Medicare 101: A handy starter guide
You probably know that Medicare is a healthcare plan for people who qualify based on age or disability. But you probably don’t know much beyond that. Are there different types of Medicare plans? How do they work? What are the benefits and drawbacks of each kind of plan? Unfortunately, very few people thoroughly understand where Medicare comes from, how it works, and what it covers.
Who Can Sign Up for Medicare?
Anyone entitled to Medicare can sign up for it anytime, but the sooner you sign up, the more financially beneficial it will be. You must be 65 years or older to be eligible to participate in Medicare. However, if you have a disability that qualifies you for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits, you may be able to sign up for Medicare at a younger age. If you are under 65 and have a significant medical condition, you may also be able to sign up for Medicare.
What are Your Options When Enrolling in Medicare?
You can choose from several types of Medicare, each of which has its pros and cons. Your “type” of Medicare is determined by combining your plan’s coverage and your monthly premium. There are different types of programs to choose from Premium-Based Plans, Co-payment Plans, and Deductible Plans: Part A and Part B. All Medicare plans must cover the same core benefits: hospital care, physician visits, preventative services, and hospice care.
- Premium-Based Plans – The majority of Medicare plans are premium-based plans. They are also called “Part A and Part B” plans because they cover Medicare parts with deductibles. With these plans, you pay a monthly premium for each part of Medicare plus coinsurance for some services.
- Co-payment Plans – These plans do not have monthly premiums, but you will have a certain co-payment for each part of Medicare. A co-payment is a predetermined amount you pay for each service based on your coverage plan.
- Deductible plan– This type of premium-based plan is not recommended. It’s best not to choose a deductible plan if you can avoid it because they are far more expensive than the other types of programs.
Which Type of Plan Should You Choose?
When choosing a Medicare plan, you first need to decide how much you are willing to spend each month. When selecting a plan, there are many factors to consider, including how often you go to the doctor and how many medications you take. Here is a list of factors you should consider when choosing a plan:
Monthly Premium: Does the monthly premium fit your budget? If it doesn’t, are there other plans you can decide that don’t break the bank? You can also look for a plan with a lower premium if you qualify for assistance.
Co-payments: What are your co-payments for doctor visits, prescriptions, and other services? Choosing a different plan with a lower co-payment might be worthwhile if you have a high co-payment for a certain service.
Deductible: What is the maximum amount you can spend out of pocket each year? Choosing a different plan with a lower deductible might be worthwhile if you have a high deductible.
The majority of Medicare plans are premium-based plans. They are also called “Part A and Part B” plans because they cover Medicare parts with deductibles. With these plans, you pay a monthly premium for each part of Medicare plus coinsurance for some services. Premium-based plans come in four varieties:
- Plan F – This is the most common type of Medicare plan. It is the most expensive of the plans listed here but provides the most coverage. It has the highest monthly premium, but it also has the lowest co-payments.
- Plan G – This plan is similar to Plan F but has a lower monthly premium. Like Plan F, it also has a high monthly premium, but it also has low co-payments.
- Plan K – This plan is like the other plans because it has a high monthly premium and low co-payments. But it also has a slightly lower monthly premium than the other plans.
- Plan L – This plan is the least expensive of all the plans. It has a very low monthly premium, but it also has higher co-payments.
These plans do not have monthly premiums, but you will have a certain co-payment for each part of Medicare. A co-payment is a predetermined amount you pay for each service based on your coverage plan. Co-payment plans come in two varieties:
- Plan I – This plan has lower co-payments than the other plans. Choosing a different plan with a lower deductible might be worthwhile if you have a high deductible.
- Plan J – This is the most expensive plan of all the plans. It has a fairly high monthly premium and high co-payments.
Deductible Plans: Part A and Part B
A deductible plan is a type of premium-based plan that is not recommended. It’s best not to choose a deductible plan if you can avoid it because they are far more expensive than the other types of plans.
- Plan A – This plan is the most expensive of all the plans. It has a high monthly premium with a relatively high deductible of only $100 less than Plan F.
- Plan B – This is the second most expensive of all the plans. It has a high deductible, but it is only $50 less than Plan A.
- Plan C – This is the least expensive of all the plans. It has a low monthly premium, but it also has a very high deductible.
What Are the Differences Between the Current Options?
Original Medicare and Medicare Advantage plans are government-subsidized healthcare plans that cover you in the event of illness or injury. Still, they come with different benefits, costs, and coverage options. Medicare Supplement plans are usually purchased in addition to a Medicare Advantage plan and are used to provide extra coverage for specific medical costs that other Medicare plans don’t cover.
– Original Medicare costs $134 a month and has no annual or lifetime caps on coverage. However, finding a provider accepting Original Medicare coverage cannot be easy.
– Medicare Advantage plans vary depending on the plan and provider you choose but generally cost more than Original Medicare. They include additional benefits like flex cards for seniors that Original Medicare doesn’t, such as vision and dental coverage, additional prescription drug coverage, and coverage for additional medical services such as therapy.
– Medicare Supplement plans cost less than Medicare Advantage plans but generally provide more limited coverage. The coverage is supplemental, meaning that it covers what Original Medicare and Medicare Advantage don’t cover.
How Much Does a Plan Cost?
The price of any healthcare plan can vary significantly depending on your health, age, and other factors. However, providers are not allowed to ask you how much you earn or how old you are. In other words, they can’t charge you more or less because of your age or the amount of money you make. That said, certain factors can affect the overall cost of your healthcare plans, such as your state of residence, medical history, current health condition, and the type of plan you choose. The difference in price between Original Medicare, Medicare Advantage, and Medicare Supplement policies comes from the coverage each plan provides and the premiums you must pay. The higher the premiums, the higher the cost of the plan.
Helpful Tips: Where to Find Out More Information and Which Plan Is Right for You
If you’re considering signing up for Medicare, do your research and understand what each plan offers. You can start by visiting the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) official website at Medicare.gov. You can find a wide variety of information related to Medicare, including details on each plan, how to sign up, and how to update your information. You can read reviews, compare plans, and even find out how much each plan will cost. It’s also a good idea to talk to your doctor, family members, and friends on Medicare to find out what they like and don’t like about their plan. While you can explore your options online, nothing can replace the value of a real-life conversation with someone with first-hand Medicare experience.
When choosing a Medicare plan, you first need to decide how much you are willing to spend each month. When selecting a plan, there are many factors to consider, including how often you go to the doctor and how many medications you take. Most Medicare plans are premium-based, but copayment and deductible plans are also available. Doing your research is the best way to ensure you get the most out of your healthcare plan.