Tag: Medicare

How Much Does Medicare Cost?

How Much Does Medicare Cost?

How Much Does Medicare Cost?

Medicare costs can be different person to person, depending on which type of plan you choose. After you have a basic understanding of Medicare and it’s basic components, you will want to know how much does Medicare cost? The answer is, it depends on how you structure it. Let’s break down what you could be paying.

Medicare Costs Broken Down & Made Simple

When you set up your Medicare, you will decide if:

Your costs will also be different if you get help in any way from any state or federal programs.

How Much Original Medicare Costs

  • Medicare Part A – For most people, there is not a cost or premium you pay for Part A. Your Part A is premium free if you worked in the US and paid Medicare taxes for at least 30 quarters. (You will pay between $240 – $437 a month depending on your work history for Part A if you do not meet the premium free requirements).
    • There is also a $1,364 yearly deductible for Part A services and coinsurance tiers on hospital stays.
  • Medicare Part B – You will pay a premium for Part B. In 2019, the standard premium is $135.50 per month. If you make more than $85,000 a year in retirement, you will pay more on an income dependent scale.
    • There is also a $185 Part B deductible and a 20% coinsurance (co-pay) for most approved services.
    • Late penalties may also apply to Part B (and less commonly, Part A) if you do not sign-up when you are first eligible.

How Much Prescription Drug Costs

Medicare Part D Prescription Drug Plans

Medicare Part D – Prescription Drug Coverage needs to be obtained from a private insurance company. Each company will price their service differently and you can shop for the best plan and price for you. In addition, you will pay more for your Part D coverage, on a sliding scale, if you make more than $85,000 a year while on Medicare.

Other costs to consider with your Part D coverage are co-pays and coinsurance, in addition to deductibles.

There are also late enrollment penalties associated with not signing up for Part D coverage when you are first eligible if you do not have “credible coverage.”

How Much Medicare Supplements or Medicare Advantage Plans Cost

On top of your Original Medicare, you will need to make a decision to either participate in a Medicare Advantage (Part C) plan or to consider having a Medigap (Medicare Supplement) Plan. If you need help deciding on which one is best for your needs, please read our article on Medicare Advantage Vs. Medicare Supplements.

  • Medicare Supplement Plan Costs – Medicare Supplements will each have a different cost depending on the Letter Plan you choose and the company you go with. The government decides what benefits are offered by each letter plan. Then, each private insurance company decides what price they can offer for each plan in each market. It is a good idea to compare multiple plans by multiple carriers (insurance companies) in your area before choosing a plan. An independent insurance agent will be able to help you do this.
  • Medicare Advantage (MA/MAPD) Costs – Part C, or Medicare Advantage Plans are also offered by private insurance companies and stand in place of Original Medicare. In addition, they often include Part D Prescription Drug Coverage. Some of these plans have low or zero premium plan options. A few even cover Part B premiums. All of them are required to have max out of pocket expenditures and deductibles. It is a good idea to talk to an independent insurance agent on MAPD plans in your area to help you choose your best option.

Medicare Costs Summary

In summary, Medicare will cost you something, unless you are on full benefits from Medicaid. Moreover, you have already been paying into the Medicare system during your working career with Medicare taxes. Common set-up for Medicare beneficiaries include:

  • Having Original Medicare, Part A Premium Free, Part B Premium at $135.50 /month and a stand alone Part D Premium to pay. Then, adding on a Supplement Plan to cover the expenses Original Medicare does not pay.
  • Or having a Part C Medicare Advantage Plan that includes a drug plan with a premium to pay (sometimes a $0 premium). Most commonly, you will still pay your Part B premium with Medicare Advantage.

Get More Help Understanding How Much Medicare will Cost You

One good resource for learning more about the costs of Medicare is the Medicare and You Book published by the government every year. It is a large book, so please star with our Medicare and You User’s Guide to learn what it offers and to get a copy if you need one.

