1. Making Medicare decisions without a basic understanding of how Part A, Part B, Part C, and Part D of Medicare work. Medicare.gov, the booklet titled “Medicare and You,” and your state SHIIP (Senior Health Insurance Information Program) can help you learn the basics about Medicare.
2. Using the sales pitch of just one insurance company or one sales person to make your Medicare decisions. Find an independent insurance agent who represents several companies. Make sure the agent shows you Medicare Advantage options and Medicare Supplement options.
3. Paying a Part D late enrollment penalty for life because of failure to sing up for a Part D plan when first eligible. If you are taking a few or no prescription drugs, sign up for the least expensive Part D plan now to avoid high penalties later.
4. Paying the higher income beneficiary Part B and Part D surcharge IRMAA without trying to appeal it. Medicare uses your 2 years prior tax return to calculate IRMAA and will consider appeals for reducing income.
5. Assuming all Medicare enrollment decisions are limited to open enrollment season, October 15th to December 7th. Special enrollment periods are available throughout the year if you move, have a change in life circumstances, and/or qualify for LIS. Medicare supplements can be changed 365 days per year.
6. Assuming Medicare and supplemental insurance pay for long-term care. Medicare pays very little for long-term care. Consider private long-term care insurance options.
7. Veterans choosing Part D without considering obtaining their prescription drugs through the VA. If you are later not happy with the VA, Medicare considers VA “credible coverage,” and you can avoid the Part D late enrollment penalty.
Hans Scheil is the author of “The Complete Cardinal Guide to Planning for and Living in Retirement” and the accompanying workbook. He can be reached at Hans@CardinalGuide.com.