Medicare Open Enrollment is Upon Us. Choose Wisely

Terry Savage, Tribune Content Agency on

Every year, seniors on Medicare are faced with the task of examining their Medicare coverage and making important decisions. Those who think that Medicare is a one-time enrollment, which then covers everything, are truly mistaken. In fact, Medicare decisions are complex, frequent and far reaching.

For starters, you need to know that Medicare is divided into parts. At the risk of oversimplifying:

—Part A covers costs related to hospitalization.

—Part B offers coverage for physicians and outpatient services. But Part B doesn’t cover all these costs.

—So you’ll need a Medicare supplement plan, which you must chose within six months of signing up for Medicare because during this period you can’t be denied the most comprehensive plan (G) for medical reasons.

—Part D covers the cost of prescription drugs — but not all costs.


—And then there’s Medicare Advantage, which bundles all of the above into a “managed care” program. (See below for details on how costly Advantage plans could be if you become sick.)

If you’re retired or have no other health coverage, you may enroll beginning three months before you reach your 65th birthday but the initial enrollment period last only seven months from that time. If you're still working and covered by an employer health plan, you can delay enrolling in Medicare until your retirement or until that plan ceases to cover you.

Things get complex if you want to keep working and keep your good coverage, or if you have a spouse on your plan, or work for a small business. Then basic Medicare mistakes could impact your lifetime costs.

In these cases, I always recommend a consultation with a Medicare expert, such as Diane Omdahl at, before you make even the first enrollment decision. The cost of a consultation could save you a fortune in the future.


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