with a gap in coverage. No one wants that. It's best to be proactive.

2.) Choose between Medicare Advantage or Medigap.

Did you know? Medicare doesn't cover all your needs, so many people select another plan to supplement it.

Medicare Advantage is sometimes referred to as Medicare Part C, by the way.

Both Medicare Advantage and Medigap are provided by private health insurance companies.

Advantage replaces original Medicare but also gives you additional coverage. Medigap is an add-on for original Medicare subscribers.

To read about all the differences involved -- and there are many -- click or tap here.

"By law, these plans must offer all the same benefits that original Medicare plans do, though they can charge enrollees different amounts for those benefits," the article says.

3.) Compare plans even more.

Let's say you're ready to make a move on the whole Medicare Advantage vs. Medigap decision. You're going to want to visit medicare.gov and pull up the plan finder, so that you can look and see what's available in your area.

You should see what policies exist where you live, and compare premiums.

And then, if you pick Medicare Advantage, here are two more factors. You'll have to choose between the plan network and the formulary. This is where you take some time to think about provider networks, staying in-network vs. out of network, and where your physician or any specialist who you see falls. "The plan's formulary determines which prescription drugs are covered and how much you'll have to pay for those drugs. Check to make sure that your regular prescriptions are included in the formulary, preferably in one of the cheaper tiers," the website recommends.

4.) Thought about any extra coverage?

We know, that's all we've been talking about the past few steps, right? We mean even more coverage.

You'll probably need to sign up for a Medicare Part D policy as well, for prescription drug coverage.

5.) Come back when it's time for open enrollment.

Yes, your enrollment window opens and closes based on your birthday. But you should know that the annual Medicare open enrollment period is typically from mid-October to early December. And this is when you'll pick your Medicare coverage for the next year.

Maybe you'll realize you chose everything exactly right. Maybe your needs will change. But you might want to take some mental notes either way, so that you can adjust accordingly moving forward.

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