If you have heard that Anthem will be pulling out of Ohio and have either a Medicare Supplement or a Medicare Advantage plan with Anthem, don’t worry. Anthem will still be servicing these policies. Read more: on Anthem’s Website.
Do I Really Need a Medicare Supplement?
David Belk, a doctor and anti-supplement activist says, “…If you have Medicare and buy a supplemental policy with your own money, you are effectively giving an insurance company your money so that they can keep it.”
Wow. This statement is moving. For those who have had a Medicare Supplement Policy for years, it slaps you in the face with regret.
And for those who may not be on Medicare and have yet to purchase Medicare Supplement Insurance, it frees you. It justifies a decision that will save you money on premium month to month.
However, it is not entirely true. He has a point, but—ultimately—it represents a fundamental misunderstanding of what insurance is.
If you take this statement at face value, it would imply that virtually all insurance is worthless.
Here’s why: in the vast majority of cases, people pay into insurance and then rarely use it. This is what keeps insurance companies in the black.
How many people spend thousands over years on homeowner’s insurance and never have their house burn down? How many people purchase car insurance and only experience a couple of fender benders over their lifetime? Are they essentially “giving their money away to an insurance company”? Yes, you could say that, and it wouldn’t be inaccurate, just a bit misleading.
Because you don’t buy insurance for things you expect! Rather, you buy it for things with a high dollar amount of risk and a low probability of happening!
You can’t insure what is high risk and high probability. Take Alex Honnold, for example. He spends his waking hours climbing steep ravines with no safety harness. For hours a day, he is one missed footing away from plummeting to his doom. Do you think he is going to be able to get life insurance? It’s almost laughable. This is a high risk, high probability scenario. Of course no insurance company will take a chance on him!
You can insure against a low risk, low probability scenario, but why would you want to? Do you want pet insurance for your grandson’s gerbil? Obviously not. Even a low-premium insurance plan wouldn’t be worth it. What did you pay for it? 30 bucks? Maybe fifty if it’s some hypoallergenic, exotic breed? Either way, it’s not a high enough risk.
So this begs the question…what does a supplement cover? Is it something that is low probability and high risk?
Well…there are varying coverage levels, but even the lowest premium plans cover Medicare’s scariest coverage gap: the unlimited out-of-pocket spending limit.
Sure, a lot of them cover “nickel and dime” copays and coinsurance costs that virtually eliminate hassle and reduce costs, but this is just icing on the cake. The real substance of a Supplement Plan is that it puts a cap on your potential out-of-pocket spending.
With Medicare alone, there is absolutely no limit to what you can spend.
One of our clients had triple bypass surgery and ended up with a $7,000 bill. My father-in-law with lung cancer had approximately $30-40,000 in charges for outpatient chemotherapy and radiation. I ran into a man who—after a few years of extended illness—racked up over $140,000 in bills that Medicare alone didn’t cover.
Can you imagine the devastation if any of these retirees forfeited Medicare Supplement Insurance? If these individuals had chosen Medicare alone, those outrageous bills would’ve been heaped upon their shoulders.
Now, what are the chances of this happening to you?
Not very high.
But that is the point! What are the chances that your house is going to burn down? What are the chances that your car will get totaled? You can cite statistics like Dr. Belk and say, “Look…not very many people need this insurance.” However, this doesn’t make those isolated cases any less scary. And it doesn’t change the fact that, from 2006-2015, Medicare Supplement Insurance companies consistently paid out over 75% in claims what they gathered in premiums. Insurance is not about whether or not you are going to get out what you pay in; it is about peace of mind.
So yes…I do recommend buying Medicare Supplement Insurance. You don’t necessarily need an expensive, luxury plan, but having something in place is essential. Even if you can’t afford a Supplement, you can (at the very least), purchase a low or no cost Medicare Advantage Plan that will cap your annual out-of-pocket spending at $4-6,000.
This won’t guarantee that you won’t be “giving an insurance company your money” but it will guarantee that you can live your retirement life freely and fearlessly, knowing that—in all those unlikely but possible scenarios—
you’re still covered.
Wondering how much a Medicare Supplement will cost you? Click here to use our Medicare Supplement quoting tool to find out!
