The decisions are not easy. There are dozens of options available with all sorts of different monthly premiums, including some at $0. Being rather healthy (my recent food poisoning episode not withstanding!) should I take a bare bones package now and upgrade when my health requires it? What if I wait too long, have an expensive problem and my "gamble" backfires?
My Medicare card arrived in mid-January, actually several weeks before I could even sign up for anything else. Of course, I was given the option to mail the card back and tell the government I was not going with traditional Medicare. But, I think they mail the card as early as they do to "help" me decide. With the card in hand and active steps on my part needed to choose differently, they may be counting on folks just going with the easiest choice.
Not so fast. I still wanted to look again at all my options and costs. Betty and I discussed the amount of risk we were willing to accept to save some money each month. We talked through the choices and what seemed to make the most sense.
As I looked at Medicare Advantage programs I was initially attracted by the low premiums, decent coverage, and simplicity: one check to one company takes care of everything. But, upon closer inspection two serious flaws became evident. Advantage programs don't travel. That is, they provide for coverage in your home county, but are difficult if not impossible to count on when traveling. A good policy at home might turn out to be worthless if I had a medical problem while on an RV trip far from Scottsdale.
Secondly, the type of coverage that certain Medigap policies provide is not part of an Advantage plan. The customer will still be on the hook for a potion of costs that Medicare doesn't cover. And, it is not possible to buy a supplemental policy if someone is covered by an Advantage program. I could be liable for more than $6,000 in additional costs each year.
Two weeks ago, I finally made my choice, filed the applications, paid some money in advance, and prepared myself to enter a new world of health coverage in just over two months. I decided to go with traditional Medicare, adding both robust Medigap and a Part D drug coverage policies. The cost was $250 less than I was paying last fall, and $70 less than the individual policy I purchased through the Health Marketplace for coverage that started January 1st.
Medicare will cover up to 80% of my expenses. The Medicare supplemental policy will pay the 20% remaining and for 100% of some services that Medicare doesn't cover. I choose Plan F, certainly not the most inexpensive, but with the type of benefits I want. The Drug coverage policy will leave me with a monthly cost of $3 for the two basic, generic prescriptions I take now. In the future, their formulary looks to be on par with others and should keep my prescription costs under control.
The cost of basic Medicare is deducted automatically from my monthly Social Security check. The other two policies will require me to pay two additional premiums. Was this the easiest choice? No. Was it the most inexpensive? No. Did it provide the security and peace of mind I wanted? Yes.
With a chance to pick other policies and other approaches every fall, I am feeling pretty good about things. Time will tell.