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Common Medicare mistakes to avoid

Posted by Amy Nelson
on August 11, 2021
a prescription bottle opened on table with pills pilling out.

Once you turn 65, having quality health insurance and treatment is a must for your well-being, and Medicare, more than likely, will be part of your health plan. Medicare is a popular government program among seniors, and has been helpful for baby boomers as they reach retirement age. That being said, there are obstacles that families and caregivers can encounter along the way in terms of enrollment and Medicare Advantage plans.

A slip-up in enrolling in Medicare can force you or your loved one to pay higher premiums or experience pitfalls. To sign up and receive Medicare in a manner that is best for your health and well-being, as well as economically feasible, keep these common Medicare mistakes in mind so that you make the right decision.

Social Security and Medicare are not intertwined

Since 65 is generally considered retirement age now, a lot of people believe that Medicare and Social Security kick in at that time. Because a growing number of individuals are working past age 65, they are not collecting Social Security checks, so they often fail to sign up for Medicare, which they do qualify for, regardless of whether they are still employed full time or not.

Not thinking she has worked long enough to qualify

According to AARP, it only takes about 10 years’ worth of work to ensure that your loved one won’t have to pay Part A premiums (hospital care). For example, for Medicare Part B (which entails doctor’s visits, outpatient services and medical equipment) and Part D (prescription drug coverage), as long as you are a U.S. citizen and have lived in the country for at least five years, you qualify for coverage.

Not signing up because you’re still employed

That being said, if you are still working, that doesn’t mean that you can’t use Medicare benefits. For instance, if you are currently employed and have health care coverage at work, you are under no pressure to sign up for Medicare. However, there are several benefits for signing up at age 65. For instance, you can receive Medicare Parts A and B at different times.

Let’s say you get in an accident and wind up in the hospital with a few injuries. Your private insurance from work will likely pick up the bulk of insurance costs, but usually won’t cover all expenses. Medicare Part A, which specifically covers hospital costs, can pick up those added expenditures that private insurance plan doesn’t cover.

With Medicare Part B, it’s a bit different. For instance, if you work for a small business, the company may require you to join in Medicare Part B to cover things like doctor’s visits so that you are not stuck with any extraneous fees. In fact, most seniors with high deductibles can benefit from this plan. However, you may want to decline if you work for a large company, as bigger plans typically cover these costs and you wouldn’t benefit from the investment.

Missing the original enrollment period

As a rule, you have three months before your 65th birthday to enroll for Medicare and up to three months after your birthday month to complete the process. Every year after that, the same enrollment process is true for these dates – even several years down the road once you reach full retirement. If that six-month window goes by, you will miss the chance to sign up completely, and will most likely encounter penalties for signing up late. Procrastination is not on your side in this situation, so it’s important to be proactive during this six-month period. Your health needs might change from year to year as well, so re-evaluate what you require and which Medicare parts might be beneficial.

Not signing up for Part D

As AARP notes, there is no “crystal ball” when it comes to your health. Unforeseen injuries or illnesses happen, and prescription drugs can be expensive, especially for serious conditions such as cancer. Just like other parts of Medicare, the program will provide coverage when you need care or treatment, but you must sign up for it first. If you are concerned about upfront costs, opt for a plan with the lowest premium in the beginning – it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Picking parts of Medicare based on a friend’s advice

Everyone’s medical history, pharmaceutical needs and work situations are different. While listening to a friend’s advice may help if they lead a similar lifestyle to you, it is probably best to consult your physician about choosing the right Medicare package if you run into roadblocks. A professional will likely be well-versed in these matters and know which aspects of Medicare work best for you in the long run.

Medicare may seem complicated, but it doesn’t have to be. By avoiding these common mistakes, you can receive the proper health insurance coverage you need and you can rest assured that you made the right decisions together for your future.

Profile image of Amy Nelson

Amy Nelson

Chief Financial Officer

Amy has an extensive background in accounting, operations, capital investment and business systems integration. She has held multiple positions with Aegis Living initially as VP of Accounting, Senior VP of Accounting, Senior VP Operations and now CFO. Her leadership and oversight of accounting, financial reporting, analytics, and operations have created solid contributions to the organization.

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