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What to Know When Choosing a Medicare Plan

Category: Health and Wellness Issues

October 20, 2021 – As we pointed out last week we are now in the Medicare Open Enrollment Period, which ends December 7. This is the time to re-evaluate your plan and change it if your circumstances have evolved, or you are unhappy with the plan you have. To help out with that process, we going to give a brief summary of some key points from an excellent article that came out last week in the Wall Street Journal, “8 Things to Know When Choosing a Medicare Plan“.

Neal Templin wrote this helpful article and we recommend reading it for more detail (we hope the link above will allow you to access it without being a subscriber). Templin says that when it comes to Medicare you have three choices: Regular Medicare (Parts A, B, and D), Medicare plus a private supplemental plan (some people call it Medigap or traditional Medicare), and Medicare Advantage (Part C). The decision for which one to pick is complicated and depends on your own personal situation.

Supplemental (Medigap) plans are generally better for affluent and older people. You will pay higher monthly premiums, but you usually don’t have to worry about going out of network or running up against spending caps. As you age, chances are you are going to have serious health issues, so a supplemental plan is probably better.

Medicare Advantage plans might be better for healthy people. If you are healthy and don’t anticipate many medical expenses, Medicare Advantage might be the best option. In many cases you can get a zero premium plan instead of one that might cost $200 or even much more per month, and get many extra coverages like Part D (prescription drugs) or vision care as well. Not paying a premium can make up for a lot of deductibles. Recently Medicare Advantage plans began to outsell supplemental plans for these reasons.

Going with traditional Medicare alone (Part A and B) is risky. Part A covers hospital expenses and Part B the doctor’s part. But if you are in an accident or have serious health issues you could have a big financial exposure, particularly if you end up in a hospital or long term nursing facility for more than 20 days. You also need Part D to cover your prescription drug cost exposure.

Switching from Medicare Advantage to supplemental can be tricky. In some states insurers have the right to question you or deny coverage. So thinking you will start out with Medicare Advantage and switching to a supplemental plan down the road might not be an option.

Medicare Advantage plans differ. Some are HMO plans, where you must stay in network. PPO plans, which can have higher premiums of up to $10,000 per year, give more flexibility about who you choose for your health provider.

People who travel or snowbird might be better off with a supplemental plan. That is because you could find yourself having to use an out of network provider and not be covered.

Bottom line

Choosing which type of plan is tricky, complicated, and can change over time. So use this Open Enrollment Period to re-evaluate what you have. Talking to a qualified insurance professional is a great idea. It won’t cost you anything, and they have loads of experience to help you make the smart choice for you.

For further reading:

Comments: What type of plan do you have? Are you thinking about switching? Please share your thoughts in the Comments section below.

Posted by Admin on October 19th, 2021

Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period Starts

Category: Health and Wellness Issues

October 13, 2021 – The Open Enrollment Period for Medicare starts this week on October 15 and ends December. 7. It is an important event for eligible people not currently enrolled in the plan, or who want to change plans or some component of their current plan.

During Open Enrollment, eligible people can sign up for Medicare. They can compare coverage options like Original Medicare and Medicare Advantage, and choose health and prescription drug plans for 2021. Medicare Advantage plans have started to outsell original Medicare policies because of their increased coverages and low (even zero) premiums. If you are thinking about switching to a Medicare Advantage plan (or type of plan within Medicare Advantage), this is the time to do it. See Original Medicare Vs. Medicare Advantage – Which Is Better for You?

Medicare Plan Finder. Medicare health and drug plan costs and covered benefits can change from year-to-year. CMS urges Medicare beneficiaries to review their coverage choices and decide on the options that best meet their health needs. CMS’s Medicare Plan Finder makes it easier for beneficiaries to:

  • Compare pricing between Original Medicare, Medicare prescription drug plans, Medicare Advantage plans, and Medicare Supplement Insurance (Medigap) policies;
  • Compare coverage options on their smartphones and tablets;
  • Compare up to three drug plans or three Medicare Advantage plans side-by-side;
  • Get plan costs and benefits, including which Medicare Advantage plans offer extra benefits;
  • Build a personal drug list and find Medicare Part D prescription drug coverage that best meets their needs.
  • Free, personalized counseling on Medicare options is also available through the nonprofit State Health Insurance Assistance Program, or calling 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227). TTY users can call 1-877-486-2048.

Highlights for 2021 Open Enrollment include:

  •  The average premium for Medicare Advantage plans will be lower in 2022 at $19 per month, compared to $21.22 in 2021, while projected enrollment continues to increase. The average 2022 premium for Part D coverage will be $33 per month, compared to $31.47 in 2021.
  • Part B Medicare premiums for 2022 have not been released yet, but some experts predict an estimated 6.2% premium increase, with monthly costs jumping from $148.50 to $157.70.

Note: Most of the above information is from the Medicare.gov website. For more about see Medicare Open Enrollment.

For further reading:

What Is Your Medicare IQ

What You Need to Know About Medigap Insurance

Original Medicare Vs. Medicare Advantage – Which Is Better for You?

Comments? Do you ever change your Medicare plan, or do you tend to stick with the same one over and over? Please share your experience in the Comments section below.

Posted by Admin on October 12th, 2021

What Is Your Medicare IQ?

