Five costly mistakes new Medicare enrollees make!

1. Enrolling in Medicare Part B at the wrong time.

You should enroll in Medicare Part B three months prior to your 65th birthday, unless you will continue to have group health insurance coverage through your or your spouse’s employer. If your employer has fewer than 20 employees you may still need to sign up for Part B so check with your benefits manager.

In most cases, if you don’t sign up for Part B when you’re first eligible, you’ll have to pay a late enrollment penalty. You’ll have to pay this penalty for as long as you have Part B. Your monthly premium for Part B may go up 10% for each full 12-month period that you could have had Part B, but did not sign up for it. Also, you may have to wait until the General Enrollment Period (from January 1 to March 31) to enroll in Part B. Coverage will start July 1 of that year.

If you are still working and receiving health benefits from your employer, it may be in your best interest to delay activating Part B. When you eventually retire, or leave work, you’ll be entitled to a special enrollment period to sign up for Part B without incurring a late penalty. Plus you will be able to sign up for a Medicare Supplement plan with no medical underwriting.

2. Paying too much for your Medicare Part D (Prescription Plan).

There are about 25 different Medicare Part D drug plans available in Texas. Each has different deductibles, co-pays and premiums.

The only way to determine which plan is the best for you is to analyze your medications with each plan. Wow… that would take a lot of time right? Luckily Medicare has a great tool that easily does it for you. All you have to do is enter your prescriptions and it will show the plan that provides the lowest overall cost based on your medications. Also you can call Medicare 24/7 to help you find the best plan for you.

I recommend you continue to do this every year during open enrollment (10/15-12/07) to make sure you are still getting the best plan for the next year.

3. Overpaying for your Medicare Supplement plan.

People are always surprised when I show them how much money they can save by comparison shopping their Medicare Supplement plan. The government requires every Medicare supplement insurance company to offer standardized lettered plans. For example, insurance company A’s plan G will have the same exact benefits as insurance company B’s plan G. The only real difference between insurance companies’ plan G is the cost.

Example: Insurance Company A’s cost may be 30% more for a Medicare Supplement plan G than company B’s plan G. Each insurance company has different pricing based on several factors such as risk, age, region, and tobacco use. It just a matter of finding the company that offers the best deal for you. That is why it is extremely important to use an independent agent who specializes in Medicare Supplements to help you find the best plan for you at the lowest possible cost. Plus their service is FREE to you.

4. Selecting a Medicare plan because your friend has it.

Having your friends and family recommend restaurants and movies is smart, but selecting a Medicare plan on a friend’s advice can be a bad idea. Remember everyone’s needs are different so a plan that works great for your friend may be a lousy plan for you. Only after a thorough analysis can you determine the best solution for you.

5. Not knowing the difference between Medicare Advantage Plans and Supplement Plans.

When enrolling in a Medicare Advantage plan (Medicare Part C) you will be assigning your Medicare benefits to the insurance company-usually HMO type plans that require referrals and you must use their network.

Advantage plans usually come with a prescription drug card. The plans co-pays will change every year and if you become sick you could experience an out-of-pocket of up to $6700 per calendar year.

You can only change Advantage plans during open enrollment (10/15-12/07).

Staying with Original Medicare, a Supplement and a Prescription Drug plan allows you to have the freedom to choose any doctor that accepts Medicare without referrals. This also allows you to get a drug card that is tailored to your needs. The most comprehensive Supplemental plan is Plan F and pays 100% for most of your medical care…. no co-pays, no deductibles.

Medicare Advantage Plans are generally less expensive and may include additional benefits such as dental, hearing aids, eye-glasses, and gym memberships. The drug plan that comes with it may be one that doesn’t meet your needs, which could cost you thousands of dollars at the pharmacy, negating the savings of the extra benefits and lower premiums.

If you will work with an independent agent that specializes in Medicare supplements you can avoid these and other costly mistake new Medicare enrollees make. Feel free to call me with any questions at (512) 656-9378. I am here to help you!