3 Common Mistakes People Make by Waiting to Sign Up for Medicare

I don’t know about you, but I don’t plan to retire at 65. I mean, that’s only 25 years away. And I like my job. Maybe that’s you.

Even still, don’t put off signing up for Medicare when you turn 65. Here’s Why.

Mistake #1: Waiting until after you retire to sign up for Part A. 

Why it’s a mistake: Medicare is basically free money. You paid for it with your taxes for the past forty-some years…but still.

Ultimately here’s the deal–you CAN wait. But since it’s no skin off your back, wouldn’t you rather set it and forget it?  Think about that time you set up automatic payments into your savings account or 401k. You may not have missed the money, but when you got your tax forms, you saw the benefit of making a small change. It’s the same here. Signing up for Part A is easy, and makes the process of signing up for Part B or a Medicare Advantage plan much easier. 

Mistake #2: Staying on private health insurance coverage instead of signing up for Part B, without doing further research.

Why it’s a mistake: The plan you are currently on may not provide enough coverage.

If you plan to stay on your current coverage instead of signing up for Part B as soon as you turn 65, you want to make sure that your health plan provides appropriate coverage. We’re talking about a qualified group health plan (as defined by the IRS). If you’ve ever had to provide proof of “creditable coverage” for plan enrollment, this is similar.  Otherwise, you will pay a penalty when you sign up for Part B coverage.  This penalty is paid with each premium payment and never goes away. The longer you are eligible for Part B without signing up, the more the penalty costs. Do your future self a favor and get HR to confirm (in writing) that your current coverage meets the requirements. 

Mistake #3: Assuming that your current insurance plan will continue to be available after you become eligible for Medicare

Why it’s a mistake:  Believe it or not, some insurance plans and employers will not cover you (or your spouse) if there is other coverage available elsewhere. That includes Medicare.  Medicare enrollment begins three months before you turn 65 and lasts three months after.  Start looking at your options early to make sure you don’t get left without insurance unexpectedly. 

Whatever you decide about retirement, make sure that you have the information you need to make good, informed decisions. 

Next week we’ll be getting into the nitty-gritty of how to actually sign up for Medicare. Make sure to follow us on Facebook or Instagram to see when the blog gets posted! 

My 3 Favorite (Free!) Medicare Resources

Healthcare in America is…..complicated. Medicare ensures that most people 65 and older have access to basic care for hospitalization and doctor’s care. 

But what else does it include?  That’s a great question….because it all depends on what you sign up for.  Some of it will depend on the specific plan you sign up for but all plans include core services. If we talk about Part A or Part B coverage, a Medicare Advantage plan (Part C) automatically includes these same services.  If you didn’t catch our Medicare 101 post last week, go catch up here

I had the good fortune to go through a training hosted by the State Health Insurance Program a few years ago that really opened my eyes to how Medicare coverage works. It was one of my first steps into the realm of elder law.

Since then, I’ve helped clients who are on Medicare and helped my parents navigate the process too when my Dad turned 65.  I wanted to share some of my favorite free resources to find out information about Medicare. Depending on whether you like to keep things old school, or want things as paperless as possible- there’s an option for everyone! 

  1. By mail- When you sign up for Medicare, you will get a Medicare and You handbook that is useful for helping you figure out what is included in Parts A and B. It is easy to read and understand exactly what your coverage includes. 
  2. By phone- As I mentioned above, the State Health Insurance Program (SHIP) is an awesome program that helps Tennesseans find the right health care plans for them. You can reach them at 1-877-801-0044 or, in the before times,  at local health fairs. Just remember that they are staffed by volunteers and might take some time to call you back.  If you’d like to become a volunteer, they would love to have you! 
  3. Online: Yes, I know that government websites don’t have the best reputation for having easily accessible information. But trust me….Medicare.gov is different. Whether you just want to learn about Medicare, compare plan options, or look for a new doctor, this website makes it simple to find what you’re looking for. 
  4. In your pocket- The Medicare “What’s Covered” App is available for Apple and Android user. You can open your phone to find out if a service or treatment your doctor recommends is covered and how much it is likely to cost out of your pocket. I’m pretty jealous that my insurance company doesn’t offer this. 

All of these options now have online availability (check out those lovely blue links). Regardless of how you prefer to absorb information, I hope you’ll find one resource that is your favorite. We will be polling our social media readers on Facebook and Instagram this month to see what their favorite Medicare resources are…..we hope we’ll see you there! 

Medicare 101: Mastering the ABCs of Medicare Planning

As if choosing health insurance under an employer’s plan wasn’t difficult enough, figuring out which type of Medicare plan is best for you is even more confusing. I call Medicare an alphabet because there are 4 parts- A, B, C, and D. Oh, and you might want to consider a supplement too!  

Don’t worry. With a little time and some guidance, you can master the Medicare alphabet just like you mastered your ABCs! 

First, let’s go through the four types and what they cover. 

  • Part A only covers emergency care, such as if you need to stay at the hospital. 
  • Part B covers regular care like doctors visits, bloodwork, and any other testing or treatment that your doctor recommends. 
  • Part C is often referred to as an “Advantage Plan”. It is administered by private insurance companies, just like an employer’s plan.  It includes Part A and B coverage and may include other benefits as well, such as dental, vision, and prescription drugs. 
  • Part D covers prescription drugs. That’s it. 

When you approach age 65, ask yourself what your current health needs are, what family history might impact future healthcare needs, and what type of coverage you are used to receiving.  Then look at your budget. 

Part A is free for those who are eligible through their tax contributions. In 2021, most individuals will pay $148.50 per month for Part B, although the amount can be higher depending on your income.  

If you anticipate that you will need something more than just emergency and regular doctor’s visits, there is another alternative. Consider a Part C “Advantage” plan or a Medicare Supplement (or “Medigap” plan), instead. This plan will provide coverage for those things that Parts A and B don’t, like such as prescription medications, dental, or vision care.  Keep in mind that you still pay co-pays and deductibles on Medicare, so you will want to look at those amounts and not just your premium when considering your budget. 

When thinking about the Medicare alphabet, I have a little way to help me remember what each part covers: 

A is for an Accident that lands you in the hospital 

B is for Bloodwork they do at the doctor’s office

C is for Comprehensive coverage you can get with an Advantage plan

D is for Drugs (They made that one easy!)

Now you know your ABCs….next week I hope you’ll join us when I share my favorite FREE resources to learn about Medicare before you sign up.