Understanding Medicare

Medicare is health insurance for individuals who are:

  • Age 65 or older;
  • Under age 65 with certain disabilities; and
  • People of any age with end-stage renal disease.

Medicare is your primary medical insurance coverage once you retire from Columbia at age 65 or attain age 65; Columbia’s Retiree Medical Plan will be your secondary coverage.

Part A – Hospital Insurance 

  • In most cases, Part A is free, as you paid for it through your FICA Taxes while employed.
  • Part A helps cover inpatient care in hospitals, skilled nursing facilities, hospice and home healthcare.
  • At least three months prior to your 65th birthday, you and your spouse/same-sex domestic partner should contact the Social Security Administration to enroll in Part A.

Part B – Medical Insurance

  • Part B helps cover doctors and other healthcare providers, outpatient care, durable medical equipment and home healthcare.
  • Some preventive services are covered to help maintain your health and to keep certain illnesses from getting worse.
  • Each individual is responsible for paying a monthly premium for Medicare Part B. You will also be responsible for an annual deductible.
  • In order for a retiree and spouse/partner to enroll in any of the retiree medical plan options with Columbia, they must enroll in Part A & B once they reach age 65.

Part C – Medicare Advantage Plans

  • Medicare also sponsors approved private insurance companies, similar to the UnitedHealthcare Group Medicare Advantage Plan (HMO) or the Aetna Medicare PPO Plan that Columbia offers.
  • Summary Plan Benefits and enrollment forms for the two Medicare Advantage plans offered by Columbia University can be viewed and printed by clicking here or by contacting the Benefits Service Center at hrbenefits@columbia.edu.

Part D – Medicare Prescription Drug Coverage

  • This contributory prescription drug coverage is available on a voluntary basis to anyone who is eligible for Medicare.
  • You will not be penalized as long as you have other creditable prescription drug coverage and do not incur a 63-day break in coverage.
  • The OptumRx plan under the Columbia Retiree Medical plans are on average at least equivalent to this coverage, therefore you are not required to enroll in Medicare Part D.

For more information visit www.cms.gov or call 1-800-MEDICARE.