When you become eligible for Medicare, you’ll have to make some very important decisions. Taking the time to shop around for plans can save you a lot of money on prescription drugs and other healthcare expenses. However, it’s easy to get caught up in complicated terms, misconceptions, and marketing material. If all the complexities of Medicare have you scratching your head, don’t worry! Here are some quick tips to help you make the right choice.
Learn About Your Options
People signing up for Medicare have two basic options for coverage: Original Medicare or a Medicare Advantage plan. If you go with Original Medicare, you can add prescription drug coverage and/or supplement with a Medigap plan to reduce your out-of-pocket expenses. Alternatively, most Medicare Advantage plans include dental, vision, and hearing coverage and offer services not covered by Original Medicare.
There are several online resources that can help you understand Medicare a little better. For example, it’s a good idea to look for information on the sign-up process before enrolling, especially if you’re not very tech-savvy. Medicare.org details everything you need to know about signing up for a Medicare Advantage plan. As you navigate the maze of Medicare, use resources like these if you ever need help.
Be Aware of Medicare Myths
One of the most common myths surrounding Medicare is that the program is free. Original Medicare, the federal government program, is broken into Part A and Part B. It’s true that Part A is free for most Americans, but Part B requires a monthly premium. On top of this, you will face costs for deductibles and copayments with Original Medicare.
Many people also think that Medicare covers all areas of healthcare. While Original Medicare does cover many expenses, which you can read about here, it does not cover everything. For example, Medicare does not pay for hearing, dental, or vision care. You will also have to pay for an additional plan — called Medicare Part D — if you want prescription drug coverage.
Make a List of Your Healthcare Criteria
Many seniors choose to supplement Medicare with a Medigap or Medicare Advantage plan. Read this for help understanding the difference between the two. Original Medicare with a supplementary Medigap plan may give you more flexibility regarding which healthcare providers you can visit. On the other hand, Medicare Advantage plans usually include a wider range of benefits. Many Medicare Advantage plans cover preventive services and wellness programs. According to Forbes, this may encourage seniors to follow a healthier lifestyle.
Compare Medicare plans against a list of your personal criteria for help picking out a plan that’s well-suited to your needs. Note any specialists you visit, such as chiropractors, physical therapists, or acupuncturists. If you have preferred local doctors, pharmacists, or hospitals, include these on your list as well. It’s a good idea to talk to your doctor about any upcoming medical needs that you may need to have covered in the future. Also, you can use this guide from Kiplinger to find a Medicare drug plan that will cover your medications and dosages. As you’re comparing plans, don’t forget to look at the premiums and co-payments associated with each. Plans with lower premiums usually require higher co-payments and vice versa.
Be Cautious to Avoid Scams
As you shop around for coverage, be alert to common Medicare scams. In general, an unsolicited caller claiming to be an “official Medicare agent” is likely a scammer. These people may threaten seniors with penalties or offer deals to sign up for their special plan. Remember, the government will never call you about your healthcare coverage! While there are many reputable, licensed insurance agents selling Medicare plans, they cannot contact you in any way without your permission — this includes cold calling, leaving flyers, and visiting your home.
Choosing the right Medicare plan will lay the groundwork for your future health. Shop around, compare plans, and make an educated decision. A great plan that meets your personal criteria and covers valuable services will help you prevent health problems and maintain your general wellness as you embark into retirement.
Guest post by Karen Weeks: Karen created Elder Wellness as a resource for seniors who wish to keep their minds, bodies, and spirits well.
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