Choosing a Medicare plan is not just an important decision – it is a decision that can greatly impact your health and financial well-being. As you age, it becomes crucial to have a plan that covers all your medical needs and provides the support you require. Medicare is designed to provide health coverage when you turn 65 or older in. However, with the numerous options available, selecting the right plan can be overwhelming. Taking the time to understand your options and make an informed choice can make all the difference in your future. Let’s review the 10 biggest mistakes people make when picking a Medicare plan.
Your Guide to Making the Right Choices for Your Medicare Coverage
Plan selection is more than just ticking boxes on a form – it is about ensuring you have the right coverage to meet your unique needs. Different plans offer different benefits, such as coverage for medications, hospital stays, and preventative care. By carefully selecting a plan that aligns with your healthcare requirements, you can ensure you have access to the care you need when you need it.
Ultimately, the importance of plan selection lies in the peace of mind it can provide. It means knowing that you are prepared for any health-related eventuality and that you have the resources available to maintain your health and well-being as you age. So, don’t underestimate the significance of this decision – empower yourself with knowledge and make the choice that will protect your future.
Mistake 1: Not Reviewing Eligibility Requirements
Medicare has specific criteria that individuals must meet in order to enter the program and access its benefits. Failing to understand and review these eligibility requirements can lead to wasted time, frustration, and potential coverage gaps. It’s essential to thoroughly review the eligibility criteria for each plan, including age requirements, citizenship status, and previous contributions to the Medicare system. By taking the time to understand the eligibility factors, you can ensure that you are qualified to sign up for Medicare and avoid unnecessary setbacks or complications.
TIP: Finding out when you’re eligible for Medicare is the first step towards making an informed decision and securing the coverage you need for your healthcare journey.
Mistake 2: Unaware of Medicare Advantage costs
A common mistake people make when signing up for a Medicare Advantage plan (also called MAPD) is being unaware of the associated out-of-pocket costs. MAPD have varying premiums in addition to the Part B premium. It is crucial to understand and evaluate these costs as they directly impact your healthcare expenses. Additionally, MAPD plans may have varying copayments, deductibles, and coinsurance that differ from traditional Medicare. Failing to research and compare these costs can lead to unexpected financial burdens and difficulties in managing your healthcare budget.
It is essential to carefully review the cost structure of MAPD plans, compare them with the coverage and benefits offered, and consider your healthcare usage to make an informed decision. By being aware of Medicare Advantage costs upfront, you can plan your finances effectively and ensure that the chosen plan aligns with your healthcare needs and budgetary constraints.
Make sure to avoid the mistake of being unaware of these costs and take the time to evaluate your options comprehensively for a well-informed decision. It will empower you to make an informed decision based on your unique circumstances, ensuring you choose the insurance plan that best aligns with your preferences and requirements for comprehensive health coverage.
TIP: Finding the plan at the best price can be a challenge. MAPD plans can change from year to year. You may have to pay different prices for medications or services each year when plans change.
Mistake 3: Overlooking Prescription Drug Coverage (Part D Drug Plan)
Don’t overlook the importance of Medicare Part D prescription drug plan coverage. Failing to consider this crucial aspect can result in unexpected expenses and limited access to necessary medications. Medicare Part D is designed to provide coverage for medications, helping to alleviate the high costs associated with medications. By neglecting to prioritize and evaluate the available Part D prescription drug coverage options, individuals may be left with inadequate coverage. This may result in having to pay out-of-pocket for expensive medications.
It is essential to carefully review and compare the medication formularies, copayments, and coverage gaps of different Part D plans to ensure that your medication needs are met at an affordable cost. By avoiding the oversight of drug coverage, you can safeguard your health and financial wellbeing, ensuring you have access to the medications you require without incurring unnecessary expenses.
TIP: When evaluating Medicare options, don’t forget to consider the importance of Part D. It can help you save on medication costs and ensure you have access to necessary medications.
