In the video Medicare Rights Center President Joe Baker explains why you need to sign up for Medicare Part B.
Our friend George Gentry in Atlanta made a costly discovery about his Medicare choices. He wrote, “I just got a $1700 bill for ambulance service. My private insurance covered 70 percent but if I had Medicare Part B, it would have paid all of it. So how did I get sold on the idea that paying extra for private insurance was better?”
He says, “I am a 70 percent service-connected disabled vet so I need to use V.A. for things that are service connected, especially hearing aids and knee injury problems, but to do that I have to have a V.A. primary care doctor.” Yet, he’s concerned about the quality of medical care offered by the V.A. “I don’t trust the V.A. medical care, so I also have a private primary care doctor.”
That means George has another health insurance layer. It’s a holdover from his last job for the federal government. He’s a brilliant videographer and photo journalist who set up the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service TV Production Center for the National Conservation Training Center and trained a team of videographers, producers and still photographers to produce education and outreach materials for the U.S. Department of the Interior and other conservation organizations.
He retired at 60 and continued the employer-based insurance he had with MHPB, or Federal Employees Health Benefits. When he turned 65 he took Medicare Part A, but did not sign up for Part B and opted to pay for a continuation of MHPB. It worked pretty well, until recently when he discovered that he had a congenital heart defect and his medical costs started to pick up.
HOW DO YOU KNOW WHAT TO DO?
This it where it gets tricky. Decoding Medicare choices is complicated and while the Medicare website offers you a tool to try to figure out what to do, it is still a bewildering process.
Medicare experts tell us that when George turned 65, he should have signed up for Medicare B. Joe Baker, President of Medicare Rights Center says, “A lot of people who take early retirement have the retirement coverage from their former employer and they say, ‘This is great.’ But it’s not enough. Baker is emphatic: “What they don’t realize is that when they turn 65 that coverage…becomes secondary to Medicare. You need to enroll in Medicare for primary coverage.
In addition, Barry Galkin, an insurance consultant who specializes in Medicare related issues says, “There have been cases that I’ve heard of where people who were 65 and still employed did not sign up for Part B. When they had medical issues, their insurers refused to pay anything at all because they were not signed up for Part B.”
Don’t wait. At 65 sign up for Medicare B
Going back to George-if he had what MHPB calls its Medicare Part B Option, he would have paid nothing for the ambulance. He can still switch over during an open enrollment period and sign on with MHPB to coordinate his Medicare Part B.
That means he’ll have to use doctors in the MHPB network who accept Medicare. But since he is using MHPB anyway, it seems like it would work. One bad thing here, it’s likely that he’ll have to pay a penalty for signing up for Part B after 65.
Now George is not a whiner. He’s just like the rest of us. He’s trying to figure out the smartest way to get quality affordable health care.
But it’s not so easy. He says, “I can afford the care and I’m really glad all this medical technology is available. Every time I go to the dentist and write big checks for services or get something taken care of by a doctor, I am sooooo thankful that the service is there and that I can afford it. All that said, there is a lot of room for improvement.”
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