Medicare is the U.S. government’s health insurance plan for adults age 65 and older and people with disabilities or health conditions. In Arkansas, about 645,000 people get health coverage through Medicare.
Read on to learn about Medicare Arkansas, including who’s eligible, how to enroll, and how to choose the best Medicare plan for your needs.
When you sign up for Medicare in Arkansas, you can choose either original Medicare or a Medicare Advantage plan.
Original Medicare is the traditional program run by the federal government. The program has two parts, and you can sign up for one or both:
- Part A (hospital insurance). Medicare Part A helps you pay for inpatient hospital stays. It also covers hospice care, limited home healthcare, and short-term skilled nursing facility care.
- Part B (medical insurance). Medicare Part B covers a wide range of preventative and medically necessary services. These include physical exams, doctor services, and health screenings.
Private companies offer extra coverage for people with original Medicare. You may opt to sign up for one or both of these policies:
- Part D (drug coverage). Part D plans help you pay for prescription drugs. They don’t cover over-the-counter medications.
- Medicare supplement insurance (Medigap). Medigap plans cover some or all of your Medicare coinsurance, copayments, and deductibles. These standardized plans are identified by letters: A, B, C, D, F, G, K, L, M, and N.
Medicare Advantage (Part C) plans are a different way to get your Medicare coverage. They’re offered by private companies that contract with Medicare. Medicare Advantage plans need to include all Medicare parts A and B services. These bundled plans may offer many additional benefits, including:
As an Arkansas resident, you have plenty of Medicare Advantage options. This year, you can get a plan from the following companies:
- Aetna Medicare
- Arkansas Blue Medicare
- Health Advantage
- Lasso Healthcare
These companies offer plans in many counties in Arkansas. However, Medicare Advantage plan offerings vary by county, so enter your specific ZIP code when searching for plans where you live.
Many people in Arkansas can qualify for Medicare at age 65. You’ll be eligible when you turn 65 as long as one of the following is true:
- you already receive Social Security retirement benefits or you qualify for them
- you’re a citizen or permanent resident of the United States
You may be able to get Medicare before your 65th birthday. You’re eligible at any age if you:
If you’re eligible for Medicare, there are several times during the year when you may enroll in Medicare plans. Here are the Medicare enrollment periods:
- Initial enrollment. You may enroll in Medicare parts A and B from three months before until three months after your 65th birthday.
- Medigap enrollment. You may enroll in a supplemental Medigap policy for up to 6 months after you turn 65.
- General enrollment. You may enroll in a Medicare plan or Medicare Advantage plan each year from January 1 to March 31 if you didn’t sign up when you were first eligible.
- Medicare Part D enrollment. You may enroll in a Part D plan each year from April 1 to June 30 if you didn’t sign up when you were first eligible.
- Open enrollment. You can enroll in, drop out of, or change your Medicare Part C or Part D plan each year from October 15 to December 7, during the open enrollment period.
- Special enrollment. Under special circumstances, you may qualify for a special enrollment period of 8 months.
There are many Medicare Advantage plans in Arkansas. To narrow your options, keep these things in mind:
- Coverage needs. Many Medicare Advantage plans offer coverage that original Medicare doesn’t, such as dental, vision, and hearing coverage. Make a list of the benefits you want, and refer to it as you compare plans.
- Plan performance. Every year, The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) publishes performance data for Medicare plans. Plans are rated from one to 5 stars, with 5 being the best.
- Out-of-pocket costs. Premiums, deductibles, copayments, and coinsurance will affect how much you pay for your health coverage. You can use Medicare’s plan finder tool to compare costs for specific Medicare Advantage plans.
- Provider network. To use your Medicare Advantage coverage, you may need to get care from doctors, specialists, and hospitals in the plan’s network. Before choosing a plan, verify that your doctors are in the network.
- Travel coverage. Medicare Advantage plans don’t always cover care you receive outside of the plan’s service area. If you’re a frequent traveler, make sure your plan will cover you while you’re away from home.
If you have questions about Medicare plans in Arkansas, you can contact:
- The Social Security Administration (800-772-1213)
- Arkansas State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIIP) (501-371-2782)
When you’re ready to enroll in a Medicare plan, you can:
- Sign up for Medicare parts A and B through the Social Security Administration. You can choose to enroll online, in person, or by phone.
- Use the Medicare plan finder to shop for Medicare Advantage plans in Arkansas. This tool helps you compare the benefits and costs of each plan.
This article was updated on October 8, 2020 to reflect 2021 Medicare information.
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