Though nobody enjoys signing up for healthcare, it’s a necessary fact of life—especially as we get older and start to rely on Medicare. If you haven’t enrolled in Medicare yet, eligible seniors can sign up at age 65. If you’re not 65, you may not know that you can enroll up to three months before your 65th birthday. Choosing your plan is a big decision! Here are four tips that will help you sign up without making costly mistakes.
Plans with no or low premiums may look attractive, but these still include expenses. When you start comparing Medicare plans, be sure to read up on any out-of-pocket expenses you may encounter. For example, some plans have zero premiums, but charge high copays for ongoing appointments. The last thing you want is a physical therapy session that costs you $200 every week! Instead, you’d be better served by a plan that has a $35 monthly premium and a $45 maximum copay for physical therapy.
Every year, the Federal Centers for Medicare and Medicare services compile data about different Medicare Advantage plans. They also rate them by how well they have worked for the people who use them. The more stars a plan has, the better it is, so look for plans with 5-star ratings. These usually have better customer service and lower complaint rates. You can also switch to a 5-star plan at any time throughout the year if it is available where you live.
After the total annual cost of medications reaches $2,940, Medicare beneficiaries end up in a “doughnut hole” and become responsible for the cost of medications until that cost exceeds $4,750. Though legislation should close this gap in 2020, purchasing coverage is often unnecessary. Many people who purchase doughnut hole coverage do not end up needing it. Using the prescription drug plan finder can help you determine whether you’ll foot the bill for your prescriptions, or whether you can skip this coverage.
Even if you have private insurance, you almost always have to sign up for Medicare. The only insurance that can let you delay Medicare is an employer-sponsored health plan that covers 20 or more employees. There’s also not much benefit to people who fail to sign up for Medicare. The government may penalize you if you fail to enroll. These penalties are often ongoing, and can last for the rest of your life!