Medicare is an essential program for seniors over 65, however, many of its benefits are underutilized or misunderstood. Consider the annual “wellness” visit. During which a physician will assess your health risks, take your blood pressure and other routine measurements, test for cognitive impairment, and provide personalized health advice. It’s Free! Nonetheless, a surprising number of people do not take advantage of this benefit. This isn’t the only benefit that has gone under the radar. Many healthy seniors ignore a variety of free preventive services, ranging from bone density screening to cancer detection. Other benefits such as home health care, are also frequently unused due to their strict eligibility requirements. Below you’ll find all the ways to make sure you’re using all of your benefits and getting your money’s worth.
Choose The Right Doctor
It is important to choose a doctor who accepts Medicare assignments in order to save money. If a doctor accepts a Medicare assignment, they accept Medicare-approved amounts as full payment, and you cannot be charged more. Most physicians who treat Medicare patients will accept Medicare assignments. Providers who don’t participate fall into two categories:
- Non participating providers – These providers can charge up to 15% more than the Medicare approved amount for covered services and leave you responsible for the additional costs
- Opt-out providers – These providers can charge whatever they want which is outlined in a private contract with the patient.
To locate physicians in your area who accept assignment, visit Medicare.gov to find doctors and other health professionals section. The search tool displays which physicians accept Medicare payments.
If you have a Medicare Advantage plan, check your plan’s provider directory or website to ensure you’re choosing doctors in the network. Keeping in mind that doctors may be added or removed at any time. Generally, you will pay more to see non-network providers. Make sure that you research different doctors. Confirm that they accept Medicare and are willing to educate you on what is and is not covered so that you are not overcharged.
Understand Your Policy
Medicare provides coverage for skilled services such as nursing, speech therapy, and physical therapy, but there are eligibility requirements. To qualify for these services, you must be homebound. Meaning you are unable to leave your home without assistance or because of a medical condition. Many seniors mistakenly believe that they are covered for these services, only to receive a hefty bill in the end. Before assuming something is covered, carefully read your policy’s guidelines.
Look Into Medicare Advantage
Medicare Advantage plans are offered by private insurance companies and offer the convenience of having Part A, Part B, and Part D services all bundled into one plan. Whereas traditional Medicare has you sign up for each plan individually. Medicare advantage plans may also include coverage for routine dental, vision, and hearing exams. Which are not available under Original Medicare. However, the biggest benefit of Medicare Advantage is the annual out-of-pocket maximums for seniors excluding
prescription drug plans. Which as of 2023 is $8,300. With Original Medicare, there are no annual out-of-pocket maximums.
However, you should also be aware of the disadvantages of Medicare Advantage. Original Medicare is widely accepted by physicians and hospitals all over the country. Whereas a Medicare Advantage plan will have a smaller network of providers. So, it’s possible that your doctor isn’t in their network. Next, you may be required to get a referral before seeing a specialist. Which is not the case for Original Medicare enrollees. There are also certain covered services that Parts A and B that may have a high copayment under a Medicare Advantage plan. Meaning you would have higher out-of-pocket costs with Medicare Advantage than you would with Original Medicare.
Consider Medicare Supplement Plans
If you have a chronic or serious health condition and will likely visit the doctor frequently, you may want to consider a Medicare Supplement Plan. Medicare covers the majority of eligible medical expenses for seniors, but you are still responsible for 20%-25% of the total cost of care. Medicare Supplement Plans were designed to help cover a substantial portion of the medical expenses that come from having Medicare Part A and B, that you would otherwise be responsible for.
As with Part D, private insurers offer Medicare Supplement Plans and with Part D, there are a variety of plans to choose from. So you should shop around carefully to find the plan that fits you best. While yes, Medicare Supplement Plans do have premiums and can increase your monthly expenses, the additional coverage could give you peace of mind and eliminate some of the uncertainty that comes with your out-of-pocket Medicare costs.
