Category: News

Q&A: What You Need to Know about the New Medicare Cards and Numbers

Q&A: What You Need to Know about the New Medicare Cards and Numbers

I’m sure you’ve heard about it on the news or from a friend. If you haven’t, I would like to inform you now: As a part of the Social Security Number Removal Initiative, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) will be issuing new Medicare cards with a new number gracing the front. Unlike the old HICN number that is on all the old cards, this new number is not based on your Social Security number. Rather, it is a randomly generated 11-character identifier.

 

I anticipated a little bit of  “buzz” surrounding this topic, so I thought I would provide quick, simple answers to some of the questions you might be asking out of curiosity or general concern. Let’s get started.

 

How Much Will It Cost?

It won’t cost you anything. However, the government has set aside $320 million over five years to fund the initiative. It’s amazing how something as simple as changing numbers and letters on a card can end up costing so much!

 

Why Are They Doing It?

Think $320 million is a lot of money? How about $60 billion? As it turns out, that is one estimate of the amount of money Medicare loses every year due to fraud, according to AARP. The government hopes taking everyone’s Social Security numbers off the cards will help prevent identity theft and put a dent in that multi-billion dollar problem.

 

How Is My Medicare Beneficiary Identifier (MBI) Generated?

Unlike the old Health Insurance Claim Number (the number on your current card), which is based on your Social Security Number, your new Medicare number (the MBI) is a completely randomly generated 11-character identifier. It does not have any special meaning whatsoever.

 

For more information on the MBI, how it will look on the card, and each of the characters, see this helpful explanation.

 

When Will I Receive Mine?

They began the transition in April of 2018. Their goal is to have a new Medicare card in the hands of every active Medicare beneficiary by April of 2019.  You can also sign up at medicare.gov to receive an email when your state mails their new cards.

 

What Does This Mean for My Healthcare Provider?

Your doctors and care facilities will likely need to update their software and information systems to recognize the new number. Issues and challenges may arise as the transition takes place, but all the kinks should be worked out before you get your new card in the mail.

 

Do I Need to Do Anything?

Be sure to destroy your old card (it has your social security number on it), start using your new card as soon as you get it, keep the new number safe, and also check out our blog post about potential scams that may arise throughout this transition.

 

Do You Have Other Medicare Questions?

At Seniormark, we’re always here to help. If you have any questions about when and how to sign up for supplements, Medicare Advantage or drug plans, give us a call at 937-492-8800 or click here to sign up for a free consultation!

Watch Out for Medicare Scammers as New Medicare Cards are Issued

Watch Out for Medicare Scammers as New Medicare Cards are Issued

If you have read any of my other blog posts detailing the evils of Medicare fraud, then you know what a pervasive and serious problem it is. Not only does it cost Medicare recipients and taxpayers such as yourself millions in false claims, it can also cost lives in some rare cases due to malpractice and misdiagnosis.

 

This is why the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) launched an initiative to help tackle this complex problem. It is called the Social Security Number Removal Initiative (SSNRI), which accomplishes almost exactly what it sounds like it does. The measure ensures that Medicare will issue new Medicare cards to over 57 million enrollees with (you guessed it) the Social Security numbers removed. Instead the card will proudly display a new identification number called the Member Beneficiary Identifier (MBI). Medicare hopes that, with such an important number replaced on the card, it will make it more difficult for the bad guys to steal your precious identity.

 

However, the reason why I am alerting you of such a change is because the Better Business Bureau predicts that, scammers will prey on the uncertainty of this transition in the form of phone scams, and I do not want you to be a victim. Over the period of April 1, 2018 to December 31, 2019, be on special guard against these kinds of attacks. Knowing how this initiative will take place will help keep you safe. Therefore, keep the following things in mind about the SSNRI:

  1. You will not need to pay for your new card. If someone claims you have to, it’s a scam.
  2. You will not need to share your Social Security Number over the phone either. Reminder: Medicare will not call you or ask for personal information over the phone.
  3. You will not lose your Medicare Coverage in this transition. If anyone threatens this if you do not give them your information, it is a scam as well.
  4. This process is entirely automatic! Your new card will just show up in the mail sometime between April 1, 2018 and December 31, 2019.

