Ep #36: Medicare Advantage Within and Outside of FEHB

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At 65, something happens to all of us where we have this forced decision that we have to deal with when it comes to Medicare—and it opens up a few more options. There are a lot of rumors about Medicare that go around (some true, some not true), so facing plan changes and all the uncertainties can be a bit overwhelming. Today, Micah and Tammy get into some of the most important parts of this key decision so you will have a better idea of how to plan for when that time comes.

Listen in as they outline the A and B options of Medicare, as well as how being retired vs. employed affects what happens when you turn 65. You will also get insight into the different options out there with Medicare Advantage and how to use your FEHB to add on to those benefits. Micah and Tammy also discuss some common issues people run into when making the decision of which plan to go with and when you need to be making decisions.

What We Cover:

  • The number one question for clients looking at retirement.
  • What happens at 65 and details on options A and B.
  • How HSAs and FSAs are affected by your Medicare choices.
  • Why you want to make your decisions at age 64.
  • ERMA surcharges and why you need to take them into account.
  • The range of options with Medicare Advantage and how it works.
  • FEHB and how we recommend you add to those benefits.
  • Important costs to make sure your plan covers.
  • How pre-existing conditions work and where to focus.

Resources for this Episode:

Ideas Worth Sharing:

This is one of the big turning points once you decide what to do about Medicare. – Tammy Flanagan Click To Tweet

The only downside of taking part A if you’re still an employee is that you are then no longer eligible to a health savings account.” – Tammy Flanagan Click To Tweet

Some of the best plans that work well with Medicare are some of the least expensive plans. – Tammy Flanagan Click To Tweet

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Full Episode Transcript
With Your Hosts
Micah Shilanski and Tammy Flanagan

 You can spend. You can save. What is the right thing to do? Federal benefits, great savings plans too. You can save your own way, with help from Micah and Tammy. You can save your own way. Save your own way.

Micah Shilanski:  Welcome back to another amazing episode of the Plan Your Federal Retirement podcast. I’m your co-host, Micah Shilanski, and with me as usual is the amazing Tammy Flanagan. Hey Tammy, how’s it going?

Tammy Flanagan:        Hey, Micah, I’m doing just fine today. It’s one of those days that I’m running like two steps forward with three steps back, but I think we all have those days from time to time.

Micah Shilanski:  We do. It feels like a Monday, even though it’s not, right? It’s those things. Yeah.

Tammy Flanagan:        It’s the price that I paid for being lazy over the weekend.

Micah Shilanski:  That’s right. Want to enjoy and do other things, and then all of a sudden life comes up and you still have things you got to get done, right?

Tammy Flanagan:        I know. What happened to those days when a weekend was just for relaxing?

Micah Shilanski:  Those were in the past.

Tammy Flanagan:        That’s right.

Micah Shilanski:  Hopefully in the future, maybe. We’ll go with that. But that ties into a little bit what we were chatting about, Tammy, about that aspect that sometimes we get so busy in our day to day lives, we’re not actually looking to take advantage of everything that we have in front of us, especially just talking about federal benefits. And this is something that you and I preach about from the pulpit, so to speak, is we get out there and says, you know what, we really need to be chatting. People need to look at their healthcare plans and you may want to make a change, but no one does. And I can understand that it’s the fear of the unknown, right? You’re going to change from a plan that you have to something you don’t have. Is it really worth that change, versus just sticking with what you know. But at 65, something happens to all of us and now we have this forced decision that we have to make. And it opens up a few other options when we start talking about Medicare.

Tammy Flanagan:        That’s right. Yeah, Medicare is… I’d say it’s probably my number one question for my clients, whether they’re pre-retirement or whether they’ve been retired for a while and they’re facing age 65. It’s really a big decision people have to make, especially for those who haven’t gotten used to changing health plans. They’re afraid to change health plans. They’re not sure what the future holds, and they’ve heard a lot of rumors about Medicare; some true, some not true. And so they’re facing all these uncertainties and these things that they’ve been hearing about, but haven’t had to deal with. So this is a big turning point. This is one of those big decision points once you hit that point of having to decide what to do about Medicare.

