Eight mistakes to avoid during Medicare enrollment

There are only a few more weeks left: Medicare enrollment runs through Dec. 7.

Here are eight mistakes to avoid during enrollment, according to PlanPrescriber, a subsidiary of eHealth.

Also see:

Medicare enrollment deadline extended for Sandy victims

Eight tips for employees during open enrollment


1) Overlooking prescription drug coverage and changes in those benefits. Medicare Supplement plans (also called Medigap) don’t include prescription drug coverage. If you get coverage through a separate Part D plan, know that most plans change their pricing and benefits each year. You can use an online tool to see whether and how your prescriptions drugs will be covered in 2013. According to a study by PlanPrescriber.com, the average person could have saved $654 in 2012 by changing their coverage to a plan that covered their drugs at the lowest possible cost.

(AP Photo/Matt Rourke)



2) Picking the drug plan with the lowest monthly premium. All drug plans are not created equal. While the average prescription drug plan covers about 70 percent of all Medicare-approved drugs, some plans cover as few as 49 percent, according to the PlanPrescriber.com study. That’s why it’s important to look beyond the monthly premium and see if the plan covers the drugs you take.

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3) Forgoing vision or dental care. Original Medicare may pay for certain vision and dental services in an emergency, but routine care and check-ups are not covered. Historically, Medicare Supplement plans haven’t offered this coverage either, but a few supplement plans in select states have begun to include benefits like dental insurance. You also have the option to purchase separate “stand-alone” insurance policies for dental and visions coverage.

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4) Believing supplement plans cover everything. Medicare Supplement plans are sold by private insurance companies and are designed to fill in some of the gaps not covered by Original Medicare. Supplement plans cover some copays, coinsurance and deductibles. However, they don’t cover everything. With a few exceptions, if it’s not a benefit covered by Medicare, your supplement won’t cover the copay for it either. If you’re not sure about what’s covered by, seek advice from a licensed agent or contact Medicare directly.

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5) Ignoring long-term care needs. According to an Opinion Research survey sponsored by PlanPrescriber.com, paying for long-term care is a top concern for baby boomers. Original Medicare will only pay for care in a skilled nursing facility for up to 100 days, and beneficiaries typically have to pay for a portion of those costs out-of-pocket. And, in most cases, Medigap plans will only cover out-of-pocket costs for services that are also covered by Medicare. So, once Medicare stops paying, your Medigap plan will stop filling in the gaps. But, long-term care insurance is available to help fill in the gaps.

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6) Assuming you’re stuck in Medigap. When it comes to Medicare coverage, Medigap plans can include some of the most comprehensive benefits. The monthly premiums tend to be higher than Medicare Advantage, but they include fewer out-of-pocket costs. However, rates tend to increase as a person ages. If you want to try a Medicare Advantage plan, know that you are allowed try Medicare Advantage for about a year, and then can switch back to your Medigap plan if you change your mind.

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7) Taking a trip without knowing what’s covered. Medigap will make it easy for you to travel around the country without worrying about your coverage. But, Medicare will not pay medical claims outside the United States and its territories. Some Medigap plans extend emergency coverage outside of the United States, but not all of them. For this reason, it’s a good idea to investigate travel insurance before taking an international trip.

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8) Enrolling without help. Qualified professionals can help you understand your options and select a plan. You can get help through your State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP), websites like www.PlanPrescriber.com, licensed health insurance agents who are certified to sell Medicare, or by calling 1-800-Medicare.

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