MIDDLE PAXTON TWP, Pa. (WHTM) — Navigating Medicare can be confusing, and with many choices to make, it is not an easy process. Under the federal health insurance plan, there are dozens of Medicare Advantage plans, and one Dauphin County woman said they are worth looking into.
Mary James has lived in the Harrisburg area for nearly 40 years, and she used to work for the retirement system. However, when it came time for her to retire, she said she the number of health insurance plans available was overwhelming.
“It was kind of trial and error,” she said. “I just went searching for different options.”
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At the time, Medicare did not seem like the right option.
“We were told that the Medicare would cover 80 percent, so I didn’t want to be liable for having to pay 20 percent,” James said.
James decided to go with her former employer’s plan, but she quickly realized there were major disadvantages.
“I no longer had dental, no longer had vision,” she explained.
She found separate dental and vision insurance, but after a few years, those costs added up.
“We’ve got to find something less expensive,” James remembers thinking.
James took another look at Medicare, this time at Medicare Advantage plans.
“In Pennsylvania alone, 48 percent of the Medicare senior population is enrolled in Medicare Advantage, so that’s about 1.3 million,” president and CEO of The Better Medicare Alliance Mary Beth Donahue said.
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The Better Medicare Alliance is a nonprofit which encourages seniors to consider these plans, as part of its mission to strengthen Medicare Advantage.
“On average, seniors save just a little over $2,000 a year,” Donahue said of Medicare Advantage plans.
The first Medicare Advantage plan James chose did not work for her. She said it had no premium, but came with some unexpected costs.
“For instance, if I did an X-ray, then I’d get like a $300 or $400 bill for the X-ray,” she said.
About a year ago, on a recommendation from an employee at her doctor’s office, she switched to a different Medicare Advantage plan which has a small premium, but eliminated the unexpected expenses. Now, she recommends everyone look into these plans.
“The older you get, the more infirmed you get, the more important it is,” she said.
James also recommends getting some help and not trying to do everything alone.
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“I think [seniors] need to talk with a consultant that specializes in the Medicare plans,” she said.
Seniors who are not enrolled in Medicare Advantage will have to wait until open enrollment in fall if they want to sign up. Seniors already enrolled who want to switch to a different advantage plan can do so until March 31.