In addition, finding the best Medicare options for your budget can be a lot to take on, but hopefully this breakdown is helpful. I strongly suggest talking to a professional to help you in setting up your Medicare plan. As an independent agent myself, I suggest using an independent agent. They are not tied to one company, so they work for you, not one carrier and can help you in considering many different carriers and plans.

Carly Cummings, Medicare and Medigap Expert

As always, if you live in Nebraska or Iowa, please give me a call, and I can help you out either in person or over the phone.

Carly Cummings, NE/IA Licensed Independent Insurance Agent for Life and Health.
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What is Indexed Universal Life Insurance (IUL)

What is Indexed Universal Life Insurance (IUL)

What is Indexed Universal Life Insurance (IUL)? Do I Need One?

What is Indexed Universal Life Insurance (IUL)? That is a question we hear often as IUL’s have been increasing in popularity. I am sure we will hear it even more as they are expected to continue to rise this year.

They have become popular in our low interest bond market as an alternate way to grow savings fund conservatively for both retirement purposes and legacy purposes. However, not everyone needs an IUL. Let’s take a deeper look into what are IULs and who might need/want one.

What is Indexed Universal Life Insurance (IUL)?

An Indexed Universal Life (IUL) Insurance Policy offers insurance with a cash value in addition to a tax-free death benefit. Both the cash value and the death benefit are useful and attractive tax advantaged ways to provide for your family. The cash value can provide you tax advantaged income in retirement, and the death benefit can provide tax advantaged cash for your family when you die.

Premiums

IULs are structured so that premium payments cover not just the cost of insurance, but also the extra money needed to create and maintain the cash value of the policy. Each month the policy cash value grows with excess cash payments and interest. However, the policy is also debited by the cost of insurance and policy charges/fees.

Interest

The interest growth is tied to a financial index (like the S&P 500, Russell 2000, Nasdaq 100 and the Dow Jones) and usually with a minimum growth rate and a maximum (capped) interest rate. This allows participants to take advantage of market growth without having the threat of losing money. The tradeoff for this security is the growth cap. For instance, you might have a minimum interest of 2% and a cap at 12%. If the market loses money, you don’t. If the market grows 20% or 30%, you only see 12%.

The Flexibility of IUL

One of the main reasons, IULs are popular is their flexibility.

  • Premium Flexibility – The premiums are flexible each month. There is usually a minimum and maximum you can feed into the policy each month. Staying within your contracted terms, this allows you to let the accumulated cash value help in paying the cost of insurance if you miss a month’s premium. However, the policy will lapse if there is not enough cash value to cover the cost of insurance and fees. (This is true with most policies, unless you have a no lapse guarantee rider.)
  • Death Benefit Flexibility – You have the ability to increase or decrease your death benefit (subject to underwriting).

Do You Need Universal Life Insurance (IUL)?

Here are some reasons you might need an IUL.

  • First, if you are looking for another avenue to bolster tax advantaged (tax-free) cash flow in retirement.
  • Second, if you need to leave money after you die for final expenses, income replacement, debts, or estate taxes.
  • Finally, if you need an alternative to long-term care insurance.

Let’s break each of these down.

IULs for Retirement Planning

Sometimes you need another revenue stream in retirement. You probably have your taxable accounts (IRAs, Pensions, Social Security, Investments) to draw from as one stream. In addition, you might have tax free accounts such as a Roth IRA (or Social Security if you keep your tax threshold low enough), but often times you need another vehicle to in this tax advantaged category.

This is where an IUL’s cash value comes in. You can borrow against this amount in retirement and the loan is considered a tax free event. This is an avenue is not just for the super wealthy, but if you are looking for a place to grow a lot of money conservatively, this is a good place. It is also a good way to manage your tax exposure in retirement. Are you interested in keeping your taxes as low as possible in retirement? I suggest reading the book, The Power of Zero by David Mcknight to learn more.

