Medicare can be very confusing for those newly eligible, and often I see the same issues coming up for those who are trying to navigate the Medicare maze. Here are few points to try and help clarify the process.
Many confuse the Parts of Medicare with the various Supplemental Plans available to them to fill the gaps in Medicare. The reason is that some of the Supplemental Plans have the same letter name as parts of Medicare. You have Parts A, B, and C with Medicare, but these are also names of Supplemental Plans that go with Medicare. Basically, Medicare has Part A – Hospital Coverage, Part B – Medical or Doctors’ Coverage, Part C – Medicare Advantage Plans, and Part D – Prescription Drug Coverage. You also have Plans A, B and C which are Supplemental Plans that cover the gaps in Medicare.
A Medicare Advantage Plan is not the same as a Medicare Supplemental Plan. When you sign up for a Medicare Advantage Plan, you are signing up for Part C with Medicare, even though these plans are administered through private insurance companies. The insurance companies handle all costs associated with your care, but are subsidized by the Medicare program. These plans are usually HMO’s that require referrals to see specialists, and you must use Network providers in your service area to be covered. Supplemental Plans are PPO’s with no Network restrictions. However, you must use providers that take Medicare.
Cobra is not considered creditable coverage for Medicare. If you lose your job and are Medicare-eligible, if you go on Cobra, it is not considered creditable coverage, which means you could be charged a penalty on your Medicare Part B and Part D premiums once you do sign up for Medicare.
If your employer has 20 or more employees, you can remain on your employee group plan (as well as your dependents) if you are actively working, even though you are eligible for Medicare. The prominent word here is actively working, which means you cannot be on Cobra or laid-off from work.
Higher earners pay more for their Medicare Part B premium and their Medicare Part D premium. If you make over $88,000 (as a single person) or over $176,000 (as a couple), you will pay more for your Part B and Part D premiums. It is called IRMMA (Income-Related Monthly Adjusted Amount), and it increases in increments based on income level.