Mistake 4: Picking Original Medicare without a Medicare Supplement
If you’re thinking of sticking with Original Medicare, consider the benefits of supplemental Medigap insurance (also known as Medicare Supplement Insurance). While Medicare provides substantial coverage, it doesn’t cover all healthcare costs, leaving potential gaps in expenses such as deductibles, coinsurance, and copayments. This is where Medicare Supplemental Insurance, comes into play.
These policies provide additional coverage that can help fill in these gaps and reduce out-of-pocket expenses. By not adding a supplement, individuals may face unexpected financial burdens when medical treatments or services are needed. It is crucial to review and compare the plans available in your area to determine which policy suits your needs and budget.
While these policies may involve additional monthly premiums, the potential savings on healthcare costs and the peace of mind it provides are well worth considering. Don’t make the mistake of overlooking this type of coverage. It can be a valuable asset in ensuring comprehensive coverage and financial protection for your healthcare needs.
TIP: 80% of your approved healthcare costs are covered by Medicare. In other words, Medicare pays 80% and a supplement plan protects you from the other 20%. There are many supplemental plans available. Have a broker research your options.
Mistake 5: Ignoring Medicare Advantage Plan Networks and Providers
Failure to consider the networks and providers associated with Medicare Advantage plans can be a huge mistake. MAPD is a type of medicare plan that has specific networks of doctors, hospitals, and healthcare providers with whom they have contracts. Ignoring this important factor can lead to limitations in accessing your preferred healthcare professionals and facilities. By not thoroughly researching and understanding the provider networks associated with certain plans, individuals may face unexpected surprises, such as out-of-network charges or the need to switch healthcare providers.
It is crucial to review the provider directories and confirm whether your preferred doctors and specialists are included in the MAPD plan’s network. By ensuring that your healthcare professionals are within the plan’s network, you can continue receiving care from familiar providers without incurring additional costs or disruptions to your healthcare routine. Don’t underestimate the significance of network and provider considerations while selecting a MAPD plan to maintain seamless access to quality healthcare.
TIP: Not all hospitals or doctors accept Medicare Advantage. It’s important to make sure your plan is accepted before receiving services from a provider.
Mistake 6: Not Reviewing Plan Costs and Premiums
You need to thoroughly review plan costs and premiums before deciding on coverage. All plans come with various expenses, such as monthly premiums, deductibles, copayments, and coinsurance, which can significantly impact your overall healthcare expenses. Overlooking these financial considerations can lead to unforeseen financial burdens and potential budget constraints. It is crucial to carefully evaluate the costs associated with each plan option available, comparing rates against the coverage and benefits provided. Additionally, consider factors such as deductibles and copayments for healthcare services, as they can vary between plans.
By thoroughly reviewing plan costs, you can make an informed decision that aligns with your budget and ensures you have a clear understanding of the financial commitment involved. Don’t make the mistake of underestimating the importance of reviewing plan costs, as it plays a vital role in selecting a plan that is not only suitable for your healthcare needs but also financially sustainable.
TIP: Most people don’t pay the Part A premium. However, you will have a premium for Medicare Part B.
Mistake 7: Falling for Unsolicited Medicare Marketing
Do not fall for unsolicited Medicare marketing tactics. In today’s age of technology and information overload, individuals are often bombarded with advertisements, phone calls, and emails promoting various plans. Trusting these unsolicited marketing efforts without conducting thorough research can lead to making decisions based on incomplete or misleading information. You need to approach plan selection with a proactive mindset, seeking reliable and unbiased sources of information.
Take the time to explore official resources, consult with reputable insurance agents or counselors, and seek advice from trusted healthcare providers. By avoiding the allure of unsolicited marketing and focusing on credible information, you can make a well-informed decision that is based on your unique healthcare needs and priorities. Don’t fall into the trap of falling for unsolicited marketing; instead, take control of your decision-making process to ensure the best possible outcomes for your healthcare coverage.