Micah Shilanski:  Yeah. So Tammy, let’s talk about at first a little bit what happens at 65. What’s the eligibility for Medicare? Let’s talk about Medicare A and Medicare B real fast, and then let’s dive into the details. Now, listeners, we went through Medicare a little bit more in depth, and I’m pretty sure it’s episode number four. So one of the first ones Tammy and I did out of the get go. So if you want more information on how the basics of Medicare A and B work, tune into that episode. And you can find it at planyourfederalretirement.com/four; the number four, and that’ll show that episode. So, Tammy, real quick, walk us through, great, I’m 65, I’m retired, what happens?

Tammy Flanagan:        Well, you can’t forget that you’re turning 65 if you have a mailbox, because you will start to notice that every time the postman comes, you’re going to be noticing a lot of information in your mailbox because everybody else knows you’re 65, even if you don’t know it’s coming, because you’ll start getting advertisements on Medicare supplements, Medicare advantage plans, Medicare advocates, Medicare consultants, you name it. Everybody wants your business because there’s some money to be made in this field from the insurance side of the stage. So you have that, then you have the idea that I’m a federal employee or I’m a federal retiree. And so you have to make more decisions about Medicare if you’re retired and your health insurance is being deducted from your retirement check, rather than if you’re still an employee or your spouse is still an employee and you have your health insurance deducted from a paycheck.

                           So, let’s start with the employees who are still paying for their health insurance out of a current employment paycheck, where the only decision you really have to make at that point is to take part A. And part A is the hospital part. It’s paid for by the Medicare tax that we pay every two weeks. So there’s no premium, there’s no big deal decision that you have to make, because it’s free. Who doesn’t like free? Well, sure. Is there any downside to it? Well, the only downside to taking part A if you’re still an employee is that you’re then no longer eligible to contribute to a health savings account.

Micah Shilanski:  Right.

Tammy Flanagan:        So if you have a high deductible health plan, you’re taking full advantage of the tax savings of an HSA, you won’t be able to do that. So some employees will not even sign up for part A, because they’d like to continue to be taking advantage of that health savings account until they retire. So that’s my feeling about the employees.

Micah Shilanski:  And Tammy, on those employees, let’s say they didn’t have a health savings account, which again, I’m a huge fan of, as you are, right? They’re just outstanding. But if they had the FSA, the flexible spending accounts, could they go under Medicare part A and keep their FSA?

Tammy Flanagan:        They can. There’s no such that’s limitation on that. It’s only on the HSA. It has a tax rule attached to it. But for some reason, you can’t have any other health insurance; Medicare or anything else, if you’re contributing to an HSA. So that would be the only exception, but you can put off your decision for part B. You never really need part D, which is the prescription part because you have prescription coverage on your federal health plan, and I know later in this podcast we’re going to talk more about part C, which is the really confusing part of Medicare, but we’ll get to that in just a few minutes. But if we flip over to retirees who are facing the Medicare decision, whether they’re just turning 65 or where they already turn 65 as an employee. So not only do they need to think about Medicare, but they’re retiring, so they have to make this decision at the same time they’re transitioning into retirement, which can also be a bit of a challenge because there’s so many decisions that have to be made when you retire.

                           But then we have to figure out, do we need part B? Because we’re already in part A or part A is easy if we’re just turning 65. It’s free. So I think most of us are going to not have too much problem enrolling in part A and using that when the doctor says we’re being admitted to the hospital. But part B covers outpatient care doctor visits, lab work, physical therapy, any type of service that’s going to help you recover from an illness, whether it’s skilled care, whether it’s even in-home healthcare, that comes under part B. And you start to think about it and you say, well, I already have that coverage under my federal health planning.

                           They cover outpatient care, lab work, physical therapy, all of that is covered, so why would I want to pay extra and add part B, if I’m already paying a premium to have my federal health insurance that covers the same stuff? So the federal plans know this. The federal plans also know that they don’t require, they can’t require you to take part B. They would like you to take it because then Medicare becomes primary and they’re off the hook for about 80% of the bill that comes from the doctor or the provider. So think of it in terms of what are they doing to give you an incentive to enroll in part B.

