Guess who’s turning 65 and eligible for Medicare?
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.