Buyer beware: When it comes to choosing Medicare benefits, look local
Choosing the right health insurance is a big decision when you first approach retirement age. You may even see commercials with famous celebrities enticing you with promises of the perfect plan. But what they don’t tell you is that the benefits they’re talking about aren’t always available to local seniors.
That's why many people shopping for health plans work with a local health insurance agent who understands benefit options that are exclusively available in your area. They can help take the guesswork out of selecting a plan that’s best for you.
“It doesn’t matter where you live, a local agent can help compare the doctors you see in your neighborhood and ensure they’re in the plan you want to sign up for,” says Michael Reeves, Medicare sales manager at Regence. “They can check your prescription drugs and make sure you’re covered for those drugs in the way that best suits your needs.”
When choosing a plan, it helps to first understand the basics. There are several options that can become confusing when trying to determine the most cost-effective plan that meets your health care needs:
Original Medicare provided by the federal government
- Part A covers facilities like hospitals and skilled nursing.
- Part B covers outpatient care like doctor visits and lab tests.
Other Medicare plans provided by private health insurers that follow rules set by Medicare
- Part C (Medicare Advantage Plans) replaces original Medicare and usually comes with extra benefits like dental, vision and hearing.
- Part D assists with the costs of prescriptions.
- Medicare Supplement (Medigap) covers some or most of the out-of-pocket costs for hospital and medical care, excluding prescription drugs.
“Local agents understand that Medicare is not one-size-fits-all,” says Reeves. “There may be one plan type that works for one person in a household and a completely different plan type that works for another within the same household. The easiest way to find that out is by working with someone who understands the benefits available in your area and who personalizes your needs by matching you with the right health plan.”
If you’re currently employed, ask your Human Resources Department if they have an agent to recommend. Just be sure to take the time you need to understand all your options.