                           And that’s where it starts to get interesting because many of the plans do provide incentives. Anywhere from a partial Medicare reimbursement. So they will help you pay part of that premium, to waving all of your copays and deductible and co-insurance, so you have no out-of-pocket expense when you go to the physical therapist, when you go to have lab work, when you get that MRI, it’s all covered, 100%. There’s no 15% co-insurance, no $30 co-pay. So that’s another incentive. And some of the best plans that work well with Medicare are actually some of the least expensive plans. So you can cut your premium down sometimes as much as in half by enrolling in one of the FEHB plans that really works well and was designed to work with Medicare.

Micah Shilanski:  So those are the important things. Again, you want more information how those work, then absolutely tune in that episode number four. The big thing, Tammy, as you said, you won’t forget you’re turning 65, because everything gets… and your mailbox is blowing up, but you really need to make that decision. My opinion is make that decision in advance what you’re going to do. You should know at 64, even not before then, what your plan’s going to be at 65. Are you going to enroll… Medicare part A, we’re going to say, yep, that’s a given. If you’re retired, you’re probably going to enroll in that one. But then part B, are you going to enroll in it or not? Tammy and I would probably say hands down, and Tammy correct me if I’m wrong here, but I don’t want to speak too much for you, but I would definitely say we recommend almost across the board everybody sign up for Medicare part B. And especially if you don’t sign up within a certain time, you get hit with a pretty substantial penalty.

Tammy Flanagan:        Yeah, I agree with that Micah, 100%. The only thing I would add to that is our IRMA friends; the people who have nice retirements. A lot of our federal retirees have pretty decent income in retirement. So we preach, we want you to have a decent income in retirement. We want you to replace your salary with your retirement, but in doing so, you’re going to be caught up in these income related monthly adjustment amounts, which is another way of saying a surcharge for being a wealthy retiree. And a lot of us wouldn’t even consider us wealthy. We’re just paying our bills in retirement and still living our life, but we get hit with these surcharges, which can be pretty pricey. The going rate for Medicare right now is about 150 a month, 148, ’50, to be exact, per person.

                           But when you start adding up the IRMA surcharges, that takes it up above 200, sometimes above 300. It’s graduated based on how much your income is. So for some of our retirees, they have to take that into account along with the benefits of taking that Medicare part B. And that’s where it gets a little dicey, and that’s where I might tell somebody to delay it for a year or two, because even a 10% or a 20% surcharge on the standard premium is going to cost you more for the rest of your life, but it’s going to save you thousands of dollars if you’re still in that IRMA category, especially if you just recently retired. So it’s something to consider, but it is a trade off.

Micah Shilanski:  And Tammy, that goes back to the planning point. This isn’t something you need to make a decision of at 65, right? This needs to be well in advance, and our clients that when we’re planning this, we know if they’re going to be in IRMA or not. And if we know that when they retire between 58 and 60, guess what we have time to fix it? You have time to be ahead of this curve to make sure they’re not being penalized. So, don’t think it’s something… there’s nothing you can do about it. There’s different planning things. The worst thing you can do is turn 65 and say, great, now what am I going to do? Because now your planning opportunities are really limited.

Tammy Flanagan:        Right. Yeah. So there are some decisions. There are some choices you have, but it really pays to look at the big picture. Consider changing your federal plan. Consider not enrolling in Medicare part B to see what that would look like, versus taking it, because about 25% of our retirees who are eligible for Medicare don’t enroll. And I’ve talked to some of them who are happy with their decision. They’ve stayed fairly healthy. They really haven’t paid much out-of-pocket for healthcare. So there is something to be said for that choice. I just would tread there very cautiously, because there’s a long life after age 65 for many of us. That life could last another 40 years, and it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s going to be a healthy 40 years. There could be a lot of chronic illnesses that we encounter in that last third of our life.

Micah Shilanski:  Well, Tammy, let’s talk a little bit more about these Medicare advantage plans, right? We’re talking about Medicare A, we’re talking about Medicare B, as in Bravo, and a little bit Medicare D. We’re not going to get to that one because it doesn’t really apply, but this is Medicare C; Medicare advantage, right? The different plans are out there, and there’s a whole wide range of options, and especially as we’re getting closer to open season. If you are already 65 or turning it, this is a good time to look at these and evaluate, how do they work.

