Life takes a great deal of navigating — whether it’s buying a car or home, starting a family, or taking care of an aging loved one.
To navigate the maze that we call Medicare, it’s important to first understand what it is. By simple definition, Medicare is the federal health insurance program administered by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) for those who are:
- Age 65 and older.
- Any age and disabled.
- Diagnosed with end-stage renal disease (ESRD).1
If you or someone you care for fits any of those criteria, welcome to the world of Medicare. You can go through this process alone or work with an independent professional. If you decide to work with a financial professional, there are a few things to keep in mind:
Understanding the process
The first and most important step of your Medicare plan is to go over the process with your financial professional. They should take a look at your financial situation and state and federal guidelines, then give you a step-by-step outline to see the next steps in your Medicare planning process.
Good agents enjoy helping their customers stay informed not only on how the process works but also on how to work the process.
Maybe you understand some of the Medicare process and are thinking, “I can handle this on my own.” Perhaps you think that shopping around for Medicare options yourself is your best option for finding the best plan that works for you — it doesn’t have to be this way!
Many independent agencies have effective processes to allow comparison shopping with the often-shifting landscape of Medicare. If you’re working with a good agent, you should have a road map to see potential pitfalls and prepare ahead of time.
Exploring your options
Do you know your Medicare options? Do you know how much your health care is going to cost next year?
It’s important to weigh and explore your options with your Medicare plan.
For example, the above chart shows two available options when choosing a plan.2 Option 1 is referred to as Medicare Supplement Plus a Drug plan. Option 2 is referred to as a Medicare Advantage Prescription Drug plan (MAPD), but don’t let the name fool you — this is Part C of Medicare, which uses private insurance to replace the federal Medicare Parts A, B, and D.
As a quick recap, Medicare option 1 refers to the following parts and services:
- Part A – Inpatient/hospitalization coverage
- Part B – Outpatient/primary care/specialist coverage
- Part D – Prescription drug coverage
The average American pays around $135.50 a month (for those whose income is $85,000 or less) [MB1] for Medicare Part B,3 and those who have coverage through organizations like the VA don’t always need to pay that average amount. There are other options to consider. VA, federal, state, and private pension coordination is crucial. You will need to see which option is the best for your situation. This is yet another reason why it is extremely helpful to work with an independent agent during this process.
Trust is key in every relationship, including your health and future.
Ultimately, you want a working relationship with an agent you can trust. I’ve met with several clients who don’t want to spend extra money, but, often, there is absolutely no difference in cost to work with an independent professional.
Insurance conversations can be delicate, but the process is much easier when there is mutual trust between the consumer and the agent. Effective agents will work with attorneys who focus on Medicaid spend downs and also help with powers of attorney, trusts, and wills.
No matter where you fall on the income scale, Medicare should not be a scary endeavor. Working alongside a seasoned Medicare professional can help you understand the process, explore your options, and, ultimately, find a plan that can work for you.