Explains 6 Medicare and Social Security Mistakes to Avoid

The rules related to receiving Medicare and Social Security benefits in retirement can be complicated. If you ignore the rules, you may end up receiving lower levels of services than you would otherwise. In this article, looks at a few mistakes that people commonly make when applying for their benefits.

Mistake #1: Fail to get all the facts

The eligibility requirements and enrollment processes for Medicare and Social Security have evolved and are not always intuitive. It takes research to understand when to claim Social Security benefits or which Medicare plan is best for you. Everyone’s circumstances are different, so neither of these government-run programs is one-size-fits-all. If research is not something you enjoy, get advice from a trusted professional.

Mistake #2: Fail to sign up at the right time

Hands down, the single most common mistake for Medicare is not signing up at the right time. This mistake is common because, at least for things like Social Security, the “right time” depends on many factors. Medicare is more straightforward than Social Security; sign up when you turn 65. There are other considerations, to be sure, such as open and special enrollment periods, but if you plan to sign up for Medicare just as you are turning 65, you’ll be fine.

Mistake #3: Making assumptions about what is covered

Medicare is offered in four different programs. Part A for hospital coverage, Part B for medical insurance, and Part D for prescription drug coverage. The fourth program is Part C, a convenient way to get the other three Parts under a single program. Part C is a popular program administered by private companies. It includes Parts A & B with some plans, including Part D. Dental and vision plans, are optional, so don’t assume they are included either.

Mistake #4: Missing out on Medigap

Medigap insurance is offered by private companies and covers out-of-pocket expenses that Medicare does not cover. Your window for signing up for Medigap insurance is within six months of turning 65 to within three months of enrolling in a Medicare Part B plan during your initial enrollment period. If you time it right, you can’t be turned down for Medigap insurance.

Mistake #5: Failing to reevaluate

Your life doesn’t suddenly get put on hold because you turn 65 and sign up for Medicare. Life goes on, and your circumstances will change. Your income may vary, and your health needs may change too. Medicare coverage should be reevaluated regularly, many experts suggest yearly. Whether you do it annually or every few years, be sure to reassess your situation and change your Medicare coverage to fit your needs.

Mistake #6: Going out of network

If you choose a Medicare Advantage plan (Part C), it will be run by a private PPO or HMO insurance company. These organizations negotiate special rates with doctors and hospitals that are “in-network.” If you use a doctor or hospital that is not part of the insurance company’s network, there will be no negotiated rate, and any excess costs will not be covered under your insurance plan. This situation can happen if you need medical attention while traveling in an area not serviced by your insurance plan. Always choose a doctor or hospital from your insurance plan’s list of in-network providers.

Everyone wishes the rules regarding Medicare and Social Security were easier to understand. Hopefully, one day they will be. Until then, be sure to do your homework and reach out for advice when you have questions.

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