Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Getting signed up for Medicare Part D; also, Part B Supplement

Okay, here is how things turn out for me at least. It seems that Medicare starts deducting my Part B Premium the same month that I become eligible for Medicare, which is the first day of the month of my 65th birthday. The premium is now $96.40.

That leaves two other items: prescription drugs, and Part B Supplement.

It turns out, for me, that through AARP and United Heath Care I get a reasonable Part D benefit at age 65 for $33.70 a month, preferred. This will pay for “tier 1” generics by mail with no copay, and “tier 2” for $15 copay. It does not get rid of the notorious “doughnut hole” (topologists call it a coffee cup). This is supposed to be the Part D preferred from United Health Care. The number that I used to get to all of this was 1-888-867-5564. I am an AARP member, but I’m not sure if that was necessary. At this number, I was enrolled in Part D by phone, with the $33.70 to be deducted from social security in addition to the $96.40. It is possible for the deductions to start late, and for social security to have to deduct twice in a subsequent month if missing the first month, but coverage is effective on the first day of the month of that magical birthday.

My employer offered a “replacement” “Retiree RX Plan” for about $240 a month, much more expensive, because it does not take into account the fact that I am starting at 65. One is not allowed to have both Part D and a replacement plan.

The Medicare Supplement is a different animal. This is a separate policy sold by a private insurance company. In my case, it’s still United Health Care, but it can be a (“non profit”) Blue Shield plan. Starting at about age 65, I get the Part A deductible (if there is a hospital stay) and the 20% Part B copay (but not the small deductible) covered as an “option B.” This I have to pay for myself (as with an EFT on a checking account). It cannot be deducted from the Social Security payment because it is not administered by Medicare or Social Security. The AARP Health Care Options enrollment card does read “Medicare Supplement Coverage.”

Medicare does provide a booklet that gives a step-by-step analysis of how the beneficiary proceeds. The most important decision (on p 2) seems to deal with whether to keep Part B (with its copays and Medicare premiums) or replace it with a Medicare Advantage Plan or some other Medicare Health Plan. If the recipient does keep Part B, he or she usually should purchase a Supplement Plan right at age 65.

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