Whether you’re already enjoying retirement, or still within a few years of leaving the workforce, understanding the ins and outs of Medicare can certainly be confusing. Unfortunately, making just one mistake can truly cost you, so it’s important to be familiar with your plan, benefits, and the main rules and guidelines. Below, we have uncovered some of the biggest Medicare mistakes and myths you should consider.
1. Missing Your Enrollment Window. Contrary to popular belief, you will not be notified by Medicare when it’s time for you to enroll. Those already receiving Social Security Benefits when they turn 65 will be automatically enrolled in Medicare Part A – which has no premium. However, once you retire, or leave the workforce, you have just seven months to enroll.
2. Medicare Part B. Although it’s not mandatory to enroll in Medicare Part B, if you are retired, and choose not to enroll, you may be faced with a lifelong penalty, depending on how long you waited to enroll once eligible. There are special circumstances and exceptions to delaying Medicare Part B, but be sure to research and speak with a trusted advisor before making this potentially costly decision. Keep in mind that paying for COBRA does not allow you to delay Medicare. Unfortunately, not enrolling when you are eligible, even if you are paying for and covered by COBRA, can result in a 10 percent penalty per year, for the duration of your life.
3. Medicare Part D. Most people know that Part D is for medications. For those that don’t currently take medications, or feel that they’re in good health, it might seem like a good idea to delay enrollment for Part D. However, unless you have creditable coverage, or VA prescription coverage, you could face a late enrollment penalty, similar to Part B. Also, be sure to research Part D plans, because they tend to change annually. Prescriptions that are covered one year, may not be covered the next. Choose a plan that covers most or all of your most important medications by using Medicare’s Plan Finder Tool.
4. Understanding What is Covered. Once you’re enrolled in Medicare, it’s important to understand exactly what is covered, and what you might have to pay for out-of-pocket. Original Medicare does not cover things such as dental care, acupuncture, hearing aids and eye care, to name a few. In addition, make a habit of reviewing your prescription drug card annually, since there are close to thirty drug cards available in every state. Every September you should receive a notice regarding your Medicare Part D changes in costs and coverage for the upcoming year. The notice gives you the ability to compare your current plan with others, and allows you to find a plan that gives you the best deal.
5. Existing Medical Conditions. With the introduction of the Affordable Care Act, insurers are required to accept members regardless of their medical or health condition. Those with pre-existing conditions, or in poor health, cannot be rejected by Medicare.
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