 

It’s certainly frustrating that scammers can take an initiative designed to stop them and use the process as an opportunity to trick even more people. However, once you have your new Medicare card in hand, it will make it even more difficult on them. And, as long as you remember those four points, you will keep yourself safe in the transition as well.

 

Did you know that if you have been in the same Medicare Supplement for 4-5 years, you are likely overpaying for your coverage?  Click here to find out how much you could be paying:  http://seniormark.com/resources/#medicare-rate.

 

Want more information?  Contact our office at 937-492-8800 or via e-mail at admin@seniormark.com.  We are here to help!

Warning: New Medicare Scams Coming!

A New Wave of Medicare Scammers

 

Yet another wave of Medicare scammers is on the rise.  As new Medicare cards will be mailed out, seniors are finding themselves susceptible to phone scammers who are calling and identifying themselves as representatives from Medicare.

 

Callers are requesting payment for the new Medicare cards that are absolutely FREE.  Please be wary of such scams and not to give out private information about yourself.  Medicare will correspond only via mail.

 

To report a scam, please use the Better Business Scam Tracker or contact Medicare.gov directly at 1-800-MEDICARE.

 

In this latest attempt at medical identity theft, a caller posing as a Medicare representative will ask for payment in exchange for the new ID.  (The cards, which will be automatically sent sometime between April 2018 and April 2019, are free and require no extra steps.)

 

The same goes for someone asking if you want to purchase Medicare’s prescription drug coverage, known as Part D.  In this case a scammer may try to persuade you to buy Part D or lose your Medicare coverage.  (Part D is voluntary and has no impact on your health plan.)

Another common ruse is that you’re owed a refund from your insurance company and the caller needs your bank account number and Social Security number to deposit it.  A similar fraud also involves a caller claiming to be with Medicare requesting to update or confirm your information.  In each of these attempts at medical identity theft, scammers can then use your insurance to see a doctor, obtain prescriptions, buy medical equipment or even file a false claim.”

Scammers are taking advantage of the new security measures by targeting Medicare recipients before the changes roll out.  North Carolina Department of Insurance Commissioner Mike Causey says fraudsters are calling recipients, asking for personal information before the new cards come in.  He says they’ll ask you to verify your information, pay a fee or offer to track down your new card by using your old card information.”

If you have questions or concerns about the new Medicare cards, please contact our office for assistance:  937-492-8800.

How Much Does Medicare Cost in 2017?

How Much Does Medicare Cost in 2017?

The cost of health care is a big question mark for soon-to-be retirees. Perhaps you’ve been on a trusty employer plan for the last few decades or have come to know and love a private insurance plan that fits your needs and budget.

But now you’ve got to switch to Medicare. And although you’ve always been able to pay your premiums, the cost of Medicare is an unknown number among a sea of unknowns associated with health care in retirement (or retirement in general, for that matter).

Although I can’t grant you any magical, one-size-fits-all answer, I can give you some solid estimations based on my experience working as a local Medicare expert to help you compare what Medicare costs with your current plan.

I always like to start with some good news…

 

  • Medicare Part A (Inpatient Care) Is Free

Have you paid into Social Security for at least 10 years (40 quarters)? Then your premiums for Part A are paid for!

Unfortunately, though, it can’t all be free…

 

The Associated Part B (Outpatient Care) Monthly Premium Is $134.00

This figure is adjusted for high income, but that is not a concern for most people. $134.00 will be your monthly premium unless your income exceeds $85,000 per year or more as an individual or $170,000 filing jointly with your spouse.

This is where there is a fork in the road. From this point, the cost of Medicare is heavily affected by which path you take. You can boil down all the madness into two basic choices (“Swamped with mail? Here’s what it all means”): Medicare Advantage or Original (traditional) Medicare.

 

The Traditional Medicare Route

If you take this path, I always suggest picking up a Medicare Supplement Plan. It might seem unnecessary (“Do I Really Need a Medicare Supplement?”) to some, but without the extra coverage, there is no limit to your out-of-pocket spending.

A Supplement’s price range is anywhere from $50-150, but a standard, middle of the road Plan G usually costs about $110 per month. This is the typical plan I recommend to my clients.

