If you’re approaching retirement, you likely have a number of big projects on your plate. You may be weighing your options for things like Social Security benefits, investment choices and even decisions about lifestyle.
One of your biggest decisions may be when and how to file for Medicare. Health care is likely to be a major expense in your retirement. According to a Fidelity survey, the average 65-year-old couple can expect to spend nearly $245,000 on health care expenses in retirement.1 Keep in mind, those are out-of-pocket costs. That means Medicare is likely to pick up an even larger tab.
You may be unsure of which options you should choose, when you should file for coverage and what services come with your Medicare enrollment. Below are a few important facts to guide you through the process.
You have several options to choose from.
Medicare is the general name for the system that provides health care coverage to retirees. However, there are actually several different components to Medicare coverage. You can choose the options that best fit your needs and your budget.
Traditional Medicare includes Part A and Part B. Part A generally covers hospitalization and some skilled nursing care to treat a specific condition. Part B covers other components such as lab work, ambulance costs, mental health care, costs for equipment like wheelchairs and more.
You can also choose something called Medicare Advantage, which is often referred to as “Part C.” This is a combination of Parts A and B, but it’s offered through a private insurer rather than through Medicare directly. Medicare Advantage may offer you greater access to specific doctors.
Finally, there are also Medicare Part D and supplemental policies. Medicare Part D provides coverage for prescription drugs. Supplemental coverage helps you pay out-of-pocket costs like copays, deductibles and more. You have several options available, so it’s important you consider all of them before making your selection.
Your selections aren’t permanent.
Many new retirees hesitate to choose a Medicare option because they’re afraid they’ll make the wrong selection. It’s certainly hard to know in advance which types of coverage you will need in retirement. That’s why Medicare offers an annual open enrollment period in which you can change your coverage. Your initial selections aren’t permanent. You’ll have an opportunity to change them later if you find they don’t fit your budget or they don’t give you access to certain providers. It may be wise to review your coverage annually to make sure it still fits your needs.
You don’t have to start Medicare and Social Security at the same time.
Many retirees start Medicare and Social Security at the same time, but you don’t have to. It’s possible you may start Social Security benefits while your spouse continues employment, thus providing employer-based medical coverage, or you may have some form of extended coverage from your employer after you retire.
Similarly, you may be ready for Medicare coverage but want to delay Social Security benefits. By deferring payments, you may be able to increase your potential benefits. When you enroll through Social Security, you can state whether you’re filing for Medicare, Social Security or both.
You get free health care services with your Medicare coverage.
Many retirees don’t realize they’re entitled to free services once they start coverage. For instance, you get a free physical as a form of preventive care. You may also get a vision test, a measurement of your body mass index and a screening for depression. And you may also schedule free annual wellness visits with your doctor to catch issues before they become serious.
Why does Medicare offer these free services? As you can imagine, treating a medical issue is often more costly than preventing one. Medicare wants you to be healthy and to take preventive action.
Have questions about health care and other major retirement expenses? We welcome an opportunity to help you identify your needs and develop a plan of action.
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