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Understanding Medicare:
Tips for Seniors and Caregivers

BY SHARON WAGNER

Medicare can be hugely beneficial for many seniors, but it can also be confusing and difficult to understand. There are so many parts, rules, and dates to remember that it can easily become overwhelming for a senior who isn’t internet savvy. Figuring out which plans are right for you — or for your loved one, if you are a caregiver — can be complicated and time-consuming, and that can spell trouble when you need to find the best care for your needs. Whether you’re looking for something that will help out with prescription drug coverage or a plan that will help you pay for an unexpected stay in the hospital, it’s crucial that you understand what you’re getting.

Not only is it important to know what’s included in your policy, but it’s also imperative to know what you need and want when you’re shopping for a plan. You might talk to your doctor about your medical history to get a better idea of what you may require in the future, and utilize all the resources available to you in order to do some research online.

Here are a few tips on how to get started with signing up for Medicare.

Learn About the Different Types of Plans

Medicare has many different parts; Part A is insurance that helps cover hospital costs, while Part B is essentially health insurance and requires that you pay a premium. If you believe you will need Part B, it’s best to sign up for it as soon as possible, as there are penalties for late enrollment. Medicare Advantage plans are offered through private insurance companies, and while these plans may have different rules — such as specific doctors that must be in-network to be covered — they also cover extras, such as vision or dental insurance. Get familiar with the various plans offered by Medicare to find the right one for your needs.

Utilize the Services Available

There are many simple ways you can find the right plan for you; even if you aren’t savvy with online tools, there are some sites that will help you narrow down your choices by allowing you to provide details such as your zip code, medications, age, and current plan coverage. Do a little research to find the best option for your needs, and make sure you take note of enrollment periods, as there are specific dates for signing up.

Know Your Limits

Medicare can be very helpful for seniors when it comes to paying for expensive treatment, but it’s important for you to know what the limits are when it comes to what you are responsible for out-of-pocket or how many days you are allowed to stay in the hospital under your coverage. Home health care may also be covered by some plans, but typically, it’s only for a short time. Knowing what your limits are will ensure that you aren’t met with any nasty surprises down the line, especially when or if you need long-term care.

Check Back Often

The rules and policies associated with Medicare will sometimes change from year to year, so it’s crucial that you stay up-to-date on your plan by checking the website often. Don’t rely on an email or letter to inform you of changes, as there may be a miscommunication or delay that prevents you from getting the information in a timely manner.

Understanding Medicare and all its parts can be complicated and overwhelming, so take your time when shopping for a policy and make sure you’re familiar with all the rules and fine print, especially as it pertains to your monthly premiums. If necessary, talk to a representative for some help before making a decision. With a little planning, you can find the right policy for you and ensure that your future health needs are well taken care of.


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