Maximize Your Medicare: Research the Right Plan


By tom Wellings

Choosing a health plan is an important decision, and some simple research can help you get the most for your money.

Medicare enrollment this year runs from October 15 through December 7. As you investigate your options, keep these key Medicare components in mind:

* Original Medicare (Medicare Parts A and B). Original Medicare includes both hospital insurance and medical insurance. Individuals can add a Medicare Supplement plan — sometimes called a Medigap plan — to cover some or all medical charges not included in Original Medicare (including most 20 percent co-insurance charges). However, prescription drugs are not covered, and you will need to choose a stand-alone drug plan through Medicare Part D.

* Medicare Advantage Plans (Medicare Part C). Medicare Advantage plans are offered through Medicare-approved private companies. These plans include prescription drug coverage along with hospital and medical coverage. In addition, Medical Advantage plans may include benefits such as dental coverage, fitness memberships, and special services for individuals with chronic conditions such as diabetes and heart disease. Visit to learn the details of an differences among the plans.

* Prescription Drug Plans (Medicare Part D). Anyone enrolled in an Original Medicare plan must sign up for a stand-alone prescription drug plan for coverage of medications.

“Before choosing a Medicare plan, do some homework” says Alan Wheatley, president of Humana’s Retail Segment.”Ask your doctor about your potential health needs for the coming year, such as surgeries, non-surgical procedures, and additions or changes to medications. Think about your personal health goals and plans. For example, are you looking to join a gym to get in better shape for an active vacation?”

Next, visit and compare important plan details:

* Premiums (how much it costs to buy a health plan)

* Deductibles and copays (how much it costs to use the plan)

* Out-of-pocket maximum costs (the most you would have to pay in the event of a serious health crisis)

Wheatley says offers other valuable tools, including a five-star system rating the quality of different plans, and a list of doctors and networks included in each plan. “ also serves as a starting point to visit Medicare Advantage plan websites for further information,” he says.

Education is the key to making the most of your Medicare coverage. Whether you choose to stick with your plan or switch, some easy research and comparisons can give you peace of mind with your current choice or the tools to change it.

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