By Andy Asher
When newcomers to Medicare first jump in, it seems complex and vexing until everything sinks in and then its possible to start appreciating it and realizing “it ain’t so bad after all,” explains Bart Astor author of the best-selling book, Baby Boomers Guide to Caring for Aging Parents. But it’s amazing how many moving parts are in Medicare so, “don’t let a difficult first impression hold you back from digging into it,” adds Astor.
His message is that even though it’s complicated, once you start getting into the weeds, you realize, OK, I understand this part. I understand that part and gradually you can navigate your way through. But at first, when you look at the whole picture, it’s overwhelming. It’s like anything. He says, “get into those weeds because it’s so important to make the right choices.”
If you stop and think about it for a moment it’s kind of funny. Seniors look at health care costs as the number one most burdensome health expense in their daily lives, including food and groceries and transportation utilities. Yet when it comes to comparison shopping Medicare receives less scrutiny from consumers than other expenses like cable TV, internet service and even travel deals get more time and attention.
Why? That’s a different question? Astor points out, it’s hard to imagine, but people are hesitant to look at something that they think of as so complex and so confusing that they say, oh, no, whatever I have right now is fine. Surveys have shown seniors would rather do their taxes than review their Medicare plan. They would rather go to the DMV to renew their driver’s license than review the Medicare plan. That’s their perception of how complicated and difficult it is.
But it doesn’t really have to be that way even though when you look at the whole big picture, it is overwhelming. It looks so big when you start getting into the nuts and bolts but if you take small bites, it becomes manageable and it isn’t that difficult. But it is a little bit scary and don’t forget, you are locking yourself in for the year.
There are a lot of resources available to those who are either just getting into Medicare or who have been on and need to start reviewing plans. And in fact, you really do need to review your plans on an annual basis and not just go on autopilot and say, OK, whatever I had last year is fine because there are lots of resources, particularly Medicare.gov. It is a wonderful site that offers not only helpful advice and information, but it really helps direct you to what’s best for you.
And another good website for cost comparison is WSJ.com with the kind of information that you’re going to need to make the best choices. Another resource that is underused is the local senior center in your area with local experts that will meet one on one. So not only are you getting information, but you’re actually working with somebody to tailor your needs to what’s available in Medicare coverage. Check with your local senior center and try to review the kind of Medicare plans that are available.
Don’t Let Complacency Settle In
Astor says he likes to remind everyone when choosing a plan, look at it as an apples to apples comparison. Compare what’s important for you, whether you need to have additional coverage or whether you’re only looking at the traditional Medicare, whether you want to include substance abuse and mental conditions, whether you want to include dental care. Those are not covered in traditional Medicare, but they can be accessed within Medicare Advantage programs. So really try to find out what’s best for you, what your individual health needs are, and then every year review it to make sure that you are still getting the right coverage and you’re not leaving money on the table.
Remember don’t allow complacency to creep in because it could cost you money and comprehensive medical care.
Andy Asher Bio
In 2012 he founded Bloomer Boomer and today it’s a top digital lifestyle publication for people over 50. Prior to that he was a Medicare and Investments advisor coupled with a 35 year career in the Media and Entertainment industry. Bloomer Boomer started as a passion project and has grown way beyond what he ever expected. Bloomer Boomer is going on 10 years and the force for people over 55 and his catalyst behind his 2020 book release, Bucket List: Boomers Second Chapter