IULs for Survivor’s Benefits

These are the traditional reasons for taking out life insurance, and they all stand-up in an IUL. You can structure your policy so that your beneficiaries will receive a lump sum of cash that is not taxed by the federal government. You will need to plan to see how much of a death benefit you will need to leave to help your family in paying off your expenses (funeral, medical) and your debts. In addition, your beneficiary(ies) might need to replace your income after you pass or pay off big ticket items to maintain their lifestyle. Moreover, the death benefit can offer money to help pay estate taxes.

IULs for Long-Term Care Planning

What is an IUL

Long Term Care Riders are a newer benefit of IUL policies. However, only some carriers offer them. Long Term Care Insurance can be very expensive… very, very expensive. Wrapping up the “cost” of insurance in an upfront IUL rider is one way to make it less painful. With an LTC rider, qualified long-term care expenses are paid using the death benefit before death. The insurance company pays what is left to your beneficiaries as a death benefit when you pass. Remember, Medicare doesn’t cover Long Term Care.

Action Steps

Now that you know what is Indexed Universal Life Insurance (IUL) Policy, here is what you can do next:

  • If you have decided that you want an IUL or want more information on one, you should talk to a licensed insurance agent. IUL’s are complicated. In addition, each company structures them differently. This is not a product you can just “click to buy!.”
  • If you have read through this article and thought, “not me” or “not now,” then I would encourage you to consider other alternatives to solve your planning problems.
    • Investing: If you need a place to access cash that is not taxable in retirement, make sure you are maxing out your Roth IRA first.
    • Insurance: If you need life insurance, but just not that much, check out final expense policies, or if you are younger, term life.
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Medicare FAQ’s

Medicare FAQ’s

The Most Frequently Asked Medicare Questions & Answers

Once you are familiar with the basics of Medicare, these are the Medicare questions we hear the most often that you might have too.

If you are starting from the beginning and do not have a basic understanding of Medicare, we recommend checking out our pages that detail out the basics on:

Can I have both Medicare Advantage and a Medicare Supplement?

No, you have one or the other. Not both, they do not work together and it is illegal for anyone to sell you both.

What are the Medicare Supplement Plan Changes for 2020?

Starting in 2020, the government has stated the no one newly aging into Medicare will be able to buy a supplement that includes coverage of the Part B.

In 2019, this deductible was $185. The only difference between two of the most popular Medicare Supplement (Medigap) Plans – Plan F and Plan G – is the inclusion or exclusion of the Part B Deductible.

Insurance companies often offer Plan G’s at less expensive prices than their Plan F’s. Even after adding back in the Part B deductible, and for that reason, they are often a good choice.

In addition, if you already have a Plan F, it is a good idea to see if you could save money by switching to a Plan G. However, know that you will have to pass medical underwriting to switch your plan.

What is Medicare’s Annual Enrollment Period (AEP)?

I wrote a whole article to answer this question for you – click here to read it.

Where Should I go for Government Medicare Information?

  • In addition, the government publishes a Guidebook to every year called Medicare and You. You can find our review and User’s Manual to this 120-page book here: Medicare and You 2020.

Who should I talk to if I have more Medicare Questions or if I want Medigap or Medicare Advantage?

You can compare Supplement and MA plans online, but I suggest you talk to a professional, independent insurance broker. They can help you compare plans. Moreover, it won’t cost you any more money to use a professional. Both Medigap and Medicare Advantage Plans can be overwhelming when you are trying to pick one, especially if there are many offered in your area.

Remember, independent agents work for you (not the carriers). In addition, having an actual person to help you in communicating to insurance carriers and keeping you updated each year is very valuable. This is something you don’t get if you sign-up directly with a company online.

Carly Cummings, Medicare and Medigap Expert
Medicare Expert -Carly Cummings

If you are in the states of Nebraska or Iowa and you are looking for an agent to help you in any area of Medicare, Health or Life Insurance, please get in touch with me here.

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Part D Prescription Drug Plans

Part D Prescription Drug Plans

Medicare Part D Prescription Drug Plan Information

Part D of Medicare covers Prescription Drugs. There are different Part D Prescription Drug Plans available. When you choose a plan you will find various costs and coverage. However, the government establishes a “standard level of coverage” that each plan must meet.

