As seniors near age 65, there are often important decisions that they must make about their Medicare election. Unfortunately, most people fail to seek good advice about maximizing their benefits under this program.
Medicare is not automatic; you must sign up and make elections inside the system. These elections can be more complicated than you may think. It’s important to start investigating what options are available before you’re eligible. With Medicare, you can sign up several months before you turn 65. Unfortunately, if you don’t sign up in advance, you will be penalized.
Understanding the different parts of Medicare
Medicare Part A is provided to most seniors at no additional cost, as they have contributed to the system throughout their working years. The only people who must pay for coverage are those who have not worked enough quarters during their working years, or those who can’t get coverage through their spouse.
There are several different parts of Medicare (such as Parts A, B, and D), all of which you should consider when making your election. Medicare Part A covers all hospital costs. Part B covers your medical insurance. For those who have worked enough quarters, the current cost is deducted each month from your Social Security check. This amount may be higher depending on your household income.
Part D covers your prescription drugs, and there are usually several different options. You may want to pick your plan depending on which drugs you’re currently taking. Part D is required for most seniors, as most supplemental plans no longer pay for prescription drug coverage. However, if your insurance plan covers prescription drugs (such as plans provided through your employment or your retirement plan), then you are not required to sign up for Part D. Otherwise, Part D is required, and penalties are assessed for not signing up timely.
What fits best for you?
It’s also important to determine whether traditional Medicare or Medicare Advantage is a better choice for your unique situation. As a general rule, those who have and/or can afford supplemental coverage find that traditional Medicare is the best choice. If you’re admitted to the hospital for three nights and then go to rehab, the first 20 days are completely covered by traditional Medicare; then you will co-pay for the last 80 days. However, the opposite is true with Medicare Advantage. With Medicare Advantage, you will co-pay for the first number of days, and then your plan will cover the rest.
If you have additional questions, visit the North Carolina Department of Insurance website at www.shiiip.com. In addition, Warren Coble, located in Asheville, NC, specializes in helping seniors get the most out of their Medicare and Social Security benefits. You can visit his website at http://warrencoble.com, or call him at (336) 879-0848. W.G. Alexander & Associates is not affiliated directly or indirectly with Warren Coble, but he is a Senior Services Advisor that our firm recommends to clients. If you have questions about Social Security benefits, Medicaid, or Veterans benefits, consider W.G. Alexander & Associates – we offer a unique blend of asset protection, Elder Law and estate planning.