Perhaps one should always ask about information concerning buying policies once you decide upon one, how to change policies should the necessity or desire arise, when the best time to buy is and why it is important the make the purchase in the first place. Everyone talks about Medicare like they understand the ins and outs, but in reality most people go with the flow without understanding a whole lot about it. By educating yourself now, you will be that much more informed when the big changes occur this coming year.

If you are approaching age 65, you will soon become Medicare-eligible, and you have a few decisions to make. For starters, Medicare Supplement Plans for 2019 presents some. If you aren’t yet collecting Social Security, you should apply for “original” Medicare around your 65th birthday (from three months prior to or after the month of your 65th birthday). Original Medicare includes Part A (hospital insurance), which generally is available at no cost, and Part B (medical insurance), which typically requires a monthly premium of $100 per person (more if your income is beyond certain threshold levels). Drug coverage is provided through Medicare Part D, which is applied for during the same time period but separately from Original Medicare.

Yet Medicare doesn’t cover all of the costs of healthcare in retirement. Given that most people are likely to need more medical care as they grow older, it makes sense to consider adding a Medicare Supplement policy, sometimes referred to as “Medigap.”

Medicare supplement plans

Private insurance companies sell these policies. Their purpose is to cover expenses that aren’t paid for by traditional Medicare, including copayments, coinsurance, deductibles and medical services outside of the U.S. You can only buy a Medigap policy if you enroll in Part A and Part B. If you plan to buy a Medigap policy, you should do it during your initial open enrollment period. This begins on the first day of the month you are at least age 65 and enrolled in Medicare Part B. You have a six-month window from that point to choose any Medigap policy you want regardless of pre-existing conditions*. Insurance companies must charge you a standardized rate and cannot reject you due to your medical condition provided you enroll during this six month window. In addition, they must renew your coverage each year regardless of your health status. This year would be a good time to learn.