Part D Prescription Drug Coverage

Each plan has a formulary – a list of prescription drugs – they cover. In addition, they have a tier system that ranks how much you will pay for each drug. For example, a generic drug for a specific condition might be in a lower price tier than a brand name of the same drug. You can learn more about Part D drug coverage at Medicare.gov.

Where Do I Get Part D Coverage?

You can have Part D Prescription Drug Plans by themselves (with Original Medicare Part A and Part B, but with or without a supplement) or as a part of your Medicare Advantage Plan.

What do Part D Prescription Drug Plans Cost?

Each plan will have a monthly premium (this is included in your plan premium if you have a MAPD plan). In addition, plans will also have yearly deductibles, co-payments, and costs in what is called the coverage gap. Plans will often try to help you try to save money on your drugs by offering generic options, pharmacy networks, and sometimes mail order programs.

What is the Coverage Gap (aka Donut Hole) in Part D?

In most drug plan there is a limit on what the plan will cover. In 2019, this limit was $3,820. However, once you hit $5,100 in out-of-pocket expenses in a year, you enter Catastrophic Coverage and your costs go back down to paying only small co-payments for covered drugs.

Fortunately, this “hole” in the middle of coverage has been closing-up since 2010, and by 2020, it is basically the same as initial coverage until you enter the catastrophic zone. In 2019, you pay 25% of the plan cost for covered brand name drugs and 37% of the plan cost for generics. To learn more about how these costs apply to your total for entering catastrophic, visit this page.

Are Medicare Part D Prescription Drug Plans Necessary?

Part D coverage is technically optional coverage. However, if you do not enroll in a plan right when you are eligible (and you don’t have any other coverage in place the government would consider creditable drug coverage), you will face fines later when signing up. Basically, if you think you will ever need drug coverage, you probably should take on a plan immediately. Penalties are calculated based on how long you are without coverage and last as long as you have Part D coverage.

How and When can I get or switch a Part D Prescription Drug Plan?

If you have both Medicare Part A and Part B, you are eligible to enroll in a Part D Prescription Drug Plan. We are always advocates of you speaking with a licensed professional before you purchase a plan or switch plans. You can review plan options online, but going over your medications and concerns with a licensed agent may save you from trouble down the road.

Your IEP, Initial Enrollment Period, for Part D is the same 7 month period when you can enroll for Medicare. This starts 3 months before you turn 65, your birthday month, and the 3 months after. Your coverage begins the first day of the month you turn 65. However, you must sign-up in time for that to happen.

Much like an MA/MAPD Plan, switching Part D plans can occur during a Special Enrollment Period. (For example, if you are moving out of a plan’s territory.) Secondly, you can sign-up each year during the Annual Enrollment Period (AEP). AEP happens yearly from October 15th to December 7th.

Other Related Topics

Medicare Part D Prescription Drug Plans
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Medicare Advantage vs Medicare Supplement

Medicare Advantage vs Medicare Supplement

Medicare Advantage vs Medicare Supplement (Medigap): What Medicare Plan is Best for Me?

I am a firm believer that there is a good Medicare health plan out there for everyone. Moreover, there might even be more than one good choice out there for your situation. If there is more than one good choice available to you, you might be weighing your options right now – Medicare Advantage vs Medicare Supplement.

First, Let’s review your Medicare options:

Original Medicare (no supplement)

Certainly, stand-alone Medicare coverage is an option. You would still want to get Part D Prescription coverage. (There are penalties down the road if you do not get Part D or have credible coverage already and then want to get it later.) However, you would then be left paying your deductibles and 20% coinsurance out-of-pocket.

For example, with ONLY Original Medicare and NO supplement or MA plan, if you ended up having a major health event like a surgery, the 20% left that medicare doesn’t pay could still be thousands of dollars.

