What Is Medicare?
Medicare is a federal government sponsored health insurance system that is designed for seniors and those that are disabled. It was started in 1966 and is available to seniors and the disabled regardless of their health, where they live or how much income that they make. Medicare is broken up into 4 parts A,B,C & D and save for Part C addresses different Medical Needs that will be explained later. Medicare Health Plans
When Do I Qualify For Medicare?
Medicare is available for people age 65 or older, younger people with disabilities and people with End Stage Renal Disease (permanent kidney failure requiring dialysis or transplant). Most people qualify for Part A when they turn 65 but have to pay a monthly premium for part B. Part D & C plans are issued by private insurance companies and are only available to individuals who have Part A and Part B of Medicare.
The Four Parts Of Medicare
MEDICARE PART A: Medicare Part A is sometimes described as Hospital Insurance a term that is used to distinguish it from Part B. But it is important to note that the term ‘Hospital Insurance” can be somewhat misleading. A lot of times people assume that Part A pays all of their bill if they were to be placed in a hospital, but that is not true. The services that you receive from doctors, surgeons, or anesthetics while you are in the hospital are billed separately and are only covered by Part B of Medicare. In addition you have to meet an annual deductible for services and there are additional limitations and co-pays that you may incur for things like skilled nursing care.
A better way to describe Medicare Part A would be coverage primarily for nursing care. It helps pay for the following:
- The services of professional nurses when you are admitted to a hospital or a skilled nursing facility.
- The cost of a Semi-private room in an hospital or nursing facility.
- Meals that are provided by the hospital or nursing facility
- Services that are provided directly by the hospital or nursing facility, such as labs, drugs or medical supplies provided by the facility.
- Home Health Services if you qualify for nursing care at home.
- All services provided by a Hospice Program
Most of the people that have Medicare Part A do not pay a premium for it. That is because Part A has been paid for throughout the years that you have worked from Medicare Payroll Taxes. The only people that have to pay for Part A benefits are those that have not accumulated enough credits from working, this mostly applies to new immigrants.
MEDICARE PART B: Medicare Part B coverage is described as “medical insurance” because it covers a wide range of more commonly used services.
These services include:
- Medical & Surgical from any doctor who accepts Medicare Patients no matter where those services are provided.
- Diagnostic tests and Labs that are done outside of a Hospital or Nursing Facility.
- Preventative services (mammograms, pap smears, flu shots etc…)
- Medical equipment(walkers, wheel chairs, oxygen, diabetic supplies etc…)
- Outpatient Services like those received in an Emergency Room, Clinic or ambulatory surgical facility.
- Chemotherapy and drugs ministered by injection
- Coverage for physical, occupational and speech therapies
- Mental Health Care
- Approved Home Health Services not covered by Part A
- Ambulance Services
You must pay a Premium to receive Part B services unless your income is low enough for these premiums to be covered by the state. If your income is above a certain level you are required to pay more premiums for Part B services.
In addition to a Part B premium you will also be required to pay for 20% of the services that you receive. This can add up to an overwhelming amount of money which is why many choose to purchase a Medicare Supplement Program.
MEDICARE PART C: Medicare Part C is offered by Private insurance companies and is called an Medicare Advantage Plan these plans provide managed care through HMO’s, PPO’s and Private Fee For Service contracts issued by insurance companies, these plans have become become a popular alternative to purchasing a Medicare Supplement. Medicare pays a fixed fee to the insurance company for each subscriber that chooses to enroll in an Medicare Advantage Plan in turn the insurance company designs a plan that is in line with CMS guidelines that covers both Impatient and Outpatient services.
In addition to covering Part A and B services a Medicare Advantage plan may also cover Part D (drug coverage) as well. These plans are called MAPD plans and most of the time have little or no additional cost besides the Part B Medicare Premium. Medicare Advantage plans have become increasingly popular because they offer benefits that traditional Medicare does not cover. Services like dental, vision, over the counter medicine, trips to and from the doctor, meals etc…Depending on where you live there may be plans that offer to refund a portion or all of your Part B premiums to enroll.
MEDICARE PART D: Part D Coverage is for Outpatient Prescription Drugs and is issued by a private insurance carrier. Medicare’s drug benefit was added to the program in 2006 and has progressively gotten better since the passing of the Affordable Care Act.
Here are some important features to the Part D program that you should know about before you purchase a Part D plan.
- Coverage goes through four distinct phases during a calendar year. In each phase the drug may cost different amounts.
- Coverage must be selected from an array of different private plan options.
- Plans covers different drugs and no plan covers all drugs.
- Plans have different co-pays for each drug and these co-pays can vary from plan to plan.
- Plans may require you to get an pre-authorization before they will extend coverage for a particular drug, this is usually done through your primary care physician.
- Plans are allowed to change their costs and benefits once every year.
Drug plans can differ drastically in costs and benefits, that is why it is very important that you go over the plan benefits carefully before you choose your Part D Plan.
DECISIONS, DECISIONS, DECESIONS
Medicare is not a “one size fits all” program. It comes with an array of different options, and requires you to make decisions within certain time frames.
Here are few things to consider when making a decision to go with any Medicare Plan.
- Enroll at the right time – If you don’t understand the rules you will face permanent financial penalties and may have to go without certain types of coverage for several months.
- Research Your Options – You need to understand the difference between being in traditional Medicare and enrolling in a private Medicare Advantage Plan.
- Get help making the choice – It is important to make the right choice when choosing an advisor to help you go over your options. If you choose an agent that only represents a limited number of plans you can naturally assume he is going to steer you in the direction of a plan that he represents whether or not it best fits your needs or not.
Amerus Financial Group is a brokerage that offers over 40 different plans to choose from and our agents are professionally trained to listen to your individual circumstances and to customize a solution that best fits your needs. We understand that everyone is different and it is our goal to educate you on your options and to make sure you have a clear understanding of all of the options available to you.