And when will it stop?
First, let’s turn back the clock a few months. You’re 64 and your birthday is about 6 months away. You get something in the mail that’s about Medicare.
You feel a little bittersweet about it.
You know that you can get on Medicare when you turn 65 and likely get health insurance that’s a lot better than what you have now. But, it’s just a reminder that you’ve almost hit that dreaded age, where things like retirement and getting older are getting a bit more real.
So, you put off thinking about it...
You ignore the ever increasing number of phone calls coming in. That pile of mail on your kitchen counter where you throw your Medicare stuff just keeps growing every day.
Seriously, what’s the deal with all this mail and all these phone calls?!?
What do they want?!
Is it actually important, is it from someone trying to sell me something, or is it just another one of those scams you hear about all the time today?
First, let’s take a look at why you’re getting all this information. Then we’ll look at what it is and who it’s from…
Why You’re Getting Bombarded With Mail and Phone Calls
It’s plain and simple: YOU'RE TURNING 65. That’s it. Really, that’s the only reason. Medicare, insurance companies, insurance agents, etc. are all contacting you because you’re turning 65.
Now, nobody knows your specific situation:
- You could still be working and covered by your employer group plan
- You could have very good health insurance coverage as a retiree
- You might already be on Medicare because of a disability
- You may qualify for Medicaid
- You might have full benefits as a veteran, through VA benefits or Tricare
Whichever of these situations you may be in, you have different needs for both Medicare and for supplemental insurance. But, the people calling you and sending you mail don’t know your situation. All they know is you’re turning 65 and you need to do something about Medicare.
So every phone call and piece of mail pretty much falls into one of three different categories. Let’s take a look at what they are, starting with the less important stuff first…
Stuff You're Getting From Insurance Companies
Insurance companies are directly going to send you things and call you up...
You’ll hear from big companies you’ve heard of before like Humana, AARP, Blue Cross, Mutual of Omaha, and Aetna. And, you’ll even get contacted by smaller companies that specialize in Medicare insurance and life insurance like Bankers Fidelity, Equitable, or Manhattan Life.
These insurance companies will be sending you information for all types of Medicare insurance: Medicare Supplements, Prescription Drug Plans, and Medicare Advantage Plans. So, you’ll likely have a dozen or more different insurance companies sending you advertisements and brochures all wanting you to sign up with their plans. By the time it’s all said and done, you’ll have dozens and dozens of mail pieces from these companies.
Keep in mind, many of the plans offered by these insurance companies are identical. However, every company charges a different premium for it. So how do you know what plan is best for you? Ahh, that’s where the second category comes in…
Stuff From Agents, Brokers, and Insurance Agencies
These folks (like me) are licensed with one or more of the insurance companies mentioned above.
These agents and brokers offer their services to try and help you figure out what type of plan is best for you based on your healthcare needs, your budget, and rates in your area.
However, these solicitations can be a bit deceiving. Their mailer may look like it’s from Medicare and official from the government, but it’s usually from an insurance agency. You should be able to find some small print somewhere on the envelope or card that says something like “we are not endorsed by Medicare, and are not employees of the Federal Government”. But, it may be hard to find, and that piece of mail might look like something you have to either call back or fill out and mail somewhere.
These folks that offer their services, either by phone or mail, are can be very helpful in showing you what to do about Medicare at 65. Most of us don’t charge a fee for our services because we get paid a small commission from the different insurance companies we help you sign up with. The purpose of this article though is to make you aware of what these types of phone calls and pieces of mail are.
Never paying an agent a fee is #26 of my '31 Ways to Save Money on Medicare' e-book. Want to learn the other 30 ways? Download your copy of my e-book today!
Which brings us to the stuff you absolutely should not throw away…
Stuff You're Getting From the Government
As far as I know, the government can send you any of the following information:
- Medicare card
- Confirmation of Medicare start date
- Notice of changes to Social Security Income due to deducted Medicare premiums
- Initial Enrollment Questionnaire notice
- Extra Help application
Let’s take a look at each of these in a bit more detail:
If you’re drawing any type of Social Security income, you’ll be automatically signed up for Medicare. You’ll get your Medicare card in the mail about 3 to 3 ½ months before your Medicare effective date. For most of you, that will be the first day of the month you turn 65.
Confirmation of Medicare Start Date
If you’re not drawing Social Security and you want to start Medicare at 65, you’ll need to sign up. A lot of times before you actually get your Medicare card in the mail, you’ll receive a letter from Social Security just confirming your Medicare enrollment, what your Medicare claim number is, and when your Medicare start date is.
Social Security Income Adjustments
If you’re drawing Social Security income when you’re enrolled in Medicare, they just deduct your Medicare premiums right from your check. Before they do this though, they’ll usually send you a confirmation of what month these deductions will start, and what your new monthly income check will be.
Also, if you sign up for a Medicare Advantage plan or Part D Prescription Drug Plan, you have the option to pay your monthly premium directly out of your Social Security check. You’ll often get a notice reflecting these changes as well.
Initial Enrollment Questionnaire Notice
Medicare wants to know what other types of insurance you may have once you become Medicare eligible so they know who to coordinate paying claims with. You don’t have to fill this questionnaire out, but it’s a good idea so claims will get paid timely and by the right parties. There will be instructions on how to complete this form either online or by phone.
Extra Help Application
You may get an application for Extra Help from the government around the time Medicare starts for you. You can carefully read through it and see if there’s a chance you might qualify to get help paying for your prescriptions. There will be instructions with this application on how to fill it out and where to send it when you’re done. I’d say if you’re anywhere close to meeting the requirements, fill the form out even if you don’t think you’ll qualify. The worst they can do is say no.
Ok, So Now What?
So now you know why you’re getting all the solicitations and what they’re all about. Now you just need to know what to do about your Medicare decision, and which one of those 152 pieces of mail will be the one that will help you figure it out.
In my humble opinion, you’re always going to be better off going thru an agent instead of going direct to an insurance company. There are a lot of folks out there that will be able to help you navigate this Medicare maze and help you pick a decent plan. If you have any questions or need assistance with anything Medicare-related, I'd love to help you out. You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call me toll-free at 866-240-8639.