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Medicare’s Annual Election Period has started and runs until Dec. 7 for senior citizens to choose their Medicare plans for 2019. Coverage takes effect Jan. 1.

It’s that time of year again. While you don’t need to sign up for Medicare each year, but each year during or ahead of the election period, Medicare recipients should review their coverage and if they see areas where their coverage could better suit their current health situation, then opt for changes.

Medicare covers about 60 million Americans. Seniors become eligible for all of the program's components – Parts A, B, C, and D – when they turn 65.

Option for a Test Drive

The enrollment process is different this year. This time, seniors with Advantage Plans will have the chance to "test-drive" plans for the first three months of the year – and select a different plan if their initial choice doesn't meet their budgetary or healthcare needs.

If you’re about to turn 65, Medicare enrollment begins three months before your 65th birthday and continues for 7 months. If you’re already receiving Social Security Disability insurance for 24 months, you don’t need to do anything.

WHERE DO I ENROLL?

Online at medicare.gov.

By calling Social Security at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY users 1-800-325-0778), Monday through Friday, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

In-person at your local Social Security office.

If you worked at a railroad, enroll in Medicare by contacting the Railroad Retirement Board (RRB) at 1-877-772-5772 (TTY users 1-312-751-4701), Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

Through an agent or broker. They can help seniors determine which Medicare Advantage plan would be best for them or whether they'd be better off enrolling in traditional Medicare.

For more info, visit medicare.gov.

WHAT ARE THE MEDICARE PARTS?

Medicare Part A pays for hospital stays. Part B covers doctor visits, same-day surgeries, and potent medications administered in physicians' offices. Part D is Medicare's optional prescription drug benefit.

Part C, also known as Medicare Advantage is administered by private insurance carriers and places a cap on the out-of-pocket expenses not available on Parts A and B of Original Medicare. Part C typically includes the prescription drug benefit at no additional cost.

More than 20 million Americans are enrolled in 2,300 different Medicare Advantage plans, each with its own mix of benefits, monthly premiums, copays, and out-of-pocket spending.

Deciding on a plan can be tricky. Beneficiaries must consider lifestyle factors, how much they can afford to spend, and what their future health needs may be.

For more info, visit medicare.gov, your local social security office. or an insurance agent.

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