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Aging into Medicare

by Jeff Dailey

Many in the desert area retire before reaching age 65. Of those who do, a large number were once self employed. Leaving your job or business behind also means leaving your group health insurance behind and, even with the Affordable Care Act, premiums for those between 60 and 65 can be very expensive. Aging into Medicare
That’s why so many seniors are actually relieved to see that 65th birthday on the horizon. Getting your Medicare card means saying goodbye to your expensive, private health plan. However, the relief of finally receiving Medicare can be replaced by the total confusion of the plan options. One of the most common questions I hear is, “Why is Medicare so confusing?”
Aging into MedicareMedicare law is fifty years old, and has gone through hundreds of changes. The biggest changes were the introduction of private Medicare plans, called Advantage plans. These plans are offered under brand names many are now familiar with, such as AARP, SecureHorizons, SCAN, Inter-Valley Health plan, Anthem Blue Cross and others. Some charge no extra premium to you at all. You just continue to make your Medicare premium payment and Medicare pays the private insurer to take care of you. The Advantage plans all provide extra benefits to their members, many with no deductibles, low co-pays and even prescription drug plans included. There are more than 30 Advantage plans available in our area, and all but one are HMO’s. Aging into Medicare
When you are within a few months of turning 65, these plans will inundate you with mail. They compete hard for your business. Each new member means thousands a year from Medicare, paid to the plan to take you off the Medicare rolls. The insurer hopes to make a profit by keeping you healthy. Nothing wrong with that! But, an HMO can severely limit your choice of facilities and doctors, they are regional, and these plans are not your only choice.
Some seniors have already had health issues. They may have specialists they wish to continue seeing and hospitals that they know they want to continue to access. In these cases, it might be better to stay with Medicare and add a Medicare Supplement instead. When you turn 65, a Medicare supplement is a guaranteed issue policy; you can’t be turned down. It’s one of the few times that you can get this type of policy with no health screening. With a supplement you still pay your Medicare premium, and you also pay your private insurer, for your supplemental plan. Your premiums are higher (the Anthem Blue Cross F plan is $150 per month at age 65), but you can now see any doctor or go to any hospital, anywhere in the country, that accepts Medicare. Your supplement pays all deductibles and co-pays that Medicare does not, as long as it is approved by Medicare.
Your first Medicare choice then comes down to lower premiums with less choice, or higher premiums with more choice. Aging into Medicare

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