Is Signing Up For Medicare Automatic?
It might be. A lot of things are nowadays. You can now set up your bank account to automatically pay for your bills. And do you remember the last time you turned on your computer, and it took 20 min doing automatic updates?
But Medicare enrollment? Most of the time—no. You usually have to call or go online or visit your local security office to enroll…unless…
Did you sign up for social security prior to age 65?
If you did, signing up for Medicare is, in fact, automatic. You will receive your Medicare card in the mail 3 months before you turn 65. As pictured above, it will have the dates your Medicare Part A and B will go into effect and your Medicare number (which you should protect very carefully). As long as you can’t think of a reason why you should delay Part B of Medicare, you are finished with this phase of the Medicare planning process.
But before you exit this window, I do have some bad news: you’re not done yet. You still have some major decisions to make. Do you want a Medicare Advantage Plan? Or a Medicare Supplement? What about Drug plans?
And—quite unfortunately—these decisions are not automatic. But, the good news is that we can help you make those decisions. Just call our office at 937-492-8800 to set up your free, no obligation consultation and we will put your mind at ease.
Turning 65 soon and not sure what to do? Click here to sign up for our free Medicare workshop. No high-pressure sales pitches here, just in-depth discussion about the ins and outs of Medicare!
4 Ways to Make Exercise Fun and Get Healthy in Retirement
If you are concerned about your health as you approach retirement, you are definitely not alone. According to a Merill Lynch Retirement Study, 81% of respondents reported that health is one of the most important ingredients for a happy retirement.
Sure, an excellent way to take charge of your health is to exercise, but sometimes the last thing you want to do is set foot on the treadmill or in the gym. Exercise doesn’t seem like much fun…
Which is why you need to make it fun! This is my recommendation: instead of grudgingly conjuring up the will power to do exercises you hate, instead of dragging your feet to the gym, muttering the adage “it’s good for me”, why not craft a regiment that you actually look forward to each and every day?
Don’t believe it’s possible? Here are 5 ideas that might change your mind!
1. Tie Exercise to a Goal—and Not a Goal Weight Either
And for you older men out there, I am not referring to your blood pressure or cholesterol settling in on the magic numbers either. No, I’m talking about a life goal. Instead of making exercise merely about getting healthy, make it about accomplishing something you’ve always wanted to accomplish. For instance, have you ever wanted to…
- Hike in all 59 National Parks?
- Take a week to bike across your state?
- Finally clean out that attic or shed?
You can even sign up for a Relay for Life or another exercise-related fundraiser to help a good cause reach their goals!
Whether it gives you a sense of personal satisfaction, curbs your appetite for adventure, or helps someone in need, don’t make your goal about how many calories you’re burning; make it about the life you’re leading!
2. Join The Right Crowd…
Unlike most high school peer pressure, peer pressure as you age can be a wonderful encouragement. And it can certainly help you keep active. Think sports leagues. Think hiking groups. Think dance classes. Check online or at a fitness center near you. And if you can’t find one, take a lesson from Jake Chesson, and start one! Being a part of a group will help you stay consistent in your exercise routine, of course. But as you develop friendships and a community, I bet you’ll find yourself enjoying it as well!
3. …Or Just The Right Person
Don’t like crowds? Then use your exercise time to reconnect with just one person you love. Take your spouse out for a long walk by the lake or—if you are lucky enough to live near one—the beach. Exercise with your sister or your brother or a friend you haven’t seen in ages. You can even choose to play a game with a grandkid like kickball, tag, or even old school hopscotch. The Lord knows it takes a lot of energy to keep up with them!
4. Incorporate Exercise into a Hobby!
Do you have a knack for building things? Then stop by Lowe’s and get started! Have you ever tried golf? Why not try 9 holes without a golf cart? Want fresh fruits and vegetables to complement your healthy lifestyle of exercising? Work up a sweat while planting a garden.
The point is you shouldn’t make exercise about exercise. Instead, you should infuse physical activity into your lifestyle, your goals, your hobbies, and the people you love most. It may take a bit of thought and creativity to find physical activities that you are passionate about intrinsically, but once you find them, exercise will cease to be drudgery. Your exercise will make your heart thump in more ways than one.
