Given how complex and unfamiliar Medicare is to most folks approaching retirement age, it’s understandable that many people make mistakes when selecting and enrolling in the program. Medicare mistakes can cost you a ton of money and put at risk your ability to get the care you need when you need it.
Here are four common Medicare enrollment errors that can trip up even the savviest seniors:
1. Missing Your Initial Enrollment Window
You can’t enroll in Medicare whenever you feel like it. There are specific enrollment windows, and if you don’t sign up during one that applies to you, you may not be able to obtain coverage for months.
With some exceptions, you will need to enroll in Medicare during what’s called your Initial Enrollment Period (IEP). Typically, your IEP is the seven-month period that starts three months before the month you turn 65 years old and ends at the end of the third month after the month of your birthday. While you can still sign up for Medicare after your IEP ends, you will have to pay penalties, including a 10 percent increase in your Part B premium.
If you don’t enroll during your IEP, you’ll have another chance to do so during Medicare’s annual general enrollment period, which lasts from January 1 through March 31 of each year. However, if you enroll during that time, your coverage won’t kick in until July. Additionally, late enrollment means that your monthly premiums for Medicare Part B will likely be higher.
2. Missing Your Special Enrollment Period
Individuals who continue to work past age 65 and have creditable health coverage through their employer can also enroll in Medicare during a Special Enrollment Period that starts immediately after they lose their employer coverage. This period allows them to get Parts A and B within eight months, but they must enroll in Part C or Part D within two months or pay a penalty.
3. Not Comparing Original Medicare With Medicare Advantage
If you are eligible for Medicare, you can choose to receive your benefits through Original Medicare or through a Medicare Advantage plan. This is a critical choice, as it will determine what benefits and coverage you have and how much you will spend for that coverage. Which type of Medicare coverage you choose depends on several factors such as your health care needs, which insurance your doctors accept, where you live, whether you travel overseas often, and your financial resources.
As befits the name, Medicare Advantage plans do, in fact, offer many advantages over Original Medicare. As you can read about here, these plans:
• More benefits and coverage: With an Advantage Plan, you’ll get all the coverage you would with a Part A or Part B Original Plan plus, potentially, coverage for vision care, hearing aids, routine dental care, prescription drug coverage, or even a fitness center membership to help keep you healthy.
• Coordinated coverage: As a true one-stop-shop for all your prescription and health cover needs, Advantage plans generally combine both services and prescription drug coverage, which can eliminate any extra work on your part. And, your health care providers—within your network—manage your care and communicate with one another to help provide you with the most cost-effective and locally convenient care.
• Cost savings over time: Medicare Advantage plans include lower cost-sharing, a limit on out-of-pocket expenses, and an overall lower price tag on comparable coverage—since you’ll be covered with both medical care and prescription drug costs.
4. Delaying Enrollment In a Medicare Supplemental Insurance Plan
Medigap plans pay many of the out-of-pocket costs that Medicare doesn’t cover, such as Part A hospital deductibles or Part B’s 20 percent coinsurance.
The best time to buy Medigap coverage is during your Medigap open enrollment period, which starts when you turn 65 years old and have enrolled in Medicare Part B. It’s important to enroll during that time because insurers that sell Medigap policies cannot deny you coverage based on a preexisting condition, and they have to sell you a plan at the best available rate. However, If you try to buy a plan outside of your Medigap open enrollment period, insurers can refuse to sell you a policy or may deny you coverage because of existing health problems.
Contact Every Way Health To Learn More About Medicare and Medigap Coverage
If you need assistance in choosing the Medicare supplemental insurance plan that’s best for you, please get in touch with Every Way Health at 877-460-3943.