Use Plan Finder to shop for Medicare

Renee – Hawaii: On the website I have been comparing drug plans. I have narrowed plans to those with identical drug tiers for the drugs I use and those with plan star ratings I thought acceptable. Deductibles are not a problem for me. For each plan, the preferred pharmacies and their convenience are acceptable. What else should I consider among the plans? Have I missed something?  At this point is it logical for me to select a plan based on total cost as shown on the Medicare website?

Phil Moeller: Kudos to Renee for doing such a great job using Medicare’s Plan Finder website to figure out the best way to pick a Part D drug plan, either as a stand-alone choice or bundled in with a Medicare Advantage plan. The projected cost figures are only ballpark accurate, but still helpful. My only additional advice before selecting a plan is to visit the websites of your “finalists” and see how easy or hard it is to find information that you will need should you join that plan. Then I’d call the plan’s consumer hotline or contact number. Ask for details on how their plan works. What makes them better than other plans? Do they have any additional coverages not mentioned on Plan Finder? How helpful and knowledgeable is the person you speak to? If a plan doesn’t do a great job meeting your needs before you become a customer, imagine how disappointed you might be after you’ve purchased the policy.

Tamara – S.C.: My parents, who are 69 years old, just sold their house in Pennsylvania and moved to Florida. They need to find new health insurance. In Pennsylvania, their Medicare was the secondary insurance. Now that they are in Florida, it looks like Medicare will become their primary. Do you have any suggestions on where they should begin shopping for insurance?  I recommended they go to the closest Social Security office and start there. They will need a health insurance plan that covers them out of state in case they travel to visit family in Virginia and South Carolina. They are also concerned about what health plan to get for my disabled brother who is 47 years old and will be living with them. He receives Supplemental Security Income (he was born with cerebral palsy and is severely cognitively impaired).  I was hoping they could find a plan for him that would continue if and when something happens to my parents (his primary caregivers).  He most likely would then have to come live with me in South Carolina.

Phil Moeller: Social Security is NOT the place to call for Medicare coverage tips. The agency processes some Medicare eligibility, enrollment and premium payments. But it has nothing to do with the actual Medicare health plans available to your parents. As for their specific situation, I would need to know more about why their move from Pennsylvania to Florida changed their Medicare from secondary to primary. Perhaps one of them retired and lost access to employer group coverage? But if they already were retired, unless they worked for the federal government, all employer retiree plans already pay secondary to Medicare. So I am puzzled. Also, as you may know, each of your parents will need their own Medicare coverage, as Medicare covers only individuals and not families. From your description of your brother, he may be eligible for Medicaid insurance coverage if he is not already receiving it. Your best bet is to get help with Medicare and Medicaid possibilities for your parents and your brother from the Florida office of the State Health Insurance Assistance Program. Ask to speak with a trained Medicare counselor. This is a free service. Before calling, you should gather details about your parents’ existing Medicare coverage and family income information that might be needed for any Medicaid application. Good luck.