How to Take the Headache out of Medicare

How to Take the Headache out of Medicare

When you approach age 65, loads of mail starts arriving in your mailbox. Every insurance carrier and agent wants you to buy their plan. Some of the letters look like advertisements, while others look like official documents. When you’re overwhelmed by all the options, how do you even begin to make a decision?

We’ll walk you through the basics below, but first, it’s worth noting that our advice doesn’t cost you anything, so if you’d like to meet with any of of our licensed agents, we’re happy to answer any of of your questions. That’s right, our services are free. Now, on to the basics.

You may also like our guide: If You Don’t Understand Medicare At All, Start Here

How and when to enroll

There are some important things you need to know before you sign up for Medicare and pick an insurance plan.

Medicare Enrollment
  • You are not automatically signed up for Medicare
  • Medicare coverage isn’t free
  • Medicare doesn’t cover everything
  • If you don’t sign up on time you’ll pay a penalty
  • You must sign up for Medicare

If you’re receiving Social Security at age 65, enrollment for Medicare Parts A & B are automatic, although you may decline if you wish.

If you are not receiving Social Security when turning 65, you sign up during an Initial Enrollment Period, which is a 7-month window starting 3 months before your 65th birth month and ending 3 months after your 65th birth month.

You may enroll through the Social Security website or by calling them at 800-772-1213.

Enrollment to Medicare Parts C & D are not automatic, and are handled through private insurance companies.

The Parts of Medicare

Ready to get into the confusing stuff? You may have heard about parts and plans, and “alphabet soup”. Medicare is made of Parts A, B, C, and D. Let’s look at a very basic explanation of each one.

  • Part A is Hospital Insurance and covers costs associated with confinement in a hospital or skilled nursing facility.
  • Part B is Medical Insurance and covers physician services, outpatient care, tests and supplies.
  • Part C is also known as Medicare Advantage or MA plans. These are offered by private companies approved by Medicare.
  • Part D is Prescription Drug Plan coverage. This optional coverage is offered by private insurance companies and available to all people with Medicare for an additional charge.
  • Medicare Supplement insurance (or Medigap) is sold by private insurance companies, and covers what Parts A & B do not.

You won’t need all these parts, and in fact you can’t get all of them. You’ll either use a combination of Parts A, B, and D, along with a Medicare Supplement plan, or Part C & D.

In plain English, you’ll most likely choose between a Medicare Supplement plan and a Medicare Advantage plan, and add Prescription Drug coverage.

What does it cost?

As mentioned above, Medicare is not free. But costs depend on a number of factors. Part A is free for most people, but Part B requires premiums. These are based on your income, but most people will pay $134 per month in 2017, but can be higher.

Part C, or Medicare Advantage plans can vary widely based on plan, benefits, and whether or not a drug plan is attached. This requires getting quotes from insurance companies and comparing plans.

Part D Prescription Drug Plans again require comparing plans. Prices vary widely, and one carrier may not cover a drug you need, while others do. In addition, these plans and their costs change every year.

Medicare Supplement insurance plans are standardized, so they all cover the exact same things. The only difference is their rates, financial stability, and customer service. As for rates, they vary, so you’ll need to compare.

Is your headache worse?

There’s no getting around it, this is a confusing topic. And you know what? There is absolutely no reason to do this on your own. To take the headache out of Medicare, we recommend you work with an agent - even if they aren’t a Sams/Hockaday representative. But, people are sometimes hesitant to work with an agent, because they think:

  • An agent is going to pressure me into buying something
  • I can save money buying direct or through the mail
  • I can find everything I need online

The fact is that our team does this every day, so they know the ins and outs of what each part and plan covers, and can make recommendations that save you money. And since we’re a broker, we can compare plans from multiple companies.

Our Medicare specialists love helping you save money - it’s a common occurrence in our office to hear an agent proudly stating how she just saved someone $600. We’d love to help you make the most appropriate choices for your insurance. We won’t pressure you or hassle you.

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Disclaimer: We do not offer every plan available in your area. Currently we represent 4 organizations which offer 41 products in your area. Please contact, 1‑800‑MEDICARE, or your local State Health Insurance Program to get information on all of your options.