annual enrollment periodI know everyone thinks you sign up for Medicare when you turn 65, but there’s a catch. And, it could leave you high and dry. Your initial enrollment period for Medicare lasts for seven months, but if you wait until you are 65 to sign up, Medicare says your benefits will be delayed. You can actually enroll in Medicare even before you turn 65. Medicare gives you a three-month period before your 65th birthday to enroll. Do that and your benefits won’t be delayed. When you are 65, your coverage will be ready and waiting just like you want.
Even if you enroll during the month of your 65th birthday, you could have to wait for your benefits.  Imagine getting in an accident and being rushed to the hospital while you don’t know if your Medicare ID card is in the mail. Catch early enrollment during the last three months you are 64.
What if you have signed up for Social Security or you already get it?  In most cases, you’ll be automatically enrolled for Medicare.  You should have coverage by the beginning of the month of your 65th birthday.  And, if you were born on the first, your Medicare coverage should be available as early as the first day of the previous month.  That works the same way if you are eligible for Railroad Retirement Board benefits.
Actually, there’s another reason to catch early Medicare enrollment.  Medicare coverage is pretty complicated. That makes it easy to overlook some pretty expensive gaps in coverage, so you don’t want to rush through such an important decision.  When you are eligible for Medicare, you have several different ways to receive your coverage.
Just how high can health care bills get with Medicare?  People with Medicare have been found to actually pay for just over half of their own health care. Medicare was only paying for 49 percent in one survey, but you don’t have to settle for that.  There’s Medicare Supplement insurance or Medigap that can help you cover the bills that Medicare leaves you to pay. If you have any problem with your health, the best time to get Medigap insurance is when you are first eligible for Medicare. This could be the only time that you are guaranteed your application will be accepted.
And, you have the option to get all of your Medicare benefits from a private health insurance company through a Medicare Advantage plan.  With one of these plans, your application is also guaranteed to be accepted unless you have end-stage renal disease. So, there are two good reasons to catch early enrollment.  That way you won’t be short-changed on benefits and you’ll have more time to compare all of you options. You know what they say about the early bird.'

Jim McFadden has over 11 years of executive-level experience in the health insurance industry, is a youth baseball, softball and football coach, and has one of the worst fantasy football records in the world.