Turning 65 soon and not sure what to do? Click here to sign up for our free Medicare workshop. No high-pressure sales pitches here, just in-depth discussion about the ins and outs of Medicare!
The Little Known Shortcut Out of an Advantage Plan You Hate
Buyer’s remorse. Everyone has been there. You might feel like you were misled, misinformed, or like you just plain missed it. But—regardless—it doesn’t feel good. And when you believe you’ve been locked into your purchase for a whole year—like people so often think after switching to an Advantage Plan—the regretful, trapped feeling only grows in intensity.
So you can imagine the relief when I tell my clients that there may still be a way out—a little known shortcut out of a seemingly costly dead end. This is exactly what I am telling you today.
It’s Called the Medicare Disenrollment Period
Extending from January 1st to February 14th every year, the Medicare Disenrollment Period offers you an outlet to drop the Advantage Plan you hate. All you have to do is call or write your Advantage Plan provider and notify them. From the time you drop your plan, the changes go into effect the 1st of the following month. No questions asked. You are then automatically signed up for traditional Medicare (Parts A and B).
Warning: Time Crunch Ahead
The vast majority of people will want to get on a Medicare Supplement before they dis-enroll from Medicare Advantage. If this is you, you want to plan ahead to ensure you have time to get it all done.
Although some people will have what is known as a “Guaranteed Issue Right” or a “trial right,” and therefore, won’t have to take the extra steps of getting approved, many people will not. In fact, most have a fairly cramped checklist to complete before February 14th arrives. They will have to
- Shop for a Medicare Supplement
- Apply for a plan (and undergo medical questioning)
- Receive letter of approval from the plan.
- Dis-enroll from their advantage plan.
All within the short 45-day disenrollment period! This is an especially difficult feat if the Medicare Supplement Company is running slow and the “receive letter of approval” portion of the to-do list takes 2 weeks or more.
So start early and finish the course way before Valentine’s Day. Because—although it may not say I love you—nothing kills romance like being stuck on a shoddy Advantage plan.
Any issues or concerns with your Advantage Plan? Contact Seniormark at 937-492-8800 for a free consultation.
How to Detect Medicare Fraud and
Make Up to $1000 Doing It—The 4 Easiest Ways
Medicare fraud is out of control. Experts estimate that anywhere from $50 billion to $180 billion is lost due to Medicare fraud. I’m talking every year! This is astounding. If the experts reporting $180 billion are right, this would account for 30% of Medicare’s total yearly expenses. Imagine what that loss has done to your tax rates!
Given the sheer magnitude of this issue, the government is at a loss for how to handle it. That is why they are looking to you for help. In fact, they are willing to pay you for it…up to $1000 or 10% of the payments recovered (whatever is lower). You qualify for this reward as long as:
- You report it with a specific accusation
- Your claim is approved as potential fraud by Medicare
- The organization or person you are reporting isn’t already under investigation
- Your report leads to at least a $100 recovery of Medicare funds
But before you can call 1-800-MEDICARE or go online to report fraud, you first have to know how to recognize it. So—to help you out—I compiled a list of the easiest ways to beef up your sleuthing skills and detect Medicare fraud.
1. Look Over Your Billing Statements
Fraudsters thrive on inattention. They expect that you won’t check you Medicare Summary Notice or your Explanation of Benefits, and they get away with millions because of it. So scour these documents for inaccuracies. Check for care or medical supplies you didn’t receive or things that were billed twice. You’ll have them shaking in their boots.
2. Ask Questions
It’s been drilled into your head since you were young. If you don’t understand something, just ask! The same goes for Medicare fraud. If you notice something on your bill that you didn’t receive, if you feel as if you received care that wasn’t necessary, or you are just confused, ask your doctor or provider. You don’t want to falsely report your family doctor for fraud, but you also don’t want to let him get away with it if he is guilty. So just ask. If he is innocent, he will provide a clear explanation. If not, maybe you should report him.
