Millions of Americans are currently enrolled in Medicare, and if you are getting close to the eligibility age, you probably have lots of questions about this program. The truth is that while Medicare imparts a range of essential benefits for seniors, it can also be very confusing. That can lead new enrollees to make some mistakes that could cost them in the long term. At Slutsky Elder Law, we believe we have a responsibility to educate the public about elder law matters that could affect them, so here is some information about the 5 most costly Medicare mistakes and how you can avoid making them:
Choosing the Wrong Time to Enroll
While everyone is eligible to enroll in Medicare at the age of 65, it can make sense to delay enrolling in certain portions if you have other medical coverage. By doing so, you may be able to delay paying premiums until you actually need Medicare coverage. For example, if your employer has 20 or more employees and offers coverage for outpatient services and prescription drugs, you may not need to sign up for Medicare parts B and D until your employer coverage runs out.
Be aware that while delaying coverage can be a good strategy for some, it can also trigger permanent premium increases for others. Speaking to an elder law attorney that specializes in Medicare will help you determine if it makes sense for you to delay getting certain types of Medicare coverage.
Not Understanding the Connection between Social Security and Medicare
If you began receiving Social Security benefits before you turned 65, you will be automatically enrolled in Medicare parts A and B on your 65th birthday. At this point, your Medicare premiums will be deducted from your Social Security checks automatically. If you want to avoid this outcome, there are some steps you can take, like contacting the Social Security Administration as soon as you receive your Medicare welcome package (usually 3 months before your 65th birthday).
There are some other scenarios in which you can exert more control over your Medicare and Social Security benefits, but it can get pretty complicated because of the connection between the two programs. An elder law specialist can help you determine the best course of action for your unique situation.
Falling for Misleading “Free” Medicare Advantage Plans
Medicare Advantage plans are offered by private companies and provide different types of coverage – even some not offered by original Medicare, like vision and hearing aids. Although these can be a good option for many Medicare recipients, their sales pitches can be somewhat misleading. They often advertise “no or low monthly premiums” without mentioning that a person is still required to pay their Medicare part B premium in order to be covered. Failing to pay premiums can cause you to be disenrolled from Medicare, so it is important that you understand that a “free” Medicare Advantage plan is not actually free.
Signing Up for the Same Part D Plan as a Spouse or Friend
Medicare part D is designed to cover prescription drugs, and in most areas, enrollees have a dizzying number of options to choose from. This can lead you to give up on researching them and select the same plan as your spouse or someone else you know, a mistake that can leave you paying more for medications than you should. The best way to find the right part D plan for you is to visit mymedicare.gov and use their plan-finder tool to analyze your options.
Paying an Unnecessary Premium Surcharge
While the standard Medicare part B premium for 2022 is $170.10, you may be required to pay an additional amount depending on your income level. This “income-related monthly adjustment” will also affect your part D premiums; however, you may be able to avoid both surcharges. Because the surcharge is assessed based on your income from two years prior, you may be able to appeal it if your income was impacted by the work stoppage, work reduction, divorce, or several other factors.
Planning for Your Medical Expenses
As you can see, finding the right combination of Medicare plans can be confusing. If you are already receiving Medicare benefits or are getting close to age 65, it’s a good idea to speak with an elder law attorney in Montgomery County, PA to develop a sound strategy. Robert Slutsky has been advising clients in Pennsylvania about critical Medicare concerns for nearly 30 years, so call (610) 940-0650 or fill out the form on our contact page to request a consultation today.