Tammy Flanagan:        Right. So, whenever you think about Medicare, think about being a fork in the road. So, the right side, when you go this way, you’re going to take Medicare A and B. And as federal retirees, you’re going to keep your federal health plan, maybe switch plans, or you might have TRICARE for life, if you’re a retired military. That’s also part of that fork in the road to the right. But then there’s the fork in the road to the left, and that’s the Medicare advantage fork. That’s totally separate. That’s a whole different type of healthcare. And what complicates it even further is you can sign up for a Medicare advantage plan. On Medicare’s website, they have a plan finder where you put in your zip code and it’s going to list all the advantage plans where you live, and those are available to anybody in your town. Doesn’t matter if they work for the government, didn’t work for the government, they’re open to everybody who’s 65, who’s eligible for Medicare.

                           Federal retirees now have some Medicare advantage options built in to their FEHB plan. So I like those. I’m a little cautious because they’re new and I don’t know enough about them, but there’s some nice things about them, because they build in these part C benefits, which you may have seen these on TV, where you get silver sneakers, gym membership included, you get some meal delivery if you’re laid up at home and you can’t even get to the grocery store. They give you some transportation to your non-emergency doctor visits. So if you can’t drive, maybe you just had hip replacement, they’ll take you. So they have that included in them, which is what all Medicare advantage plans seem to have these days to encourage people to sign up, to entice people to sign up.

Micah Shilanski:  Right.

Tammy Flanagan:        So that makes them popular. Believe it or not, we choose our healthcare because we get a gym membership. Yay. Not because they provide excellent healthcare coverage. So that’s the part I’m concerned about, because when we need healthcare, when we’re really sick, when we need a big surgery, when we have a cancer or we have something that could really be serious, we want the best healthcare around. We want the doctor that specializes in that illness. We want the one who’s done 1500 surgeries of that kind. And keep in mind some of the Medicare advantage plans are HMOs, where you can’t go outside of the network. And if you do, you’re going to be paying out-of-pocket. So watch for that. And a lot of those ones that you’ll find on the Medicare plan finder are that way. In fact, when you look through there, and I would encourage everyone to give it a shot, try it out, put your zip code in and then see where your doctors are.

                           See how many there are. See if they’re the same ones you’re going to now. And nine times out of 10, they won’t be. So I would steer away, at least for now, especially since we have the option of having FEHB, which is in my opinion so much better. I would steer away from those ones on medicare.gov. I really think they’re fraught with some hidden caution signs. The ones through FEHB, there’s Aetna Medicare Advantage, there’s United Healthcare Medicare Advantage, there’s Kaiser Permanente, if you’re a Kaiser fan. Those plans include FEHB benefits in addition to the advantage benefits. They’re going to enroll you automatically in part D, by the way; the prescription benefit plan, so beware of that. And part D has its own IRMA surcharges.

                           So, for instance, if I enroll in the Medicare Advantage Plan under Aetna through the FEHB, I have to enroll also in the advantage option. So I’m going to enroll during open season in Aetna Medicare Advantage. Once I’m in it, I’m going to get a letter from Medicare saying you got to also enroll in the advantage plan and that’s going to automatically put you into part D. So if you’re affected by Irma, you’re going to all of a sudden get a bill for part D; that surcharge. Yeah. So a lot of people were surprised by that last year who tried that out and didn’t realize they were going to incur that surcharge. But from the surface of what I see, they seem like a good deal. They give you some Medicare reimbursement in most of the plans. In fact, some of them give you a significant Medicare reimbursement.

                           Those Kaiser plans can be well over $200 a month so they’ll cover some of the Irma if you’re in Southern California, is one place where the reimbursement is pretty high. So they’re worth taking a look at. I have a feeling for the 2021 open season coming up in November and December, we’re going to hear a lot more about these because these advantage plans have taken over the country. Third, I think it’s now 40% of all Medicare beneficiaries are in advantage plans.

Micah Shilanski:  Wow. No, that’s also a little bit of a skewed number if I may, because keep in mind, that’s talking about Medicare recipients as a whole, not just the federal employee side. Now, Tammy, and I know you didn’t say this, but I want to be really clear to our listeners, at no point in time are we talking about getting rid of FEHB and just doing Medicare only. That is not this conversation. This is you’re always, in our opinion, going to keep your FEHB, your Federal Employee Health Benefits. It’s phenomenal. And then it’s great, how do we add to those benefits, so you get better coverage in the future?

