I have spent my entire adult life working with people on Medicare. I have seen a lot. I have seen people handle the whole process perfectly, and I have seen plenty handle it terribly. I don't blame anybody for feeling overwhelmed. I mean, the process seniors have to go through is ridiculous. From the stacks of mailers that offer little assistance, to the harassment from cold callers, to strangers even showing up at their door uninvited and unannounced. Its enough to make anybody go crazy. Because of all the pressure put on seniors to make a quick decision its understandable to make some mistakes. Quick and rushed decisions don't typically turn out to well, and Medicare plan selection is no different. The sad part of this is that it is possibly the single most important things for seniors to get right. These are the three biggest mistakes I have seen seniors make when they are approaching their 65th birthday:
1. Picking a plan just because a loved one has it.
A simple thought many seniors have is, "My neighbor has this plan, so it must be great!". It might be great for your neighbor, but that doesn't mean it will be good for you. Medicare is not a one size fits all glove that can be warn. With Medicare, there are choices that exist such as whether someone needs a Medicare Supplement or a Medicare Advantage plan. Both sides have tremendous pros and cons that come along with them. There are a lot of working parts between prescription coverage, to medical coverage, to dental vision and hearing benefits, to provider networks. No two people are exactly the same. Its best for a person to pick a plan specifically based on their needs and preferences, not a plan that was picked for a loved ones needs and preferences.
2. Waiting until the last minute to enroll.
I could make an entire article on this alone, but I will condense this issue down for the sake of the article. One important factor when it comes to Medicare, is the time periods one must follow on when you can enroll. When a person turns 65 years old, as long as they meet the qualifications of Medicare (40 quarters of working in the country, and being a US citizen) they will be given an open window for which they can make their preparations for their Medicare. This window is a total of 7 months. 3 months before the month a person turns 65, the month a person turns 65, and 3 months after the month they turn 65. Medicare always starts on the 1st of someones birth month (unless their birthday falls on the first, to which it will begin a month sooner). Medicare is designed and intended to begin on the 1st of your birth month. Having it start any other day comes with some extra hoops to jump through. Unfortunately, Social Security is the department that is charge of processing enrollments into Medicare. We all know how unorganized Social Security can be. I always recommend to my clients to begin the process 90 days out from the month they turn 65. Its better to give it more time instead of less.
3. Calling a 1-800 number on a TV commercial.
Joe Namath wants you to call him! Haven't you seen the commercial? Millions of people every year are thrust into a terrible situation by doing such action. Calling large call centers with paid celebrity sponsors is a mistake for two reasons:
1.) You have no individual agent to take care of you. The agents on the phone are simply order takers.
2.) It is common they are not detailed in checking the best fit for you.
This one is pretty simple. The agent on the phone, will likely never be able to be reached by you again when you have issues. The great thing about having an independent agent by your side is that you can call them for assistance if you have a question or have a billing issue. The best part is, they don't cost a dime. The exact same price as going directly through the insurance company. A good agent can change your life for the better. You are giving that up when you call Joe, or any other 1-800 number likely.
Founder & President of Christian Brindle Insurance Services. Host of "The Everything Medicare Podcast!". Author of the books "The Insurance Funnel" & "Medicare Guidance: Picking the Plan for You.".