Tag: Medicare Part C

2020 Part B Deductible / 2021 Part B Deductible

2020 Part B Deductible / 2021 Part B Deductible

2020 Part B Deductible / 2021 Part B Deductible for Medicare

The 2021 changes for Medicare were released this month. The 2021 Part B Deductible is just one of the increases you will see.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) released their updates for the coming year in a press release. Let’s look at what is changing.

Part B Deductible for 2020

  • In 2021, the Medicare Part B Deductible will be $203.
  • In contrast, the deductible was 198 for 2020.
  • This is an increase of $5.

Part B Premiums for 2021

  • In 2021, the Medicare Part B Monthly Premium will be $148.50
  • In 2020, the Medicare Part B Monthly Premium was $144.60.
  • The premium was 135.50 for 2019.
medicare part b costs 2021 chart - Medicare Part A Costs Chart

Why are the Part B Deductible and Premiums Increasing in 2021?

The CMS adjusts the deductibles yearly, in accordance to the Social Security Act. Moreover, the increase reflects national healthcare trends.

In addition, the CMS has stated that the rate hike is mostly due to the increased use and cost of physician- administered drugs. Part B covers Physician-administered drugs.

What Part B Covers

Medicare Parts A B C D Explained

As a reminder, Medicare Part B covers:

  • Physician and Provider Services
  • Outpatient Services
  • Home Health Services
  • Durable Medical Equipment
  • Other non-hospital health services

To learn even more about the parts of Medicare and what they cover, you can see our infographic and discussion here.

Who Pays the Part B Deductible?

  • If you have Original Medicare only, you will pay the Part B Deductible.
  • In addition, if you have a Medicare Supplement that does not cover the Part B Deductible, you will pay it.
  • Some Medicare Advantage Plans have you cover the Part B deductible. This will be stated in your Summary of Benefits. However, 2020 plans have already been released, so deductibles are already set for the new year and will not be affected by this increase.

As of 2020, new beneficiaries to Medicare will not be able to choose a Medicare Supplement Letter Plan that covers the Part B Deductible. For example, Plan F covers the deductible, so seniors new to Medicare in 2020 and beyond will not be able to pick Plan F. Seniors that are already on these letter plans can keep them. Read more about this topic here.

Will the Changes Affect Part C or Part D costs?

No, these deductible and premium increases will not affect Part D Drug Plans or Part C Medicare Advantage Plans. The premium costs and the deductibles have already been set for the coming year. As a result, they are not affected.

According to the CMS press release,

As previously announced, as a result of CMS actions to drive competition, on average for 2020, Medicare Advantage premiums are expected to decline by 23 percent from 2018, and will be the lowest in the last thirteen years while plan choices, benefits and enrollment continue to increase. Premiums and deductibles for Medicare Advantage and Medicare Part D Prescription Drug plans are already finalized and are unaffected by this announcement.

CMS Press Release, Nov 2019

That is extra good news for those on Medicare Advantage Plans that have their deductibles satisfied with their plan. Some Medicare Advantage plans have a zero dollar deductible for their whole plan. These plans bundle Parts A & B and have the option of including the Part B Original Medicare deductible or covering it themselves.

Income Adjustments to Part B Premiums

There are no income related adjustments to the Part B Medicare Deductible. However, there are income related adjustments to your Part B Premiums.

  • First, the standard 2020 Part B premium of $144.60 applies to those with income less than or equal to $87,000 a year ($174,000 joint income).
  • Second, if you claim income between $87,000 and $109,000 ($174k-$218k joint), you will pay $202.40 a month.
  • Third, if you claim income between $109,000 and $136,000 ($218k – $272k joint), you pay $289.20.
  • Fourth, if you claim income between $136,000 and $163,000 ($272k – $326k joint), you pay $376.00.
  • Fifth, if you claim income between $163,000 and $500,000 ($326k – $750k joint), you pay $462.70.
  • Finally, if you have income greather than or equal to $500,000 ($750k+ joint), then you pay 491.60.
  • Click here if you need to see a table for premiums for spouses that file separate returns.

Are there Changes to Part A?

Yes, there are also changes to Medicare Part A. If you have a Medicare Supplement Plan, depending on which Letter plan you have, your supplement will continue to pick up these costs.

If you have a Medicare Advantage Plan, your plans benefits will still apply to you instead of the Original Medicare benefit structure. 2020 plans have already been released, so you will not be affected by these changes.

