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Mistakes to Avoid During Medicare Enrollment

Article at a glance
  • One of the largest mistakes people can make when enrolling in Medicare is not entirely understanding enrollment periods. To learn more about enrollment periods, read this section.

  • It’s vital to consider cost when enrolling in a Medicare insurance plan. To learn more about premiums and out-of-pocket expenses, read this section.

  • As we age, our health and wellbeing change. To learn more about health changes and how Medicare can help, read this section.

Prm helping with paper work

Over 60 million people who are Medicare-eligible are Medicare beneficiaries. Of that, a little over 24 million are currently on some sort of Advantage Plan, with that number expecting to rise even more in the coming year. With so many people aging into Medicare benefits, it could be a good idea for you to look into the plan you currently have, to make sure it’s still the best option for you.

Mistake #1: Not Completely Understanding Enrollment

Fall Medicare Open Enrollment, sometimes referred to as your Annual Enrollment Period (AEP) starts October 15th and runs until December 7th. During this time you can make changes to your current plan, add more coverage, or drop coverage for the year ahead. This new coverage will take effect on January 1st.

Those who don’t take an Advantage plan, typically turn to a Medigap policy to help offset the Original Medicare expenses. Advantage policies help to cover the gaps while often providing extra services. Meanwhile, Medigap plans also work to cover the parts that Original Medicare doesn’t.

Mistake #2: Not Considering Out-Of-Pocket Expenses

Whichever plan or policy you decide upon, make sure to look beyond the premiums and consider your out-of-pocket expenses. While it’s true that insurers are federally regulated, the specifics of their options vary from plan to plan, year to year, even county to county. These yearly changes could have an impact on your premiums, deductibles, and other costs like co-pays, and services such as dental and vision.

The danger is that at the time of service, you’ll be surprised when you have a different copay or out-of-pocket expense that you weren’t anticipating.

Elizabeth Gavino,, Founder of Lewin & Gavino in New York and an independent broker and general agent for Medicare plans

When eHealth asked 1,000 Medicare beneficiaries what their top healthcare concerns were, 42% said it was the cost of Medicare premiums, while a little over 50% cited co-pays and deductibles as their top concern. What this means is that regardless of the plan you choose, it’s important to not lose sight of monthly premiums and other expenses relating to your overall healthcare, such as: 

  • Part B requires monthly premiums in 2021 are $148

  • Consider your out-of-pocket expenses that aren’t covered by your plan

While cost will always be a factor, not enrolling in Medicare when you become eligible will cost you more in the end. There are hefty surcharges associated with late enrollment that can be levied on you for each year you aren’t covered. 

As either an original Medicare beneficiary or one with a Medicare Advantage plan or another supplemental plan, you’re still on the hook for some costs associated with these plans. However, if you choose not to enroll those costs could go up astronomically.

Mistake #3: Not Taking Advantage of Medicare

When we think of costs and insurance, we automatically consider it as a monetary question. It’s true, you shouldn’t overextend yourself and select a plan that makes it difficult to meet your other financial obligations. However, the cost we’re considering in these terms has more to do with the cost of choosing the wrong plan, not selecting one at all, or even sticking with the plan you currently have only to find out on January 1st there were expensive changes made to your plan. These are the costs that take a toll on a lot of people. 

The number of Seniors who have declared bankruptcy due to a sudden change in their health and lack of proper coverage has doubled since 1999. Also, according to Registered Nursing, by the time you reach 65 years old, average healthcare costs are $11.3K per person, per year in the United States. And over the span of a lifetime, the average cost of healthcare for an individual would have cost around $400,000.

As you age, it’s easy to assume your kids or other loved ones will be there to care for you and your needs. But in reality, as you age the cost of your care goes up, and there might not be enough your family can do if you’re not properly covered. What’s even more remarkable, is that healthcare costs are, on average, more for women than men. And because women tend to live two times longer than men do, they’ll need to budget even more into their monthly savings for their healthcare.

Mistake #4: Expecting Your Health to Remain the Same

As you get older your body reacts differently to various conditions. Of course, we can see age in the way we look on the outside, from our hair turning colors, or our skin forming a few more age lines around the eyes. But, in truth, it’s what’s happening inside us as we age that is a greater concern when it comes to your health. Sure, age spots can be signs of serious issues, and there are many other tell-tale signs and conditions to be on the lookout for, but it’s what’s happening inside us, as we age where we need the most protection. That’s why being prepared for the unexpected is such a concern when you turn a certain age.

Aging can affect you in more ways than you imagine. The most common way your health changes is through the cardiovascular system. Your blood vessels and arteries could stiffen, causing your heart to work harder to pump blood through them, something you may not have experienced at a younger age. So just in aging, your blood pressure has to work better than it did when you were younger. 

Another way you may see yourself getting older is through your joints and bones. As you age, bones tend to shrink in size and density, weakening them and making them more susceptible to fracture. You might even become a bit shorter. Muscles generally lose strength, endurance, and flexibility — factors that can affect your coordination, stability, and balance.

Even your digestive system and bladder age. This causes even more problems you might not have experienced when younger. 

All of the above issues come with aging, but there are many more. That’s why even if you have somehow lived your life on the good side of health until now, you’re really only playing with time until something happens. That’s why it’s so important to enroll in Medicare when you become eligible. And to even consider an Advantage plan that can help you with things like gym memberships to help strengthen your heart muscle and your bones. 65 is a unique time of life for many older adults. It allows you to tap into the wealth of government health programs, namely Medicare, to help you achieve the healthcare goals you might have put off otherwise.

Mistake #5: Not Maximizing Your Plan’s Value

When it comes to paying for your health, especially if you’re a senior on a fixed income, making sure you are getting the most from your plan benefits makes real sense. That’s why it’s a good idea to look at the many options each plan offers. Whereas Original Medicare handles typically in-patient and out-patient services, and Medigap and MedSupp cover what Original Medicare doesn’t, you’re really looking to the Medicare Advantage plans to offer you the extra benefits you might need later down the road, or even right now. Some of the many services they provide are:

What’s most important when it comes to selecting a health plan right for you, is to consider how you feel now might not be how you feel down the road. And the care you currently have might need to change due to circumstances beyond your control. So choosing a Medicare plan that provides the benefits you need to meet your healthcare goals could be the only real thing you have any control over.

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