If you find Medicare confusing, you are not alone. There is an enormous amount of material one must read and digest in order to find sections applicable to one’s situation. But being ready well before your 65th birthday will ensure that you do not make costly mistakes.
Perhaps you are getting your affairs in order? Or maybe you are doing research for a loved one? Want some quick advice to head off common Medicare mistakes? Here are some quick and easy to digest dos and don’ts as you head into Medicare season.
Don’t leave Plan D on autopilot.
Do you remember what Plan D is? It is the part of Medicare that covers your prescription drug costs. Here is what you need to watch for. Say you sign up with a plan, and things seem to be going great. Just don’t put Part D on cruise control. Every year, the cost of your Part D plan and what drugs the plan covers will vary. So your plan that used to cover your medication may no longer next year. Make sure to read all the mail that comes from your Part D provider, no exceptions.
Also, while many couples sign up for the same Part D plan, it might make more sense for you not to. If you both require certain drugs that are not covered by the same plan, then it would be a more economical choice to enroll in separate Part D plans.
Don’t assume you are covered for everything.
Even if you are signed up to Medicare Part A, Part B, and Part D, this coverage doesn’t include all health related expenses. Here are some things that are not covered by Medicare:
- cosmetic surgery
- eye exams for corrective prescriptions
- ear exams for hearing aids
- long-term care and nursing home care
Do sign up during your initial open enrollment period.
If you are not receiving social security benefits, and if you are no longer working, you need to sign up for Medicare at a specific time. Initial open enrollment period is a 7 month span that starts 3 months before your 65th birthday and ends 3 months after it. Don’t get hit with that late enrollment penalty!
Don’t stick with a plan that’s not working for you.
If the doctors and the hospitals that are covered in your Medicare plans don’t seem to be cutting it, don’t assume that you can’t change. You can! You can change your Medicare plan if it’s not working out for you during open enrollment period from October 15 to December 7. Having difficulty choosing between plans? There are licensed agents for Medicare health plans who can help guide you to a choice that meets your needs.
Do consider the fine print before signing up for Medigap.
Medigap is a private insurance policy that supplements Original Medicare. It can also cover health insurance when traveling outside of the US. Most people who get this want that extra insurance that they are fully covered should unexpected hospital bills arise. Costs range from about $900 to $1950 a year. That’s in addition to what you are paying for Part A and Part B, as Medigap is only available to people who are already enrolled in Original Medicare.
Initially, all Medigap providers must offer you insurance no matter your preexisting health condition. But if you try switching Medigap plans after that, many may refuse you or charge you more based on your health situation. In some cases, you may be better off going with a Medicare Advantage plan instead. So read up on various plans before coming to a decision.
It might take you a few days and several conversations before things begin to clear up. But don’t put it off. The more you read, the better handle you will have on your Medicare and the options that are the best fit for you.