Jack Lee, a retired engineer, worked at IBM for 28 years. He has traveled all over the world.
When I turned 65 years old, it felt like a milestone of sorts. One of the rites of passage that came with my 65th year was signing up for Medicare coverage. Here is how I did it.
A year before I turned 65, I went out and bought a few books related to Medicare, Social Security, and retirement planning. After reading as much as I could, I must admit I was a bit intimidated by this whole process. Over the years, I have always had good medical coverage from my employer. After that, I was covered by my wife's employer which was also very good for the most part.
As with most health insurance, the premiums have been going up along with the deductibles. Since both of us are in generally good health, we decided to go with an HMO plan that is cheaper but has higher deductibles. We also signed up for a health savings account.
I knew that when I turned 65, I would be automatically covered by Medicare. But how was I to sign up? The smartest thing I did was to go to our local library and attend a Medicare help center session. This is a weekly volunteer program where experts on Medicare issues are there to answer all questions. By the way, the information I am providing is for New York state residents. Different states have different coverage options.
Medicare Program Supplement Insurance
- Parts A and B: hospital and medical coverage
- Part C: extended coverage.
- Part D: prescription drug coverage
- One month before your 65th birthday, you can stop by your local social security office to sign up for Medicare. You can also do it online with your computer. After the initial application, you will be notified to bring some identification to the office. If all checks out, you can expect to receive your Medicare card in the mail in approximately two to three weeks.
- Sign up for Plan D drug coverage. Even though I am currently healthy and do not require any prescription drugs, I was advised to take the insurance anyway. This way, I would be covered going forward. If you choose to delay coverage, there will be a penalty payment when you do decide you need it.
- Select a plan for extended coverage. Currently, in New York State, there are nine companies that offer insurance coverage. In my case, the cheapest plan is the HDF with First United American Insurance Company. This plan is ideal for people who are basically healthy. It does carry a $2,100 cap, which means I am responsible for the first $2,100 of medical expenses that I incur per year. The good news is if I ever get a serious disease, I can switch to a more expensive plan at any time of the year. Once I am recovered, I can switch back. This is good information to know.
My Choices and Costs
This was the bottom line for me (in 2016):
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- Medicare Basic: $121.80 per month (based on my income level)
- Extended Coverage Plan HDF: $62.0 per month (First United American)
- Plan D Drug Coverage: $18.40 per month (Humana Insurance)
- Total yearly cost: $2426.40
- Payment options: With each selection, you can choose how to make payments. Since I have not collected on Social Security benefits, I decided to receive a monthly statement bill. Once I sign up for Social Security in the future, I can choose to have the premium deducted from my benefits automatically.
Unfortunately, dental and vision insurances that are typical of employer-provided plans are not available under Medicare. In my case, I can continue coverage under my wife's employer for now. But, when she retires in a few years, we will need to obtain our own dental and vision insurance.
Upon turning 65, you will be bombarded with calls and mails from various groups and insurance companies. They want your business. You will also receive lots of documents from the Social Security office. For the most part, you can ignore them.
You do need to follow-up after you sign up. Medicare is renewed every year. You can change your options every year depending on your circumstances.
How Does It Work?
I just went to my family physician for my yearly checkup. As far as paperwork, there is no difference. The office will send their bill to Medicare first, and the remaining balance will be forwarded to the supplemental Insurance company. They will send me a bill for any remaining charges.
I am grateful for all the help from my local public library. A big shout out to the Shrub Oak Library! Their volunteer staff has helped me navigate this process easily.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
Questions & Answers
Question: what is the best dental plan for seniors at the lowest cost?
Answer: I would look into MetLife, they seem to have the best coverage with regard to dental.