If you are approaching age 65 or will be retiring soon, Independent Health’s RedShirts are ready to help you choose the Medicare Advantage plan for your next chapter. Here are a few common questions our RedShirts answer from people looking at their options as they get closer to their 65th birthday.

As people approach age 65, what do they have to do to make sure they are enrolled in Medicare?

Before making any decisions about Medicare coverage, it is important to look at your current health care coverage. If you’re receiving coverage from an employer or union, you need to assess whether or not you want to continue receiving that coverage, or if it would be better to opt out of that coverage and select a Medicare plan.

Also, there are a few things to take care of before you can enroll in Medicare. If you’re already covered by Social Security benefits, and you’ll be turning 65, the Social Security Administration will automatically enroll you in Parts A and B.

If you are not receiving Social Security benefits, you’ll have to enroll yourself either online or at your local Social Security office. You also need to decide what to do with your current health care coverage, if you have it.

What are the key things people should know about Medicare?

There are five key things people should know.

  • One: Eligibility requirements. In order to qualify for Medicare, you have to be age 65 or older, have a qualifying disability, or experience another special situation. You also have to be a U.S. citizen or legal resident (for at least five consecutive years).
  • Two: There are different parts of Medicare.  Original Medicare (Parts A and B) directly from the Federal Government; and Medicare Advantage Plan (Part C), which are offered by health insurance companies or other private organizations.  However, within these two options you have many choices – prescription drug coverage (Part D), supplemental coverage and more. To decide which is right for you takes time and a little homework.
  • Three: Timing is crucial. You can sign up for Original Medicare or a Medicare Advantage plan three months before you turn 65, your birthday month and three months after. If you have a qualifying disability, contact the Social Security Administration for your enrollment timeframe. If you wait, you could pay more for coverage. If you continue to work, additional rules may apply.
  • Four: Medicare doesn’t cover everything. Medicare doesn’t cover all of your health care expenses. You may have copays, deductibles, coinsurances and other payments for both Original Medicare and a Medicare Advantage plan. Also, Original Medicare does not include prescription Part D drug coverage, and there will be other gaps in coverage that you may need to cover with additional insurance. No matter what type of Medicare plan you choose, you will have to pay for part of the coverage. When shopping for Medicare, it’s important to consider all of these types of payments, as they vary widely from plan to plan. Otherwise, you may end up paying much more than you expected.
  • Five: Your plan choices are not permanent. If your coverage needs change, you have an opportunity each year to change plans during the Medicare Annual Enrollment Period, which traditionally runs from October 15 through December 7.

What types of plans and benefits does Independent Health offer to its Medicare members?

Independent Health currently has a variety of Medicare Advantage plans that are designed to meet our members’ specific needs. This includes three $0 premium plans. Plus, the monthly premiums for all of our other plans have not changed since 2021.

Speaking of $0, our Medicare Advantage plans feature a variety of $0 benefits, including:

  • $0 routine and preventive dental with an enhanced network through Liberty Dental*
  • $0 routine eye exam*
  • $0 SilverSneakers gym benefit**
  • $0 Personal Emergency Response Service powered through ADT* (availability varies by plan)

In addition, our plans include an Over-the-Counter (OTC) allowance, through which members can get brand-name or generic over-the-counter items like vitamins, pain relievers, dental supplies and much more.

Independent Health is a 5-Star Rated Medicare Advantage Plan***. What does that mean?

Every year, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) measure Medicare beneficiaries’ experience with their health plans and the health care system on an annual basis. The Medicare Star Ratings are designed to help people assess the quality, value and performance of every Medicare Advantage plan throughout the nation. Ratings are based on a five-star scale, with one star meaning “poor” quality ranging up to five stars for “excellent” quality.

As a 5-Star Rated plan, Independent Health is able to enroll Medicare beneficiaries in all of our Medicare Advantage plans throughout the entire 2023 calendar year – not just during the annual enrollment period. That means if individuals are not satisfied with the plan they are in right now, they have the ability to switch to Independent Health at any time now through the end of the year.

How would an individual join Independent Health or learn more about Medicare?

For 2023, Independent Health has been recognized by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services as a 5-Star Rated Medicare Advantage Plan. This marks the second year in a row that we’ve earned the highest star rating a plan can receive.

You can meet one-on-one with a friendly RedShirt to at one of our five Medicare Information Centers. These year-round sites are located in:



Orchard Park



Our call center is located in Western New York and dedicated just to Medicare, which means we’ll get to your calls quicker and give you the answers you need the first time you call. (See below for our phone number and hours of operation.

Visit our Medicare section to learn more and to arrange an appointment with a RedShirt.

As people consider their options for coverage beyond the age of 65, a major point should be customer service.  At Independent Health, we call it the “RedShirt Treatment.” Our members often tell us that they appreciate how warm and caring our RedShirts are.  Their personal attention is at the heart of everything we do. Our RedShirts are always here to provide their support and expertise throughout the entire year. Call us today to find out for yourself.

How to contact Independent Health

Prospective members: Call (716) 635-4900, or 1-800-958-4405. (TTY: 711)

  • From Oct 1 through March 31: Monday through Sunday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.  
  • From April 1 through Sept. 30: Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Current members: Call (716) 250-4401 or 1-800-665-1502 (TTY: 711).

  • From Oct 1 through March 31: Monday through Sunday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.  
  • From April 1 through Sept. 30: Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Independent Health is a Medicare Advantage organization with a Medicare contract offering HMO, HMO-POS, HMO-SNP and PPO plans. Enrollment in Independent Health depends on contract renewal. Benefits vary by plan. This information is not a complete description of benefits.

* Must use network providers. Limitations may apply. ** SilverSneakers is a registered trademark of Tivity Health, Inc. ©2022 Tivity Health, Inc. All rights reserved. ***Every year, Medicare evaluates plans on a 5-star rating system.

ATTENTION: If you do not speak English, language assistance services, free of charge, are available to you. Call 1-800-665-1502 (TTY: 711). Independent Health complies with applicable Federal civil rights laws and does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, age, disability, or sex. ATENCIÓN: Si habla español, tiene a su disposición servicios gratuitos de asistencia lingüística. Llame al 1-800-665-1502 (TTY: 711). 注意:如果您使用繁體中文,您可以免費獲得語言援助服務。請致電 1-800-665-1502 (TTY: 711).


Photo by Gaelle Marcel on Unsplash