Then, since a Supplement does not cover those sky-high prescription drug costs, the vast majority of retirees purchase a Part D Drug Plan. Although the prices span anywhere from $14.60 to $157.40 per month, the average cost for a drug plan is $35.63 as of 2017. The out-of-pocket costs associated with Part D vary greatly depending on your medications. Just keep in mind that there will likely be copays and coinsurance regardless of which plan you choose.

 

The Medicare Advantage Route

The other choice is the less beaten path. From my experience, most people feel very cozy in the stability of a Medicare Supplement. However, an Advantage Plan often appeals to the more cost-conscious, risk-taking retirees. Offered as an alternative to Traditional Medicare, Advantage plans range from $0-179 per month with most settling in around $70. To make them even more attractive, a Drug Plan is almost always included as a part of the package.

Caution: Check For Possible Out-of-pocket Costs
At first glance, it looks like choosing a Medicare Advantage is a no-brainer, but there is a reason it appeals to risk-takers. With a Medicare Supplement (only available with Original Medicare), the maximum out-of-pocket is only $183 annually for Plan G (not including prescription drug costs). However, in an Advantage Plan, the coverage is a bit spottier. You pay less in monthly premiums, but copays, coinsurance, and deductibles are much higher. The potential out-of-pocket for an advantage plan can be as a high as $3500-6000 per year or more! Some years you will save money because of the cheaper premium, but one year of bad health can turn that around really quickly.

The Costs At a Glance For a 65-Year-Old

Original Medicare
Free Part A
+
$134 per month Part B
+
$110 per month for Medicare Supplement Insurance
+
$35.63 for Part D Drug Plan
= $279.63 monthly
(with LOW out-of-pocket spending limit)

Medicare Advantage
Free Part A
+
$134 per month Part B
+
$70 per month for an Advantage Plan (Part D included)
= $204 monthly
(with HIGH out-of-pocket spending limit)

 

Interested In A More Personalized Analysis?

So there you have it! This should give you a good idea of what Medicare costs for the average 65-year old. But—as I said before—the cost of Medicare is different for every person. If you are interested in more personalized figures, call us at 937-492-8800 for a free consultation. We will assess your financial and health situation to find an overall plan that meets your needs, concerns, and pocketbook. Ensuring you a successful and secure transition into retirement is our number one priority.

There will always be some unknowns when it comes to health care costs in retirement, but sitting down with a professional in order to assess your situation can diminish even the biggest question marks and settle your deepest concerns.

Disclaimer: Numbers are based on Sidney, Ohio.

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Medicare Part B and D: Make More = Pay More

Medicare Part B and D: Make More= Pay More

It’s true. The premiums for your Part B and D coverage for Medicare are adjusted for income.

 

I get it. It’s a little infuriating. You’ve spent all of these working years paying more in Social Security than everyone else, and now you find out they might come back for seconds.

 

But before any public pickets or private fist-shaking takes place, I want to grant you a little bit of comfort: according to Social Security, less than 5% of Medicare beneficiaries pay higher premiums due to income. And out of our clients, we’ve only come across a handful of affected people.

 

But to make sure, I recommend checking out the following chart. NOTE: There are separate numbers for filing individually, jointly, and filing individually when married, so make sure you are looking at the right one.

 

If your yearly income (modified adjusted gross income) in 2015 (for what you pay in 2017) was
File individual tax return File joint tax return File married & separate tax return You pay each month in 2017 for Part B  

You pay each month in 2017 for Part D

 

$85,000 or less $170,000 or less $85,000 or less $134  

Your plan premium

 

Above $85,000 up to $107,000 Above $170,000 up to $214,000 Not applicable $187.50  

$13.30 + your plan premium

 

Above $107,000 up to $160,000 Above $214,000 up to $320,000 Not applicable $267.90  

$34.20 + your plan premium

 

Above $160,000 up to $214,000 Above $320,000 up to $428,000 Above $85,000 and up to $129,000 $348.30  

$55.20 + your plan premium

 

Above $214,000 Above $428,000 Above $129,000 $428.60  

$76.20 + your plan premium

 

 

So there you have it. Did you make the cut? And now…

 

4 Things You Need To Know

  1. Premium increases are based on your MAGI

MAGI (Modified Adjusted Gross Income) is the magic number. It is calculated by taking your Adjusted Gross Income (all the income you’ve earned minus deductions) and adding some of those deductions back in such as IRA contributions. It is a little hairy, but for most people their Adjusted Gross Income is so similar to their MAGI, it is irrelevant.

