BUZ LIVINGSTON: Navigating the Medicare maze before the buzzer

Published: Thursday, November 21, 2013 at 04:39 PM.

Many of Barbara’s clients opt for Medicare Advantage plans (Medicare Part C) since some Advantage plans have no out-of-pocket premiums. These plans often work best for people in good health.

You may want to start with an Advantage plan then switch if your health or medication changes. Again, do it before Dec. 7.

“You have to be your own advocate,” Barbara stressed. Since there will be deductibles and co-pays with Medicare Advantage always check with the call center on your Medicare Advantage card. You have to stay in your health insurance plan’s network to get full cost savings.

Pondering Medicare options is not necessarily a bad thing. Medicare limits out-of-pocket expenses and without it few people could swing retirement healthcare costs.

One trick Barbara reminded me was to use the government website. Yes there is one that works. Go to Medicare.gov, enter you drugs by name and dosage levels and you will see the least expensive plan. Barbara reiterated you must compare apples with apples. When factoring co-pays and deductibles, plans with the least out-of-pocket costs can be substantially higher. Medigap insurance premiums can run into thousands of dollars annually and can drain retirement savings rapidly.

Barbara noted people can be overwhelmed by choices available and recommended asking people already on Medicare who they use and how comfortable they are. Medicare is not a one-size-for-everyone program. Healthcare needs, individual budgets along with personal preferences, for better or worse, give Medicare enrollees the chance to design a plan suited to their needs. Barbara’s on my speed dial (585-1954).

Let’s dispel one Medicare myth.

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