Medicare Madness! Why is it so difficult to find the right medical plan?
by Ron Wayne
My mailbox and emails are overwhelmed with these solicitations.
When I accepted the modest early retirement offer from my employer last fall, I didn’t anticipate the cost of medical insurance after I turned 65.
I focused on being sure I could pay the huge sum for health coverage from the time I retired until August when I turn 65 — a total of nine months.
I continued my employer’s excellent Aetna HMO plan, but it cost me $800 a month for four months.
In March, I got an Obamacare plan for $400 a month with my considerable subsidy from the government because of my relatively low income. The legislation passed by the Democrats this spring increased the subsidy, so I’m paying $288 for the final three months.
The total bill has wiped out the early retirement incentive and a few bucks more. But thankfully these plans have covered a lot of my medical bills this year, including the full cost for both cataract operations (Aetna HMO).
But in my zeal to retire from a job that was simply not a good fit, I didn’t think how much health insurance would cost after I turned 65. I might not have budgeted enough for it.
I long had this incorrect thought that Medicare would be free, or at least not more than the required premium for Medicare B, which is $148 for most people, including me.
Now I find that if you go the preferred route of Medicare A, B instead of Medicare Advantage, the Medigap or supplemental policies can easily add at least $100 or more a month to your Medicare B. And you want such a policy because there is no lifetime limit of what you could owe without it. Finally, you also need a drug coverage policy!
I’m still deep into trying to figure out this stuff with the clock ticking before I must choose.
The cheaper route in most cases is a Medicare Advantage plan. But there are negatives that concern me. Unlike the traditional Medicare, the administrators of these HMOs and PPOs have some say in your health care. They can second-guess your doctor! They also can compel you to use or at least try alternative drugs from what your doctors suggest. And rates can jump annually.
Although I’m thankful to all the elected leaders who pushed through Medicare, it has become needlessly complicated, and part of the reason is because they later allowed these Advantage plans, which are essentially private companies that cut corners on costs.
Anyone who is nearing 65 will know about the abundance of solicitations from companies such as Humana, United Healthcare and WellCare. A young woman representing a company came to my door, which is actually not allowed.
I was fortunate to have someone suggest getting help through the SHINE program. I’ve had two sessions so far with a counselor. At this point, I also think I will try an independent insurance broker.
I have enough health concerns but not enough money that I must be extremely careful in what I choose. Wish me luck!