 

  1. It is based on the tax return you filed last year

So, in 2017, whether or not you are cursed with higher premiums is determined by the tax return you filed in 2016 based on your 2015 income.

 

  1. Being married but filing separately can have costly effects

Pay close attention to those numbers. You’ll notice that the premium increases are much higher for comparable amounts of income. So file jointly unless you have a really good reason for doing otherwise.

 

  1. You can appeal to have the increase removed

This is a big one. The government has been known to make mistakes. So, if you notice that you were wrongly charged, you can fill out an appeal, and they will double check (I’ll keep my fingers crossed for you). This is especially helpful in the case of a “life changing” event that drops your income. The Medicare approved “life changing” events include but are not limited to:

  • Divorce
  • Marriage
  • Death of spouse
  • Work Stoppage
  • Loss of Pension

If you believe your IRMAA is incorrect, you can request that the Social Security Administration make a new decision.  You can contact them on the national helpline at 800-772-1213.

 

For those of higher income, it does seem like the government is doing a double dip. But I sincerely hope that you are not one of those affected individuals. Thankfully, the measure excludes most!

 

Confused about Medicare and not sure what to do next? Download our free E-book to get you started.   If you still have questions, call our office at 937-492-8800.

 

Photo:  www.affordablemedicareplan.com

Saying Goodbye to Supplement Plans F and C

Saying Goodbye to Supplement Plans F and C

(Why It’s Happening and Why It Matters To You)

You can pocket your tear-soaked hanky now. You don’t have to worry! If you are currently on plan C or F and have come to know and love it, the government will not force you to give it up. But for those of you yet to meet Medicare Supplement’s most comprehensive and popular plan (F) and his trusty companion (C), you may never get the chance. In 2020, the government will discontinue them both.

This begs the question: if the plans are so popular, then…

 

Why Are They Being Discontinued?

It’s a long story, but I’ll keep it brief. It all began with the “doc fix” bill, which President Obama signed into law back in 2015. The purpose of this legislation is to increase Medicare payments to doctors, so they continue to accept Medicare beneficiaries at their practices. Sounds like a good deal, right?

But by signing this bill, Medicare agreed to a hefty associated price tag of 200 billion dollars (according to The Hill). The money has to come from somewhere, so the federal government went to work on reforming Medicare in order to foot the bill for the bill (the bill’s bill, if you will). Phasing out plans C and F just happened to be the product of their brainstorm.

Here’s how they expect it will save Medicare money: Since plans C and F are the only ones that offer Part B deductible coverage ($166 in 2016), getting rid of both makes all Medicare beneficiaries responsible for their Part B deductible. Their hopes are that this will cause retirees to question their need to go to the doctor. The rationale is “if Medicare beneficiaries have a little more skin in the game (having to pay the deductible), maybe they won’t go to the doctor for every cough, ache, pain, or sniffle”. This—they believe—will save Medicare some cold, hard cash!

But this leads us to yet another “why” question…

 

Why Does It Matter to Me?

If you plan to enroll in Medicare after 2020, it’s quite obvious: plans C and F won’t be available to you. However, even if you are currently on plan C or F, saying goodbye to either one of these plans could have a costly effect on your monthly premium.

When a plan discontinues, it stops younger and healthier people from getting on the plan. This leaves an aging pool of beneficiaries, who (at least statistically speaking) have more health problems and file more costly claims. In order for the insurance provider to survive, they will likely counteract this loss with premium hikes.

Of course, this still leaves a lot of the 200 billion still unfunded, which—according to Forbes and Money Magazine—will likely come at high cost to Medicare beneficiaries.