TIP: If a plan sounds too good to be true, then it may not be a good choice. There are many TV, radio and internet advertisements that try and sell you a plan that’s “FREE.” That so-called free plan can end up costing you a lot in the end.
Mistake 8: Neglecting to Check Plan Ratings and Reviews
When shopping for any plan make sure to check plan ratings and reviews. Medicare provides a comprehensive rating system known as the Star Rating system, which evaluates the quality and performance of Medicare Advantage and Drug plans. These ratings are based on various factors, including customer satisfaction, quality of care, and administrative excellence. Failing to review these ratings and read consumer reviews can lead to selecting a plan that may not meet your expectations or provide satisfactory healthcare experiences. By overlooking this crucial step, individuals risk signing up for a plan that may have poor performance or customer service issues.
It is vital to take advantage of the available resources, such as the official Medicare Plan Finder tool, to compare plan ratings and read reviews from current plan members. This diligent research allows you to make an informed decision, choosing a plan that not only aligns with your healthcare needs but also offers excellent quality and service. Don’t make the mistake of neglecting to check plan ratings and reviews; instead, leverage this valuable information to ensure a satisfactory and rewarding Medicare experience.
TIP: Before choosing a plan, take the time to check plan ratings and read reviews. This will give you valuable insights into the experiences of others, helping you make an informed decision and select a plan that best meets your needs.
Mistake 9: Not Considering Changes in Health Needs and Budget
Are you considering the potential changes in your health needs and budget? Healthcare requirements can evolve over time, and it’s essential to recognize how your health needs may shift as you age or encounter new medical conditions. Additionally, financial circumstances can change, impacting your budget and ability to afford certain healthcare expenses. Failing to anticipate and factor in these changes can result in being locked into a plan that no longer suits your unique situation. It is crucial to regularly assess your health needs and evaluate your budget to determine if your current plan provides adequate coverage. Take into account any new medications, treatments, or specialized care that may be necessary in the future.
Be proactive in reviewing your plan annually during your enrollment period to ensure it aligns with your evolving health needs and financial capabilities. By considering changes in health needs and budget, you can make the necessary adjustments to your plan and ensure continued access to the appropriate healthcare services while maintaining financial stability. Avoid the mistake of not considering these changes, and instead, prioritize regular plan reviews to adapt to your evolving circumstances effectively.
TIP: If you get ill in the future, you may be able to get a new supplement plan if you qualify. You typically have to pass the health questions in order to get a plan unless you qualify for an enrollment period.
Mistake 10: Not Seeking Professional Assistance for Plan Selection
Make sure you’re seeking professional assistance so you don’t get locked into the wrong plan. The Medicare system can be complex and overwhelming, with thousands of plans and intricate regulations to navigate. Attempting to navigate this process alone without expert guidance can lead to confusion and potential errors in plan selection. By not seeking professional assistance, individuals may miss out on valuable insights, personalized advice, and thorough explanation of available coverage options. Licensed insurance agents, Medicare advisors, or independent financial advisors who specialize in Medicare can help you avoid costly mistakes. They provide invaluable assistance in understanding the nuances of different plans, eligibility requirements, and associated costs. Such professionals can help you assess your healthcare needs, budget, and preferences to recommend the most suitable plan for your unique situation.
Don’t make the mistake of thinking you have to tackle this complex process alone; instead, seek professional assistance to ensure you make informed decisions that maximize the benefits and coverage available to you. By involving a knowledgeable expert, you can feel confident in your plan selection and embark on your healthcare journey with peace of mind.
TIP: One of the most common medicare mistakes is going direct to the carrier or with an agent who represents only one company. Use an independent broker who has access to top rated carriers. You might be overwhelmed with so much information. Please give us a call if you need any help.
BONUS Mistake 11: Missing Enrollment Deadlines (initial enrollment and Medigap open enrollment period)
When do you sign up for Medicare Part A & B? A critical mistake to avoid is missing your Medicare enrollment period, including both the initial enrollment period (IEP) and the Medigap open enrollment period (OEP). Both are crucial for ensuring timely access to Medicare benefits and coverage.
