The first baby boomers (Americans born between 1946 and 1964) begin claiming Social Security benefits this year as they reach 62. A survey by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners found most were confused by their insurance choices.
Just 36 percent of 377 baby boomers surveyed across the U.S., knew that Medicare eligibility begins at age 65. Even fewer were familiar with Medicare Part B, Medicare Advantage plans, Medicare prescription drug coverage, or Medicare Supplement Insurance (Medigap Insurance).
If you retire before age 65 and are not eligible for Medicare, here are some options:
– The federal Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconstruction ACT (COBRA) typically lets you continue (for up to 18 months) the health insurance coverage you had as an employee. Check with state insurance departments for the COBRA laws in your state.
– High-deductible health insurance plans often have the lowest premiums. Unfortunately, pre-existing health problems (heart disease, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, etc.) may block you from buying these plans.
If you are at least 65 and will be using Medicare as your primary health insurance, you still have choices:
–  Do you want traditional Medicare, or a Medicare Advantage plan? See which doctors and hospitals are in-network before buying a Medicare Advantage plan.
– If you waive prescription drug coverage (Medicare Part D) during enrollment, you’ll pay a penalty fee for enrolling later.
– Do you want Medicare Supplement Insurance (Medigap) to pay for hospital/medical expenses and deductibles that Medicare does not cover?
Other cautions:
– Discount cards are not insurance, may not cover all services, and may not be accepted by your dentist or doctor.
– Long-term care coverage helps with the expense of assisted-living facilities, in-home caregivers, and nursing homes. If you are receiving Social Security, or expect to have little or no savings, you may not need long-term care insurance because you qualify for state aid.
– Medicare does not endorse or sell long-term care insurance so be wary of claims suggesting Medicare is associated with any long-term care policy.
The attorney general’s office, Better Business Bureau, and state insurance departments may have information regarding complaints filed against companies, or other information regarding whether companies are legitimate.

Wiley Long is founder and president of Medigap Advisors, and is passionate about helping people navigate the confusing waters of Medicare. He is the author of The Medicare Playbook: Designing Your Successful Health Coverage Strategy, a clear and simple explanation so you can make the most of your Medicare coverage.