Sign up for Medicare, the federal government health insurance

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Open Enrollment Caution Sign With Autumn Road Background

Medicare is a federal government health insurance. Medicare has different plans to choose from.  Only individual plans are available — there is no family-plan option.

You sign up for Medicare through the U.S. Social Security Administration. If you have been employed, then you have probably contributed to this program. The enrollment period rules are strict: You may enroll three months before the month of your 65th birthday or as late as three months after your birthday month.

If you keep working after age 65 and get insurance through your employer, you are not required to sign up for Medicare until eight months after you retire.

The most basic Medicare coverage includes Part A, covering inpatient hospital stays, and Part B, for outpatient clinic care.  It does not cover vision or dental, but you can buy supplemental plans that cover these and other services.

A popular option is purchasing Part D (think of D for drugs). You may select the Part D plan that will best help you with the medications you take. A trained SHIIP counselor can give you free, unbiased advice about choosing a Part D plan. SHIIP stands for Senior Health Insurance Information Program. Call the Dallas County Health Department at 515-993-3750 or visit our website to find a SHIIP location near you.

More SHIIP volunteer counselors are desperately needed.  Counselors with strong computer and internet skills and a background in finance or insurance are a great fit for this important volunteer position.

Ann Cochran is the health navigation coordinator in the Dallas County Public Health Department.

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