The 5 Biggest Mistakes Boomers Make When Enrolling in Medicare

Medicare Open Enrollment began this week, and the National Council on Aging (NCOA) is hoping to help seniors avoid making mistakes when choosing their plan.

Medicare Open Enrollment began this week, and the National Council on Aging (NCOA) is hoping to help seniors avoid making mistakes when choosing their plan.

The council has released a list of 5 common mistakes Baby Boomers should avoid when enrolling in the program.

In short: Knowledge is power.

“People typically spend most of their life with healthcare more or less handled for them by an employer,” said James Firman, president and CEO of the council. “With Medicare, your challenge is to translate the kaleidoscope of Medicare options into coverage that works for you.”

Here are the 5 mistakes, as compiled by NCOA:

1. Signing up too early or too late for Medicare and its parts.

A person’s initial enrollment period is based on his or her 65th birthday, NCOA notes, but it also depends on factors such as whether the enrollee or the enrollee’s spouse is still working. Consumers can find out their initial deadline using the council’s Medicare QuickCheck tool at MyMedicareMatters.org.

2. Not understanding the difference between a Medicare Supplement and a Medicare Advantage policy.

Enrollees in original Medicare often supplement their policies and choose a Medicare Part D plan for prescription drugs, NCOA says. A supplement brings with it an additional premium, but patients won’t need pre-authorization for specialists or second opinions.

Medicare Advantage, meanwhile, takes the place of Medicare parts A and B and is provided through a private insurer. The group plans often include drug coverage, but may come with more limits on physician choice.

NCOA says patients need to think about which route is better for them before enrolling.

3. Guessing when picking specific plans.

NCOA urges consumers not to give up when they get confused by the different plan options. Consumers need to carefully consider their chronic conditions, physicians, pharmacies, and any secondary insurance options when they are choosing a Medicare plan, NCOA said.

4. Not applying for extra help.

NCOA notes a number of programs are available to help people pay for prescriptions, premiums, deductibles, and coinsurance. Consumers can visit BenefitsCheckUp.org to find out which programs they may be eligible for.

5. Not re-evaluating your coverage every year.

Insurers change their offerings. Patients’ health changes, and so do their financial circumstances. Thus, NCOA says, consumers need to be prepared to change their Medicare plans, too. The council urges consumers to re-evaluate their health plan on a regular basis. Doing so could help the consumer save money or avail themselves of better treatment options.