When you think of the word “Medicare” what comes to mind? Doctors, networks, plans, those awful TV commercials, telesales calls and mountains of mailers? Do you feel a sudden queasiness and a bit of anxiety? If you do, you’re not alone.
While Medicare can seem overwhelming it doesn’t have to be. There are a few things to know that will make Medicare a much better experience.
First, Medicare isn’t one size fits all. What your spouse or neighbor has may not be right for you – and probably isn’t. It’s very important to analyze your specific needs to get the most out of Medicare.
If you travel a lot it’s important to find a plan that will give you coverage when you’re away from home. Not all plans give you that coverage.
It’s very important to shop your drug plans. Prescription prices can vary widely depending on the plan and the pharmacy you’re using. As unbelievable as it sounds, I’ve found as much as $10,000 a year in savings by switching drug plans and finding the most cost-effective pharmacy. On average I find between $300 and $1,300 saving a year for my clients by switching plans, and that’s for the exact same drugs.
For those in Medicare Advantage plans, be aware that you’ve enrolled in a Managed Healthcare system and it’s very important for you to know:
1) The extent of your network is more than your doctor network. Are you covered in just the greater Houston area, the entire state of Texas, or nationwide?
2) What is your Maximum out of Pocket Expense? This is the most you will be responsible for financially in a year. It can vary widely between plans.
3) What is the cost of a hospital stay? This is important because the charges on this vary quiet a bit and this is where you are likely to incur the highest amount of one-time expense.
4) Always look at the benefits of a plan (the line item costs you will pay) before you take a look at the “extras” they are offering like gym memberships, vision, monitoring devices, dental, flex cards, transportation etc. You may find that you are inadvertently trading your medical options for these shiny objects.
Be aware that when you enroll in Part B there is a one-time only opportunity for Medicare Supplement. For some people with pre-existing health issues that will be their only opportunity to ever enroll in it.
If you’re enrolled in Medicare Supplement Plan F you should consider switching to Plan G. Plan F has been retired and as a result the price of it has increased quite a bit and will continue to do so. Switching to Plan G could save you $700 a year or more now - and much more in the future.
If you’re switching to Plan G or entering Medicare Supplement for the first time, it’s critical to select a company which historically has had low price increases along with low forecasted price increases. You want to keep this price as low as possible for as long as possible.
Just as you would use a CPA for your taxes or a financial planner for retirement, it’s important to find an expert to help you with your Medicare. Many people not knowing better end up using tele-agents, try to handle it themselves, or turn to agents who write other forms of insurance and do Medicare on the side. Because both your health and finances are at stake, Medicare is too important to leave to chance.
The benefit of working with someone who is local and specializes in Medicare is that you will have an advocate who has “boots on the ground” knowledge regarding all of the major plans and networks in the area, will be familiar with the doctors as well as the pharmacies, and will have dealt with all of the most complex problems associated with Medicare.
This is important because you will want the peace of mind knowing that you have someone in your corner who knows you, is knowledgeable, and is there year after year so you’re not on your own