How Medicare Works

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I’m very close to my grandmother, and she relies on me for help sometimes. She’s actually very young for a grandmother, but she has some unfortunate health issues that cause her to struggle with some cognitive things, so I try really hard to help her handle things like paperwork, bills, and so on.

She’s now eligible for Medicare, but I feel a little out of my depth. I don’t really know what her current healthcare situation is like, and I don’t know much about how Medicare works, or anything about how to sign up for it and pay for it! Could you give me a crash course in Medicare?

It’s wonderful that you’ve been such a help for your grandmother. We’re happy to provide you with some information so that you can continue to help out your family. But if you’re at all concerned about getting the details right, don’t be afraid to reach out for help! There are government employees and nonprofit groups that exist to help seniors sign up for Medicare and get the coverage that they need.

With that said, Medicare is the government’s public health care plan for seniors and select other individuals. Unless they are enrolled early due to a disability or other special case, Americans become eligible for Medicare when they turn 65.

Medicare actually comprises several parts. The most important and most basic is Medicare Part A; this part of Medicare handles things like emergency expenses and hospice care. Medicare Part B is the part of Medicare that covers regular, everyday preventative care like visits to a primary care physician. Medicare Part D covers prescription drugs.

What about C? Well, that’s a special case. Medicare Part C is your private insurance option. You can shop for Medicare plans from private providers that cover the same sorts of things as parts A and B. These are called Medicare Advantage plans.

When a person reaches the age that they qualify for Medicare (again, that’s 65 years old), that person can enroll in a Medicare plan anytime in the three months following their birthday. Medicare plans can also be chosen and changed during the annual open enrollment period. There are also special enrollment periods that allow people to change Medicare plans mid-year under certain circumstances. For instance, if a person moves to a new area or changes jobs, then that person could be eligible for a special enrollment period.

If your grandmother is now ready to choose a Medicare plan, you can help her by comparing quotes and options. That’s not too hard to do when you use a tool like Easy Medicare. Keep in mind that it will be helpful to know what sorts of expenses your grandmother is expecting. Depending on her health situation, different plans could be more cost-effective than others.

It’s a good idea to bring other family members in on this task — hopefully, others in your family are aware of this situation and eager to help, too. And, again, you should strongly consider reaching out to helplines and working with volunteers and government employees who are dedicated to helping seniors like your grandmother. A social worker, for instance, might be in a better position than you are to make sure that all of this important healthcare paperwork is done right.

If you use the right tools and get help from the right people, we’re sure that you can help your grandmother get set up with the right plan. Communicate with your family and be proactive about getting things done before the deadline, and everything will work out fine.

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