If you’re a newcomer to the complex Medicare system, or will be soon, it’s wise to research potential options and pitfalls to prevent future regrets. As a starting point, here are a few mistakes to avoid:
Missing Part B deadlines. If you’re already receiving Social Security benefits at 65, you’ll automatically be enrolled in Part A (hospital insurance) and Part B (doctors’ services, outpatient care, and medical equipment). Otherwise, you must apply. Fail to sign up for Part B during the seven months surrounding your birthday, and you risk incurring a late penalty surcharge on all your future premiums. You can delay enrolling only if you have health coverage from your or your spouse’s employer, and the company employs 20 or more workers. But if you do, make sure you enroll in Part B within eight months of leaving the company.
Not enrolling in Medigap promptly. It’s also wise to purchase a Medigap supplemental policy within six months of enrolling in Part B. Medigap standardized, private insurance plans cover some or most out-of-pocket expenses. Enrolling within that window restricts Medigap insurers from denying coverage or charging higher premiums due to current health or pre-existing medical conditions. Choose your plan carefully because those protections may not be extended if you try to switch later.
Not understanding Medicare Advantage plans. If you’re considering a Medicare Advantage plan in lieu of Medicare Parts A, B, and D, look beyond lower premiums and compare deductibles, copayments, and out-of-pocket costs. Bear in mind these plans may have more restrictions. And be sure to compare star ratings provided at Medicare.gov.
Not signing up for Part D. Even if you aren’t on any medications, developing one health problem could cause you to regret not getting a drug plan during an enrollment period. And you could incur a permanent late enrollment penalty if you don’t have Medicare or other creditable prescription drug coverage for 63 days in a row at any time after your initial enrollment period is over.
Not comparing Part D plans annually. Part D plans vary in the drugs they cover and the copays they charge. Use the Plan Finder program on Medicare’s website to compare plans. And once you’ve signed up, don’t put your Part D on autopilot. Check for premium increases and changes in coverage every year.
If you need help determining how health care costs may impact your retirement, please call our office.