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My Retiree Virtual Education Center™

Chicago Teachers’ Pension Fund

United Healthcare

Medicare 101

When you’re new to Medicare, it may be a bit of a puzzle, so here’s an overview of the pieces:

What is Medicare?

Medicare is a federal program that offers health insurance to American citizens and other eligible individuals.

What does it cover?

Medicare Parts A and B cover certain medical services and supplies in hospitals, providers’ offices, and other health care settings. Medicare Part D covers prescription drugs.

Part A (Hospital Insurance) helps pay for hospital stays and inpatient care.

Part B (Medical Insurance) helps pay for provider visits and outpatient care.

Part D (Drug Coverage) helps cover the cost of prescription drugs (including many recommended shots or vaccines). Plans that offer Medicare drug coverage are run by private insurance companies that follow rules set by Medicare.

What are the coverage choices?

Original Medicare (Parts A & B) is provided by the federal government. It helps pay for hospital stays and provider visits, but it doesn’t cover everything.


You may add coverage by enrolling in the Medicare Advantage plan (Part C) offered by CTPF, an alternative to Original Medicare. This plan combines Part A and Part B coverage in one plan and includes additional benefits not provided by Original Medicare.

A little prep, a simpler process

Timing matters when you first enroll, so make note:

Your initial enrollment period (IEP) is your first chance to enroll in Medicare and choose the coverage you want. The IEP is seven months long, including your birthday month OR the 25th month you have been getting disability benefits, PLUS the three months before and three months after.

We want your transition to be as easy as possible when the time comes; just follow the steps below before your 65th birthday:

  1. 3 months before you turn 65

    Apply for Medicare, then share your Medicare Beneficiary Identifier (MBI) number with CTPF.

    • Note that you are automatically enrolled in Parts A and B if you are receiving Social Security or Railroad Retirement Board benefits when you become eligible for Medicare. Otherwise you must enroll yourself.
    • Medicare Part A, Part B and Part D may charge penalties if you sign up after your IEP ends, unless you qualify for a Special Enrollment Period.
  2. 2 months before you turn 65

    Read the CTPF Medicare materials you get in the mail.

  3. 1 month before you turn 65

    Keep an eye out for your new member ID card, along with a Quick Start Guide from UnitedHealthcare, in the mail.

  4. Happy birthday!

    You’re enrolled in the CTPF UnitedHealthcare® Group Medicare Advantage plan.

Want an easy way to access these steps when you need them?

Just download and print our Turning 65 checklist

Prefer that we walk you through it?

Hear the details of Medicare, who’s eligible, and why it’s important to get started before you’re 65.