Tips to Avoid Medicare Pitfalls

Guide to Choosing a Part D Prescription Drug Plan

Since over thousands of baby boomers enroll into Medicare every day, it’s important to know the facts about the health care insurance program. If you fail to learn, you remain open to expensive mistakes and catches. Tips to Avoid Medicare Pitfalls
Joe Baker, president of the Medicare Rights Center, says, “Avoiding the most common errors in Medicare is the difference between having good financial and health security — or not.” He warns older consumers to learn the rules to avoid higher premiums.
I enrolled in Medicare last year and found the process overwhelming. With the difficult language and limitless selections to choose, it’s no wonder the enrollment left me puzzled. The continuous flow of promotional mail from insurance carriers made the matters worse, not better regarding gaining knowledge. The marketing letters just added to the confusion. And now I face open enrollment and fear the process will take similar paths.
So, to make it easier for the younger boomer, I’ve researched Medicare myths and truths with the intention to save you time and headaches. Here is my assessment:

  • Medicare is not free, and the program has an annual deductible. Beneficiaries do pay monthly premiums. Your income determines the amount.
  • Never assume you don’t qualify or haven’t earned the necessary credits. You may be eligible for the full benefits for Part A – hospital insurance. Understand that the credits are not mandatory to be eligible for Part B, doctors’ services, outpatient care, medical equipment. It’s a requirement that you enroll in Part D, the prescription drug plan, even if you don’t take medications.
  • You must sign up for Part B unless you are 65 and have health coverage at your job (or spouse job) and the employer has 20 plus workers, then delaying Part B is allowable.
  • Even if you have a retiree health plan or COBRA, Part B check with your plan to understand how it works with Medicare.
  • Never count on a friend, associates, or partner to steer you in the Medicare process. Assess your health needs, medications, treatments, physicians, etc. to learn which plan is best. Seek free consultations here.
  • Enrollment begins when you turn 65. You have eight months to enroll when you have coverage at work (or if a spouse carries you on their plan) when it ends.
  • Select a Part D plan according to the drugs you take. Compare coverage and costs among different plans by using the plan finder program on or by calling Medicare at 800-633-4227.
  • Open enrollment comes up once yearly in the fall about an open season that allows you to switch plans.
  • If you intend to buy Medigap, a supplement that covers some out-of-pocket costs like deductibles and copays, you must do it at the right time.
  • Don’t ignore the Annual Notice of Change that comes in the mail each September if enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan (HMO or PPO) or a Part D drug plan. It states changes and cost increases. It is your chance to make comparisons.
  • There is help to pay for the Medicare, check the Medicare Savings Program and the Extra Help Program to see if you are eligible.

Tips to Avoid Medicare Pitfalls

About the Author

Carol Marak

Carol Marak, aging alone advocate, columnist, speaker and editor at A former family caregiver, who earned a Fundamentals of Gerontology Certificate from the USC Davis School of Gerontology and writes about personal concerns while growing older.

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