Just like finding the right insurance coverage, signing up for Medicare requires careful consideration of the available options. Some options, however, carry more weight than others, and retirees who are just getting started on Medicare may find it challenging to weigh options properly.
To help with Medicare plan selection, we’ve identified some of the most common and consequential mistakes which retirees run into when choosing their Medicare coverage.
Not Checking Coverage Year-to-Year
Plan coverage frequently fluctuates, so it’s vital to know what your plan covers now and investigate ahead of time what it will cover the following year. It’s especially unwise to count on coverage for rare conditions and diseases in a new plan year.
If you suffer from a chronic illness or disability, perform due diligence a few times a year. That way you’ll know well ahead of time if you need to switch your coverage, what you may need to switch it to, and when you need to make the change. You should receive an Annual Notice of Change (ANOC) electronically or by mail every year to notify you of shifts in coverage, costs, and service areas.
Skipping Comparison Shopping
There are a lot of moving parts that make up a Medicare plan. Medicare Part C allows for Medicare Advantage plans, which add private Medicare health coverage, to be included in your overall coverage. Medicare Part D adds prescription drug coverage to your available plans.
Having these Medicare parts available allows you to shop for customized coverage. If you fail to comparison shop for a plan that’s right for you, chances are good that you’ll miss out on a reasonable price and extra coverage for conditions into which your existing illnesses or disabilities may develop.
Know your medical history well and learn about any diseases and disabilities from which you suffer. If you find yourself healthy overall, don’t forget to check your family history for common medical conditions. Shop around for only the coverage you require, and don’t force yourself to pay for additional coverage you don’t need.
Doctor and Hospital Choice
If you’re retired, you’re likely to have a family doctor on whom you’ve come to rely. Hospitals and doctors cannot accept all Medicare plans, however, so it’s up to you to ensure that your Medicare plan works with the hospital that you trust.
Online tools are available to help you find out if you’ll be covered under the care of your favorite hospital and doctor, but you can always call with your Medicare plan information to confirm.
Failing to Identify Travel Coverage
If you travel often or plan to travel often after retirement, make sure that your Medicare plan covers medical care outside of your home state. Most do, but if you also want to travel internationally, you’ll likely have to supplement your Medicare coverage with insurance.
Even Medicare Advantage plans rarely cover care outside of the U.S. Because travel coverage is so hard to come by, it helps to budget for Medicare coverage and travel coverage before shopping.
Omitting Prescription Drug Coverage
If you run into health problems or already suffer, prescription drugs are often part of therapy plans for recovery. Check to see if you can get a Medicare Prescription Drug Plan under Medicare Part D if you don’t already have creditable prescription drug coverage.
Plans have star ratings that will help you decide how well you’ll be covered and what you should be paying. Look out for coverage rules that apply to prescriptions you already have and scrutinize coverage rules for prescriptions you may encounter in the future.
Though by themselves these mistakes are easy to avoid, they are part of a larger picture of Medicare shopping, and some may fall by the wayside accidentally. Keep this list of common mistakes handy when you begin shopping for Medicare plans to ensure you get the best coverage possible.