Picking the right Medicare plan for you as a senior can be a challenge. While there are plenty of rankings, satisfaction scores and recommendations out there, these can only give you the broadest hints on whether a plan is right for you as a specific individual. To begin the decision-making process, here are some of the most important factors in picking a plan.
Do you have medical coverage currently?
If you’re happy with your current medical insurance, you may prefer to retain this instead of switching to Medicare. It’s still worth comparing the costs and benefits of your existing plan with Medicare alternatives — you might be able to save money and enjoy benefits that are not included in your existing plan.
How often do you require medical attention?
If you’re in good health and only see the doctor for your scheduled checkups, it’s fine to hold off on switching from your current plan to Medicare. This will also factor into which Medicare plan is most appropriate for you, as some plans may contain coverage that you don’t need right now. Keep in mind, however, that nobody enjoys good health forever and accidents can occur at any time of life. Make sure that you have appropriate medical coverage if something unexpected should occur.
How much can you afford to pay?
Take a detailed look at your budget and think about how much you can realistically pay each month. Costs for coverage and prescriptions can vary significantly across different plans.
Is having a choice of healthcare providers important to you?
Some plans may offer lower costs, but with the downside that you’re restricted to specific providers.
Does your current doctor accept the plan?
If you don’t want to change doctors or if finding a new doctor would be difficult for you, it’s important to choose a plan that your current doctor accepts.
What’s more important in your situation, cost or coverage?
There’s a trade-off between lower costs and less comprehensive coverage. Certain medications or procedures may not be covered by a low-cost plan.
Do you travel frequently?
Not all plans are compatible with regular out-of-area travel. If you routinely leave the area that your plan covers, you’ll need to either consider a different plan or make alternative insurance arrangements for when you’re traveling.
Original Medicare (Parts A and B)
Original Medicare has two main parts. Part A is typically free, at least for most people. It covers the costs associated with hospital stays but little else.
Part B is the part that covers things like doctor visits, outpatient services, lab work and preventative care. The costs are income-dependent, ranging from $100 to $150 per month. Note that there is no out-of-pocket spending limit under an Original Medicare plan.
Medicare Advantage (Parts C and D)
Medicare Advantage is offered by private insurance companies that are also approved by Medicare. Having Medicare Advantage also gives you both Parts A and B of Original Medicare coverage. Part C covers most of your medical needs, while Part D covers prescriptions.
When selecting a Medicare plan, getting expert advice is a good idea. This is a complicated choice, particularly for seniors.