Reader Larry Aldridge, a relatively new Medicare recipient, called in with a story about his difficulties with the Medicare system.
Aldridge didn’t really have questions — he’s sort of been learning the hard way. But he thought those who are nearing the Medicare-eligible age of 65 should know about a few things in advance to avoid some pitfalls.
A widely accepted piece of advice is to sign up for Medicare before you are 65 — probably as much as three months before your birthday. If you don’t you may face coverage delays; if you do, your coverage will begin on the first day of the month, regardless of when your birthday falls.
Signing up early also allows you to research details of various aspects of the program and that’s bound to save you money. Acting hastily can be expensive, experts say, because the wrong coverage can cost you thousands a year in added premiums or co-payments.
“You can think you have health insurance,” Aldridge said, “but you can be responsible (for paying) much more than you think.”
Fidelity Investments has estimated that to pay for premiums, co-pays, prescription drugs and items not covered by Medicare (such as hearing aids and glasses) will cost a 65-year-old couple $240,000 during retirement. If you can afford to pay for a Medicare supplemental insurance program, there are many alternatives.
Medicare’s “Part A” coverage is what everyone gets, at minimum, and there is generally not a premium, but there is a $1,184 deductible for hospital stays. The program’s “Part B” coverage is for doctor visits, out-patient services, some home health care and preventive care — a typical monthly premium for this year is $104.90 ($1,258 a year) with a deductible of $147.
Medicare’s “Part C” program involves a variety of more complete coverages at different costs — all the more reason to begin one’s research sooner. And Medicare’s “Part D” is a prescription drug program that in 2012 included 32 million Americans who paid an average monthly premium of $40 a month.
Aldridge said signing up early allows you to schedule the “Welcome to Medicare” physical. You might pay 20 percent of the cost for that, but you may pay nothing if you have signed up for a supplemental plan.
Aldridge advised newcomers to learn whether their doctor accepts “Medicare assignment charges.” Doctors who do not can charge more for their services.
Got a question? Contact Barry Noreen at 636-0363 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter. Hear him on KRDO NewsRadio 105.5 FM and 1240 AM at 6:35 a.m. Fridays.