3. Be Suspicious of Door-to-door and Over-the-phone Scams
If someone shows up on your doorstep and claims to a representative of Medicare, just slam the door. If you pick up the phone and someone asks for your Medicare number as a part of a “health survey,” hang up. It’s a scam. And these are only two of many! There is a reason why these people are called con artists. They get creative when it comes to fraud. So, as a rule of thumb, if they ask for personal information, it’s probably fraud. And if they claim to be a Medicare representative and ask for your Medicare number, it definitely is. Medicare already has your number; they are the ones that gave it to you!
4. Educate Yourself
This is another principle you’ve been taught since you were young: Knowledge is power. Educating yourself about Medicare fraud (and about Medicare in general) is the single best way to detect Medicare fraud. When you know your enemy, you know the way they operate. You know their common ploys. When you know how Medicare works, you can better recognize when people are exploiting it.
And when you can recognize when people are exploiting it, you are one step closer to being $1000 richer.
Paying too much for your Medicare Supplement Insurance? Call Seniormark at 937-492-8800 to find out how you can save money without reducing your coverage!
Photo source: WRCBtv
When Can I Switch My Medicare Supplement?
There’s your answer. If your Medicare Supplement is giving you a hard time, if it’s holding you back with its sky-high premiums, then get a new one.
But before exiting this window, I need you to consider this one fact.
The Switch Will Not Be a Free-for-all.
In other words, there’s no guarantee you will be able to get into another plan. The first time you enrolled in a Medicare Supplement was different. You were in your Open Enrollment Period, so insurance companies were obligated to give you insurance. Now? Not so much.
Now you will have to prove your insurability through medical questioning. They aren’t looking for perfect health, of course, and they won’t care if you’re on a few blood pressure or cholesterol pills. But this is something to consider…especially if you have a chronic condition. Ask yourself this question: What are the chances that you will be able to get on a plan that is better than your current one based on your health?
Definitely try. This is for sure. You don’t even need to wait until the Annual Enrollment Period (October 15- December 7). You can do it now. There are a lot of companies out there with great rates. It can only help you to shop around.
But heed our warning. Do not discontinue the plan you are on until you get accepted by another plan. We don’t want you to get stuck uninsured or on a plan that doesn’t meet your needs. We know you don’t either.
Looking to switch your Medicare Supplement? Need expert guidance to choose the right plan? Then call Seniormark at 937-492-8800 for a free consultation.
10 Christmas Toys Many Boomers Bought For Their Kids
Black Friday and Cyber Monday have passed, which means that the Christmas season is in full swing. It means that the Hallmark channel will deck their airtime with cheesy but (let’s be honest) heartwarming Christmas movies. It means Nativity reenactments at church. It means the Charlie Brown Christmas special on ABC (Woo!). And in the sugarplum-infested minds of millions of children, it means toys.
So, to stir your Christmas spirit, I want you to think back to the toys your now grown-up kids asked for when they were little tikes. Did you wait in line for hours to purchase these special toys? Did you spread Holiday cheer with a few punches? Or were you one of the more cautious ones who picked up what was left in the aftermath? Whatever your shopping style, you will enjoy this list of nostalgic toys from when your kids were still writing letters to the jolly fellow up north.
It was about 3 ‘o clock in the afternoon, and your still pajama-ed son turned the dials to draw a masterpiece. If his little sister didn’t come around and shake erase his work, it would’ve been world-class art like some Etch-a-Sketch prodigies created. One of the holidays most wanted toys in the 1960s, this toy had longevity, its popularity spanning several decades.
- Cabbage Patch Kids
If you want to talk about toy fads, you cannot leave Cabbage Patch Kids out of the conversation. These chubby, dimpled dolls were all the rage 1983 and 1984. According to NBC News, desperate parent pursuits led to fist fights in ‘83. NBC also claims that demand was so high that they were selling on the black market—for 10 times the retail price! There’s nothing shadier than meeting a trench-coated man in a dark alley to buy a Cabbage Patch doll.
- G.I. Joe
“It’s not a doll. I’ll only say this one more time, Mom: it is an action figure.” Your son didn’t want a stupid Ken doll; it was all about the macho, kick-butt warrior named G.I Joe. According to History.com, it was released in the 1960s, fell in and out of style for a decade, but made a resurgence in the 1980s as Star Wars figurines gained popularity. To this day, he still soldiers on—in toy stores, on screens (2009’s G.I. Joe: Rise of The Cobra), and in comic books.