However, if you have Original Medicare only, you will want to take a look at the Part A changes that affect you here.

Further Reading

If you would like to learn more about Medicare we Suggest the following articles:

This Tool Kit answers your questions regarding Medicare Information, Medicare Supplements, Medicare Advantage, and Prescription Drug Plans. Discover what products are right for you and how to sign-up for them. 

Medicare 101

Read about basic Medicare Information. What is Medicare Part A? Part B? Get answers to your basic Medicare questions.

Medicare Supplements

What is a Medicare Supplement and how do I choose the best one for me? 

Medicare Advantage

What is Medicare Advantage and when is it, and what plans are, best for my situation?

Prescription Drug Plans

When do I need a drug plan and what do I need to look for in a good plan?

Medicare Advantage vs Medicare Supplements

What plan type is best for my situation and what do I need to consider when choosing.

Most Asked Medicare ?s

Answers to your questions and answers to questions you should be asking.

Medicare and You 2020 & 2021

Medicare and You 2020 & 2021

Medicare and You 2020 & 2021 Guidebook – Read This First

Your Introduction to the Medicare and You 2020 & 2021 Book, and where to get a copy.

The Medicare and You 2021 Guidebook details what you need to know about Medicare benefits for the current year. In it you will find the basics of Medicare, how to get it, and what changes the program is implementing in the calendar year.

However, it is 120 pages long and very detailed. It is also very dry and technical.

So, if you are trying to learn more about Medicare – without falling asleep in the process – we have on-topic website article suggestions for you here that follow the elements of the Medicare and You 2020 Guide.

Where to find the guide

What is included in the Medicare and You 2021 Guidebook?

Here we will outline the sections of the guidebook and give you relevant articles that discuss the various Medicare elements and benefits.

What are the Parts of Medicare?

Intro Section (page 5)

The Medicare and You book starts out with summarizing parts A, B, and D and what they include.

Medicare Part C is discussed in the next section.

Related Article: For an illustrated overview of the four parts of Medicare, visit our medicare parts infographic and article “Medicare Parts A B C D.”

What are my Medicare options?

Intro Section on Original vs Medicare Advantage (pages 6-8)

how to read Medicare and You 2020 guidebook

Many online comparisons are between Medicare Supplements and Medicare Advantage plans as those are the additions that are in your hands to choose.

However, all these comparisons are in their simplest form between having Original Medicare vs Medicare Advantage. This section does a side-by-side comparison of the two (with or without a supplement).

Related Article: For a more in-depth discussion to help you decide what Medicare options are right for you, please read the “Medicare Advantage vs Medicare Supplements” article here.

How do I get Medicare?

“Section 1: Signing up for Medicare” (pages 15-24)

People get Medicare in different ways. Some are signed-up for it automatically if you are already receiving Social Security or Railroad Retirement. Some people must sign up for it when they turn 65 (or delay it if they are not ready at 65).

This section gives you people to call (Social Security at 1-800-772-1213) and places to visit (online at ssa.gov/benefits/medicare) if you need to sign yourself up.

Other topics covered include, when to sign-up, what to sign-up for, and what does each part cost?

Related Articles:

Hey, Medicare and You 2021, Will Medicare Cover My…?

“Section 2: Find out if Medicare covers your test, service or item” (pages 25-50)

This section lists all Medicare Benefits you will receive if you are signed-up for both Medicare Parts A and B. These benefits are universal, meaning they are the standards of care you will receive whether you are receiving Medicare from the federal government or through a private carrier with a Medicare Advantage Plan.

If you are looking to see if a specific benefit is included in Medicare, this is the section to search for it.

This section also reminds you of what is not included in Medicare, such as Long-Term Care insurance. In addition, Original Medicare does NOT include many services that ARE covered by Medicare Advantage Plans. These include dental care, eye exams, hearing benefits, and fitness programs.

2020 New Offering Alert: One interesting change noted in the Medicare and You 2020 book is that many Medicare Advantage programs are now offering “telehealth” benefits where you can see a provider at home instead of at their facility. The guidebook notes that this is typically beyond what Original Medicare can offer.

Related Article: To see the basics of what Medicare Covers, please see our article “Medicare Parts A B C D.”

What exactly is Original Medicare?

“Section 3: Original Medicare” (pages 51-54)

The Original Medicare section explains how our Federal Health Insurance for Seniors works. If you have Original Medicare, with or without a supplement, you are a beneficiary of a nationalized health care system and the government is the primary payer of your health benefits.

