Here are the simplest, most common, and actionable top 10 “New-to-Medicare” tips you can take action on right now.
Tip #1: Enroll on time so you don’t get a penalty.
One of the most asked questions I hear is, “Do I have to enroll in Medicare when I become eligible?”
You might be wondering this, especially if you’re still working.
If you are working, AND you have health insurance through your employer, it is SAFE to hold off enrolling in Medicare Part B.
If don’t have group insurance through work, and you opt out of Medicare Part B because you don’t want to pay the premium, you will incur a penalty when you decide to enroll in Part B.
Tip #2: Consider starting Medicare at 65, EVEN if you’re still working.
Enrolling in Medicare, even if you have employer coverage, is worth considering.
Because the benefits are good!
If you pay a significant premium every month for your employer plan, compare your costs & benefits to what you’d pay for Medicare plus a supplement.
You might be surprised that you could save by enrolling in Medicare.
Talk with your benefits administrator at work, and a trusted Medicare Supplement broker.
What to watch out for: drug costs.
Employer prescription coverage doesn’t have a Coverage Gap (AKA the “Donut Hole”) like Medicare Part D.
If you take many expensive prescriptions, do a detailed comparison before leaving your employer plan.
Once you leave, you can’t go back.
Tip #3: Know Your Parts: A & B are PARTS of Medicare, not Plans.
(Part D (for Drugs) is a part of Medicare too).
This seems like a minor point, but it’s amazing how many people confuse “Parts” with “Plans.”
To add to the confusion, Medicare “Parts” are named with letters, and so are Medigap Policies.
Parts of Medicare, A & B, are the original coverages you receive as a Medicare Beneficiary.
Part A is your Hospital coverage, (usually free of any premiums), and Part B is doctor and outpatient coverage.
Part B will cost you a monthly premium.
“Plans,” such as Medicare Supplement Plan G or Plan N pick up your out-of-pocket costs where Medicare leaves off.
Tip #4: Medicare Supplement Plans (Medigap) Give you the Freedom To Choose Your Doctors.
A big distinction between Medicare Supplements (aka “Medigap”) and Medicare Advantage plans:
Supplements let you choose any doctor or specialist that accepts medicare.
Talk about choice, and freedom!
Medicare Advantage plans have their place for some folks, but they have a history of causing frustration and discontent in a large percentage of enrollees.
Be sure to weigh the pros and cons before choosing one or the other.
Tip #5: You are Guaranteed Acceptance into a Medicare Supplement The first 6 months on Medicare Part B.
This tip is the perfect follow-up to #4.
Have you connected the dots? You’re NOT guaranteed the choice of enrolling in a Medicare Supplement forever.
If the freedom of a supplement is important to you, consider locking in these benefits during your 6 month Medigap Open Enrollment.
Tip #6: Make sure your Plan is a Fit!
Following in the footsteps of the last two tips, here’s the obvious conclusion:
Make sure your plan is a good fit for ALL your needs.
If you put a little extra effort now into finding the best match, you will experience less hassle and frustration down the road.
It can be scary to trust an agent or broker that is trying to sell you something.
Look for someone that truly listens, who is an expert in Medicare, and is independent (meaning NOT captive to one insurance company).
Ask around for referrals from friends and family to find a trusted agent.
Tip #7: Choose your Drug Plan Wisely
Don’t just consider monthly premiums and deductibles when looking at the Drug plans on Medicare.gov.
Taking the time to create a drug list on Medicare.gov before searching the plans can make an incredible difference.
This small step will take an extra 10-15 minutes, but could save you hundreds, or more, annually.
The Medicare.gov plan finder tool will personalize your search based on the drugs you take!
Wouldn’t it be great to find out how much your copays will be, and whether you will reach the donut hole, before you pick your plan?
(Be sure to save your drug list ID# to come back to again and again)!
Tip #8: Drug Plans Change Each Year. Stay on top of changes to avoid surprises!
Yes, the plans change. EVERY. YEAR.
It is a pain, but it’s the way it is, so you might as well roll with the punches.
Find out if your Medicare Supplement Agent helps clients with this each year (we do)!
Or, create a reminder on your smart phone or computer’s calendar to review your plan each fall.
Medicare also provides help over the phone with searching the plans and finding the best fit for you.
Tip #9: Don’t be afraid to shop Your Medicare Supplement rates.
This tip is for those that decide to purchase a Medicare Supplement (Medigap Policy).
Don’t be afraid to shop around, whether you’re a first time buyer, or in the coming years.
Insurance companies are allowed to charge different prices for the exact same plan.
After your Medigap Open Enrollment, you may shop the rates if you qualify, based on health.
It’s getting easier all the time to answer some health questions, submit an application, and if you qualify, get a lower rate.
If you choose the same letter Medigap Policy you had, the new plan will be the exact same coverage and also guaranteed renewable.
Tip #10: If you don’t understand a bill from the Doctor, get an explanation before you pay.
How many times have you received a bill from the doctor, or hospital, or outpatient center, and panic shoots through you as you read the total due.
“How can this be?” You exclaim. “My supplement is supposed to cover everything.”
It’s alarming how many people will pay bills that are a mistake, or a misunderstanding.
Errors in Medical billing are as common as rain.
Don’t wonder if you’ll EVER see a mistake in your medical billing.
EXPECT to see mistakes.
Create a log-in on MyMedicare.gov to view all your claims and stay informed.
When in doubt, don’t pay a bill until you are sure you owe the amount.