Although Medicare may not be our first thought in retirment,its necessity becomes a reality when we retire. Consequently, I was delighted to receivethe following article from Sharon Wagner on important aspects of this program. Though I have been on Medicare for quite some time, I found the information helpful and believe it will help many others. Sharon writes for senior friendly.org. I hope you will check out her other articles as well.
The A,B,Cs (and Ds) of Medicare
If you think obtaining Medicare is as simple as turning 65 and picking your card out of the mailbox, you’re in for a surprise. Between Part A and Part D lives a plethora of additional options, coverage you may not have considered, and special pricing depending on your income. Keep reading for a bit of simplified information to help find the right Medicare coverage for you.
First things first, you need to understand that Medicare is confusing. If you’re not keen on doing extensive research, but you don’t want to leave it up to chance, there are online resources that can help. Medicare.org, for example, offers much of the same information we’ll touch on below, but also gives you access to licensed insurance agents who can answer your questions and help you choose a plan that fits your lifestyle and budget.
The two faces of Medicare
Medicare is a government-sponsored insurance program for individuals age 65 and older. When it’s time to register, you have two choices: Original and Advantage.
Original Medicare consists of Part A and Part B, hospital and medical insurance respectively. Coverage is provided by Medicare and your Part B premium should cost around $135 per month; it can be as high as $460.50 per month. According to Medicare Matters, a division of the National Council on Aging, if you were employed for 10 years or longer, you have already satisfied your future premiums. You are, however, still responsible for a deductible and copayment per benefit period for each particular service. For example, currently, Medicare pays 100 percent for skilled nursing care for up to 20 days but you are responsible for $170.50 each day afterward until day 100, when you must pay out of pocket completely.
Medicare Advantage is Part C coverage. This is provided by a Medicare-approved private insurance company. Costs vary depending on your chosen coverage options. Medicare Advantage plans bundle Parts A and B and typically include part D coverage, which is for prescriptions. There are many Part D coverage providers and most pharmacies, including CVS, are preferred providers for more than one.
The other option
Medicare Advantage is perhaps the most widely known option for filling the gaps left behind by Original Medicare. However, as Investopedia’s Tim Parker explains, Medigap coverage is also an option. Not to be confused with Medicare Advantage, Medigap is also a form of private insurance. It’s typically considered more expensive per month but it’s top-tier, Part F (not to be confused with and not relating to Medicare’s Parts A,B, and D) is comprehensive and covers virtually everything with minimal out-of-pocket expenditures. It’s important to note that you can’t have Medigap and Medicare Advantage coverage in tandem. You must choose one.
Saving money on healthcare costs
Unless you are low income, you’re going to have to pay for your Medicare, copayments, and deductibles. And that can get expensive. Thankfully, there are ways to spend less and thrive more. The Motley Fool suggests taking care of small health issues before they have an opportunity to escalate and using your no-cost preventive care service benefits. This includes a yearly well visit and a multitude of screenings to determine your baseline health and future risk.
Complicating things more is the fact that you have the option to change plans from year to year. Unfortunately, because of the confusing nature of the process, seniors often forgo making changes during open enrollment.
If you’re creeping up on 65 or have questions about your current plan, don’t hesitate to reach out to Medicare or, if you have an Advantage Plan, your agent. There’s no reason to allow frustration and confusion to keep you from a health care plan that serves your needs this and every year.