Read this section to learn how that works and how to use your benefits once you are on Medicare.

Related Article: Read “What is Medicare?

What is Medicare Advantage?

“Section 4: Medicare Advantage Plans & other options”

The other option than being on Original Medicare is to be on a Medicare Advantage Plan. In this case, a private insurance company becomes your primary payer and main contact. Medicare Advantage (MA/MAPD) Plans are called “bundled plans” because they combine parts A, B and D to form one “Plan C.”

They often have reduced costs for premium payments, with some of them even offering “$0” monthly premiums. In addition, they often include extra benefits, not included by government Medicare, such as dental, hearing and eye care. “Silver Sneakers” and similar fitness/wellness programs are also often an included benefit.

Related Articles:

What is a Medicare Supplement / Medigap Plan?

“Section 5: Medicare Supplement Insurance (Medigap) policies” (pages 69-72)

Medigap Policy Chart
CLICK HERE to see more about the various Medigap plans and what they offer.

When you opt for keeping Original Medicare (instead of a Medicare Advantage Plan) you will most likely want to pair that with not just a stand-alone drug plan, but also with a Medigap Plan. These plans are also called Medicare Supplement Plans.

They are supplemental insurance plans that pick up paying where Original Medicare leaves off – such as with the 20% coinsurance, co-pays and deductibles.

The government sets the requirements for each supplement plan and then the private insurance companies decide what price they can offer for each plan in each market they are in. These plans are labeled with letters, and offer the exact same benefits no matter what private insurance company you choose.

Related Article: For more information, please read this article on Medicare Supplement Insurance.

What is Part D?

“Section 6: Medicare Prescription Drug Coverage (Part D)” (pages 73-82)

Read this section to learn how Medicare Drug Plans work, where to get one, and when you can get one / switch them.

Remember, that if you opt for a Medicare Advantage Plan, you will most likely have your drug plan included (which is called a MAPD plan).

Related Articles:

Can I get help paying for medical costs?

“Section 7: Get help paying your health & prescription drug costs” (pages 83-88)

The government has set up several ways for Medicare Beneficiaries to get help in paying for their health insurance. Read this section to see if you qualify for the various tiers of assistance.

How can I protect myself?

“Section 8: Know your rights & protect yourself from fraud” (pages 89-100)

The U.S. government understands that health insurance can be confusing, and there are people out there that will try to take advantage of this confusion. Read this section to know how to protect yourself from health care and insurance fraud.

In addition, Section 8 also explains your rights under Medicare and how to make an appeal if you decide your rights have been violated. The Medicare and You 2020 book defines an appeal as “…the action you can take if you disagree with a coverage or payment decision by Medicare or your Medicare plan.”

How do I get my questions answered?

“Section 9: Get more information” (pages 101-112)

Next, if you have questions related to Original Medicare, the handbook offers you the following numbers to call:

1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227)
TTY users call 1-877-486-2048
Get information 24 hours a day, including weekends

Medicare and You 2021

Additionally, for questions regarding insurance plans like Supplement (Medigap) or Medicare Advantage (MA/MAPD) then we suggested talking to a licensed insurance professional.

If you are lucky enough to live in our headquarters of Nebraska or our neighboring state of Iowa, you can contact us here.

Related Article: Please see our Frequently Asked Questions page, and if you have a question, please leave it in the comments section or email us. Thanks!

What does this word mean?

“Section 10: Definitions” (pages 113-116)

Do you just live to read a good glossary? Well, here you go. You will find here definitions to all the health care and insurance lingo you need to know to navigate your health care effectively.

Related Article: Feel free to look through all our Medicare Articles. They are all listed on this page.

Medicare and You 2020/2021 Handbook Review

We hope our review of the 2020 & 2021 Medicare and You Book has been helpful.

Our one hope for next year is that the book might be more helpful in pointing beneficiaries towards ways to find LICENSED independent insurance professionals that can help them in making decisions. These agents are the only ones required to stay licensed, tested and up to date on the plans that are out there. Moreover, this applies especially for the Medicare Advantage approved agents as they have to be re-tested every year on changes.

Finally, we are MedicareLifeHealth.com just don’t understand how people can be offering advice on plans – that change yearly – they have not be certified to explain.

Our advice? Find yourself a good agent, and make them work for you.

