Q: My father lives in another state and has Medicare and Medicaid coverage. We are moving him here to Michigan soon. Will his coverage automatically transfer?

A: Original Medicare Parts A and B coverage are nationwide, however if you are moving to another state, there are steps that need to be taken to ensure your benefits continue smoothly.

Always notify Social Security of any changes in address as the Social Security Administration handles Medicare enrollment.

You can do this by going online to www.ssa.org, or calling 800-772-1213.

Medicare Advantage plans, Medicare Part D prescription drug plans and Medicare Supplemental plans are often limited to specific service areas. Any change in residence may affect these plans and could qualify you for a Special Enrollment Period (SEP). During a SEP, individuals can enroll in a new plan offered in the new service area.

If you notify your current plan before you move, your SEP timeframe begins the month before the month you move and continues for two full months after you move.

If you notify your plan after you move, you can switch plans the month you provided notice of the move and up to two months after that.

Medicaid coverage is state-based, so enrollment requirements and coverage differ from state to state. You can research what needs to be submitted with your county’s Department of Health and Human Services, or by visiting newmibridges.michigan.gov.

The application cannot be submitted until your father is physically in Michigan and has an address of record.

Q: I am going to turn 65 soon, and I don’t take any prescription drugs, but my friends tell me I have to sign up for a Medicare drug plan or I will be penalized. Is this true? I thought it was optional.

A: While it is true that Medicare prescription drug coverage is an optional benefit, it is also true that those who do not sign up when first eligible to do so can face a financial penalty if they sign up for a plan later.

Even if you don’t take prescription drugs now, you should consider signing up for a Part D plan when you turn 65. The exceptions are if you have creditable prescription drug coverage already, or if you are low-income and get Extra Help through Social Security to pay for your drugs.

Creditable prescription drug coverage could include drug coverage from a current or former employer, or union, or a spouse’s coverage plan, COBRA, TRICARE, Indian Health Service, the Department of Veterans Affairs, or individual health insurance coverage.

Every year, the drug coverage plan that you have should notify you if your prescription drug coverage is creditable. Keep the information you get so you can prove you have had creditable coverage if you should need to do so.

Likewise, if you have drug coverage through an employer or union plan, always check with the benefits administrator before signing up for any other coverage.

Signing up for a Part D prescription drug plan could cause you to lose your employer or union health and drug coverage, and you might not be able to get it back.

If you do not have creditable coverage and do not sign up for a Part D drug plan when you are first eligible, you will likely pay a late enrollment penalty if you join a plan later. This penalty generally will last for as long as you have Medicare prescription drug coverage.

The cost of the late enrollment penalty depends on how long you did not have creditable prescription drug coverage. A formula is used to calculate the extra amount added to your monthly premium.

For more information on Part D coverage, visit www.Medicare.gov or call 800-633-4227.

For help navigating the Medicare and Medicaid systems, contact the Michigan Medicare and Medicaid Assistance Program at 800-803-7174.

A free New-to-Medicare class is scheduled for 10 a.m.-noon Tuesday at the Area Agency on Aging’s Campus for Creative Aging, 2920 Lakeview Ave., St. Joseph. For more information, or to register, contact Mistelle Sleigh at 408-4354.

Sara Duris is community information liaison of Region IV Area Agency on Aging in Southwest Michigan. Questions on age or independence services? Call the Info-Line for Aging & Disability at 800-654-2810 or visit www.areaagencyonaging.org. The Generations column appears each Sunday in The Herald-Palladium.