By Jennifer Waters, The Wall Street Journal.
Lots Can Go Wrong if You’re Not Careful
Roughly 3.65 million Americans will turn 65 this year and become eligible for Medicare. But be warned: There’s nothing simple about signing up for the government’s health-care insurance program.
“Medicare is complicated,” says Paula Muschler, operations manager of the Allsup Medicare Advisor, a Medicare advisory-services company. “There is a lot seniors can do either right or wrong that can have a lasting impact on their health-care costs for the rest of their lives.”
Your health-care path is a highly individualized one that will take many twists and turns. Do you take a lot of medications? Is there a chronic disease or illness? Are you amenable to a new doctor? Are you going to keep working?
There are, on average, 20 Medicare Advantage plans, depending on which state you live in, and 35 prescription-drug plans available to you. Add a dozen supplemental plans and, of course, original Medicare. It’s not like on your job, where your employer narrows the choices for you.
“As you approach 65 you definitely need to take advantage of your Medicare entitlement but you need to understand your options, what additional or supplemental coverage you might want with a drug plan or Medicare Advantage plan,” says Ms. Muschler.
Many plans, for example, have different pricing levels or could leave you with too much insurance at a high cost. Some plans have restrictions on what doctors you see and tests you can take, while others will be similar to your company’s pay-as-you-go PPO or HMO group health plan.
Get a Medicare adviser, who, like a lawyer or a financial planner, can put you on the right track to finding the package that works best for your health and your pocketbook.
You can find advisers like Allsup through online searches using key words “Medicare advisers.” They will charge you a fee that can run anywhere from $250 to more than $1,000. Make sure, however, that the adviser specializes in Medicare, is independent and can offer multiple types of policies from a variety of carriers. Most should have sophisticated proprietary software programs that can do all the legwork. You will also want regular reviews of your coverage because plans can change. If you insist on doing it on your own, start with the Medicare plan finder at Medicare.gov.
January 26, 2014