Pondering Medicare options

The Best Times Digital Edition
Denise Dias

Denise Dias

By Denise Dias

Is your Medicare health plan hurting or helping you? According to a recent article by the National Council on Aging, the average couple that retires today will spend close to $300,000 on healthcare during their retirement years. These expenses are often due to the Medicare health plans they chose.

Everyone should choose a plan based on their own individual needs, not what their neighbor says is the best plan available. Be sure that you understand how the plan will cover your medical expenses without overpaying for more insurance than you need.

Medicare open enrollment for 2022 coverage is now underway through Dec. 7. Choosing your Medicare coverage is important to secure yourself physically and financially. If you make a poor choice for your Medicare coverage, it can follow you the rest of your life. Depending on the plan you choose, a mistake can cost you with higher premiums and out of pocket costs.

One study found that seniors spend an average of $368 dollars more per year than they needed to and only 5% of seniors chose the lowest cost plan. Another 20% were overspending on their Medicare coverage by more than $500. Another interesting fact is that most older adults choose to stay in these higher cost plans even though they are not receiving any additional benefits.

So, what can you do to make sure you have the coverage you need without overpaying for your health care? First, when you get close to retirement, begin to educate yourself on the four parts of Medicare and how they work. Take a class or two to learn about Medicare.

Johnson County Extension offers quarterly classes along with community classes on Medicare Basics. A class will take place from 5:30-7 p.m. Nov. 30 via Zoom. Registration is at johnson.k-state.edu/classes-events/index.

Talk to your employers’ human resources department to seek any options available to you, post-retirement. Talk to your physician health care team to make sure they take the Medicare plans you are considering. Ask a pharmacist if they have any insight on which drug plans cover your prescriptions
the best or if they can suggest a generic drug that might be covered better by Medicare Part D.

And finally, buyer beware! If a plan that is being offered sounds too good to be true, it probably is! Nothing is free when it comes to healthcare.

Still need additional help? Seek out unbiased help from a SHICK (Senior Health Insurance Counseling for Kansas) volunteer. These volunteers are trained and vetted by Medicare. They must receive yearly training to stay up to date on any Medicare changes. They can be a great resource to get started making good decisions on your healthcare needs.

SHICK services are free. Volunteers do not sell anything! There are about 20 Johnson County volunteers who can assist you with exploring your options. Contact info is:

  •  SHICK Hotline (in Kansas) and Johnson County SHICK – 1-800-860-5260
  •  K-State Extension – Johnson County SHICK Program – 913-715-7000.

Denise Dias is family and consumer science agent at the Johnson County Extension Office.