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How To Apply For Medicare Advantage

By Zawn Villines
Applying for Medicare Advantage isn’t always a simple process, but there are places to go for help.

Reaching the age for Medicare eligibility can bring with it a whole new set of health insurance concerns. While it may seem overwhelming at first, deciding on plans doesn't have to be confusing. This is especially true for those looking into Medicare Advantage.

Here, we discuss what Medicare Advantage is, how to apply, and where to go for help in navigating the Medicare Advantage process.

What is Medicare Advantage?

Medicare Advantage, or Medicare Part C, is essentially private insurance through Medicare.

Before applying, mark these dates on your calendar.

The first step in applying for Medicare is setting some important reminders. Here’s some dates from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to help you get started:

  • Three months before your 65th birthday: You can choose a Medicare Advantage plan three months before turning 65 or as soon as you become eligible for Medicare.
  • October 15 to December 7 : This is the only time of year, with some exceptions, when you switch from original Medicare to Medicare Advantage. You can also change Medicare Advantage plans if you are already enrolled in one.
  • January 1 to March 31: During this time, you can switch back to original Medicare if you change your mind about Medicare Advantage. You can also change Medicare Advantage plans. You cannot switch from original Medicare to Medicare Advantage.
  • There are also SEPs, or special enrollment periods, available for special circumstances, like emergencies and moves.

Medicare Advantage Enrollment Online

The quickest and easiest way to compare Medicare Advantage plans is online, using The Official U.S. Government Site for Medicare. The best part of applying online is that you'll have all of the information you need at your fingertips. You can then see each plan’s benefits, premium, co-pays, and out-of-pocket maximum. After you've compared plans and selected the one you want, you'll use your Medicare Number in order to enroll. 

If You Want In-Person Advice, Help is Available.

A great place to go to get some in-person counseling is your state health insurance assistance program (SHIP). Your SHIP counselor can help you navigate Medicare and the options available to you.

If you have questions about a specific plan you saw online at The Official U.S. Government Site for Medicare, you can call the provider itself. To get the number for a plan you’re curious about, click on the blue “Plan Details” button on the bottom left of the plan’s information box. Then, scroll down and click “Contact information” on the left sidebar.

Another great resource is your local Social Security Administration (SSA) office. Be sure to make an appointment first.