You would also have to go through medical underwriting with a private insurance carrier if you later want a supplement and you have missed your Guaranteed Issue time frame. You can always join a MA plan later, but only during a special enrollment period or during the Annual Enrollment Period (Oct. 15 – Dec. 7).

Original Medicare with a Supplement

With this option, you keep Original Medicare and add on a Supplement (Medigap) Policy with a private insurance company to help you in paying the pieces that Medicare does not. These costs can become large if you have a big medical event or a chronic illness. In this instance, a Supplement would protect you from “losing the shirt off your back”! You would also have a stand-alone Part D Prescription Drug Plan (or a plan that is considered “credible coverage”).

Medicare Advantage (MA/MAPD)

Finally, with a MA/MAPD plan you would replace Original Medicare with a bundled plan offered by a private insurance company. These often include a Prescription Drug Plan. (These are called MAPD plans, which are most the common plans). You still “have Medicare” with these plans. However, they are run by private companies who put together networks of providers and health facilities.

One question we hear a lot is, “can I have both Medicare Advantage and a Medicare Supplement?” No, you have one or the other. Not both, they do not work together and it is illegal for anyone to sell you both.

What are the Differences Between having a Supplement (Medigap) and having Medicare Advantage (MA/MAPD)?

Now, let’s do a breakdown of Medicare Advantage vs. Medicare Supplements. First, let’s look at the difference in care and the differences in cost. We are assuming you either have Medicare Advantage or Original Medicare with a Supplement (aka Medigap Plans).

Medicare w/Medigap Medicare Advantage
Care OptionsYou can go to any doctor that accepts Medicare already. Specialist referrals are not needed.You typically must visit doctors that are in the plan’s network if you do not want to pay extra. Specialist visits sometimes need a referral, depending on your plan. Click here to read more about plan structures (HMO, PPO, etc.)
ExtrasNASome plans include extra benefits such as hearing, dental, vision and fitness/wellness programs.
Monthly
Costs
Medicare Part A – usually premium free
Part B – Monthly Premium (based on income level)
Part D – Monthly Prescription Premium
Supplement – Premium dependent on which company & plan letter you choose
MAPD plans with Drug Coverage Included pays a monthly premium to the insurance company for all services. Some plans include the Part B Premium and some plans do not. Some plans have a $0 monthly premium option.
Out of Pocket CostsCosts can be very minimal depending on that Medigap plan you choose. There are high deductible options, and starting in 2020, the Part B deductible will have to be paid by everyone who is just aging into Medicare. Some plans have lower out-of-pocket costs than Original Medicare and all have a yearly limit on out-of-pocket expenses that are covered by Medicare.
Domestic TravelEmergency and urgent care are always covered in the US. You can use any doctor that takes Medicare in the US for routine visits. If you spend long periods of time traveling and need to see a doctor for routine visits whole out of town, this might be your best option. Emergency and urgent care are always covered in the US. You will have to use doctors in network for routine visits for them to be covered. Some insurance companies have large networks that can span several states, so make sure to inquire about how large the network is before you rule out a MA plan if you travel a lot.
Foreign TravelSome supplement plans cover part of the emergency medical fees you may use in other countries. Plans C, D, F, G, M & N have 80% foreign travel exchange limits. Plans do not typically have any over seas coverage.

Making Your Choice between Medicare Advantage vs Medicare Supplement

Now that you understand the basics of Medicare Advantage Plans and Original Medicare plus a Medigap (Supplement) Plan and know the significant differences between the two, it’s decision time.

First, I always recommend speaking with a licensed, independent agent that can help you in assessing all the various plan types available in your area. Every county has different options for MA/MAPD plans, and insurance carriers have different prices on the supplement plans you may be considering.

Second, it’s good to have an idea of what is important to you. You should be thinking specifically in regards to money and lifestyle when choosing a path.

Consider these questions when choosing between Medigap and MA Plans:

Do you plan on living in another place for a significant period of time during the year?

If you are a “snowbird” or are planning a longer vacation where a routine doctor visit may be necessary when away from your primary residence, then a supplement may be your best choice. Remember though, emergency / urgent care visits are covered with both types of plans.

