For most Americans, the health landscape changes at age 65, not necessarily for physical reasons, but rather for financial ones. In the U.S., people age 65 and older can enroll in Medicare, which provides hospital insurance (Part A) and medical insurance (Part B). In addition to hospitalization, Original Medicare pays for certain preventative screenings and immunizations, doctor visits, and certain types of other medical equipment and services. However, the deductibles and co-payments can require significant out-of-pocket costs, not to mention major gaps in coverage for things like prescription drugs and other excluded medical expenses. By purchasing a Medicare Supplement plan or a private Medicare Advantage plan, you can minimize your costs and the potential for unexpected financial burdens in the future.
Understanding Medicare and Medicare Supplements
If you are new to Medicare or preparing to enroll for the first time, you will likely receive a welcome packet by mail in the months leading up to your 65th birthday. This packet will provide information about the ways you can enroll in Medicare, whether by phone, online or by visiting your local Social Security office. However, we recommend meeting with an independent agent at Patriot Insurance first to understand better the types of plans available to you and how they can work together to provide you with comprehensive health coverage.
Original Medicare (Parts A and B)
These are federal benefits available to eligible individuals in every U.S. state. It provides coverage for inpatient services, medical services, office visits, and certain types of durable medical equipment. However, Original Medicare comes with big coverage gaps that could become a cost burden without supplementation.
Medicare Advantage (Part C)
A Medicare Advantage plan is an alternative to Original Medicare. It is issued by private insurance companies that are under contract with the federal Medicare program. When you purchase a Medicare Advantage Plan, you receive the same benefits as Parts A and B, as well as prescription drug coverage and benefits for routine dental and vision care. Medicare Advantage plans offer benefits that are generally limited to a specific network of providers, although enrollees can obtain significant savings versus Original Medicare without the additional vision, dental, and prescription coverage benefits.
Prescription Drug Coverage (Part D)
If you stick with the Original Medicare benefits offered by the U.S. government, talk with an independent agent about purchasing a Part D coverage plan for prescription drugs. This is a stand-alone insurance plan that helps cover the high cost of prescription drugs, which are not covered under Parts A and B.
Initial Open Enrollment Period (OEP)
When is the right time to purchase Medicare supplement? For most, it is during the six months during, and following the month you turn age 65. This is known as the Medicare Supplement Open Enrollment Period, and it offers significant benefits for early enrollees. During this time, someone who is enrolled in Part B coverage can purchase virtually any Medicare supplement insurance policy sold in Minnesota with no exclusions or penalties for pre-existing conditions. That means you cannot be denied coverage for any health problems you may have, and you also cannot be charged higher premiums because of those health issues. Furthermore, standard Medicare supplement plans are guaranteed to renew, assuring you will not lose coverage if you develop an adverse health condition.
Medicare Annual Election Period (AEP)
If you missed your initial open enrollment period, you can still take advantage of a private Medicare supplement during the annual election period. Medicare’s open enrollment dates occur every year between specified dates — usually October 15th to December 7th. This is the time when you can make changes to your Medicare coverage according to your needs and preferences. This may include changing from Original Medicare to Medicare Advantage (or vice versa), enrolling in a prescription drug coverage plan (Medicare Part D), or perhaps even changing from an existing Medicare Advantage or Part D plan to another one available from a different provider.
Choosing Your Medicare Supplement Coverage
Do you need health coverage when traveling overseas? Do you want a supplemental plan that pays your Part A deductible in case of a hospitalization? Do you want a total coverage plan that closely mimics the coverage you may have had under a traditional health insurance plan in the past? Whatever your needs and preferences, the team here at Patriot Insurance can help. We offer assisted guidance in selecting the benefits right for you and procuring competitive rates from local Minnesota insurers.
More and more people are opting for Medicare Advantage plans due to their convenience and efficiency. These plans make it easier to manage all of your health benefits in one place. They can also provide extra benefits not offered by Medicare Part A and Part B. If you decide a Medicare Advantage plan is right for you, we can help you explore options from reputable insurers. Even if you are happy with your existing plan, we can help you evaluate potential changes in your coverage for the upcoming year based on the materials provided by your insurer. If your plan is changing, we can help you determine if it will continue to meet your needs in the year ahead.
Because private insurers manage Medicare supplement plans, costs will vary between carriers. That is why we recommend working with an independent agent at Patriot Insurance who can help you explore your options and determine which one offers the right value for your needs and budget. For more information about Medicare open enrollment or the coverage options available in Minnesota, contact our office today. We look forward to serving you soon.