- Easy-Bake Oven
Every little girl wanted to cook just like Mom. Every Mom wanted to protect her house from toddler-incited combustion. The compromise? It’s called the Easy-Bake Oven, a tiny baker’s dream toy of confectionery delight. Cooking with only the energy of a light bulb, the results were…well…not quite like what Mother makes. Oh well! You still have to admire the culinary enthusiasm of an 8-year old. In Time’s List of the 100 Greatest Toys, Townsend writes, “23 million Easy-Bake Ovens have been sold and more than 140 treats have been (at least somewhat) baked.” Yum. Flavorless, sugar goop on Christmas morn.
- Barrel of Monkeys
It is (completely un-sarcastically) more fun than a literal barrel of monkeys. This very simple game of “string the plastic primates together by their arms” was popular in the 1960s, and I—as a 19 year-old—have played with them. It’s such a classic that I’m sure your kids received it at one point or another.
- Lite Brite
You’ve got Easy-Bake Oven for the future chef. You’ve got Lite Brite for the best future artist (and worst future speller). It’s just a couple hundred colored pegs and a plastic pegboard with a light behind it. I’ll let you—or your kids—put that together.
- Stretch Armstrong
Popular in the 70s, Stretch Armstrong didn’t just work on his biceps. As a well-rounded athlete, he also worked on his flexibility. And, boy, did he get results. Children could taffy pull him to 4 times his length according to Time. And if he is anything like the stretchable Mr. Fantastic toy I had, he is full of cornstarch that hardens over time. I had to bathe my action figure in hot water to keep him loose!
They rolled it out with a little plastic rolling pin. They pressed it through various shape-shifting contraptions to make colored noodles of every shape and size—whether angel hair or linguini. But, through all the madness, 2 things were sure: the distinct scent of Play-Doh and a rainbow of gunk under your son or daughter’s fingernails. According to Mental Floss, 2 billion cans have been sold, equivalent to the weight of 2,000 statues of liberty!
- Silly Putty
Stretch it. Bounce it. Or, if Mental Floss is correct, take it on Apollo 8 in 1968 to secure tools in zero gravity! And these are only a few of the many novel uses of Silly Putty. Did any of your kids ever smash it on a Newspaper to lift off the inked words? I know I did when I was little!
- Star Wars Action Figures
I was reluctant to put this one on the list because I knew I would feel obligated to make a serious confession: I haven’t watched all of the Star War’s movies. But before any Star Wars fanatics banish me to the dark side, I would like to say that…well…yeah…I don’t have a good excuse. Sorry y’all! If it is any consolation, I did include the miniature figurines of Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, and the whole crew in this list. It had to beat out some very fierce competition from Mr. Potato Head, Mrs. Beasley, and Barbie, so be gracious!
And if you are feeling extra gracious (you should be; it’s Christmas time, after all) share this with you kids. Or—if you are the “kid”—share it with your parents. A beautiful time of closeness flurries when memories are shared, and when Christmases past connect with Christmases present.
A warm Merry Christmas from all of us at Seniormark! May God bless you this special season and beyond.
Turning 65 and not sure what to do next? Need Medicare questions answered? Call Seniormark at 937-492-8800 or sign up online for a free consultation.
Should I Sign Up For a Drug Plan? (Even if I’m Not on Expensive Medications)
I don’t know? Should you sign up for home insurance even if your house isn’t on fire?
Of course, this question is absurd. I mean, when was the last time you saw your soot-covered neighbor pant past you, saying, “We left the oven on! I need to go purchase home insurance! And fast!”
But the sad truth is that retirees often do this very thing with their prescription drug coverage. They refuse a drug plan to avoid the premium and then come into our office a month or year later in hopes of getting coverage. Unfortunately, we have to tell them, insurance just doesn’t work like that. Sure, they will be able to get on a Part D drug plan eventually, but it will cost them both in penalties and out-of-pocket expenses.
For the “If” in Life
The point is, like the MetLife commercials put so brilliantly: insurance is for the if in life. What if I get in a fender bender? What if my son needs braces? What if I leave the oven on and the house burns down? You get the idea. For prescription drug coverage, it is the same thing:
- What if I receive an unexpected diagnosis?
