Avoid These 5 Common Medicare Snafus!
Boy, if people would just check in with us at age 64.5, life could be a lot easier for new Medicare beneficiaries!
Though we try all we can to keep people out of trouble, sometimes we just can’t get ahead of the things that they hear, assume, misunderstand, and more.
Here are the top five things that we seem to hear – over and over and over again – from people that are transitioning to the Medicare system… and we’ll give you our take!
“But I Thought I Had to Enroll at Age 65”
The majority of people that are approaching age 65 seem to believe that they “have to sign up for Medicare,” or at least one part of it (Part A), at age 65. And they typically believe that with all their heart.
Well, we’re here to tell you that you actually do not have to sign up for any part of Medicare if a couple of situations apply to you.
Scenario #1: Taking Social Security Pre-65
Let’s say that Mrs. Smith decided to start taking her Social Security benefits at age 63. Fast forward two years, and now Mrs. Smith is approaching age 65, that magic marker for Medicare.
Since she is drawing her benefits, she WILL automatically be enrolled into Medicare. In fact, her card will just arrive in her mailbox a couple of months before her 65th birthday.
Now, remember that Medicare is comprised of Part A and Part B. Part A is hospital coverage, and it is typically given to a person without their having to pay any premium at all.
Part B is the medical portion of our Medicare system. But, Part B comes with a price tag.
Back to Mrs. Smith. She has her medical coverage through her husband’s large employer. She doesn’t want to have Part B (and pay for it). Well, she can do that. She can follow the instructions that arrived with her card and rescind the enrollment into Part B.
Scenario #2: Postponing Social Security Until Later
Now, let’s say that Mrs. Smith was not collecting her Social Security benefits at age 63. Instead, she wants to start those closer to age 70.
She’s also on her husband’s large employer coverage so doesn’t need the health insurance coverage that is Medicare. In fact, she and her spouse are funding the Health Savings Account, and they are both in rather good health.
Mrs. Smith is in a position that, if she called in to talk to us at age 64.5, we’d recommend that she “do nothing.”
Nothing? That makes people approaching age 65 very nervous – doing “nothing.” That’s, of course, when we hear the “I thought I had to enroll at age 65” line.
Nope, you don’t.
In fact, we really like this guide from CMS (Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services). Note the decision tree says: “decide WHETHER or not to enroll.”
“My Friends Told Me That…”
Stop listening to your friends. Now, we know you won’t stop doing that, but here’s what we recommend. Grab a notebook and label it “Medicare.” THEN, go listen to all of your friends and make notes in your new notebook regarding everything that they say.
Write down things like: “I pay zero for everything; I never have a co-pay or anything”; “I have free dental in my plan”; “I pay zero every month and never have a fee for anything I do.”
After you’ve developed your notebook of commentary from friends, family, colleagues, and more, get on the phone with an agent!
Review with the agent all of the comments. Take 30 minutes to understand the program that your friend might be talking about.
Also, learn what they may or may not be sharing with you. Many times, friends might share with you information about their plans but they seem to “forget” certain co-pays or situations or they may just not want to share.
We find that with Medicare eligible folks, your friends and family might just want to “one up” themselves or their plan. Picking the absolute perfect Medicare plan seems to be as important as being the star quarterback was back in high school.
So, listen to your friends with a grain of salt.
“I Went to the Social Security Office”
Please don’t visit the Social Security office unless we suggest that you do. All kidding aside, you really only need to go into the Social Security office live and in person under a few circumstances. We work hard to keep you OUT of the office.
Why? Well, the Social Security office is NOT the Medicare arm of our government. Not that it is not filled with helpful people, but they are staffed to only process enrollments and collect premiums for Medicare.
People that go into the office and ask for Medicare advice, may certainly receive inaccurate information.
We hear lots of things coming from our clients that just are not accurate. “I was told that I had to enroll in my Social Security benefits at the same time I enrolled into Medicare.” Or, “I was told that I didn’t need Part B because I’m still working.”
Blanket statements related to Medicare can hurt your outcome related to coverage; trust us.
Remember that there will be times that we’ll instruct you to go into the Social Security office and that has a whole other set of rules!
“I Thought I Would Be Automatically Enrolled”
We often talk to people that are NOT getting their Social Security benefits prior to age 65. They tell us that they’re expecting their Medicare card to arrive in the mail. We break the news to them that “you’ll be waiting for a long, long time as it’s not going to arrive.”
When you are not drawing Social Security benefits, and you want your Medicare coverage to start for you at age 65, you need to be proactive and apply for both Parts A and B with Medicare.
We always recommend that if you do want both Parts A and B to be active on the first day of your birth month (unless your birthday happens to fall on the first of a month!), then go online and enroll.
You can avoid going into your local Social Security office and save yourself a lot of time and aggravation potentially.
“Joe Namath Said on TV, ‘It’s Free!’”
If we had a dollar for every Joe Namath commercial viewer out there that had questions about free Medicare!
Be careful what you take as truth. That goes for many things in life, right? And, it certainly spills over to Medicare.
The products that Joe was advertising for are Medicare Advantage plans. Do they offer every single perk he described? Rarely. Are they good for some people? Absolutely.
Are they one-size-fits-all and perfect for everybody, and free, free, and did we say … free? No way.
A Difficult Journey at Times
Medicare can be a complex transition for so many. There just isn’t a universal guidebook out there. Lots of hearsay, lots of confusion.
We’ll keep teaching and coaching to help you avoid the confusion when possible! See you next month.
What have you heard about Medicare from friends, family, etc.? Have you checked the information with an advisor? How much of it turned out to be true for you? Where would you be now, if you trusted every Medicare commercial you saw? Please use the comment box below to share your thoughts!