Save On Medications
Even if you have Medicare Part D prescription drug coverage, your out-of-pocket costs can be astronomical, in part because Part D does not have a limit for out-of-pocket expenses. After you reach the catastrophic coverage threshold of $7,400 (as of 2023), the majority of people will continue to have to pay 5% of the cost of covered drugs. In certain instances, you can reduce drug costs by forgoing your Part D plan and paying cash. Big-box stores such as Costco and Target offer a variety of generic prescriptions for much cheaper, whereas many Part D plans have a high standard copay to fill a prescription. The only problem with paying in cash and not using your coverage is that the expense won’t count towards your deductible.
If you stick with your Medicare Part D plan’s list of “preferred” pharmacies you will typically pay less for your prescriptions. Also most Part D plans separate their drug formularies (list of covered drugs) into 5 tiers: preferred generic, generic, preferred brands, non preferred, and specialty. With preferred generics being the lowest cost-sharing tier and the most affordable for enrollees. If you find a drug that is approved for your condition on a lower tier than the one you currently take, ask your doctor if you can switch to the more affordable one.
Review Your Quarterly Summary
Your quarterly Medicare summary displays services and supplies for which Medicare was billed. This summary will also indicate whether or not any claims have been denied; if so it is important to contact the provider of the denied claim. If you believe the claim is unjust, you can appeal the claim denial by following the instructions on the summary’s final page. When admitted to the hospital, for instance, you will receive a notice outlining your Medicare rights. You may request an appeal of the decision and a review of your case if you believe you were discharged prematurely.
Use Your Preventative Care
Many Medicare recipients don’t realize that there is a long list of services that they can get for free. Medicare provides numerous screenings and annual wellness visits at no cost to you. These free preventative measures are important for detecting serious illnesses early. The screenings may include depression, cardiovascular disease, and other conditions. There are free counseling sessions for tobacco and alcohol abuse, as well as free vaccinations for flu and pneumonia. Additionally, you are eligible for a free “welcome to Medicare” preventive visit within the first 12 months of receiving Medicare Part B. During this initial appointment, you can also receive free assistance planning for end-of-life care. And your physician can help you draft an advance directive that outlines all of your wishes.
Utilizing these freebies can aid doctors in detecting major health problems before they worsen, thereby preserving your health. You might also have access to free wellness benefits if you have a Medicare Advantage plan. Some Advantage plans, for instance, include SilverSneakers membership at no extra charge. This program provides a basic gym membership and access to senior-specific group exercise classes.
Plan Yearly Expenses With The Out-Of-Pocket Maximum In Mind
Individuals’ Medicare costs can vary widely based on their circumstances and the type of coverage they have. Original Medicare typically covers 80% of a beneficiary’s Part A and Part B expenses. Such as doctor visits, hospital stays, and lab work. Individuals are responsible for remaining 20% of out-of-pocket costs, with no annual cap. Medicare Advantage plans offer predictable copayments and an annual limit on out-of-pocket costs. Once you reach your plan’s out-of-pocket maximum, all Medicare-covered services for the remainder of the year are covered in full. This cap can provide peace of mind if you have a sudden illness or are preparing for a major medical procedure.
Shop Around Every Year
Original Medicare, which includes Part A (hospital insurance) and Part B (medical insurance), is relatively simple. There is no need to shop around for Parts A or B because they come in a universal package. Where you should shop around is your Medicare Part D plan and your Medicare Supplement Plans. Medicare contracts with private insurance companies that offer Part D and Medicare Supplement Plans to provide seniors with a variety of coverage options. Moreover, these coverage options and their costs can change from year to year. This means that the plan you have this year might not be the best for you next year. The worst thing you can do is automatically enroll in your previous year’s plan without comparing options. This could result in higher out-of-pocket costs and for Part D could mean less coverage for prescription medications.
Get Help From EZ
If you’re looking for a Medicare Supplement Plan or Medicare Advantage Plan, you must compare the costs and benefits of each. This requires extensive research. Which can be time-consuming, as you will need to contact multiple insurance companies to obtain rate quotes. However, if you work with one of EZ’s agents, you can compare prices in half the time. Working with a licensed agent provides you with access to a variety of carriers and plans.
In addition to providing price comparisons, your agent can explain the differences between each plan. And explain the differences between each plan. In addition, your agent can assist you in determining which plan will be the most cost-effective for you in the long run by comparing out-of-pocket costs and premium costs. Call us today at 877-670-3601 or enter your zip code in the bar below to begin comparing.