The IEP begins 3 months before the month of your 65th birthday and lasts for a total of seven months. Missing this enrollment window can result in delayed coverage and potential penalties. It is crucial to be proactive. You must sign up and enroll during this period to secure your Medicare benefits. If you don’t you may have gaps in coverage.
Additionally, the OEP lasts for six months and starts when you are both 65 or older and enrolled in Medicare Part B coverage. This period allows you to select a plan without undergoing medical underwriting, which means you cannot be denied coverage or charged higher premiums based on pre-existing conditions. If you miss this opportunity, it may result in limited Medigap plan options and potentially higher costs.
To avoid these common mistakes you can make, mark your calendar and take note of the IEP and OEP well in advance. Thoroughly understand the eligibility criteria and the specific timeframes to ensure you don’t miss out on valuable Medicare benefits or the opportunity to secure comprehensive coverage. Remember, timely enrollment is crucial for uninterrupted access to the healthcare services you need. You need to take action, so don’t postpone or overlook these important deadlines.
TIP: Use our Enrollment Deadline Calculator! Don’t miss your guaranteed opportunity to enroll in Part A and B. If you miss an enrollment period, you may qualify for a Special Enrollment Period, but it’s not guaranteed. Enrolling when you turn 65 is the most common time to sign up for part B and A.
The bottom line
The older we get, it becomes increasingly important to make well-informed decisions when selecting a plan. It becomes increasingly crucial to educate ourselves about Medicare rights and the resources available to us. Organizations such as the Social Security Administration can provide valuable information to guide us through the enrollment process and answer any questions we may have.
Remember, the month in which you turn 65 and the months before your 65th birthday are critical periods for enrollment. Missing these deadlines or overlooking key details can result in delays, penalties, and gaps in coverage. It is crucial to plan ahead, stay informed, and take advantage of available resources to ensure a smooth transition and uninterrupted access to the healthcare services we need.
It’s essential to be aware of the biggest mistakes in order to avoid headaches later on. The top 5 biggest mistakes people make can be costly, but mistakes 6-10 are equally important. By understanding these pitfalls, you can navigate the process more effectively and make informed decisions that prioritize your healthcare and financial well-being. These include ignoring Medicare Advantage plan networks and providers, not reviewing plan costs, falling for unsolicited Medicare marketing, neglecting to check plan ratings and reviews, and missing important Medicare enrollment periods.
By avoiding these mistakes and taking proactive steps, we can make the most of our Medicare coverage. Being aware of the provider networks, carefully considering costs, critically evaluating marketing efforts, checking plan ratings, and adhering to enrollment periods are all vital aspects of selecting the right plan.
Michael Quinn is an independent licensed insurance agent with a passion for helping others navigate the complex world of Medicare insurance. With over a decade of experience in the field, Michael has established himself as a trusted advisor to countless individuals seeking guidance on their healthcare coverage options.
In 2013, Michael obtained his license as an insurance agent, laying the foundation for his successful career in the industry. Prior to that, he earned his Masters Degree in Communicative Disorders from the University of Central Florida, which equipped him with strong communication and interpersonal skills.
Driven by a genuine desire to make a positive impact on people's lives, Michael co-founded REMEDIGAP in 2013. It was created as a dedicated platform that aims to educate individuals about Medicare insurance. Through REMEDIGAP, Michael provides comprehensive resources and unbiased information to empower individuals to make informed decisions about their healthcare coverage.
With his extensive knowledge and expertise, Michael has been able to guide thousands of individuals towards finding the most suitable Medicare insurance plans tailored to their unique needs. His dedication to his clients' well-being, coupled with his passion for simplifying complex insurance concepts, has earned him a reputation as a compassionate and reliable advisor.
His work has appeared on many blogs and websites including, USA Today, Yahoo.com, Nerdwallet, Think Advisor, and REAL SIMPLE.