Medicare is an important benefit for millions of Americans. Whether you are eligible because you’re turning 65 or because of a disability-it can be difficult and even intimidating to choose one option for healthcare coverage from the many available.

Medicare benefits nearly 47 million Americans by providing much-needed healthcare coverage. Plan details, formularies, processes and requirements outlined by healthcare policies, however, can be confusing. It’s a challenge to make sure you have what you need.

Selecting inadequate coverage and experiencing unexpected healthcare costs also can lead to stress and financial difficulties.

But there are objective and impartial resources available, including Medicare plan selection services that can help you determine what will best fit your needs. At the same time, it’s increasingly important to understand the type of guidance you’re receiving. For example, you want to find a company that does not accept any fees or commissions from insurance providers. The service should also not sell Medicare plans.

Medicare Basics

You should start with a simple choice at the beginning, and that’s deciding between two primary paths of coverage.

Traditional Medicare and Medicare Part D, with or without Medigap: One option is to choose traditional Medicare, which includes hospital insurance, or Part A, and medical services insurance, or Part B. Combined, this is the traditional package of basic coverage many people select and use.

When you choose traditional Medicare, you also need to purchase prescription drug coverage, or a Medicare Part D plan. Although Part D is voluntary, if you don’t choose a Part D plan when you’re first eligible and want to buy one later, you may have to pay a penalty to do so. You also have the option of purchasing a Medicare supplement plan, or Medigap, which can help cover additional healthcare expenses.

Medicare Advantage: A second option is to choose a Medicare Advantage plan, or Part C plan. Generally, this type of plan provides the coverage that you would get under Parts A and B. Your prescription drug coverage, or Part D, also may be included in a Medicare Advantage plan. More than 12 million people are expected to enroll in Medicare Advantage plans in 2011.

Medicare: A Personal Choice

Keep in mind, Medicare coverage selection is a personal decision that depends on your specific healthcare and financial needs.

Just as medication may be prescribed for your health, your Medicare coverage should be designed to fit your health needs.

This is another reason it can be beneficial and critical to receive assistance with your Medicare plan selection. An impartial Medicare plan selection service can help you understand and choose the most affordable and appropriate Medicare coverage for your healthcare needs.

Because you may be choosing from the options mentioned above, including traditional Medicare, Medicare Advantage, Medicare Part D and Medigap, a Medicare plan selection service is designed to help you identify what works best in your situation. In some cases, for example, traditional Medicare is sufficient, so your most important decision to make during Medicare annual enrollment may be selecting a prescription drug, or Medicare Part D plan.

Medicare Annual Enrollment: Millions of Medicare beneficiaries have the important decision of selecting their coverage each year during annual enrollment, which is conducted from Nov. 15 to Dec. 31. This once-a-year opportunity allows you to review your healthcare expenses and circumstances from the past year and determine if your needs will be different in the coming year.

No matter your situation, it’s important to realize there is reliable, objective and thorough assistance available. Medicare specialists review your specific needs and preferences, and examine all your Medicare options to give you an in-depth, objective analysis before making a decision.

Along with personalized attention to your healthcare needs, you’ll receive a clear, concise view of real and comparable costs, including your premiums, deductibles and co-pays. You also have the option of receiving enrollment assistance.

Where To Get Medicare Plan Help

Medicare plan selection services can assist you, whether you are a first-time Medicare enrollee, choosing coverage during a special enrollment period, or reviewing your options for the coming year during annual enrollment.

For information on Medicare plan N click here.