Right out the gate, you can see how confusing Medicare can be! Many people feel that you must sign up for Medicare when you turn 65 (even though you are still working or your spouse is, etc.). One of the many myths that we work to combat on a daily basis!
Let’s back things up to “pre-retirement” or “pre-turning 65”. We like to talk about having “the conversation” at age 64.5. If you are approaching age 65, you know that insurance carriers and insurance agents are marketing you madly at this stage! See your mailbox for fliers, your phone records for a dozen agent calls a day and more. (Tip – never put your real phone number into a web form online! The number will be sold to agents in about ten seconds flat.)
So, how can you navigate this time period successfully, and why is it so important? We suggest getting with a firm that you can trust to give you good information and won’t push you into a product just because you are turning 65. So, make an appointment at age 64.5 or put in a phone call so that you can ask “hey, here’s my situation, what should I be doing?”
Why is it so important to make a call at 64.5? Simply because you can avoid a whole bunch of problems that come with doing the WRONG things related to Medicare at age 65. Here’s a short list of things that can go wrong.
- You’re still working and funding your Health Savings Account but signed up for Part A (a no-no in Medicare-land);
- Your group employer plan does not have creditable Part D coverage (you’ll get a penalty later);
- You work for a small group with less than 20 employees and didn’t enroll into Part B (you can have major coverage issues);
- You took Cobra coverage at age 66, for example, as you retired but didn’t sign up for Part B because you “have work coverage” (wrong move, you can have major lack of coverage issues).
That’s a smidge of things that we see daily. Now, if you call us at age 64.5 and say “I’m still working, am pretty healthy, I like funding my HSA, I’m not getting Social Security checks yet, and more” --- our answer? Stick with your group plan and call us when you need us. (Oh, and don’t worry – we ask the questions, you don’t have to know what to tell us!)
So, that’s the first half of the battle. When the answer to the question “Do I need/want Medicare?” becomes YES, we’re on to different conversations.
- How do I get Part A/B set up? Where do I go? What do I do? When does it start? How much does it cost?
- You’ll need help understanding how Medicare will work and what product you’ll need to SUPPLEMENT your basic Medicare. You have two choices – Medicare Advantage Plans
and Medigap contracts. You only have two choices. BUT, it’s critical that you make a good decision and understand how each of the products work. If you make a wrong move here, you may not be able to fix it later.
- How do I handle prescriptions? Dental, vision, hearing plans? What else do I need?
- How does it all work when I go to the doctors? Can I travel with my coverage?
And, more! Again, just a small peek into our conversations. It’s a highly individualized conversation.
NOTE: Please understand that pre-existing condition insurability issues DO arise with Medicare. Our world is used to the ACA and “no pre-existing” concerns but that will change when you are in the Medicare system. We often come across people that didn’t understand the product they bought four years ago, now have a serious illness and want better coverage. They can’t have it. And, we can’t fix it.
How can that affect your planning and retirement? Well – when you’re healthy you may spend $5,000 a year for your Medicare premiums and coverages. If you’re diagnosed with a serious illness, that figure can easily double. Think that might affect your retirement? (Those are per person figures as well).
What about long-term care? Many people believe that Medicare will cover long term care events. It won’t. Medicare will cover “skilled nursing” situations – think of a knee rehab where you stay in a facility for 3 weeks. That can be covered. People hear “nursing” and take that to mean a 2-year stay in a nursing home. Realize that this will NOT be covered. We encourage all people to work with their financial planner on a strategy to handle long term care expenses should they arise.
Wrapping up with some tips as we can’t put everything about Medicare to paper…
- Take your time with your Medicare decision;
- Prep at age 64.5. Jot down notes that you hear from “everybody” (you’ll get lots of unsolicited advice about what you HAVE to do with Medicare!);
- Don’t call ONE carrier and ask questions (you’ll walk away with one carrier’s product);
- Be sure that an agent is showing you TWO types of plans (agents are paid far more for one particular plan);
- Understand what you’re buying and how it works and how much it costs;
- Know that Medicare can have long term impacts on your financials so make a good decision out the gate;
- Call our advisors – our service is of no cost to the consumer and we work with all carriers. And, we only handle Medicare. Just because a firm or person “can do” Medicare, careful there…!
- Make a good decision and then get on with retirement and life!
Joanne Giardini-Russell and Boomer Health Group are not affiliated with Private Advisor Group or CRNA Financial Planning®.