Tammy Flanagan:        Yeah. Now, if somebody did want to use one of the part C plans and use the Medicare plan finder, go into one of those privately run Medicare advantage plans, they can suspend their federal health insurance, try that out. They would have to stay in it for a year, because they can’t cancel the suspension until the next open season. But that would be a way if you really were talking to your neighbor and they had this wonderful advantage plan and you wanted to try it out, you can do that. And you might like it as well, but don’t cancel your FEHB, suspend it. The form is RI 79-9. You can find that form on OPM’s website. And I think we’re going to have a link to it on this podcast as well.

Micah Shilanski:  Yes ma’am. So you could jump onto our website planyourfederalretirement.com/36. This is our 36th episode, and we’re going to have a whole list of those resources Tammy was talking about, the Medicare finder, the links in OPM, the local plans, as well as a link to that RI form. And so Tammy, talking about that as well, there’s an aspect to it that says, people are worried this is great. I’m going to make this switch. I’m going to speak to the emotional side, right? Because I really think we make a lot of healthcare decisions on insurance emotionally. Says, you know what? I’ve been in this plan for the last 30, 40 years of my career. It’s been good. I’m going to switch to this plan. And now I’m stuck. Now I’m stuck in this new plan. It doesn’t cover anything. What do I do? But the reality is they’re not really stuck if they make a change, are they?

Tammy Flanagan:        No. They’re not stuck. And I think they’re surprised many people are surprised to find out that, this plan works! Hey, it covers the same things that my old plan covered. I did an experiment. I’ll tell you about my little experiment I did in my community. Before I left Virginia, I had lived on a street. It was in a street that was established in the 1950s. So we had a lot of federal retirees, a lot of older federal retirees. So I had a little lunch party one day and it was during open season. It was when we first had a plan called Aetna Direct. It was the plan, it’s still around, that’s designed to work with Medicare. This was before we even talked about advantage plans. So I invited all the neighbors over who had FEHB, who were retired and they all had Blue Cross standard option, which is the most popular federal health plan.

                           Also, one of the most expensive federal health plans. So I approached them to say, I wanted to show you guys this new plan that OPM has out that’s through Aetna. And it’s really designed to work for people like you who have Medicare, who are retired, where Medicare becomes primary, gives you some money back. It gives you a health fund to help you cover the cost of part B or the cost of your hearing aid, copay, or whatever it is you want to use it for. So after I was done with my spiel, I must’ve been a good salesman because they all switched. And then I got worried and I’m thinking, oh my gosh, what if this doesn’t work out and they’re going to all blame me for something horrible, horrible health insurance.

                           But to tell you the truth, since that day which was probably now seven years ago, they’re all still in the advantage plan. One woman has passed away and I talked to her daughter. I said, when your mom died, did you get a lot of bills? Did you have to pay anything out of pocket? She said, not a dime. She said, everything said Medicare paid this, Aetna paid that, we pay zero. So even through multiple surgeries, multiple hospitalizations, multiple follow-up care, her mom had zero out-of-pocket. So everybody’s been pleased with it, but they were really hesitant at first to switch because they’d had the same plan for 40 years, 50 years in some cases.

Micah Shilanski:  And Tammy, what I like to tell my clients is let’s get to a point where we think we’re comfortable making the switch, right, and maybe we take your EOBs, right, your explanation of benefits and go look at this new plan and say, great. How would those have been covered? Right? Because we don’t know what’s going to happen in the future. That’s the big unknowns. We do know what your medical care costs have been for the last couple of years. So you could go and get those and say, great, this is what I’m currently getting.

                           And I like those EOBs because that’s an insurance language that actually shows what the doctors are billing for. And we can look at those and say, great. How would that apply to this new plan? And again, it’s a little bit more of an emotional checkbox because 99% of the time it’s going to be covered. We can see how it’s covered and then say, great, give this a shot for three months. And if you don’t like it, then let’s use that change a life event and let’s move back into your old plan. Let’s only take that three months of risk. If you like it for three months, great. Let’s keep it another three months and let’s have that same discussion and let’s make sure you’re comfortable. Because again, you’re not making a 40 year decision. You can make that switch, which is just phenomenal.

