Guess who’s turn­ing 65 and el­i­gi­ble for Medi­care?

Record Observer - - Senior Satelite - By MIKE ZIMMER

Yes, it’s hard to be­lieve that on April 9th, I, Mike Zimmer, will be turn­ing 65. And yes, folks, I am of­fi­cially el­i­gi­ble for Medi­care ef­fec­tive April 1, 2017! In fact, I have al­ready re­ceived my of­fi­cial red, white and blue Medi­care card. WOOP! WOOP!

For those of you who have al­ready reached this mile­stone, you will re­mem­ber all the gen­tle re­minders you re­ceived from nu­mer­ous Medi­care Sup­ple­ment Com­pa­nies in­form­ing you of this most joy­ous event. In other words, you were inun­dated with brochures, cards, and letters. You will be happy to know that my mail­box was cer­tainly no dif­fer­ent. I not only re­ceived them at home, I re­ceived them at my of­fice too. Don’t you just love mail? I do, and I kept ev­ery one! For those of you who have not yet turned 65, con­sider your­self warned. How­ever, please do not panic. This process will be smooth as silk.

The first thing I had to do was to make the de­ci­sion to ap­ply for Medi­care. Since I was al­ready cov­ered un­der my wife’s group health plan through her em­ployer, I had to de­cide to ei­ther stay on the group plan or ap­ply for Medi­care Part A and Medi­care Part B. If I chose to ap­ply for Medi­care, I would also need to ei­ther pur­chase a Medi­care Sup­ple­ment Plan to fill in the “gaps” of orig­i­nal Medi­care and a Medi­care Pre­scrip­tion Drug Plan or join a Medi­care Ad­van­tage Plan. Af­ter care­ful con­sid­er­a­tion, I chose the op­tion that was best for me. I de­cided to dis­con­tinue the group cov­er­age and ap­ply for Medi­care.

This was so easy. I ap­plied right over the in­ter­net which saved me a trip to the So­cial Se­cu­rity Ad­min­is­tra­tion and pos­si­bly a long wait in line. Ap­prox­i­mately two weeks af­ter ap­ply­ing, I re­ceived my “No­tice of Award” let­ter from So­cial Se­cu­rity let­ting me know my start date for Medi­care A & B and that my Medi­care card was on the way. The let­ter also told me how much my Medi­care Part B monthly premium would be. The let­ter con­tained other valu­able in­for­ma­tion about Medi­care Pre­scrip­tion Drug Plan en­roll­ment, what to do if you sus­pect So­cial Se­cu­rity Fraud and who to call if you had ques­tions about So­cial Se­cu­rity. Make sure you hold on to your let­ter. You may need to re­fer to it later.

Now that I am el­i­gi­ble for Medi­care Part A and Medi­care Part B, I am now do­ing for my­self what I have done for my clients all these years. I am shop­ping for a Medi­care Sup­ple­ment Plan and a Medi­care Part D Pre­scrip­tion Plan. Since I am in my 6-month Open En­roll­ment pe­riod for a Medi­care Sup­ple­ment plan (Open En­roll­ment ends 6 months from your Part B ef­fec­tive date), I can choose from 10 Stan­dard­ized Plans. I will not have to an­swer any med­i­cal ques­tions and my cov­er­age is guar­an­teed. Since I only have one Open En­roll­ment Pe­riod for a Medi­care Sup­ple­ment Plan, I will choose the plan with the ben­e­fits that I want now and for my fu­ture years. This is be­cause any changes that I may want to make out­side of my Open En­roll­ment Pe­riod will re­quire med­i­cal un­der­writ­ing and cov­er­age is not guar­an­teed.

Since my Medi­care Part A and Medi­care Part B ef­fec­tive dates are equal, (April 1, 2017), I have a 7-month pe­riod to pur­chase a Medi­care Pre­scrip­tion Drug Plan. This is called my Ini­tial Elec­tion Pe­riod and it be­gins 3 months be­fore my Medi­care Part A and B ef­fec­tive date, con­tin­ues the month of my Medi­care Part A and B ef­fec­tive date and ends 3 months af­ter my Medi­care Part A and B ef­fec­tive date. If I do not choose a plan within this time frame, I may have to pay a penalty. The Com­pany and Pre­scrip­tion plan I choose will be based upon the pre­scrip­tions I am cur­rently tak­ing. I will also have the op­tion of mak­ing a change dur­ing the Medi­care An­nual Elec­tion Pe­riod (AEP) each year. This An­nual Elec­tion Pe­riod is from Oc­to­ber 15th thru De­cem­ber 7th of each year with an ef­fec­tive date of Jan. 1 of the next year. It is al­ways good to re-shop your Pre­scrip­tion Drug plan dur­ing AEP be­cause your doc­tor may pre­scribe new med­i­ca­tions dur­ing the year and you want to make sure your plan cov­ers all your med­i­ca­tions with the least out of pocket ex­pense as pos­si­ble.

For a lot of folks turn­ing 65, hav­ing to make de­ci­sions about Medi­care can be a ver y con­fus­ing time. Some of my clients have even said that they are ini­tially fright­ened and dreaded the thought of try­ing to nav­i­gate through the Medi­care Maze. I am here to say,” It’s OK!” Yes, there are de­ci­sions to make, and op­tions to con­sider, but you are not alone. I just went through the Medi­care Maze, and made it to the other side.

Mike Zimmer is pres­i­dent of Bay State In­surance Agency Ltd. in Centreville. He is avail­able to an­swer your ques­tions or speak to your groups re­gard­ing Medi­care, Medi­care Ad­van­tage, Medi­care Sup­ple­ments and Medi­care Part D (Pre­scrip­tion Plans) He may be reached at 410-758-1680.

MIKE ZIMMER

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