Kids are already back in school. Even though there is still a month left in the actual summer season, at this time of year I always feel as if summer is over. At my practice, summer’s end means I’m well into preparations for Medicare's Annual Election Period, which runs from October 15th through December 7th, including finishing up 2017 certifications.
Peeking Behind the Curtain
This year has a new flavor since I am finally joining all of you, dear clients, as a new member of Medicare. My birthday month is November, so I was eligible to apply on August 1st. For the first time, I was actually able to go all the way through the online application to completion. As I have advised many times, I entered the Medicare site, and clicked on the big green button to Apply for Medicare, which took me to the Social Security website. Scrolling down the page, I found the big blue button to Apply for Medicare Only. As those of you who have used the online process know, the rest goes quickly.
I am please to report that I received my benefits confirmation letter within a week, and the famous red,white, and blue card a couple of days after. This was much quicker than many have experienced in previous years, and I am thrilled to see that perhaps the whole process has improved.
So….What Am I Going To Do?
Quite often clients ask for my recommendations when deciding on additional coverage, so I’m sure most of you are all asking the same question — “Hey Allan, what additional coverage are you going to pick?” Honestly, after all these years of dealing with Medicare and helping people find the best option for themselves, you’d think I’d have all of this pre-determined. In fact, I have not decided what coverage I will select — I’ll probably procrastinate until mid-October.
I’m pretty healthy, with only a couple of high blood pressure medicines to take, so the idea of signing up for a Medicare Advantage plan with a health club membership value added benefit is definitely attractive. Since I have a good medical history, the risk I’m considering is that my copay costs for care will be very low for a typical year.
On the other hand, I can get a health club membership with a couple of Medigap plans, and the idea of no or low out-of-pocket financial exposure definitely is very appealing. If I do decide on a Medicare supplement plan, it will be a Plan G. The cost of the Part B deductible is an acceptable cost to me for a lower premium.
Either way, the cost of premiums plus the cost of care will be a a great deal better than what I’ve been paying on a commercial plan — no surprise there!
On the Part D side, given my current medications, it’s quite tempting to go with a plan that offers $0 copays for mail order (90 day) prescriptions. Even if I decide to go this route, the cost of premium for the least expensive plan in 2016 is actually a bit more than I’ve been paying for my meds for the same 90 day period. So, on this score the decision is a wash.
And Another Big Question
I know the second question many of you are thinking. “Okay, now that you are hitting the big 65, are you getting ready to retire and leave me in the lurch to find a new broker?” This has been a common question from many of you as you’ve watched my hair go from blonde to gray. In all good humor, the answer is that I have no plans to retire. I grew up in a part of the country where people worked their entire lives. Retirement isn't really part of my ethic. My accommodation to age is a increased focus on narrowing my practice to the types of problems I’m interested in helping folks with — in short the same ones that I, and you, are dealing with. I love working not only with you, but younger folks as they confront the planning issues for the older phases of their lives. Planning is key, and starting that planning earlier, rather than later, is the secret.
We are in this together — in every sense of that phrase!