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Simplify Medicare by planning ahead

December 4, 2017

Terry Kane,  Retirement Planning Consultant

For many, Medicare can seem complicated and confusing. Ensuring you don’t miss sign-up deadlines, ensuring you’re adequately covered and don’t have a lapse in health care coverage when you retire can seem like a daunting task. Just like Social Security, there’s a bit more to it than turning 65.

The first step to understanding the Medicare system is to familiarize yourself with Parts A through D.

  • Part A (no cost) – Hospital coverage: Includes hospital stays, nursing home care, hospice, and home health care
  • Part B (monthly premium) – Medical coverage (health insurance): Includes medically-necessary services, doctors office visits, lab work, x-rays, outpatient surgery and preventative services
  • Part C – Advantage plans (supplemental coverage): Offered by private insurance companies and can offer additional coverage like vision, dental, hearing and prescriptions
  • Part D – Prescription drugs: Offered by private insurance companies

The next step to navigating Medicare is to plan ahead. Several points exist to remember to ensure you get the coverage you need when you need it.

  1. Enrollment – You can enroll for Medicare over a seven month period. From three months before, through the month of, to three months after your 65th birthday, you are eligible to enroll for Parts A and B without penalties if you have no group plan. If you have a group plan, you can still sign up for Part A.
  2. Part B requires separate enrollment but can be completed at the same time as Part A.
  3. Enroll in Part D (prescription drugs) when you are first eligible (if you are not on a group health plan) to avoid penalties.
  4. Part C (supplemental plans) or Medicare supplement plans – Medicare does not cover everything, and supplement plans can help with extra expenses. Most require Part A and B enrollment.
  5. Open enrollment – Medicare does offer a general election period from January 1 through March 31 if you missed your initial enrollment period for Part B. Your coverage will start July 1 of the year you enroll. For Part C and D changes, you can enroll in a new plan from October 15 to December 7 of every year, and coverage will start on January 1 of the next year.

Don’t get caught without the health care coverage you need when you retire. Plan ahead and complete all your necessary enrollments before any penalties can take hold. For assistance with Medicare and Social Security planning, call Terry Kane at 888-556-0123 or email tkane@honkamp.com.

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