Why Medicare is Important, And How to Choose a Plan for You
When Medicare first debuted in 1965, 19 million Americans jumped at the chance to receive healthcare. Today, around 17 percent of the population is enrolled in some form of Medicare. When it was first launched, this federally-funded insurance program provided a few basic services. But, like the needs of Americans, Medicare has changed over the last five decades. And with those changes come added confusion.
Today’s Medicare is more comprehensive. Even Original Medicare -- the term for the standard product -- covers more than it did for our grandparents. Medicare has done a lot for seniors, and for the healthcare system as a whole. For one, it has resulted in more seniors being able to afford preventative care. This means fewer major issues arising without warning. In other words, seniors now have access to preventative medicine and health screenings, and they are less likely to fall seriously ill since issues can be treated as they pop up.
Other benefits of Medicare are that it has led to a more structured network of hospitals, shorter in-patient hospital stays, and has sparked many research programs that have defined treatment for conditions common among seniors. Money Crashers further asserts that Medicare’s obvious financial benefits to seniors is undeniable.
Still, even with new choices and many vital services being covered, the program only works when seniors choose a healthcare plan that makes sense for their budget and health.
Choosing a plan
Before you pick a plan, it’s important to know the different aspects of Medicare. These are Parts A, B, D, and Medigap. Medicare Advantage, or Part C, is private insurance that has been approved by Medicare, and it’s often a more affordable option that offers broader coverage.
Medicare has many “moving” parts, and it can tough to decipher the language used to describe them. If you aren’t comfortable clicking through dozens of web pages and don’t know which questions to ask your doctor, there are many online resources made just for you. Medicare.org is one of these and provides easy-to-read information on Medicare.
Medicare choices can be broken down into two categories: standard and supplemental. Standard Medicare is made up of two basic benefits. These are hospital and doctor coverage. Part A (hospital coverage) helps pay for hospital stays and limited nursing care, which Investopedia notes is covered in full for 20 days (per incident). Part B is for routine health exams, preventative services, and healthcare follow-ups with specialists and your primary provider.
If you noticed that prescription medication wasn’t mentioned above, you’re right. That’s because Medicare doesn’t cover prescriptions without enrolling in a supplemental program. Medicare Part D is the prescription coverage for Original Medicare. It costs extra, but there are many choices. Some cover different types of meds more than others so it’s crucial to get to know the different options.
Medicare Advantage is another form of supplemental insurance. If you opt for Advantage, your premium will be different than if you stick with Original Medicare. Your coverage will also be better, assuming you don’t live in two different places in the summer and winter. A health plan through Medicare Advantage, which has seen reducing premiums for the last few years, usually includes drug coverage and other perks like vision and dental benefits.
A final form of supplemental insurance is Medigap. This is only available to Original Medicare recipients and results in much higher monthly premiums, but less out-of-pocket expenses when services are needed, such as for a hospital stay.
A final thought: Even with all of the information available, picking a plan isn’t always easy. If you don’t understand the many nuances of each plan, and many people don’t, talk to a Medicare licensed agent who does.
LAKE GEORGE SENIOR CENTER
Located at 175 Lake George Ave.
Call 989.588.9841 ext. 1 for activity information and to make meal reservations.
CLARE SENIOR DINING CENTER
Located at 502 Beech St.
(next to the water tower!)
Call 989.386.7130 for information on and activities/exercise and to make a meal reservation.
HARRISON SENIOR PALACE
Located at 212 Broad St.
(the Knights of Columbus Hall)
Call 989.539.6515 for activity information and to make meal reservations.