Medicare can seem confusing because they have tried to develop a system to accomodate a variety of lifestyles and financial situations across the country. In addition, they work to give Medicare beneficiaries as many options as possible when they move or if their health or financial conditions change.
This is a high level overview of the different Medicare parts and systems. My goal is to give a general overview so you can start to get your arms around Medicare and develop questions. Everyone has unique circumstances and not all parts may apply. Other confusing aspects are all the eligibility, enrollment, and guarantee issue periods. While those are very important parts of the puzzle, they can distract from learning the basics. Medicare is very good about notifying you on your eligibility.
1. Learn as much about the basic parts of Medicare as possible. It is best to understand the various parts, and then focus on rules, regulations, eligibility, etc.
Part A: Hospital. This covers you when you are admitted to a hospital
Part B: Medical. This portion addresses your regular Doctor office visits.
Part D: Prescription Drug Plans. Helps with the cost of medications.
Part C: Medicare Advantage Plans. These plans, usually administered by private insurance companies, provide Part A, B and often times D to the member.
Flow chart of Medicare_options_flowchart
2. Find out what is available in your area on www.medicare.gov or contacting an agent. There is no reason to dwell on the advantages or disadvantages of a particular plan if it is not offered in your area. Of course, Original Medicare, Parts A and B, is always available. The Part D Plan is also offered by State.
3. Review your health history and financial situation. Often times your particular situation or preference will help guide you to making the best selection.
a. Do you have particular doctors or hospital you want to keep?
b. Do you need to see your doctor on a regular basis?
c. What type of prescriptions do you take?
d. Do you like to travel?
e. Will you need assistance paying for premiums and out of pocket expenses?
d. Are you still working and covered by your employer or spouse’s health plan?
These are just a few questions to consider.
4. Shop, Compare, Talk. Get as much information on all of the plans offered in your area and compare them to one another. Talk to your family, friends and neighbors to find out what has worked for them and what they like. If possible, try and create a spreadsheet of the different plans, costs and benefits (downloadable file on my Home page). Never be talked into signing up for a particular plan. You are in the driver seat and you should feel comfortable with your selection.