Toni Says: Frequently asked Medicare questions
This week’s Toni Says Medicare column has a different twist and consists of frequently asked Medicare questions from Toni Says® readers around the United States. 2017 has been a great year and thank you from Toni Says® team for allowing us to help you navigate the maze of Medicare.
1. “What if” I did not enroll in Medicare Parts A and B when I should because I don’t want to pay that extra Part B premium each month? I don’t go to the doctor and I don’t take any prescriptions. Can I enroll later? — James from Nashville, TN
Toni Says®: If you are past 65 and 90 days years old, not working full-time with true company benefits and decide to enroll in Medicare Part B; you must wait until Medicare’s General Enrollment Period, which is Jan. 1 – March 31 of each year to enroll. You will now be penalized an additional 10 percent more for each 12-month period that you could have had Part B but didn’t sign up for it. Say you wait 3 years, which will be a 30 percent penalty. You will pay this late enrollment penalty for as long as you are on Medicare. Remember, you have absolutely no doctor coverage if you do not have Part B. You will pay 100 percent out of pocket for doctor care and any outpatient care, including Hospital, MRI, and X-rays, etc. You will not be a happy camper. No matter what! Get Part B when you are not working full-time with true company benefits.
2. “What if” I am past 65, have retired from work with company benefits and need to get Part B. What do I do? — Susan, Spring, TX
Toni Says®: Before you have been terminated from your group plan and/or not working full-time, apply for Medicare Part B. Seek which plan best fits your needs such as a Medicare Supplement or a Medicare Advantage Plan. Talk to your doctor about what plans they accept. Search for which Medicare Prescription Drug Plan covers your prescriptions. Since you are leaving company benefits and receiving Part B, you only have 60 days to get Medicare Prescription Drug Coverage, not 61 or 62 days. Try and do everything as soon as you become eligible for Part B.
3.“What if” my adult children or a friend help make my medical and financial decisions?
Toni Says®: Make sure that your decision maker is a signer on all your legal documents, such as your power of attorney, medical power of attorney and living will. The only way your care can be discussed with an insurance company or any health care professional is with the person who has been named your power of attorney. This does not mean that you are losing control of making your own decisions, but helps make sure that you are making wise medical and financial decisions.
4. “What if” I am on a limited income and cannot afford my prescription drugs or the Part B premium? — Tina, Atlanta, GA
Toni Says®: Go to the Medicaid office and see if you qualify for Medicaid’s QMB or SLMB. Go to Social Security or apply online for “Extra Help if you don’t qualify for Medicaid. Each year the amounts change. Get proactive about your Medicare! No one can do it for you. The worst Medicaid or Social Security can say regarding qualifying for extra assistance is "no."
Toni King is an author, columnist and radio and TV personality, and has spent more than 27 years as a top sales leader in the Medicare and health insurance fields. She has also conducted “Confused about Medicare” workshops throughout Texas and the southeastern United States.