Tammy Flanagan:        Yeah. And I think it’s important for them to know that, that they have that way up. But it’s also important to know that every single FEHB plan has a catastrophic cap. So the worst that’s going to happen, worst case scenario, you’ve got a million dollar open-heart surgery. You’re still only going to pay 5,000. That’s the most you’re on the hook for. So don’t worry about that. And in most cases, when you combine Medicare with FEHB, you’re never going to meet that cap because you’d only meet it through prescriptions because everything else, inpatient, outpatient is generally going to be covered 100%. Although keep in mind, some plans will have an out of network condition where you can’t, like Blue Cross basic, very popular plan amongst retirees with Medicare. But there’s a clause that says, if you go outside of our preferred provider network, we don’t cover it. So Medicare will still pay their 80%, but you’ll be on the hook for the 20% that Medicare didn’t pay. So keep in mind, there are some plans that require you to use their providers or their network of providers.

Micah Shilanski:  And Tammy we’ve had clients that have had to have heart transplants, brain surgery, right? Some pretty catastrophic things, are medevaced out from remote Alaska to Anchorage, then medevaced down to the lower 48. And you’re talking large seven-figure bills, right? Pushing eight figures as these are coming in. And the most that my clients have had to pay out of pocket is really for the spouse to go down on those trips or for the hotel, right? The medical bills are taken care of by insurance, knock on wood. They’ve been really good, again, FEHB does a great job, Medicare does a great job in that coordination.

                           So in my opinion, I tell clients is the most out of pocket you’re going to spend is probably about 10 grand a year. You have a catastrophic limit, but then you have the practical stuff. Your spouse is going to come down, a loved one’s going to come down. There’s going to be other expenses that are going to come up if those catastrophic things that aren’t directly insurance related that are going to be out of pocket. But again, you’re talking a once in a lifetime, hopefully, event and maybe a $10,000 out-of-pocket expense, which most retirees they can absorb if that happens.

Tammy Flanagan:        Right. And I would say, especially for people living in Alaska or any remote region, really watch that air transport because that can be, I’ve seen people pay 25 grand out of pocket for air ambulance. So be sure that your plan does cover that. And I think there’s varying degrees of coverage. I was just looking to see about Medicare. And it does say that Medicare in rural areas will automatically meet the medical necessity for air ambulance transportation, if the professional, if the doctor determines that it’s necessary due to time or geographical factors. So that can help people who do live in those remote regions. Where on the other hand, if you’re in Northern Virginia, outside of Washington, DC, and you want the air ambulance to take you to Washington State, that’s another story. You’ll probably be paying out of pocket for that.

Micah Shilanski:  That’s an out-of-pocket expense, right? So get hurt in Alaska. Wait, don’t get hurt. That’s planning. Stay healthy.

Tammy Flanagan:        Stay healthy. Yep.

Micah Shilanski:  Okay. So this provides a lot of flexibilities to people, which is what I’m hearing, right? Now, and again, a little good disclosure in this, Tammy and I have a limited experience in these Medicare advantage plans. They’re relatively new. We don’t have a lot of clients that have moved into them. We like the way that they look, I’m having more clients this year and next year. They’ve already agreed that they’re going to start moving into some of these plans, which I think is going to be exciting. So the nice part is it’s going to be better coverage. You’re going to get potentially money back from these insurances or to help pay for your Medicare part B premium you got to pay. So out of pocket really isn’t going up. It’s probably potentially going to go down in some cases because we’re changing plans, which is outstanding. And then you have an undo button, which is really nice. If you get into it and you don’t like it, we can use that qualifying life event to go back to your old plan.

Tammy Flanagan:        Yeah. Another thing I’ll mention to people who are making this Medicare decision is if you already have a pre-existing condition such as something that requires name-brand drugs or specialty medications, focus on those costs, because remember that when you’re signing up for part A and part B, you don’t have outpatient drug coverage. So if you’re filling prescriptions that are quite pricey, if you didn’t have good prescription coverage, then make sure if you’re switching plans, you pick a plan that’s going to continue to cover that prescription at a low out-of-pocket expense.

