Talking to your aging parents about health coverage

Talking to your aging parents about health coverage

Feb 09 2024

If your parents are nearing retirement or the age of 65, they may be wondering if they qualify for Medicare, and you may be wondering how to help them get started.

Medicare comes with a lot of parts, pieces and plans, and how best to combine them depends on each person’s specific needs, lifestyle and budget. Here are a few things to keep in mind when discussing Medicare care options with your parents:

Does their previous employment entitle them to a specific health care plan?

Did you know retired public school teachers or federal employees have specific health care plan and benefits they are eligible for?

These plans offer great benefits to people who have served their community, such as lower premiums, prescription drug coverage and much more. Research if your parents meet the criteria for these plans.

Do they already qualify for Medicare, or will they need to purchase individual coverage?

Medicare eligibility typically begins at age 65. You can use the calculator tool at to determine if your parents are eligible for Medicare coverage. Many health plans also offer a similar search tool to help you determine what Medicare plans are offered in their area.

If your parents do not yet qualify for Medicare, they will need to purchase an individual plan. A plan advisor tool like this one can provide an idea of their options.

Remember, when comparing health coverage from different companies you should compare more than just cost.


What benefits from their current plan do they typically use? Will they need those same benefits moving forward?

Are they thinking they need dental, hearing and vision coverage? What about prescriptions and prescription drug coverage?

Additional benefits to talk about include:

  • Over-the-counter medications.
  • Companion care.
  • Gym memberships.
  • Mental health support.
  • Travel coverage.

These value-added services may save them money in the long run and are definitely worth discussing before enrolling in a plan.

Also, if they have an established relationship with a primary care provider, you may want to check if that provider is included in the plan’s coverage network.

What does their timeline look like?

Signing up for Medicare on time is important. It can protect your parents from facing expensive medical bills if they get injured or sick without having the coverage they need, and some parts of Medicare (Parts B and D) have penalties for not enrolling on time.

If they already receiving benefits from Social Security or the Railroad Retirement Board (RRB), they’ll automatically be enrolled in Original Medicare (Parts A and B) on the first day of the month they turn 65.

If they’re not yet collecting Social Security retirement benefits, they will need to apply for Original Medicare during their Initial Enrollment Period (IEP). Their IEP spans the three months before their 65th birthday, the month of their 65th birthday, and the three months after their birthday.

If they’d like to enroll in Medicare Parts C and D, they will need to do so during their IEP. Keep in mind, they’ll need to be enrolled in Original Medicare before enrolling in Parts C and D.

Talking to your parents about their health care options as they age may seem overwhelming, but it’s better to be prepared than having to scramble during a moment of crisis.


Still have questions?

There’s a lot to know about Medicare. If your questions weren’t answered after reading this article, you can find more information in our Medicare Learning Center. Browse free resources, watch videos, design your personal Medicare timeline or connect with our team of Medicare experts. Visit to learn more.

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