When it comes time to choose your Medicare health plan, you’ll be faced with a range of choices. It can be confusing. In a nutshell, you have three basic options: Original Medicare, a Medicare Supplement or a Medicare Advantage plan. What are the pros and cons? Let’s take a look! OPTION #1: ORIGINAL MEDICARE Quick Fact: Medicare pays just 80% of the costs for covered medical expenses. Like many people turning 65, you may think Medicare covers ALL your medical costs — only to get a big surprise later. Medicare is good, but it has deductibles and coinsurance amounts you must pay for — which could easily add up to thousands of dollars. In fact, Original Medicare doesn’t cover prescription drugs, dental, vision or hearing care. It also doesn’t limit the amount you may have to pay each year out-of-pocket. Relying on Medicare alone won’t give you all the benefits you need, and you could be putting your budget and savings at risk.
OPTION #2: MEDICARE SUPPLEMENT PLANS Quick Fact: You’ll fill some gaps…while you pay more in premiums, and still need additional coverage. While Medicare Supplement plans work to fill Original Medicare’s gaps and give you the freedom to use any provider you want, they can come at a steep price. In Maryland, the average monthly premium for popular Plan F is $245. That’s in addition to your Medicare Part B premium — and because no Medicare Supplement covers drugs, you have the added cost of a separate prescription drug plan. Medicare Supplements generally don’t cover the cost of services for dental, vision or hearing care either. Choosing this option may require you to work with many different carriers for your health care services.
OPTION #3: MEDICARE ADVANTAGE (MA) PLANS Quick Fact: Over 17 million Americans on Medicare choose Medicare Advantage plans for affordable, all-in-one coverage. Medicare Advantage plans are similar to the types of health plans you may know from your working years. Plans like Advantage Plans bring together comprehensive health benefits, including built-in prescription drug coverage, with dental, vision and hearing care into a single health plan. Members have the freedom to see any health care provider they want (typically, out-of-network costs are slightly higher), with no referrals.
One of the most important — and cost-effective — things you can do to ensure your good health at any age is getting screenings and vaccinations. As you face retirement, it’s especially important to know exactly where your health stands. Ruling out or uncovering any issues now gives you the best chance for many long, happy and healthy years ahead.
9 Vital Medical Checkpoints To Do Now (you may be in for a pleasant surprise!)To get a clear picture of your overall health, take a little time to take care of yourself, with some critical health checkpoints. In almost every case, the starting point is your primary care physician. He/she will either do the test/immunization for you or refer you to the proper specialist. Don’t be too anxious about them. Many people surprise themselves, and their doctor, by discovering how healthy they actually are! So, here is your healthy “to-do” list:
1. CHOLESTEROL SCREENING
High cholesterol has been linked to heart disease,1 the leading cause of death in the U.S.2 Knowing your cholesterol levels allows you and your doctor to take necessary measures to lower your risk.
2. CANCER SCREENINGS FOR MEN AND WOMEN
Colon cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer deaths in the U.S.,3 and prostate cancer is the second most common cancer among men.4 Early detection and treatment are critical. Everyone should ask their doctor about the fecal occult blood test, a colonoscopy or flexible sigmoidoscopy. And guys: Talk with your doctor about that prostate exam if you haven’t already. The good news is that an exam may not be necessary unless you have symptoms.
3. ORAL CANCER AND GUM DISEASE SCREENING
There are many reasons to see your dentist regularly. One is that he/she is an expert in identifying oral cancers and gum disease. Gum disease may not sound scary, but it is the leading cause of tooth loss in adults5 and has also been linked to heart disease.6
4. EYE EXAM
Regular eye examinations are important too, especially as you grow older. Even if you’ve never had any trouble with your vision, you should get screened for cataracts and glaucoma, which has no warning signs and is one of the leading causes of blindness.7
5. DIABETES SCREENING
It’s estimated that almost 1 out of every 10 Americans has diabetes — and more than 27% don’t know they have it.8 Left untreated, diabetes can lead to blindness, kidney damage and loss of limbs, among other serious complications.9 Get checked soon.
6. HEARING EXAM
You may not be aware of any trouble with your hearing, but by this point in life, almost everyone has suffered some type of hearing loss. Get screened now to find out where you stand, and avoid any serious issues.
7. SCREENINGS FOR WOMEN
Brittle bones are most commonly associated with women.10 Osteoporosis screening and a bone mass measurement can help detect a silent problem and avoid life-changing breaks due to falls.11 Also — a pelvic exam and mammogram are recommended every few years to screen for gynecological cancers as well as breast cancer. Find out your risk ASAP!
8. FLU SHOT
Flu shots are particularly important as you turn age 65. According to the CDC, 50% – 70% of flu-related hospitalizations and 80% – 90% of flu-related deaths occur in people 65 years of age and older.12 Besides, getting a flu shot doesn’t just protect you; it protects the friends and family around you.
9. PNEUMOCOCCAL VACCINATION (65+)
Your risk for pneumococcal disease/pneumonia increases as you grow older.13 Fortunately, there is a vaccination and the CDC recommends it for all adults 65 years or older.
If you’re feeling well and strong, congratulations! Now is the best time to get your screenings to confirm — and maintain — your good health. Almost every disease is easier to treat when found early; and many can be in an advanced stage before any symptoms appear. Don’t put it off: contact your doctor now about getting what can be life-saving screenings. You’ll be glad you did!
Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 7, 12, 13 – Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (cdc.gov) 5, 6 – American Academy of Periodontology (perio.org) 6 – U.S. National Library of Medicine/National Institutes of Health (nlm.nih.gov) 8 – American Diabetes Association (diabetes.org) 9 – American Academy of Family Physicians (afar.org) 10, 11 – National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases/National Institutes of Health (niams.nih.org)