We are turning 65 this year. Our mailboxes are filling up with Medicare stuff. Every day, new mail arrives with new information and carefully worded warnings. Some of the information is informative. Some of the information is reassuring. But most of it is just confusing. Take for instance the prescription plan advice, no advice really, just warnings that we must choose one—a or else.
Or else, what? Details please! All we get told in the mailings is that we must choose a prescription plan or that one will be chosen for us. To their credit, there are vague references, scattered here and there, to financial consequences to retirees of not making informed choices, but the choices that carry the financial consequences are never specified as being the prescription plan choice.
Better listen up. They’re not kidding. Those vague references are really legal loopholes for not telling us exactly what the consequences are, but rather leave the door open for an official, “I told you so,” later.
What about the letter that informs us that the month we turn 65, and every month thereafter for the remainder of our natural lives, $127 (or thereabouts) will be deducted from our Social Security checks to cover our Medicare benefits?
Yep, we’re about to get a pay cut.
News flash, Medicare is not provided as a free benefit to retirees. We will pay for it
…whether we choose a plan or not. The U.S. Government controls this, and it will not change.
65th birthday is getting closer, have we remembered to choose that prescription plan yet?
Oh, We have decided to trust Medicare to choose one for us?
Bad idea. Start back-peddling fast!
What that mountain of mail neglected to tell us, is that if we fail to choose a prescription plan for ourselves, not only will they choose one for us (yes, we already know that), but, in addition, they will charge us a 10 percent penalty, based on the cost of whatever the plan they choose. How much will the plan cost? The costs of prescription plans available to Medicare recipients vary from around $49 per month up to about $250 per month. Which one will they choose for us? No one can say. We are told it is the luck of the draw. We could draw the cheap one, or we could draw expensive one.
The other thing the avalanche of Medicare Plan information, the flyers, the books, and the letters fail to tell us, is that the 10 percent penalty for failing to choose a prescription plan for ourselves…is for life.
That’s right, life. It will not change—ever—regardless of whether, later on, we choose a different prescription plan for ourselves or not.
Do the math. It couldn’t be possible, could it??, that the U.S. Government actually wants retirees to overlook choosing a prescription plan for ourselves, just to pull in those extra penalty dollars from untold millions of unsuspecting senior citizens—for life?
What to do? Watch, diligently, for a postage paid card to come in along with the deluge of mail offering free information on navigating the labyrinth of Medicare options. When it arrives, fill that card out, and send it in. When an independently contracted, licensed, adviser follows up our request with a phone call, invite them to come to our house and go over everything with us in person. Verify their credentials of course. But if they check out, by all means let them come. Beg them to come! Feed them lunch or dinner if they will come. Donate our spare kidneys to get them to come. Do what we must, but get them to come.
If we get an honest adviser, they will help us enroll in a Medicare prescription program that will not cost us one penny more than the $127 (or so) that we are going to pay anyway. Not only that, but they can help us enroll in a plan that also caps hospital stay costs and out of pocket expenses. Again, all for not a penny more than what the government will deduct from our monthly checks anyway. These licensed agents, get paid even if we choose a program that does not cost us anything extra per month other than what Uncle Sam will be getting anyhow.
It is not advised to try and negotiate the complicated terrain of Medicare ourselves. As we have seen, the adverse financial consequences of one wrong decision, could be for life. And for those whose retirement income is at the minimum levels, for senior orphans, for example, whose monthly income is less than $600 per month, the consequences could be felt in a painfully, financially tangible way. Better to the experts come and walk us through the Medicare maze.
We may receive more than one information request card in the mail. Fill them all out. And do it early enough in the process to give us time to make a truly informed decision.