Category: Health and Wellness Issues

October 13, 2020 — Medicare’s Open Enrollment Period starts on Oct. 15. That is when you can sign up for Medicare if you didn’t during your original eligibility period, or have not qualified for a special enrollment period (if you are already on Social Security you should have been automatically enrolled in Medicare). Try Medicare Plan Finder from Medicare.gov, it is a great way to compare plans in your area. The Open Enrollment Period means this is an excellent time for just about everybody to take our Medicare IQ Quiz!

It has just 12 questions, most of which are pretty basic, but a few that will test almost anyone. So far over 700 people have taken the quiz with an average score of 71%. The best part is you will get an instant score along with the correct answers.

TAKE THE MEDICARE IQ TEST! (this is the link)

Test Prep:
Want to study up before you take the Quiz? Here are a few articles to help you prepare.

Medicare 101

Medicare Advantage vs. Regular Medicare: Which is Right for You

And here is a detailed, question by question explanation of all of the – ANSWERS

Comments? Let us know what you think about the Quiz. All suggestions welcomed.

Posted by Admin on October 12th, 2020

Original Medicare + Medigap vs. Medicare Advantage – Which is Right for You?

Category: Health and Wellness Issues

September 8, 2019 — As promised, our series on Medicare continues with an analysis of the competing forms of Medicare: Original Medicare + Medigap insurance vs. Medicare Advantage (Part C). This seems like a particularly good time for it, since the Medicare Open Enrollment Period begins on Oct. 15. We are grateful to Tom Cretella, CLU, an insurance broker with almost 50 years of experience and know-how in this field, for answering these frequently-asked questions. You can find the other articles in this series listed at the end. As always, we welcome your comments and questions on this complex and important topic.

Q. What is the significance of the Open Enrollment Period (AEP) which begins Oct. 15 and runs through Dec. 7?

A. The Annual Open Enrollment Period happens each year from Oct 15- Dec 7. During this time people can change coverages without fear of pre-existing conditions not being covered. If they have a Medigap plan and original Medicare they can change plans or elect a Medicare Advantage plan. This enables a Medicare beneficiary to buy a plan that suits their utilization habits and pocketbook. All changes become effective on January 1. On Sept 30 each plan is required to send a Notice of Change to Medicare Beneficiaries outlining any changes for the following year. More Blog articles like this…

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Posted by Admin on September 7th, 2019

How to Solve the Health Care Puzzle if You Retire Before Age 65

Category: Health and Wellness Issues

September 30, 2014 and Updated Feb. 18, 2017 – Note: A lot has happened in the health insurance world since this article was written the implementation of the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare). With the new Trump Administration in place and its promise to repeal Obamacare, much of what is written in this article is completely up in the air. What is not up for grabs is the need for baby boomers to be able to have some kind of quality and affordable health care! This is Part 3 in our Health Care Insurance series – see links to Parts 1 and 2 in Further Reading below

Congratulations on your retirement before the age of 65. Now, what the heck are you going to do about health insurance?

Millions of baby boomers are finding themselves retired before the traditional retirement age of 65. Whether your retirement is the fulfillment of a dream or an unwanted outcome, it usually comes with a huge question – what to do about health insurance? This article will help you understand your options, particularly if you find yourself retired before Medicare takes care of most of (more…)

Posted by Admin on September 30th, 2014

Topretirements Members to Washington: Medicare Is a Great Program – Keep It That Way!

Category: Health and Wellness Issues

November 4, 2012 — Note: This is Part 2 of our Medical Insurance for Retirement Series. See Further Reading at end for links to Part 1 through 5.
The result of last month’s member survey about Medicare are in. We are pleased that you have ideas on a plan to fix Medicare, something that differentiates you from our elected leaders in Washington. When asked to rank your ideal fix from a list of 9 choices, limiting benefits to the most affluent was the number 1 choice, closely followed by 4 others (see detailed results below). Vouchers and lifetime benefit caps were the least popular choices in the survey. Elsewhere in the survey results, most of our responders have opted in to Medicare and its component parts. The sole exception is Part C (Medicare Advantage), where more folks are not in the program than are.

We are so grateful to the more than 550 people who took to the time to answer our 9 questions about Medicare. While we can’t say that any of the findings are particularly surprising, the results do shed (more…)

Posted by John Brady on November 4th, 2012

So You’re Turning 65: Your Medicare Guide 101

Category: Health and Wellness Issues

Updated May 17, 2016Note: Although the basics about Medicare are unchanged, the amount you pay in premiums and deductibles changes over time. This article is both Module 9 of our Retirement 101 Online Preparation Course and the first in a series on Medicare.

— Believe it or not, there is some good news about your turning 65 – you are now old enough to be eligible for Medicare! Cheer up, the worst of your medical insurance worries are over, particularly if you retired early and are not covered by an employer plan. Most people in the Medicare system are grateful for the coverage and peace of mind it provides.

This 101 article, part 1 in a series, is meant to address the concerns we know many of you have about how to get started with Medicare. Using information from the very helpful Medicare.gov site and in particular its FAQ feature, we’ll explain exactly what the program is and outline the many options it can provide, so you can both rest (more…)

Posted by Admin on October 8th, 2012