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Loy Suderman, founder of Suder Group, LLC, is an independent sales agent serving Washington State for Medicare Supplement, Medicare Advantage, Individual and Family health insurance products. Loy has been in the health insurance industry for more than 30 years and enjoys sharing her expertise by periodically publishing educational articles. For more information on Suder Group, visit www.sudergroup.com

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Not too long ago, turning 65 was the magic age when most people assumed they would retire and start collecting Social Security Retirement Income and get enrolled onto Medicare - and then they could start enjoying their “Golden Years”! At least that’s how it was when my parents retired - - my dad had zero interest in purchasing a Medicare Supplement plan or any other type of coverage. After Medicare paid its share of the medical costs, my parents paid the balance out of pocket because that’s what they had planned for.

Fast forward to today and many people are living longer and often choosing to work beyond age 65, either because of financial needs or simply because they want to; they enjoy their work and they can’t imagine spending the next 20-30 years not working.

While technology and other advances in health care are helping people live longer, the cost of health care continues to rise. The patient’s share of cost after Medicare pays is much more than it was when my parents were alive, which is why more and more people want to be protected from having a health issue that may eat up their retirement savings.

The good news is there is a lot of competition in the Medicare insurance market, and that competition results in many good options to choose from for people who qualify for Medicare. If you are eligible for Medicare and are enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan (Medicare Advantage is administered by private health insurance companies), you can review plans and make changes every year during the Annual Enrollment Period (AEP) from October 15 – December 5.

If you are turning age 65 in the next few months, you will have a seven-month window to sign up for Medicare and choose a plan (3 months before your 65th birthday month, the month of your birthday and 3 months past your birthday month). This period is known as the Initial Enrollment Period (IEP) and you will be getting lots of mail from health insurance companies promoting their products.

It is important to know: before you can sign up for a Medicare Advantage or a Medicare Supplement plan, you must first be enrolled in Medicare Part A and Part B coverage. If you are collecting your Social Security retirement benefits, you will automatically be enrolled in Part A and must sign up for Part B within your Initial Enrollment Period or pay a penalty for late enrollment. If you plan to continue working beyond age 65 and you are not collecting Social Security retirement benefits, you may want to schedule a meeting with Social Security to help you understand what options are available for you. There are great resources to help you:

Social Security website: https://www.ssa.gov/planners/retire/justmedicare.html or
Medicare.gov website: https://www.Medicare.gov

Whether you are new to Medicare and in your Initial Enrollment Period, or if you are well established on Medicare and will be evaluating your options for next year during the Annual Enrollment Period, there are some key considerations for deciding what option is best for you:

1) Do you have a chronic condition?
2) What monthly premium can you afford?
3) Can you continue to see your same doctors?
4) Will you have coverage if you travel?
5) Does the plan cover your prescription drugs?
6) What will your out of pocket costs be for the prescriptions you use?
7) Will you be able to use the pharmacy you choose?

There are many health insurance agents who can help you navigate your options and choose the plan that is right for you. Agents are paid a commission by insurance companies they represent, so you do not have to pay an additional fee for their services.

To your good health!

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