Medicare in Alaska
- Medicare in Alaska is a little different from in other areas of the country. Find out more about your options and when you can or should enroll for this coverage in this guide.
What Alaska Medicare Plans Are Available?
Medicare is a federally administered health insurance program that provides medical benefits to Alaska residents who meet the eligibility requirements. In 2020, the program supplied coverage to more than 97,000 state residents. Medicare beneficiaries typically have two options for coverage: Original Medicare or Medicare Advantage.
Most Medicare beneficiaries in Alaska receive coverage through Original Medicare. The program, administered by the Social Security Administration, is sold in three parts.
Medicare Part A, which is sometimes referred to as its hospitalization component, provides coverage for inpatient care and related expenses, such as medical supplies and room charges. Benefits cover most types of inpatient stays, including those in:
- Skilled nursing facilities
- Residential rehabilitation and post-acute care centers
- Inpatient psychiatric hospitals
- Long-term care hospitals
In addition to inpatient care, Part A may also cover hospice and medically necessary home health visits. It does not cover residential assisted living programs.
Medicare Part B provides coverage for general medical care in outpatient settings. That typically includes preventative care services, such as routine checkups and vaccinations, and the services and supplies needed to diagnose and treat illnesses and injuries. Part B coverage may also include:
- Medical transportation
- Some mental health care services
- Outpatient drug or alcohol recovery services
- Medications administered by a clinician during treatment, such as IV antibiotics
Part B may also cover certain experimental therapies for conditions such as dementia.
Medicare’s prescription drug plan, otherwise known as Part D, may be purchased in conjunction with Parts A and/or B. This benefit covers all or part of a beneficiary's prescription medication costs.
Because Part D plans may be administered by different insurance carriers, terms such as deductibles and copays may differ. Regardless of the carrier, a federally governed minimum standard of cost and coverage must always be met.
Medicare Advantage was designed as an all-in-one alternative to Original Medicare, offering beneficiaries comprehensive medical coverage bundled into a single policy. The program, which is also known as Medicare Part C, is administered by Medicare-approved private insurance companies operating under strict federal guidelines.
Medicare Advantage is not currently being offered to Alaska residents, but plans may be added in the future. If you're interested in finding a Medicare Advantage plan in your area if options become available, visit Medicare.gov's plan finder prior to the relevant annual enrollment period and search using your ZIP code.
Medigap plans are intended to supplement your Medicare coverage. They're sold by private insurance companies and are designed to work alongside your Medicare plan, covering some or all of the out-of-pocket expenses left by your Original Medicare plan, including:
Medicare Supplement Insurance may also provide partial coverage for travel medical emergencies if they aren't covered under Original Medicare. Because these policies are sold by private insurers, coverage and premiums may vary widely.
Who Is Eligible for Alaska Medicare?
If you're an Alaska resident aged 65 or older, you're eligible for Medicare. If you haven't yet turned 65 but have a qualifying disability or a diagnosis of end-stage renal disease, you may also be eligible for benefits.
Here's how to tell if you'll be automatically enrolled or if you'll need to apply manually.
Alaska residents who've received retirement benefits from SSA or the Railroad Retirement Board for four months or longer prior to turning 65 are automatically enrolled in Original Medicare Parts A and B. If you fall into this category, coverage begins on the first day of your birthday month.
If you don't qualify for automatic enrollment, Medicare provides several windows for signing up or changing plans:
- Initial Enrollment Period: Initial enrollment for Medicare opens three months before the month you turn 65. The enrollment window stays open for seven months.
- General Enrollment Period: You may also enroll in Original Medicare during the annual GEP. This enrollment window opens on January 1 and closes on March 31.
- Special Enrollment Period: If you've experienced a qualifying event, such as the loss of a job that provides health insurance coverage, you may be eligible for a special enrollment period. This enrollment window stays open for eight months, beginning the month after the qualifying event, and late enrollment fees may be waived for eligible individuals.
Signing Up for Medicare Advantage and Part D Prescription Drug Plans
In states where Medicare Advantage is offered, seniors may sign up for a plan during Medicare's initial enrollment period. Beneficiaries may also enroll later or switch between Original Medicare and Part C during the annual enrollment period, which runs between October 15 and December 7.
Although Alaska residents don't currently have the option of selecting a MA plan, they may sign up for a Part D plan at this time if they haven't done so already.
Where applicable, Medicare Advantage also has a second enrollment period, which runs from January 1 to March 31. During this period, enrollees may switch from one MA plan to another or revert coverage back to Original Medicare.
How Do I Enroll in Medicare in Alaska?
Beneficiaries who qualify for automatic enrollment don't need to take any steps to initiate coverage. For all other eligible individuals, enrollment in the program may be completed using the Social Security Administration's online form or by calling the SSA at (800) 772-1213. If you'd prefer to complete an application in person, you may do so at your local Social Security office.
Regardless of how you apply, the enrollment process typically takes 10 minutes or less. No supporting documentation is required.
Contact Information for Alaska Medicare, Medicaid and Insurance Help
If you need assistance finding health insurance coverage in Alaska, the following agencies may be able to help:
- DenaliCare: Alaska Medicaid, also called DenaliCare, provides medical benefits for low-income adults and other qualifying groups. If you need help understanding the program's eligibility requirements or applying for coverage, you may contact the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services at (907) 465-3347.
- Alaska's Medicare Information Office (SHIP): If you have questions about your Medicare coverage or need help applying for benefits, Alaska's SHIP office may be able to help. You can contact the agency by calling (800) 478-6065.
- Alaska Division of Insurance: At Alaska's Division of Insurance, representatives are available to answer general insurance questions from consumers. Help is available by calling (800) 467-8725.
- Chronic & Acute Medical Assistance (CAMA): This state-funded program helps Alaskans who have limited financial resources and who've been diagnosed with qualifying conditions such as a terminal disease or chronic mental illness. If you'd like more information about the program, call (800) 780-9972.