Turning 65: Beware Of Medicare Pitfalls

Turning 65 is a milestone, but it could be an albatross around your neck if you don’t avoid common Medicare blunders made by many rookie Medicare recipients. To avoid crashing and burning as the first wave of baby boomers applying for Medicare, follow these tips provided by Consumer Reports Health:

1. Sign up early! The best practice is to sign up at least three months prior to your actual birthday to ensure you get coverage on your big day.

“If you don’t stay on top of the process when you first sign up, you can blunder into decisions that could lock you out of certain types of coverage, costing you thousands in extra premiums and out-of-pocket costs,” said Nancy Metcalf, senior program editor, Consumer Reports Health.

“Medicare is filled with traps so it’s well worth your time to dig into the details of the program and make sure you choose wisely based on your individual needs.”

2. If you’re no longer working, sign up for Medicare Part B.

While Medicare Part A is free to anyone who has paid Medicare taxes for more than a decade (or is married to someone who has), Medicare Part B has a monthly premium ($96.40 or $110.50). Part B covers most other medical expenses, except for prescription drugs.

If you don’t sign up for Medicare Part B when you or your spouse stops working, then you will be hit with a Mike Tyson-like blow upside your noggin and in your wallet. Expect a 10 percent permanent increase in your premium for every year that you could’ve signed up. There are some special rules for certain groups, detailed at www.ConsumerReportsHealth.org.

3. Beware of Part D (the prescription-drug benefit)special rules.

Part D is delivered exclusively through private plans with an average premium ofabout $41 a month in 2011. As with Part B, you will pay a premium penalty for late enrollment, but for Part D, it’s 1 percent extra for every monththat you could have enrolled but didn’t.

If you find that you aren’t paying a high drug bill now and think Part D is unnecessary, consider the penalty that you will have to pay later if you doneed expensive prescription drugs. It’s hard to predict how your health may turn out in the future, but consider your family history and your own health record.

4. Determine how your retiree plan works with Medicare.

You could forfeit coverage and thousands of dollars if you leave your retiree plan for a Medicare Advantage plan. Visit with both your employer and Medicare representatives before you make any final decisions.

By Jerald Black of The Conservatory At Keller Town – a Legend Retirement Corp managed property

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