Further Medicare and You 2021 Topic Relevant Reading

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How Much Does Medicare Cost?

How Much Does Medicare Cost?

How Much Does Medicare Cost?

how much does medicare cost price tag image from medicarelifehealth.com

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

how much does medicare cost?
  • 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 $252 – $458 a month depending on your work history for Part A if you do not meet the premium free requirements in 2020).
    • There is also a $1,408 yearly deductible for Part A services and coinsurance tiers on hospital stays.
  • Medicare Part B – You will pay a premium for Part B. In 2020, the standard premium is $144.60 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 $198 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.
  • Here are a Few Medigap Articles to tell you more:
  • 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.
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. (For example, HMO, PPO and PFFS networks.)

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!

Other Topics Related to Medicare Choices:

medicare advantage vs original medicare with a supplement - Medicare Life Health Pin
What is Medicare Advantage

What is Medicare Advantage

What is Medicare Advantage?

What is Medicare Advantage?

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?

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?

What is medicare advantage with Carly Cummings, creator of Medicare Life Health Co.

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.

Where to go next:

Medicare Advantage Vs Medicare Supplement
What is Medicare?

What is Medicare?

What is Medicare?

What is Medicare

Medicare is the U.S. national health care program that provides seniors age 65 and older, and some disabled people, with health insurance.

The U.S. government started the program in 1966. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services runs these programs. Medicare also covers people with end stage renal disease and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. (Visit the government’s website, if you want more info on these situations).

A Simple Guide to the Basics

To start, we will assume you know very little. This article breaks down the basics of our national health care system and its various parts. We will cover:

  • Eligibility
  • Signing-Up
  • What is Provided – Parts, A, B, C & D
  • Prescription Drug Coverage
  • Medigap vs Med Advantage Plans
  • Associated Costs
  • Guides and Further Information

Who is Eligible for Medicare?

You are eligible if:

  • First, you are 65 years old or older.
  • Second, you have End Stage Renal Disease (permanent kidney failure requiring dialysis or transplant) at any age
  • Finally, you are classified as disabled by the Federal Government, at any age.

When do I sign-up?

If you are mentioned in the above paragraph, you might be ready to sign-up. We are going to assume that you are in the senior category for simplicity’s sake. Turning 65 is the catalyst for many people to join the program, but if you are still working and covered by an employer’s program, you may opt to defer this start date. (Just remember to tell the government if you are opting to defer.)

Open enrollment starts 3 months before your 65th birthday and ends 7 months after that start (so 3 months after your 65th birthday month). If you do not have “credible coverage,” such as an employer plan, in place after this window, you could incur penalties from the government.

How do I Sign-up for Medicare?

  • First, you may be automatically signed-up if you are already receiving Social Security (SS) or Railroad Retirement (RRB).
  • Second, if you are not already receiving SS or RRB benefits, you must sign up for it when you turn 65 years old.
  • Conversely, if you are not ready for Medicare when you turn 65, you must notify the government that you want to delay your benefits. If you do delay, it must be because you have credible coverage in place. An example of this would be an employer plan.

Where do I Sign-Up?

Railroad Medicare Benefits and Choices at MedicareLifeHealth.com
Medicare Easy Pay

Medicare Easy Pay Information can be found here.

What am I getting with Original Medicare?

What is Medicare? Learn the basics of Medicare Insurance.

Original Medicare, the national health care program sponsored by the US government, provides you with two points of coverage: Part A Hospital Insurance and Part B Medical Insurance.

In addition to these two basic parts, you have to option of adding on a Part D Prescription Drug Plan. These drug plans are not administered by the Federal government, but instead by private insurance companies, and you must sign-up for them individually.

The last part is Part C or Medicare Advantage. This is a second route you can take to manage your health care that replaces Original Medicare with a “bundled” program that rolls your Parts A, B and D all into one plan. These plans (also called MA or MAPD plans) are provided by private insurance companies. We will discuss how this works more after we look at the basic parts.

Let’s look at each part:

Part A

First, Part A, also known as “Hospital Insurance,” helps with coverage regarding:

  • Inpatient care
  • Skill nursing facility care
  • Hospice care
  • Home health care

Part B

Second, there is Part B, also known as “Medical Insurance.” Part B helps with coverage related to doctor and other provider services, including:

  • Outpatient
  • Home health
  • Doctors
  • Health care providers
  • Durable medical equipment
  • Prevention

What Part A & B Don’t Cover

When you visit the hospital, Part A pays for most of the costs associated with these services. In addition, your doctor and medical costs will mostly be covered by Part B. However, Part A and Part B do not pay for all of it. There are co-payments, coinsurance, or deductibles that may apply to covered services.

