As an essential program for millions of Americans, Medicare is a valuable resource for those who need medical coverage. However, many beneficiaries make costly Medicare enrollment mistakes because they don’t understand the program’s rules and benefits. In this blog, we’ll discuss the most common Medicare mistakes for beneficiaries and provide advice on how to avoid them.
1. Missing your Medicare enrollment timeline
One of the most common Medicare enrollment mistakes beneficiaries make is not enrolling in the program on time. If you’re turning 65 soon, you should enroll in Medicare during your initial enrollment period, which lasts for seven months. This period begins three months before your 65th birthday and ends three months after.
If you don’t enroll during this time, you could face penalties and higher premiums for the rest of your life. If you miss the initial enrollment period, you can still enroll during the general enrollment period, which runs from January 1 to March 31 each year. However, you may face a late enrollment penalty. You can check out the Complete Guide to Enrolling in Medicare Part A and Part B.
2. Choosing the wrong Medicare plan for your needs
Another common Medicare enrollment mistake is selecting the wrong Medicare coverage for your needs or that covers your doctors and prescriptions. Choosing a plan that doesn’t fit your needs could mean paying higher costs for both Medical and prescription drugs. You would also lose provider access if they that are not in network. There are three main coverage options for Medicare, so it can get confusing. These Medicare options include:
- Original Medicare plus a separate Part D prescription drug plan
- A Medicare Advantage plan with Part D Prescription Drug coverage
- Original Medicare and a Medicare supplement plus a separate Part D prescription drug plan.
- Do you receive VA Benefits? There are Medicare Advantage plans without Part D for Veterans.
When choosing a plan, consult with a licensed agent that knows the plans in your area. They will help you consider your health needs, budget, and preferred providers. Not sure how a licensed agent can help you? Read our recent blog on the “Benefits of Using an Independent Agent for Medicare”
3. Not reviewing your Medicare coverage annually
Medicare coverage can change every year, and beneficiaries who don’t review their coverage annually may miss out on new benefits or incur unexpected costs from formulary or network changes. Make sure to review your plan’s Annual Notice of Change (ANOC), which outlines any changes in coverage or costs. This also includes reviewing your coverage if you have had any health changes for the year. If your current plan no longer meets your needs, you have the opportunity to switch plans during Medicare’s Annual Election Period, which runs from October 15 to December 7 each year. Use this time of year to consult a local licensed agent to compare plans and find one that best fits your needs.
4. Not enrolling in a Part D prescription drug plan
When you enroll in Medicare through social security, this does not enroll you in a Part D plan. Medicare Part D provides prescription drug coverage to beneficiaries, and if you don’t enroll in this program when you’re eligible, you could face lifetime penalties and higher premiums.
Even if you don’t take prescription medications regularly, it’s still important to enroll in Medicare Part D to avoid penalties later. If you wait until you need medications, you may be subject to a late enrollment penalty that will increase your premiums for as long as you have Medicare Part D coverage. There are some low premium plans available if you don’t need a lot of prescriptions covered.
The initial enrollment period for Medicare Part D is the same as the initial enrollment period for Medicare Parts A and B. If you don’t enroll in Part D during this time, you have to wait for Medicare’s Annual Election Period from October 15 to December 7 each year.
5. Not speaking with a licensed agent to get assistance with Medicare enrollment
Are you still working? Do you have other creditable coverage? Do you contribute to an HSA? Are you a high-income earner? Are you low income? These are just a handful of questions that can affect your decisions and timelines for Medicare. Many people are not aware of Medicare’s many rules, regulations, enrollment periods, and coverage options. Due to the complexities of Medicare, we see people making costly Medicare enrollment mistakes all the time.
Licensed agents who specialize in Medicare are required to complete certifications and training every year to stay up-to-date with Medicare. They know what to ask so that you get the right coverage at the right time. An independent agent that is contracted with the major carriers in your area can help you compare all plans and give you unbiased assistance. Be sure to ask your agent which carrier plans they can offer.