However, if your travel happens to be international, Both Original Medicare and MA plans do not cover foreign travel, but some supplement plans (plans C, D, F, G, M & N) have 80% foreign travel exchange limits that will help off-set some costs.

What is (or will be) your cash flow situation in retirement?

Some retirees have pensions, social security and other payments (like annuities) that come to them automatically each month. Other retirees have less of these automatic infusions or smaller required distributions and prefer to leave as much of their cash in investments as possible. Finally, some retirees are on a smaller, fixed income. This might require them to consider cash flow very carefully.

In each situation, you will need to review how you are paying for your health services, as each plan offers different payment options.

Cash Flow with a Supplement:

With a supplement, you will have a set amount of money (that could be a larger sum than an MA plan) come out of your bank (and/or S.S./R.R. check) each month. This can add up when you consider it includes Part B premiums, Part D Prescription premiums, and your supplement premiums. However, if you chose a plan that covers everything Original Medicare leaves out, then you would not pay any other out-of-pocket fees for Medicare covered services.

Cash Flow with a MA/MAPD Plan:

With a Medicare Advantage plan, you will most likely have a smaller amount of money coming out of your wallet each month. You will most likely have an MAPD plan that includes your drug plan, as stand alone MA plans are becoming much more rare, and some plans even include Part B premiums. So, with a MAPD plan, you would be paying a MA premium and maybe your Part B premium each month. Moreover, there are sometimes zero dollar per month ($0/month) premium MA plans available. The costs then to consider and maybe budget for with MA plans is if there are any co-pays, co-insurances and deductibles with the plans. Each plan will be set-up differently, and each plan will also have a max yearly out-of-pocket limit.

Just like in any kind of insurance, Medicare plans are set-up to allow you to choose how much out-of-pocket expenses you incur versus monthly premiums you pay.

Looking at your budget and then talking through your options with a licensed agent will allow you to make the best choice for your situation.

How interested are you in extra benefits being included?

Finally, one more consideration is the other elements that round out your health insurance plan, such as dental, vision, hearing, etc. If you have a supplement plan, you will need to decide if you need these services, and if you do, are you wanting to take on insurance plans for them. You might decide to add on a stand-alone, or a plan that includes any or all of these common services (dental, vision, hearing).

Often times, Medicare Advantage plans will include these services as a part of their plan as an additional benefit which might save you money if you were planning on getting a stand alone plan or paying cash for these services.

Moreover, many MA plans will offer fitness or wellness services that are included at no additional cost. Sometimes this means you will not have to pay for a separate gym membership. Silver Sneakers is one example of a national program that is used by many MA plans to provide fitness and wellness services.

The Next Steps for Choosing Your Medicare Plan

As you can see, developing your Medicare Health Insurance Plan can be very involved, but I am confident you can do it! Having a professional to help you through the process is important. Please reach out to an independent insurance agent to review what is available in your area. They will be able to explain plans in specifics and answer your questions about Medicare Advantage vs Medicare Supplement.

Finally, Medicare.gov is also a good tool for answering your broader questions, and we also encourage you to comment on this page or contact us directly with any questions. Thanks!

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What is Medicare Advantage

What is Medicare Advantage

Is Medicare Advantage Best for My Situation?

In this article, we look at what is Medicare Advantage (aka Medicare Part C). As we discussed in our Medicare 101 Post, there are two different Medicare paths. You will choose one when you are setting up your health care in retirement.

  • Path One = Original Medicare, Part A and Part B, with a stand alone Prescription Drug Plan (Part D) and an optional Medigap (Medicare Supplement) Plan.
  • Path Two = Medicare Advantage (Part C) that replaces Medicare Part A and Part B and typcially includes a Part D Drug Plan. These plans are offered by private insurance companies that you work with directly.

