Medicare Do’s and Don’ts….

Has anyone else noticed how crazy October has been?  The government shut down for 16 days, the U.S. almost defaulted on its ability to pay its bills, the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare (CMS) launched the new Health Insurance Marketplace (also known as an Exchange) under the requirements of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA, ACA, or “ObamaCare”), AND open enrollment for Medicare is now upon us as well.  Whew! And to think we are only half way through the month!! 

We don’t often discuss Medicare on our blogs as it’s not really affected by the new health Insurance Marketplace requirements. But it’s always good to get a primer on the program even if you are already enrolled.  And, this information is very useful for those who are new to the program as well.  So…let’s talk “Do’s and Don’ts” or “Don’ts and Do’s” as they pertain to Medicare.  The “Don’ts” are the key here because if you DON’T follow these points you WILL find yourself in some trouble.

Medicare enrollment “Don’ts”

  • DON’T take a call from someone you don’t know or trust offering to help you navigate Medicare plans. You should be the one initiating any queries.
  • DON’T give out any personal information, such as your Medicare number, to unsolicited callers. Remember, your Medicare number is the same as your Social Security number.
  • DON’T toss the mail you received from your health insurer and competing firms about your 2014 Medicare plan. You need to read this material to find out what’s in store for you and learn about potential alternatives.
  • DON’T assume that you (or your spouse) have the most appropriate Medicare plan. As a recent piece on the MarketWatch Encore blog noted, some married couples shouldn’t be on the same Medicare plan. Depending on the medications each of you take and the doctors you both need to visit, one Medicare plan may be better for one spouse than another.
  • DON’T procrastinate.  Open enrollment ends December 7.  Make sure you have all your questions answered before enrollment ends as you don’t want to be scrambling at the last minute.

Medicare open enrollment “Do’s”

  • DO review your current carrier’s Medicare plan for 2014 to ensure you understand the pending changes. Call your insurer with any questions. Then start researching alternatives on other insurers’ sites.
  • DO understand that you may not necessarily be able to switch from your Medicare Advantage plan to a traditional Medicare plan plus a Medigap plan. If you have health problems, you might not qualify for Medigap coverage or could be charged more for a Medigap policy than someone without them.
  • ObamaCare’s ban against rejecting people due to pre-existing conditions generally does not apply to Medigap plans. In certain states (i.e. New York) however, individuals can purchase the Medigap policy of their choice at any time.
  • DO study any changes in your plan’s drug coverage and cost (Part D, if you have traditional Medicare). Check to see whether each medication you take now or may need next year will be affected. Then, compare this with other plans you could buy.
  • DO seek expert help if you need it. Start at your State Health Insurance Program (SHIP) which provides free one-on-one counseling and assistance to people with Medicare and their families. There are also companies such as Allsup that offer Medicare consultations for a fee.
  • DO take your time, but be sure to make your choices before open enrollment ends. Even if you wait until the last day of open enrollment, you can still change your Medicare plans for coverage beginning Jan. 1.

 (Do’s and Don’ts reprinted from

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