When you turn 65 years old, you can sign up for health insurance from the federal government. Medicare plans in Alaska are also available to people under age 65 who have certain disabilities, end stage renal disease (ESRD), or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).

There are five different parts of Medicare:

  • hospital care (Part A)
  • outpatient care (Part B)
  • Medicare Advantage (Part C)
  • prescription drug plans (Part D)
  • Medicare supplemental coverage (Medigap)

Part A and Part B together are known as original Medicare.

Medicare Part A

Part A is available to most people without a monthly premium, as long as you or your spouse worked and paid Medicare taxes for 10 years or more. You will pay a deductible each time you are admitted to the hospital.

Part A covers:

Medicare Part B

Part B is available to anyone eligible for Medicare, but it’s not free. Most people pay a monthly premium, annual deductible, copays, andcoinsurance for care.

Part B covers:

Medicare Part C (Medicare Advantage)

In 2021, you can’t purchase a Medicare Advantage plan in Alaska. Currently, no companies sell Medicare Advantage (Part C) plans in Alaska.

Part C (Medicare Advantage) plans, where available, are sold through private insurance companies that contract with Medicare.

They offer everything covered under parts A and B in a single policy. Some plans also include Part D (prescription drug) coverage, along with other benefits not covered under original Medicare, such as dental, vision, hearing, and other services.

Medicare Part D

Part D (prescription drug coverage) must be purchased through a private insurance carrier. You can purchase these policies on their own if you sign up for original Medicare. If you choose a Medicare Advantage plan, many include Part D.

Medicare supplement (Medigap)

Medicare supplement insurance (Medigap), from private insurance carriers, helps pay for things like copays and coinsurance if you’re on original Medicare. Medigap can’t be combined with Medicare Advantage plans.

Original Medicare doesn’t have an out-of-pocket limit each year, so you’ll pay:

  • a Part A deductible each time you’re admitted to a hospital
  • an annual Part B deductible
  • coinsurance on Part B care for the entire year

Coverage and premiums vary for supplemental plans, so review plan documents carefully to get what you need.

In 2021, there are no Medicare Advantage plans sold in Alaska. It’s important to review the Medicare website prior to enrollment periods, so you’ll know if any Medicare Advantage options have been added in Alaska.

You can use the Medicare plan finder tool and enter your ZIP code to see if any Advantage plans have become available in your area.

To be eligible for Medicare plans in Alaska you must be:

  • 65 years old or over
  • a U.S. citizen or legal resident for 5 or more years

If you aren’t 65 years old, you may still qualify for Medicare if you:

  • received Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Railroad Retirement Benefits (RRB) for 24 months
  • have permanent ESRD or a kidney transplant
  • have ALS

Some people will be automatically enrolled in Medicare but most need to enroll during the correct time period.

Initial enrollment

Your initial enrollment period begins 3 months before you turn 65 years old. It continues through the month of your birthday and the 3 months that follow.

If you sign up before your birthday month, coverage begins the first of that month. There is a 2- to 3-month delay before coverage begins if you wait until you turn 65 years old.

Enroll in Medicare Part A and Part B:

  • online
  • by phone (800-772-1213)
  • in person, at a Social Security office (it’s best to make an appointment)

Once you enroll in original Medicare, you can decide if you want to sign up for a Medicare Advantage plan or a Medigap plan. You can also determine whether you need prescription drug coverage.

Medicare open enrollment: October 15 to December 7

Each year, you can evaluate your plan and switch between original Medicare and Medicare Advantage if those plans are available in your area. You can also add, drop, or change your Part D coverage.

General enrollment: January 1 to March 31

If you missed your initial enrollment period, you can enroll during general enrollment at the beginning of the year. But note that your coverage won’t begin until July 1.

You may pay a late penalty for Part B premiums based on how many years you delayed enrollment. You can avoid this penalty if you’re covered by another plan, such as one through your employer, when you turn 65 years old.

Medicare Advantage open enrollment: January 1 to March 31

If you’re already on a Medicare Advantage plan, you can make changes or switch to original Medicare during this time. In Alaska, there are no Medicare Advantage plans available in 2021 — you can check each year to find out if carriers are offering new plans.

Special enrollment period

If you lose coverage under your current plan for certain reasons, such as losing an employer-sponsored plan or moving out of your current plan’s coverage area, you will have a special enrollment period to enroll in Medicare or change plans.

Sometimes Medicare can be confusing, so before you enroll it’s important to check the coverage and make sure you’re getting what you need.

It’s important to know:

  • when your initial enrollment period will be
  • whether Medicare Advantage plans are available in your area
  • if you want a Medigap policy to help with costs
  • whether you need to get a Part D plan

Medicare Alaska resources are available to help you if you have questions about enrollment, plans, and coverage. Here a list:

Once you’re ready to enroll in Medicare:

  • Review available plans and determine what prescription coverage you want and whether you need a Medigap policy along with original Medicare.
  • Contact Alaska’s Medicare Information Office if you need help paying for Medicare.
  • Check enrollment dates and mark them on your calendar so you don’t miss it.

This article was updated on November 20, 2020, to reflect 2021 Medicare information.