- What if I get in an accident?
- What if a sudden illness strikes?
You don’t expect these things to happen, of course, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t possible and shouldn’t be planned for. In fact, a Fidelity study shows how often retirees underestimate their medical expenses. The study discovered that a couple retiring now should expect to pay $245,000 in out-of-pocket expenses even though 48% of retirees in the study estimated they would only spend $50,000. You see, insuring your uncertain future is just an unpleasant but real part of life. It is also why getting on a dug plan is so vital.
Allow me to provide you with a real life example.
“I’d Like to Get on a Drug Plan Now”
In 2012, we had a client come in who refused a drug plan the year previously. Her husband painfully announced that they had some bad news: she had breast cancer. And not only that, her doctor prescribed her Femara, a pill that (in 2012) cost $500 a month. They needed a drug plan! And fast!
But—like I said before—it isn’t that easy. Not only did she incur an irritating premium increase for late enrollment, she had to wait until the Annual Enrollment Period (October 15- December 7) to sign up. And even then, the coverage wasn’t effective until the following year, January 1st. During this wait time, she racked up over $5500 in drug expenses. You can imagine the shock, the discomfort, and the regret the couple felt when we told them the bitter truth.
We Want You to Be Secure!
The goal of this post is not to make you a nervous wreck about your future health. This is about security. It is about educating you about risk, so you can make an informed decision about your coverage needs. Ultimately, it is about making sure you are taken care of when you need it most and expect it least.
In other words, for the “if” in life.
If you are questioning your need for a Part D prescription drug plan, we can help! Just call Seniormark at 937-492-8800, and we will be more than happy to assist you.
We are also offering “Solving the Medicare Puzzle” workshops in December for those who want to learn more about Medicare. Sign up for the date and location you choose here: Seniormark workshops. Hope to see you there!
Here’s a Reliable Online Tool to Help You Choose a Part D Drug Plan!
It’s annual enrollment season again (October 15—December 7), the time of year when you can finally drop that drug plan you hate and shop a new one. The entirety of the drug plan market is available to you, and that’s exciting (well…as exciting as it gets with prescription drugs).
But it’s also overwhelming. I want to make sure you know that a drug plan is unique to you. It is based on your situation, your preferred pharmacy, your location, and—most importantly—your list of medications. It is a challenge to consider everything, especially if you don’t have the right tools.
This is why, on Medicare.gov, they have a shopping tool for drug plans. You put in all your information, and the system ranks all of the available drug plans based on total cost.
Total Cost is the Boss!
Total cost is not just the premium. It includes the premium, of course. But it takes into account all that you pay in an entire year in a given plan. This includes copays, coinsurance, deductibles and all the unexpected costs a plan may hide under the cloak of a low premium.
A plan may be $18.40 a month, but if it doesn’t cover one of your prescriptions or has excessive copays, it may not be the best-valued plan for you. This is why total cost should dictate your choices, not the premium.
Using the Medicare.gov drug plan shopping tool takes this into account, and it’s actually easy to use. Just follow these simple steps, and let it do the number crunching for you:
- Go to https://www.medicare.gov.
- Click on “Find health and drug plans”.
- Enter your zip code into the general search bar.
- When a pop-up window appears, choose your county.
- Enter your basic information.
- Enter your medications and dosage.
- Click “My Drug List is Complete”.
- Add your pharmacy.
- Select “Prescription Drug Plans (with Original Medicare)” and click “Continue to Plan Results”.
- Shop the available plans!
(Any questions or concerns? Just leave it in the comments. We love to hear from you!)
Good luck and happy Annual Enrollment Period! I recommend taking care of all the changes to your health care plans now, so that when the holidays roll around, (they’ll be here faster than you think; they always are!) you don’t have to deal with it!
In other words, focus on what needs to be done now, so you can focus on what really matters later.
Think you’re spending too much on Medicare Supplement Insurance? Call Seniormark at 937-492-8800 for a free consultation!
Be sure that you have covered all of your bases by downloading our handy “Annual Enrollment Checklist”!