If you’re beginning to think about retirement, you have a lot to consider, including Medicare. Since choosing a Medicare plan can be overwhelming, it’s important to start your research early. That way you have time to get all the information you need to make the choice that’s best for your health and budget.

To get you started, Independent Health created WNYMedicare.com, where you can learn all the basics of Medicare. Our website provides information through short, informative videos, FAQs and a glossary to help get you more familiar with Medicare terms. You can even download a complimentary copy of “Medicare Now: A Step-By-Step Guide.” This helpful guide includes important information about Original Medicare, Medicare Advantage plans, tips to help you make your decision and much more.

As you begin to think about Medicare, here are five things you should know:

1. Eligibility Requirements – You must be 65 or older, have a qualifying disability or experience another special situation. You must also be a U.S. citizen or legal resident.

2. Medicare Options – You have two distinct ways to receive Medicare: Original Medicare (Parts A and B) or a Medicare Advantage plan (Part C). However, within these two options you have many choices – whether you want prescription drug coverage (Part D), supplemental coverage and more. To decide which option is right for you takes time and a little homework.

3. Timing is Important – You can sign up three months before you turn 65, during your 65th birthday month and up to three months after. If you have a qualifying disability, contact the Social Security Administration (1-800-772-1213, TTY 1-800-325-0778, Monday – Friday, 7 a.m. – 7 p.m.) for your enrollment time frame. If you wait, you could pay more for coverage. If you continue to work, additional rules may apply.

4. Medicare Doesn’t Cover Everything – You may have copays, deductibles, coinsurances and other payments for both Original Medicare and a Medicare Advantage plan. Also, Original Medicare does not include prescription Part D drug coverage, and there will be other gaps in coverage that you may need to cover with additional insurance.

Your plan choices are not permanent – If your needs change, you have an opportunity each year to change plans.

Why choose Independent Health?

We offer a variety of plans* to fit your needs, including HMO, PPO and HMO-POS plans with and without prescription coverage. Plus, all of our Medicare Advantage plans come with vision, dental and fitness benefits. For these reasons and many more, you can understand why more people select Independent Health for their Medicare coverage than any other plan in Western New York.**

Explore your options

For more information about our Medicare Advantage plans, call (716) 635-4900 or 1-800-958-4405, Monday through Sunday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. (TTY: 1-888-357-9167). Or visit WNYMedicare.com.

Independent Health is a Medicare Advantage organization with a Medicare contract.

*Benefits vary by plan. The benefit information provided herein is a brief summary, not a comprehensive description of benefits. For more information, contact the plan. Benefits, premiums and/or copayments may change on January 1, 2013. **Per CMS WNY enrollment data 6/12.