Oct 14

Planning for Medicare – Part Deux

by Dick Schlote

The new 2012 Medicare & You booklets have been mailed and Medicare eligibles are receiving mailings from insurers daily about their products.  This booklet contains over 150 pages of details about Medicare and the related Medigap and  Medicare Advantage plans.

Here are some of the key things to consider when choosing coverage for 2012:

  1. Medicare Parts A & B provide basic adequate hospital and medical coverage.  There is no requirement for additional insurance.  Many people are satisfied with only Medicare A & B and no additional coverages.
  2. If you are newly eligible for Medicare, make sure you contact Social Security and discuss your options to enroll.  Medicare coverage is too important financially to pass up.
  3. Everyone’s health situation is unique, so no one plan or option “fits all”.  Choosing or rejecting additional coverage beyond Medicare depends on each person’s age, health, physicians, prescriptions, budget, etc.  A married couple might have two very different health plans because their needs dictate it.
  4. The Medigap and Medicare Advantage plans are sold by insurers.  By this I mean that an individual can’t just buy one on the internet without discussing it with a representative.  This is valuable for the consumer, because there are so many important factors to consider.
  5. Insurers are holding seminars to discuss what their products cover and what they cost.  If you have any doubts about what you need, attend one or more of these seminars and get the benefit of a large group discussion with others who may have the same questions as you.
  6. Take a friend or relative with you, someone who is familiar with your financial and/or health situations.  Two heads are better than one.

Don’t procrastinate or just assume that your current coverage is best for you.  The older we get, the less likely we are to risk a change, even though it might be a substantial financial saving.  Inertia is the easy way out, though not necessarily the best.

A few years ago, when I no longer had coverage through my employer, a friend suggested a Medicare Advantage Plan, something I had never heard of.  They said they were paying no premiums and had very good coverage.  I didn’t believe them, assuming they weren’t giving me the whole story.  My wife and I and several good friends met with their plan representative and I became convinced that this type of plan was best for me.  For various personal and health reasons it was not best for some of the others, but I switched to a Medicare Advantage Plan and still am covered with the same company, under a similar plan, pay $0.00 premiums, and am saving hundreds of dollars every year.  My wife has a slightly different plan with the same company because her health needs are different.  But her premiums, like mine, are $0.00. There are also plans that include premiums and offer a higher level of coverage on certain items.

There is a medical plan out there that is best for every situation.  You just have to find it.  I am not recommending any specific plan type or insurance company, just advising each person to do what is best for them.  In my next post I will try to be specific about what questions to ask and how to find the plan that is right for you.

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