Medicare can be pretty overwhelming for new enrollees. With all the deadlines, plan rules, and coverage changes, making even one mistake could turn out to be pretty costly. We certainly don’t want you to pay more than you have to, so here are a few common Medicare mistakes to avoid.
Not Signing Up for Medicare at Right Time
When it comes to Medicare enrollment, timing is especially important. Most people know that 65 is the age to sign up for Medicare, but you can actually start a little earlier. At 64 and 9 months you begin what the government calls your initial enrollment period (IEP). This period lasts seven months, three months before you turn 65 and three months after.
If you don’t sign up during your IEP, that’s okay. You get another chance to enroll during Medicare’s annual general enrollment period. This period starts Jan. 1 and goes through March 31 every year. Keep in mind that if you enroll during this time, your coverage won’t begin until July. And because you enrolled late, your monthly premiums for Medicare Part B (the part that covers doctors’ visits and outpatient services) will likely cost more.
Assuming Your Spouse is Covered
Medicare isn’t like employer group insurance, as you can’t add your spouse to your plan. Medicare is highly individual and that can’t be avoided.
This also includes individual plans like Part D. You can’t add your spouse to your plan, he or she will need to buy a separate one. There’s no spousal discount if you both get the same plan, so don’t feel you need to match. Your spouse may have different health care needs, so choose the best Medicare plan that works for you and you only.
This may not seem as bad as the other Medicare mistakes, but thinking your spouse is on your plan could mean they don’t sign up in time for some Medicare Plans, and that could cost them higher premiums.
Not Understanding Out-of-Pocket Costs
Thinking all of your medical costs are covered is one of the big Medicare mistakes. Medicare pays for a lot of your medical costs, but not everything. You need to be prepared for out-of-pocket costs when they come up. Here’s what you should be prepared for:
- Premium: Each part of Medicare may have its own monthly premium. Most don’t have a premium for Part A, the plan that covers hospital services. A Part B plan does have a premium, and you will be responsible for it. If you enroll in a Part D plan, you may also owe a monthly premium depending on the plan you choose.
- Deductible: Before Medicare begins paying for the cost of your care, you may have to pay a flat amount, known as a deductible. Parts A and B have annual deductibles, and some Part D plans have deductibles as well.
- Coinsurance: This is when your plan charges you a percentage of the cost of a medical service or visit. With Medicare, you will owe 20 percent of the cost of service. For example, let’s say you get a blood test that costs $100. Medicare will pay $80 of that and you’ll need to pay the remaining $20.
- Copayment: This is a fixed amount you pay for specific services. Every time you see a doctor and they require a copay of $30, you will need to personally pay that.
Not Understanding Late Enrollment Penalties for Part B and Part D
If you delay enrolling in either of these two plans, this could potentially lead to a costly Medicare mistake.
For every 12 months you delay enrolling in Part B, your monthly premiums may be 10 percent higher. For every 12 months you delay signing up for a Part D plan, your monthly premium may be one percent higher.
There are a few exceptions to these penalties. The Part B penalty won’t apply if you have job-based insurance or are in your special enrollment period. With Part D, you won’t have to pay the penalty if you can prove to Medicare that you have drug coverage as good as they provide.
Letting Your Plan D Renew Automatically Every Year
During open enrollment, which runs from Oct. 15 to Dec. 7, you can review your options for Medicare Part D prescription plan. But don’t assume you are good to go for the next year. If you aren’t paying attention, you could pay more than you should.
The cost and coverage can vary a lot from year to year. Watch out for an increase in premiums, and if you have been prescribed new medications, a different plan may actually be a better deal for you. Don’t let the automatic renewal fool you and keep you in a plan that will cost you too much.
Senior Solutions is on Your Side
These Medicare mistakes are easy to avoid when you have Signature Senior Solutions on your side. We make you the focus, which is the way it should be. Our Medicare agents are here to help you chose the very best Medicare coverage.
Signature Senior Solutions is located in Cave Creek, and services all of Maricopa County and Arizona. If you’re out of state, don’t worry, we are multi-state licensed and are ready to service you as well!