Medicare open enrollment is a time during the year when people who are eligible can enroll for coverage for the upcoming year. What that really means is that if you are a first-timer, you are going to have the option to get exceptional healthcare coverage for free and major discounts on additional coverage options you may want or need. For many, it’s a great opportunity to cut back on healthcare costs, even if you are still working.
Healthcare costs continue to be one of the top concerns of retirees, especially in areas where the cost of living has skyrocketed of late. Affordable coverage is key to being able to stay within your budget. That’s why having a strategy and plan when you enroll is important and can help you avoid making mistakes. Here are some key tips to follow as you get started:
- Don’t do it alone: The biggest mistake made during open enrollment is when people try to enroll themselves. You are never alone in this process. The services and guidance of experienced and licensed advisors are available to you for free. These men and women are able to work work with multiple insurance providers where they can access various plans and packages to provide you with plenty of options.
- Know the deadlines: Open enrollment has specific deadlines and times throughout the year when you can enroll. It’s essential that you do not miss these important dates as it’s tough to get things changed once the time has elapsed.
- Understand what’s covered: For the majority of your adult life, you have probably had health insurance that covered everything except for perhaps dental services. Now, you have to have several plans and options to cover everything. This includes your prescription medications which are not covered under Original Medicare. Knowing what is covered is important based on your particular healthcare needs as well as what you can afford to pay each month and throughout the year.
- Ask about supplements: If your prescription drugs are not covered under Medicare then how do you get coverage? This is where you will need to sign up for a supplement with a provider. The coverage will come with a monthly cost and while nearly every pharmacy accepts this type of plan, it may not cover the medication you are currently on. This is where you have to work with your advisor to know what your options are, if different medications might be available or what else you can do.
- Minimize giving out your information: Another common mistake made when someone is new to the Medicare enrollment experience is that they tend to give their information to multiple outlets. You only need to provide your information to a single person and that is your advisor. Anyone else asking for your information, especially once you’ve enrolled, should be checked out first. You do not need to share this information with dozens of people and it’s critical you protect your information at all times.
- You can do it online, but you do not have to: A great advancement in enrolling is that you can do it online. While this is a great option to have, especially if you have been on Medicare for years, it may not be ideal if it’s your first time. For first-timers, it’s always recommended that you work with an advisor either in person or over the phone. This ensures minimal confusion and lapses in coverage.
- Stay organized: One thing that first-timers are always amazed at is how overwhelming the information is. Remember, you are also doing this during the holidays, a normally busy and hectic time for everyone, so trying to learn something this important and detailed is difficult. Keeping track of contact information, important answers to questions you had, paperwork, notes, and more is very important and can help you improve your understanding of the coverage options and how to proceed every year.
- Dental is worth checking out: Believe it or not, dental coverage is not something many people have throughout their lives. Most dentists do not require it and many patients do not pay for it with their basic health coverage. However, as you become eligible for Medicare, you may want to consider the dental plan as well. This is an example of a supplement or extra coverage option that may not be needed immediately but could provide you with affordable coverage if you need more dental care than expected throughout the year.
- You have opportunities to make adjustments: Another great advantage of working with an advisor is that they can alert you when there are periods throughout the year when you can make changes to what you currently have. While there are limits, these windows are great for making some subtle changes to your coverage based on your healthcare needs.
Throughout the next several years, you will grow more comfortable and familiar with the process of enrolling into Medicare as well as what to expect as far as coverage and cost. However, the easiest way to ensure a smooth transition in your earlier years of using the service is to work with an advisor. Each advisor is experienced in working with people just like you, people who have worked hard their entire lives and have earned the benefits offered during retirement, and working well into their 60s.
Each year, millions of people make the mistake of either not enrolling or enrolling in options they are not happy with because they simply do not take the time to research the facts or speak with an advisor. Can you be on Medicare while you are still working? Absolutely, and it’s something that millions of Americans are doing each year, especially to accommodate the increased cost of living. Just as with social security, these benefits are available to you based on certain contributions as well as your age.
Utilizing each advantage is not only smart but can help you improve your retirement strategy whether it’s currently underway or still years off. Because working with an advisor is completely free, you are able to get the full benefit of learning what you should do during this period as well as knowing what dozens of providers can offer you, not just a single one.