7 questions to consider before making your Medicare decision
The right Medicare option for you depends on your health needs, budget and lifestyle. Think through the following questions so you know what to look for when you compare plans to find the one that best meets your needs.
Is it important to keep your monthly payment low?
If you want a lower monthly premium, you’ll pay more in copays and coinsurance when you need care.
- If you are pretty healthy and don’t think you’ll need to go to the doctor very often, a plan with a lower premium and higher copays and coinsurance might make sense.
- If you have a chronic condition or tend to go to the doctor more often, it may cost you less in the long run to pay a higher monthly premium and less in copays and coinsurance.
And keep in mind that Medicare Advantage plans cap your annual out-of-pocket costs, so you’ll know the most you’ll ever have to pay for covered services each year. With Original Medicare, there is no cap on costs.
Another thing to consider is what money you have available outside of your income to pay for health care.
Help with health care costs
If you are finding it difficult to pay for your health care costs, you may qualify for help paying your Medicare premiums, deductibles, and copays/coinsurance.
Do I want a plan that provides extras like vision and dental coverage or discounts on gym memberships and healthy foods?
Vision and dental care
- Original Medicare and Medigap plans, generally don’t include extras like routine dental, vision, and hearing benefits.
- You’ll need to pay for these routine services out of your own pocket if you don’t have a Medicare Advantage or plan that covers them.
- If extras like these are important to you, consider a Medicare Advantage, that offers the benefits you want or need.
Some Medicare Advantage plans discounts on gym memberships, community education, and groceries. You’ve probably heard of SilverSneakers, which is available through many Medical Advantage plans and provides fitness discounts and other perks to seniors.
Seniors and dental health
Dental health is directly tied to our overall health. And, we can be at more risk for certain oral health conditions like gum disease, tooth loss, oral cancer, and dry mouth as we get older.
Having dental coverage helps you get routine care and small issues that could take a toll on your general health if left untreated. Medicare Advantage plans that offer dental benefits usually cover routine services like cleanings, X-rays, and fillings. Some plans also cover dentures.
What kind of care do I think I’ll need?
Consider your general health when deciding between Medicare options. Some things to keep in mind include:
- All options include routine dental care completely.
- Original Medicare pays about 80% of and Medicare Advantage and Medigap plans can help make up the difference.
- Medicare Advantage plans offer an annual out-of-pocket maximum, so you’ll always know the most you’ll have to pay for care covered by your plan each year.
- Prescription drug coverage is built into Medicare Advantage plans.
Skilled nursing home care and Medicare
Sometimes an illness requires a stay in a nursing home to help you recover. With Original Medicare, your stay in a nursing home won’t be covered unless you were in a regular hospital for three days first. Some Medical Advantage plans have the same rule. This may be an important thing to compare when choosing a plan.
Can I go to the doctors I have now?
If you have a preferred doctor or other provider, it’s a good idea to find out before you enroll if your doctors and clinics are in the plan network.
Do I take prescription drugs?
Prescription drug coverage, also known as Medicare Part D, is an additional plan you can purchase from private health insurance when you choose Original Medicare.
- Most Medicare Advantage plans have prescription drug coverage built in. But, you’ll want to check the drug lists (often called drug formularies) to make sure the drugs you know you’ll need are covered and what costs you’ll be responsible for.
- Keep in mind that you could pay a penalty later on if you don’t sign up for Part D prescription drug coverage when you first enroll in Medicare.
Coverage gap stage or donut hole
The coverage gap stage is when you have to pay the full cost of your drugs because you and your plan have paid $4,020 combined in drug costs that year. You’ll pay the full cost until you reach out-of-pocket maximum of $6,350.
How often do I travel and need coverage when I’m away from home?
In the U.S. and its territories
If you choose Original Medicare only and need care while traveling in the U.S. or one if its territories, you can go to any doctor, clinic, or hospital that accepts Medicare.
If you choose a Medicare Advantage and Medigap plan and need care while traveling in the U.S, where you can get care covered by your plan depends on your plan’s network and plan details.
Travel outside the U.S.
Original Medicare does not provide coverage if you need care outside of the U.S. You’re responsible for any charges for that care.
Some Medicare Advantage and Medigap plans provide coverage for emergency care you need when you’re traveling out of the country. Be sure to check the plan details if you’re planning to travel abroad.
What choice did my friends and family make?
Ask your friends and family what choice they made and why. If their situations are similar to yours and they feel good about what they chose, you might get a good recommendation for your needs.
Medicare, your spouse and you
When you have health insurance through your employer, your whole family may be on the same plan. But when it comes to choosing a Medicare plan, what’s right for you may not be right for your spouse. You’ll each need a plan that fits your individual health needs.