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Common Medicare questions answered

More than 10,000 people will enroll in Medicare every day over the next 10 years. Are you one of them? Are you helping someone who is turning 65? It's really not as complicated as it may seem.

How do I enroll? Most people need to contact Social Security directly. Do this before your 65th birthday to avoid a lapse in health coverage.

When do I enroll? You have a seven month window around your 65th birthday to enroll. This is called the Initial Enrollment Period. After that, you can still enroll in Medicare but you may have to wait for a general enrollment period to do so.

What if I'm still working and have insurance? If you are working past age 65 and have insurance from your job (or your spouse is working and you get health insurance that way), you should review how your coverage will change before deciding whether you need to enroll in Medicare now.

What does Medicare cover? Medicare covers a wide range of medically necessary screenings, supplies and procedures. Some are free, including many preventative services. The Medicare and You Handbook, which Medicare sends out every year to members, provides a summary of covered services.

What if I am on an overseas trip? Medicare covers health care for people when they are physically located within the 50 United States, the District of Columbia and U.S. Territories.

In some cases, Medicare Part A will cover services in a foreign country when their hospital is closer than a U.S. facility.

In some cases, Medicare Part B may cover medically necessary health care while on board a cruise ship within the territorial waters adjoining the United States.

Generally, Medicare will not pay for services you get when a ship is more than six hours away from a U.S. port.

How do I pay for Medicare? If you are receiving Social Security benefits at the time you enroll in Medicare, your Part B premium will be deducted automatically from your monthly check. If you have not begun to receive Social Security yet, you will receive a quarterly bill for your premium. If you enroll in Medicare Advantage or Part D prescription drug plan, typically you will pay the plan directly for your premium.

How can I find out how much I have paid for Medicare services this year? Medicare offers a free, confidential online service for people to access information about their benefits and services, including how much they have paid for services. You can also contact Medicare directly at 1-800-MEDICARE with questions about enrollment, payments, claims, coverage issues and more.

Check out its free website,, to get information on Medicare enrollment, preventative services and costs. Or contact Deb Shea at the Douglas County Senior Services office at (320) 762-2974.