                           That can be one of the most important factors when you’re switching plans. So watch those prescription drug costs. And sometimes that determines the best plan for you. There are some traditional plans, like NALC, Letter Carriers, High Option, Blue Cross basic, GEHA low option or standard option. Even the high option if you have pricey prescriptions. These plans will work well with Medicare, even though they don’t necessarily give you a Medicare reimbursement, all of them. But they can be good plans if you have a spouse who’s younger, if you still have kids on the plan where you need to cover not only you with Medicare, but also family members who don’t have Medicare. So sometimes you have to pick a plan that’s overall good coverage. Not only just good prescription coverage, but good for family members who don’t have the benefit of Medicare. 

Micah Shilanski:  Yeah. I like that. Well, Tammy, this podcast is all about great information and also action items that our listeners can take and start implementing this week. And I would say one of the things as we get closer to open season, I would ask yourself and encourage you to make a plan. What coverage do you really need most times? And if we’re younger than 65, right, we’re at that mid-career, maybe that’s looking at an HSA, a health savings account, maybe that’s changing your current plan, or you overpaying a little too much for health insurance. Now it’s okay to do that. And some of my clients really like to, but my requirement is you make an educated and informed decision. If you’re like, look, I want to keep my current plan because it makes me feel good and I sleep at night and I know I’m overpaying, great. That’s an educated, informed decision. Knock yourself out. But don’t do it just out of ignorance because we don’t want to look at this, because it is your money. So that’s the first thing I would say, what coverage do you really need? And start looking at your plans.

Tammy Flanagan:        Right. Also if you’re thinking about choosing or changing plans, talk to your doctors, talk to the billing offices of the providers that you’re currently using to make sure they have that plan in their network. Most providers belong to three, four, even five different networks, so good chance they are, but just be sure of that. Especially if it’s a provider that you don’t want to switch out of.

Micah Shilanski:  That’s a great tip. The last thing I want to say on an action item is when you’re looking at these plans, if you look at it and take it from the lens of saying, if you couldn’t have your current plan, because it went away. So I’m going to pick on Blue Cross because so many of us have that, right? If Blue Cross went away and you couldn’t have that plan, what would be your alternative option? What would you go to and choose and do?

Tammy Flanagan:        I like that one. That’s a good one. Nobody wants to ever think that that plan could go away. But what if it did? And it’s happened with some big plans through the years. So it does happen. And at the very least when open season does come around, at least look at your current plan, look at the front cover of the 2022 plan brochure to see how your plans’ changing. I’ve gotten numerous calls from people come January, February saying, oh, Tammy, I didn’t know my plan was going up $100 a month. Why didn’t somebody tell me?

                           Well, they told you to check the brochure. So, do that during open season when there’s still time to reevaluate and re-look at some other plans because there are so many opportunities during open season. Whether you’re working and you’re choosing FSA or flexible spending account options, whether you need that extra dental coverage, because you got three crowns and a root canal coming up in 2022. Or you want LASIK eye surgery, so you’re going to pick up a vision plan that covers that. So there’s so many things and ways that we can save money by choosing and making good choices when it comes to health plans and all the associated benefits that we have access to during open season.

Micah Shilanski:  I love it. Well, if you’ve gotten this far on the podcast, you know what we’re going to ask for, right? Make sure you share this with a friend and a coworker. This podcast continues to grow because of you, our listeners. You can jump on our website at planyourfederalretirement.com/36, as in 36. And you’re going to see the list of resources Tammy and I were chatting about today.

And we would love to hear from you. Drop us a line. There’s a chat box in there. You can send us your questions and comments. We love hearing from our listeners because that’s where we get our great ideas and podcasts to talk about is directly from you. And until next time, happy planning.

Hey, before you go, a few notes from our attorneys. Opinions expressed
herein are solely those of Shilanski & Associates, Incorporated, unless
otherwise specifically cited. Material presented is believed to be from
reliable sources, and no representations are made by our firm as to other
parties, informational accuracy, or completeness. All information or ideas
provided should be discussed in detail with an advisor, accountant, or legal
counsel prior to implementation.

Content provided herein is for informational purposes only and should
not be used or construed as investment advice or recommendation
regarding the purchase or sale of any security. There is no guarantee that
any forward-looking statements or opinions provided will prove to be
correct. Securities investing involves risk, including the potential loss of
principle. There is no assurance that any investment plan or strategy will be
successful

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