submitted by Sharon Wagner

Taking care of our health is vital at any age, especially during our Golden Years. Studies have shown that one-third of our medical costs occur during middle age, and that amount increases to one-half during our senior years. Because of these healthcare expenditures, Medicare is a blessing for most seniors. Of course, the available options can seem a bit daunting at first. If you or a loved one have ever felt overwhelmed when trying to choose Medicare benefits, you’re not alone. There’s a lot of information to review, and the process can feel complicated at times.

Just like any other health insurance plan, it’s important to understand what Medicare does and doesn’t cover before you enroll. To help make things less confusing, here’s a brief overview of some of the plans you can choose from:

Medicare Part A and B

For starters, there’s Medicare Parts A and B, the Medicare plan offered by the federal government. Medicare Part A primarily covers hospitalization, home care, nursing facilities, and hospice care. Meanwhile, Medicare Part B covers daily medical costs, like visits to physicians, rehab facilities, outpatient care, and many medications. According to The New York Times, it’s best not to delay signing up for Medicare when you turn 65 years old. If you miss the Initial Enrollment Period, you’ll have a harder time signing up for benefits at a later date.

Medicare Part C (Medicare Advantage)

Another Medicare option is Medicare Part C, also called Medicare Advantage. Medicare Advantage is an alternative to Medicare coverage with a broad range of benefits. Certain plans, like Humana Medicare Advantage, for example, cover dental, vision, and even health and wellness programs like the SilverSneakers fitness program.

Medicare Part D

Medicare Part D covers prescription drugs. Private insurance companies administer Part D, and it’s usually required unless you already have prescription medication benefits through another plan. For instance, if you purchase a Medicare Advantage plan that covers prescription drugs, you won’t be required to pay for additional Medicare Part D benefits.

One word of advice: Although you might need to purchase multiple plans, you probably don’t need all four parts. Some plans require you to meet a set deductible before your coverage begins, so it’s important to weigh your options and choose the plan you think best suits your unique needs.

Medicare Supplement

In addition to the Medicare plans listed above, you might also look into a Medicare supplement like Medigap. Supplemental coverage will help you pay for any large bills that aren’t entirely covered by your Medicare Parts A, B, or D. Although your premium will be higher, you’ll have peace of mind knowing you won’t have to pay for those significant bills out of pocket.

It’s important to note that Medigap is not standalone health insurance; instead, it’s an additional expense that supplements your existing Medicare plan. Additionally, it can be more expensive than a Medicare Advantage plan and typically does not provide the same wide range of coverage.

Other Selection Criteria

Before selecting a plan, it’s important to get a health assessment from your doctor so you have a solid understanding of the type of healthcare you might need in the coming years. You should also research what isn’t covered under each plan. That way, you’re sure to choose a plan that will meet all your needs.

For instance, traditional Medicare (parts A and B) won’t cover long-term care, routine dental or eye care, acupuncture, or hearing aids. If you think that you might eventually need any of these services in the future, you might want to invest in coverage that goes beyond traditional Medicare.

According to Harvard Medical School, as many as one in eight people feel anxious about their health. One way to relieve health anxiety is by having the reassurance of reliable healthcare. Remember, everyone’s healthcare needs are different, so it helps to talk to your doctor and educate yourself. By gaining a better understanding of Medicare, Medigap, and MedicareAdvantage, you can feel confident in knowing you’ve chosen the best possible plan for your long-term health and fitness.


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