The Basics of Medicare Advantage

Medicare Advantage “bundled” plans are offered by private insurance companies (carriers). You use them IN PLACE of Original Medicare, but they are still Medicare. Moreover, they must include all the same Medicare services covered by Part A (hospital) and Part B (medical). In addition, almost of them include Part D (prescription drugs).

You will hear/see these plans referred to as MA plans, and MAPD plans when they include prescription drugs.

What is the Advantage to Choosing a MA or MAPD plan?

Medicare Advantage

The first advantage to these plans is that many of them have lower out-of-pocket costs than Original Medicare. Secondly, they often have extra benefits such as dental, vision or hearing that is not included in Medicare.

What are the Costs of a MA / MAPD Plan?

First, remember that most people have Medicare Part A “premium free”. (See this page on the medicare.gov website if you are wondering if you are in the “most people” category.) Second, remember that most people also pay a monthly premium for Part B. However, some Medicare Advantage plans will pay all or part of your Part B premium.

There may be many (or just a few) different MA and MAPD plans available in your area. They will all be set up differently and cost different prices from carrier to carrier. We suggest finding an independent insurance agent/broker that can compare different plans, carriers (insurance companies) and prices. They will help you pick a plan that fits your lifestyle and financial needs. Please note, there are often plans out there that have low or even $0 monthly premiums.

In addition to whether or not you pay a monthly premium with a MAPD plan, each plan will have a different set up for out-of-pocket costs:

You will need to decide what plans fit well with your monthly cash flow situation in addition to how often you need medical products and services.

How do MA and MAPD Plans Work?

Insurance companies usually set-up Medicare Advantage programs as a PPO or HMO networks. You might be familiar with this style of network plan insurance if you had (have) one from an employer or even from the open marketplace.

Typically, you will need to use doctors in your MA plans network. (Unless it is an emergency, or unless you are willing to pay extra to go “out-of-network”). If you have providers you want to keep, ask them if they are part of a network you are considering. In some MA/MAPD plans, you may also need referrals to see specialists. These are all plan specific requirements. You will need to look all these requirements prior to making your MA decisions.

HMO and PPO plans have much more robust networks now than plans from the past. Most people can find a plan that is large enough/flexible enough to work with their lifestyle. This is true even if they travel frequently in retirement. I recommend talking to a licensed agent to make sure you understand how the plans work.

When Can You Sign-up for a Medicare Advantage Plan?

If you are a US citizen with both Part A and Part B Medicare coverage, you can join MA plans in your area during these times:

  • During your Initial Enrollment Period (IEP): Just like joining Original Medicare, you can join a MA plan during the 7 month period (3 months before the effective date of Medicare Part A and B, including the month Medicare begins, and then 3 months after) of time that you are turning 65.
  • During the Annual Enrollment Period (AEP): October 15th to December 7th, is when you have the opportunity each year to join an MA/MAPD plan. Your new coverage will begin January 1st.

    *OEP – As of 2019, if you are already in a Medicare Advanage plan, you can also change plans during AEP, or you can switch plans once (or switch back to Original Medicare) during Open Enrollment Period – January 1st to March 31st.

Other things the US Government would like you to know about MA Plans:

  • Emergency and Urgent Care is always covered with MA plans.
  • MA plans cover all Original Medicare Services and carriers must follow all Medicare rules.
  • MA plans may have extra benefits like vision, health, dental and other fitness/wellness programs.
  • You can join a MA plan with pre-existing conditions (except for ESRD, which is a special case and has other options).

Who can Help You with a Medicare Advantage Policy?

Just like a supplement, you can compare these plans online, but I suggest you talk to a professional, independent insurance broker that can help you compare plans. It won’t cost you any more money to use a professional, and Medicare Advantage Plans can be overwhelming when you are trying to pick one, especially if there are many offered in your area.

Remember, independent agents work for you (not the carriers), and having an actual person to help you in communicating to insurance carriers and keeping you updated each year is very valuable. This is something you do not get if you sign-up directly with a company online.

If you are in the state of Nebraska and you are looking for an agent to help you in any area of Medicare, Health or Life Insurance, please get in touch with me here.

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