Typically, Medicare pays for about 80% of the costs. Most beneficiaries will supplement Original Medicare with either a Medigap plan or choose a Med Advantage Plan instead. Very few people just have the Original Parts A & B alone.

Finally, there is no part that covers Long-Term Care costs such as Nursing Home or Assisted Living Expenses. Skilled nursing, yes, but nursing homes no.

Next, there is a third part called…

Prescription Drug Coverage

Part D

2020 Medicare Donut Hole Explained by MedicareLifeHealth.com

Finally, you need Part D, also known as “Prescription Drug Coverage.” Private insurance companies provide Part D coverage rather than the government.

Consequently, if you decide not to take on Part D coverage right away, you might incur a penalty if you try to join later. This is if you do not have “credible coverage” (such as with an employer or union). Therefore, please make sure you are signed-up for a drug plan, not just Parts A and B. This is important if you ever suspect you will need this benefit in the future.

Part D plans are regulated by the US government and have many parts in common across the board, including the infamous “Donut Hole” in coverage. You can read more about that here.

The Two Paths of Coverage

You can be covered one of two ways: Original Medicare / Medicare Advantage.

Original Medicare

What are Medicare Supplements_

Path One – Enroll and keep Original Medicare Part A and Part B, sign-up for a Part D or drug plan with a private insurance company, and then you can add on top of that a Supplemental Coverage Plan that picks-up the tab where Medicare leaves off.

There are different kinds of Supplement plans (Medigap Policies) that cover different benefits and they all cost different prices with different insurance companies. To learn more about Medigap or Supplements click here.

Medicare Advantage

What is Medicare Advantage?

Path Two – After your enrollment in Parts A and B, your second option is to join a Part C plan. We call these Medicare Advantage Plans, and private insurance companies run them.

In fact, the government calls these “bundled plans.” Most of them wrap parts A, B and D all into one package. In addition, they often give their members extra benefits and hopefully lower out-of-pocket costs. To learn more about Medicare Advantage click here.

Medicare Supplements vs Medicare Advantage

Medicare Advantage Vs Medicare Supplement

Not everyone will make the same choice on what plan is best for them. Both paths are good options and have many advantages. If you would like to read about the advantages and disadvantages to both, please read this article.

What is Open Enrollment?

Also called AEP – The Annual Enrollment Period is the time of year beneficiaries can make changes to their Medicare Advantage Plans and Part D Prescription Drug Plans. Conversely, you can change your Supplement (Medigap) Insurance any time of the year.

Information for new plans starts to become available each year on or around October 1st. However, changes can not be made until AEP actually starts on October 15th. AEP then ends on December 7th each year.

How Much Does Medicare Cost?

how much does medicare cost?

How much you pay for your insurance depends on how you set-up your plan. As for the basics. Most people receive Part A at no cost, and everyone pays a Premium for Part B. To learn more about who pays what, please read our article here.

Part A & B Cost Summary:

  • In 2020, the Medicare Part B Deductible will be $198
  • In 2020, the Medicare Part B Monthly Premium will be $144.60.

Click here to learn more about who pays the Part B Deductible and about income adjustments to these numbers.

Drug Costs

You will buy Part D, Prescription Coverage from a private insurance company. Each company will price their service differently. Additionally, you can shop for the best plan and price for you.

There is also an income adjustment for Part D coverage. This adjustment is on a sliding scale, and affects those that make more than $85,000 a year.

Part D also has co-pays and deductibles that raise your out-of-pocket expenses.

The Medicare and You Guidebook

how to read Medicare and You 2020 guidebook

Every year the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services publish a guidebook that details out the Medicare Program: Medicare and You. In addition, this book outlines changes for the upcoming year.

The guide is helpful, but it is often way to long to capture most people attention long enough to get a full understanding of the program. For this reason, we at Medicare Life Health Co. produced a User’s Guide for the Medicare and You Guidebook, and you can find it here.

Where to find the guide

What are My Next Steps?

  • Talking to a licensed, independent insurance agent at any stage of your planning is a good idea. Agents know your area market and can tell you what the best options are for your unique circumstances.
How to Choose A Medicare Plan

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