To read more about how the “doc fix” bill could affect you, click the following link:

Proposed Medicare ‘Doc Fix’ Comes at a Cost to Seniors

 

Approaching 65 and not sure what to do? Click here to download our free E-book to get you started.  As always, you can call our office at 937-492-8800 with any questions.

 

2017 Medicare Numbers Announced

2017 Medicare Parts A & B Premiums and Deductibles Announced

 

Yesterday, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) released the 2017 premiums for the Medicare inpatient hospital (Part A) and physician and outpatient hospital services (Part B) programs.

 

For 2017, the Part B premium (for those already on Medicare and having their premium deducted from their social security check) will have an average of $109.00 per month. For those just coming on to Medicare in 2017, the part B premium will be $134.00 per month. The Part B deductible will go up slightly ($183). There are some changes to the numbers which are listed below, but if you have a Medicare supplement policy, it will take care of some, if not all, of these expenses.

 

2016 2017
Part B Premium $104.90 $109.00
Part B Premium for those just enrolling in Part B for the first time in 2017 or those not having their premium deducted from their social security check $121.80 $134.00
Part B Deductible $166 $183
Part A Hospital Deductible $1288 $1316
Part A Hospital Coinsurance Days 61-90 $322/day $329/day
Part A Hospital Coinsurance Lifetime Reserve Days $644/day $658/day
Skilled Nursing Coinsurance Days 21-100 $161/day $164.50/day

 

For more information on the 2017 Medicare Parts A and B premiums and deductibles, please contact our office at 937-492-8800, or RSVP here for our next workshop.

 

Warning Retirees: 5 (or 6) Annual Enrollment Dates You Don’t Want to Miss

Warning Retirees: 5 (or 6) Annual Enrollment Dates You Don’t Want to Miss

Clip these dates up on your fridge. Write them on your calendar. Sticky note them to your bathroom mirror or your spouse’s forehead (or maybe not). Annual enrollment is approaching!

 

But before we get into the dates, you’ll first want to know…

 

What Is Annual Enrollment?

Annual enrollment is the busy time of the year for Insurance agencies such as ours. Department stores have their black Friday. Local ice cream shops have their last day of school. And Insurance companies have the Annual Enrollment Period. During this roughly 3-month time frame (October 15- December 7), all Medicare beneficiaries are free to change their plans. They can switch from:

  • An Advantage Plan to a Medicare Supplement
  • A Medicare Supplement to an Advantage Plan
  • One Advantage Plan to another
  • One Part D Drug Plan to another
  • One Medicare Supplement to another (Although you can do this at any point during the year)

The Annual Enrollment Period is for any existing Medicare beneficiary. For those just turning 65 and joining Medicare, you have a different enrollment period called the Initial Enrollment Period, which is the 7-month time frame that surrounds your 65th birthday month. But for those of you who have already enrolled for the 1st time, this is for you!

 

There are 6 very important dates for you to remember.

  1. October 1

This is the day we get all the plan changes, details, benefits, and prices for the following year. It is also when we can start talking to you about which ones will best fit your needs.

  1. October 15

Let the games begin! Annual enrollment is officially started. You can now enroll in a new plan.

  1. December 7

I hope you like the choices you’ve made because, at this date, you are locked into your plans for another year. Annual enrollment is closed.

  1. January 1

It’s a new year, a new resolution, and—quite possibly—new insurance. This is the date any changes you made during the open enrollment period go into effect.

  1. January 1

I apologize for the unsettling déjà vu. I know this is a repeat, but I want to emphasize why this date is doubly important: It is also the first day of the Advantage Plan disenrollment period. Just in case you’ve got some buyer’s remorse, Medicare set up a disenrollment period where you can get out of your Advantage Plan.

  1. February 14

All good things must come to an end. This is the last day of Medicare’s disenrollment period. If you are in an Advantage Plan and don’t like it, this is your last chance to drop it!

BONUS: February 14th is also Valentine’s Day. You’re welcome.

 

And that’s it! I hope you commit these dates to memory or you write them down somewhere. If you forget it, you might regret it!

 

To be sure you have covered ALL of your bases, be sure to download our AEP Checklist by clicking here.

 

Look to switch plans during open enrollment?  Call Seniormark at 937-492-8800 for a free consultation.

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