Fall is in the air and the temperatures are cooling down. If you’re 65 or older, it’s not only the start of another season, it’s also that time of year again when your mailbox starts filling up with reminders that it’s time to choose your new Medicare plan. What a lot of people may not know, however, is that if you want to choose a Medicare Supplement, you don’t have to wait for open enrollment (October 15 to December 7) to come around. Instead, you can actually change or get a Medicare Supplement at any time throughout the year, as long as you qualify.
What is a Medicare Supplement?
Medicare Supplement is actually short for Medicare Supplement Insurance and is sometimes known as MediGap. As the name “Medigap” suggests, it is designed to pick up, or rather, fill in the “gap” between what your Original Medicare plan will and won’t pay. I prefer to call this “holes in a policy” because once Medicare has paid its share of the approved health care costs, you may find that there are still costs, such as co-payments and deductibles that you have to cover. A Medicare Supplement plan can step in and fill in the holes in your coverage that may remain. This can help you pay out less and keep more money in your pocket.
Before we get further into the benefits of a Medicare Supplement, let’s first take a look at Medicare and how it works.
The Fundamentals of Medicare
At its simplest, you should know that Medicare is a federal program that offers health insurance coverage for individuals that are 65 years of age or older. In some cases, it is also available to younger people if they have certain disabilities, such as ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease) or End-Stage Renal Disease.
If you are turning 65, you are eligible to enroll in Medicare up to three months before or after your birthday. It isn’t mandatory though. You can also decide to delay enrolling in Medicare if you are still working and want to stay on your employer’s health care plan.
What some people don’t realize, however, is that it is just a myth that you have to quit work or that you have to start receiving social security payments before you can enroll in Medicare. The truth is, you can actually still continue to work and receive Medicare. If you elect to continue working and enroll, you may find that it is actually cheaper to change over to a Medicare Supplement than to stay on your employer’s insurance plan.
Medicare in a Nutshell
There are several parts to Medicare. Each part can cover the cost of different healthcare services that you may encounter.
- Medicare Part A: Part A is known as Original Medicare. It covers things like inpatient hospital care, hospice, and home health services.
- Medicare Part B: Also known as Original Medicare. Part B covers things like outpatient and preventive care, doctor and clinical lab services, and physical and occupational therapy.
- Medicare Advantage and Medicare Supplement (Medigap plan): These are additional types of Medicare plans that can help pay some of your healthcare costs. Since you cannot have both a Medicare Advantage plan and a Medicare Supplement plan, it is extremely important to understand the difference between the two and how each will work in conjunction with your Original Medicare plan.
Warning: Don’t Take Choosing a Medicare Plan Lightly
One of the biggest problems that I have found when it comes to someone choosing a Medicare plan is that many people simply go with the same choice as their friend or neighbor rather than educating themselves on the choices that they have available. They think that if their neighbor is happy with their coverage, they will like having the same coverage too.
In other words, “what they don’t know, they don’t know.” You see, while their friend may have had few, if any serious medical issues (and therefore no real usage of their plan), they may not find themselves as lucky. Instead, they may discover that by not really understanding their plan, they have not properly covered themselves for a medical catastrophe.
I believe in making sure that my clients understand what they are getting and that it is the right insurance for them. Keith, one of my clients found out the importance of choosing the right Medicare plan about three years ago when he went to the emergency room suspecting that he was having a major stroke. Thankfully, he wasn’t. The doctors did discover, however, that he was having a Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA), or rather, mini-stroke. The tests and the days spent in the hospital left him with a hefty $35,000 hospital bill. Since Keith had decided ahead of time to sit down with me and take a serious look at his Medicare needs, he made the choice to get a Medicare Supplement.
Today, Keith tells me that sitting down with me and learning about the Medicare Supplement plan was one of the smartest things he has done for himself and his health. He says that by having a Medicare Supplement plan, he takes better care of himself and doesn’t wait for something to happen. He’s also more proactive about getting to the doctor. He knows his doctors better and they know him. He says that it has “eliminated a major concern for him about coverage and provides him with a peace of mind while eliminating any surprises.”
Navigating through the different Medicare plans is difficult, but just like Keith, you must choose wisely. Throw away all those solicitation notices piling up in your mailbox and give me a call at (770)527-5598 or email me for more information about Medicare Supplements. Let me help you make an informed decision about your Medicare plan needs.