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What’s Up with All Those Medicare Commercials?

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November 07, 2021

What's Up with All Those Medicare Commercials?

Have you noticed there are more of those Medicare insurance company commercials starring recognizable aging celebrities on television in recent weeks? Maybe you tune them out but, if not, aren't you tired of seeing Joe Namath going on and on about Medicare Coverage Helpline? I'm not bothered much seeing Jimmie JJ Walker on his commercial, but that's because I still get a kick out of hearing him say, "Dy-No-Mite!". And they are not the only ones. I have also seen commercials with Danny Glover, Kelsey Grammar, Joan Lunden, William Shatner, and Merideth Viera.

If you are wondering why the health insurance companies are bombarding the airwaves with commercials featuring spokespeople who may appeal to older Americans, it is because it is Medicare Open Enrollment season and it occurs each year from October 15th through December 7th. This is when Medicare enrollees should review their Prescription (Part D), Supplemental (aka Medicap), or Medicare Advantage (Part C) plans and shop around for policies that may better meet their needs. While the commercials may be annoying and the products they are pitching may or may not be of interest or relevant to you, this period is quite important to people on Medicare and should not be ignored.

Open Enrollment does not have anything to do with when to initially enroll in Medicare. Initial enrollment has its own time frames and rules based on whether you are still working at 65 and, if you are, the number of employees in the organization at which you work.

When you enroll, you either choose original Medicare (Part A, Part B, Part D, Medigap) or a Medicare Advantage Plan. Note that, when you enroll in a Medicare Advantage Plan, you are also enrolled in Medicare Parts A and B. Medicare Part A (hospitalization) and Part B (physicians and outpatient services) are provided by the federal government. They have defined coverages and costs.

Prescription coverage, Medigap, and Medicare Advantage plans are sold by private insurers. Providers, coverage, and costs differ between insurers and plans can change from year to year. The annual open enrollment period for when you can add, drop, or change your plans for the next calendar year.

Here are some things to consider:

  • Will your doctors continue to participate in original Medicare or your Medicare Advantage plan next year?
  • Will your current prescription plan be offered next year? Are there new plans being offered?
  • If your prescription plan will still be offered, will the prescription drugs you take still be covered or will the costs be increasing?
  • Are you on original Medicare and interested in the additional services (e.g., dental, vision) often provided in Medicare Advantage Plans? If yes, carefully examine the details and limitations that are never mentioned in the commercials.
  • Are you unhappy with being in a Medicare Advantage Plan and interested in switching to original Medicare? If yes, you will need to purchase a prescription drug plan and you may want to purchase a Medigap policy.
  • When thinking about whether to switch into or out of a Medicare Advantage Plan, be aware that you have a six-month window from the Part B enrollment date to purchase a Medigap policy without having to answer any health questions. If you are beyond the six-month point, you can be denied coverage or penalized for pre-existing conditions.

Of course, it is no fun thinking about your health insurance. But not doing the annual review could be costly. It is well worth a couple of hours of your time to help yourself or an aging parent.

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About the author

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Steve B. Goldstein

Vice President, Private CFO®

Steve Goldstein is a Vice President, Private CFO® with oXYGen Financial, Inc., and is based in Alpharetta, Georgia. He is an 18+ year veteran of the financial services industry whose specialty is retirement income planning and whose mission is to help people live the best life possible during their retirement by making sure their finances provide for their needs and their wants all the way through their lifetime.

Steve holds the Certified Financial Planner, Chartered Retirement Planning CounselorSM, and the Retirement Income Certified Professional® designations. His background also includes an MBA degree in Finance and Accounting from the University of Rochester and a BA degree in Business Economics from The State University of New York at Oneonta.

Steve was born and raised in the Bronx, NY and moved to the Atlanta area in 1994 with his wife, Beth, and two children who are now responsible adults with families of their own. In his spare time, Steve enjoys watching sports, exercising regularly, playing classic rock and blues guitar, and tackling home improvement projects.

Background and qualification information is available at FINRA's BrokerCheck website.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and may not necessarily reflect those held by Kestra Investment Services, LLC or Kestra Advisory Services, LLC. This is for general information only and is not intended to provide specific investment advice or recommendations for any individual. It is suggested that you consult your financial professional, attorney, or tax advisor with regard to your individual situation.

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