(BPT) - Inflation is putting the squeeze on all Americans, but no one is feeling the pinch more than those on Social Security and Medicare who are on a fixed income.
Over 64 million Americans are enrolled in Medicare. Once a year, between Oct. 15 and Dec. 7, Medicare offers all beneficiaries the opportunity to change their coverage during the Annual Enrollment Period. This is the time of year when health insurance TV ads play constantly and your mailbox gets flooded with unwanted solicitations.
More than 300 insurance companies offer over 24,000 Medicare insurance plans nationwide: This maze of options and benefits, dressed in the confusing language of government bureaucrats and the insurance industry itself, results in many beneficiaries purchasing an imperfect plan for their needs.
The Medicare sign-up process can be so intimidating that some choose not to buy health insurance at all. That’s what Jonathan Parker decided to do. Having moved to Israel after raising a family in the suburbs of Chicago, he chose not to enroll in Medicare for his frequent trips back to the U.S. On one of those trips, during the 2020 holiday season, he fell ill. Parker refused to see a doctor in the U.S., hoping to receive more affordable treatment once he traveled back to Israel. He died in-flight, 90 minutes from landing in Israel.
This loss motivated his son, Ari, a Stanford-trained lawyer and Lead Medicare Advisor at Chapter, to write “It’s Not That Complicated: The Three Medicare Decisions to Protect Your Health & Money” available at askchapter.org/ari.
The goal of the book is to help Americans make the right Medicare choices to access the affordable, high-quality health care they deserve. The book introduces the “Three Ps method” to shop for the right Medicare plan and avoid costly mistakes, which stands for a person's providers, prescriptions and priorities.
P for providers
Noting the doctors, pharmacies and hospitals you plan to access in 2023 is the first step toward finding the most comprehensive coverage. Many Medicare Advantage plans have limited networks that restrict your choice of doctors, pharmacies and hospitals. If you choose this type of plan, it is crucial to make sure all your providers are in network; otherwise you might receive a large, unexpected bill.
P for prescriptions
Prescription drugs are often a considerable household expense. You may be able to save upwards of $1,100 by matching your prescription needs to the right plan and nearby drug store. The best Medicare advisors should help you with this decision, although most advisors only compare plans from a handful of insurance companies, and may not compare all the options available to you.
P for priorities
Your health care priorities are probably different than your neighbor’s. An Advantage plan wouldn't work so well if you see multiple specialists because it has network restrictions. Instead, you would want to consider a Medigap (aka Medicare Supplement) plan if you can afford the higher monthly cost of insurance. There are compelling reasons for choosing a Medigap or Advantage plan, but it depends on the factors that are important to you. Namely cost, choice of doctor and quality of care.