Medicare Timeline Series 2: Start Your Research

For probably the first time in your adult life, it’s up to you to choose the kind of health care coverage you want. This can be intimidating at first, but one of the best things about Medicare is its many options. It allows you to analyze your lifestyle and pick a coverage plan based on your individual needs. Because you have so many options, it’s important to start your research before your enrollment period. Setting aside some time to really think about your current needs and try to anticipate what may arise in the future will help you make your decision. To help you in your research, here are a few questions to ask yourself before settling on a plan.

Do I need anything outside of Original Medicare?

In our first series, we mentioned what Original Medicare doesn’t offer, but it’s worth restating. Original Medicare only covers 80 percent of your medical costs and offers no prescription drug coverage. In addition, only Medicare Advantage plans offer extras like dental, vision and hearing benefits.

What will my Medicare costs look like?

If you haven’t already retired, it’s important to analyze what your retirement budget will look like and plan accordingly. Many people don’t realize that even Original Medicare Part B comes with a monthly premium that starts at $34 and can vary depending on income. Most of the time, this premium is automatically deducted from your paycheck. Medicare supplements also have monthly premiums that can range anywhere from $30 to $357 for someone in good health. It’s also worth noting that supplements don’t offer prescription drug, dental, vision or hearing benefits. As a result, in addition to your monthly Original Medicare premium, you’ll be paying separate premiums for your Medicare supplement and prescription drug coverage. All these premiums can add up, while still leaving you without vision, dental and hearing benefits. Alternatively, most Medicare Advantage plans offer $0 premium plans. These plans operate on a pay-as-you-go basis, but come with a spending cap so that you know your care will never exceed a certain amount each year.

Do I need drug coverage even if I don’t take medication regularly?

Though you may currently use medications on a limited basis, as we age, we often develop conditions that require costly prescriptions. You can add Part D drug coverage to Original Medicare for a separate monthly premium, or you can sign up for a Medicare Advantage plan since most include drug coverage.

Do I plan to travel outside the country often?

If you’re a worldwide traveler, consider a Medicare Advantage plan or Medicare supplement that offers emergency overseas coverage. Do a little digging into plans in your area, and find out who offers the most worldwide coverage for the best value.

Do I plan to travel inside the states?

It’s easy to forget to ask this question. But if you spend a lot of time away from home, visiting the grandkids for example, it’s important to make sure you have coverage options anywhere in the United States. In a way, traveling inside the U.S. is similar to traveling abroad in that most Medicare Advantage plans and Medicare supplements will cover your emergency or urgent care needs while away from home. If you’re a snowbird, however, and leave for months at a time and see doctors regularly in multiple locations, a supplement may work better for you.

What if I need dental, vision or hearing coverage?

The extras not offered in Original Medicare are available through most Medicare Advantage plans, but not through Medicare supplements. Depending on which Medicare Advantage plan you choose, the coverage ranges from light to extremely comprehensive.

Will I need long-term care?

Original Medicare doesn’t offer long-term care. Medicare Advantage and Medicare supplements don’t either. However, options are available for long-term care insurance outside of Medicare, if you decide it’s needed. It’s worth noting that nearly seven out of every 10 people will need long-term care for an average of about three years. Before signing up for long-term care insurance, be sure to research your options or talk to a financial adviser. In some cases, Medicare recipients are also eligible for Medicaid, and Medicaid does offer some long-term care coverage.

Am I willing to change doctors?

Having a doctor that you know and trust is a REALLY good thing, so if keeping that physician is important to you, knowing whether or not they accept a certain plan, or Medicare in general, could serve as a determining factor in your decision. When it comes to picking Medicare coverage, researching your options with your present and future needs in mind will help you pick a plan that fits in with your lifestyle, health needs and budget for years to come.

For more information on the BayCarePlus Medicare Advantage plan, visit BayCarePlus.org.