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You were probably very particular about your kids’ well-being, right? You didn’t want them to go to just any doctor or have just any teacher at school.
Don’t you deserve the same kind of thoughtfulness about your own health? Don’t fall prey to common mistakes people may make about Medicare. Learn some Medicare tips and avoid mistakes when it comes to your Medicare coverage.
There are some decisions that require you to think hard about your health status and needs. It’s not always easy to predict what your health needs will be later on, but you can talk with your doctor about what your long-term health needs might be. You and your doctor might consider your family health history, your lifestyle, and your current health trends. Why does a projection of your future health needs matter? You’ll see when you read the Medicare tips below.
Medicare Tip 1: Sign up for Medicare prescription drug coverage early on
Under Medicare, prescription drug coverage is optional. It’s provided under Medicare Part D, and offered through private, Medicare-approved insurance companies.
When you first qualify for Medicare, you have the option of signing up for this coverage. You can get it either through a stand-alone Medicare Part D Prescription Drug Plan, or a Medicare Advantage Prescription Drug plan.
You may think that if you currently aren’t taking any medications, you don’t need Part D coverage. Medications can be costly, and if you need them in the future, you might decide you want Medicare prescription drug coverage. But if you delay enrollment, you might face a Medicare Part D late enrollment penalty.
Medicare calculates the penalty based on how many months you didn’t have prescription drug coverage (when you could have) and adds it to your monthly plan premium when you do enroll in a Medicare Prescription Drug Plan. The penalty carries for as long as you have Medicare prescription drug coverage.
So, here’s a Medicare tip: you may want to sign up for Medicare prescription drug coverage when you’re first eligible. Some people make the Medicare mistake of delaying Part D enrollment and having to pay a penalty.
Medicare Tip 2: Buy a Medicare Supplement plan early on
If you have frequent medical services – doctor or specialist visits, tests or screenings, medical equipment and supplies, or hospital stays – you might want to look into Medicare Supplement insurance. You might also think about Medicare Supplement if it’s important to you to be able to choose your own doctor, or if you want your Part B coinsurance amounts at least partly covered.
A Medicare Supplement (Medigap) plan may help cover your Medicare Part A and Part B out-of-pocket expenses, such as copayments, coinsurance, and deductibles. You pay a premium for this insurance, which is sold by private insurance companies.
This is an example of why it’s helpful to gauge your health status, both now and your best guess of your future health status. If you buy a Medicare Supplement plan when you first qualify for one, the plan has to accept you and can’t charge you more for a health condition. Your first opportunity to buy a plan is during your six-month Medicare Supplement Open Enrollment Period (OEP) – it starts the month you’re age 65 or older and enrolled in Medicare Part B.
So, if you’re interested in Medicare Supplement insurance, don’t make the Medicare mistake of missing your OEP. If you develop a health condition months or years after your OEP has passed, you can still apply for a Medicare Supplement plan, but you might be charged more – or even rejected – based on your health condition.
Please note that Medicare Supplement insurance doesn’t work with Medicare Advantage plans.
Medicare Tip 3: Review your Medicare coverage once a year
Here’s an important Medicare tip: don’t make the mistake of not checking over your plan coverage every fall. Come on, people, it’s only once a year! It might not be lots of fun to look over your plan information, but you’d be wise to set aside some time for this.
If you have a Medicare Advantage plan or a stand-alone Medicare Part D Prescription Drug Plan, you’ll get a notice from the plan every September. It’s called the Annual Notice of Change (ANOC).
This notice tells you about any changes to your out-of-pocket costs, benefits (such as which prescription drugs are covered), or the plan’s service area.
Why is it so important to review your ANOC? Because the changes could affect you directly. The plan could discontinue a benefit you like, such as routine vision coverage, for example. Or it could be raising its rates. There could be other important changes.
Medicare Tip 4: Compare plans every year to make sure you’re getting the best possible coverage for you
After reviewing your ANOC, take a look at other plans available where you live. For example, check your medication prices with your current plan. Then, feel free to click Find Plans on this page and compare plans in your area. You can enter your medications to get a more detailed comparison.
Even if you don’t have a Medicare Advantage plan or a Medicare Prescription Drug Plan, it’s still a good Medicare tip to review your coverage year by year. If you’re only enrolled in Original Medicare (Part A and Part B), for example, do you need to add coverage for your medications? Or, say exercise is highly important to you. If you can find a Medicare Advantage plan in your area that includes a fitness benefit at a cost you can easily afford, maybe that would be a good choice for you.
The choice is yours – don’t make the Medicare mistake of sticking with your plan without making sure it’s still the best one available for you. It’s easy to compare plans in your area – just click the Find Plans button on this page.
Medicare Tips 5: Don’t miss your Medicare AEP (Annual Election Period)
After looking over your current Medicare coverage, let’s say you’ve decided to change Medicare Advantage plans or sign up for Medicare prescription drug coverage. You can make any of several different changes during the Medicare AEP. It runs from October 15 to December 7 every year. Read the details about missing the Medicare AEP.
Medicare Tip 6: Don’t choose a plan based just on the premium
Some Medicare Advantage plans have premiums as low as $0. It may be tempting to decide right away that a plan like that has got to be the one you want.
But don’t make the mistake of ignoring the other Medicare costs! Remember, there are other costs, and other considerations. For example, some plans have higher deductibles than others. You typically have to pay the plan deductible before the plan starts to pay for covered medical services or medications. Copayments and coinsurance can also be higher in some plans than others.
Also, let’s suppose your current Medicare Advantage plan includes routine dental services, and has a monthly premium. You’re reviewing your coverage, and you see a plan with a $0 premium that doesn’t include routine dental coverage. Only you can decide how much you can afford to spend on Medicare coverage, and what benefits are the most important to you.
As you’ve just learned, it’s important to keep an eye on your Medicare coverage and be ready to make changes when needed.
To start comparing Medicare plans for free, enter your zip code on this page.