Enrolling in the right Medicare plan is an important part of ensuring financial security during retirement.
Sorting through Medicare’s many coverage options can be confusing—and choosing the wrong plan could cost you much more in the long run.
"Where can I get free Medicare advice?” We’ve outlined three options, including talking to our trusted partners who meet NCOA’s Medicare Standards of Excellence.
Enrolling in Medicare isn’t just a way to get health care coverage when you turn 65; it’s a major part of ensuring financial security during retirement. That’s because health care typically makes up a large portion of your living expenses later in life. According to Fidelity, in 2022, the average couple retiring at age 65 could expect to pay about $315,000 in health care costs over the span of their retirement.1
When it comes time to sign up for a Medicare plan, it’s essential to choose wisely. Medicare choice errors, such as selecting an inappropriate plan or not enrolling by a certain deadline, can be costly. Worse, the financial impact of these mistakes can build over time.
“You want to make sure that your health plan will help you pay for the health care that you need, but you also don’t want to throw away money paying for more insurance than you actually need,” explains Samuel Kina, SVP of Economics & Research at Picwell, Inc.
Navigating Medicare on your own can be confusing
As you start exploring all that Medicare has to offer, you may find that the program is anything but simple. There’s a wide range of coverage choices, including Original Medicare (Parts A and B), Medicare Part D, Medicare Advantage (Part C), and Medigap. Annual costs among these plans can vary by hundreds or even thousands of dollars. There are out-of-pocket costs to consider as well, such as premiums, deductibles, coinsurance, and copayments—all of which can greatly affect your yearly health care expenses.
Sorting through the Medicare maze by yourself can be time-consuming, exhausting, and downright overwhelming. Complicating matters even more is the fact that certain plans—specifically, Medicare Advantage, Part D, and Medigap—are administered and sold by private insurance carriers (not the federal government). Some of these companies engage in misleading marketing, especially during the Medicare Open Enrollment Period. The constant barrage of persuasive TV, radio, and online Medicare ads can make it hard to distinguish fact from fiction.
Talking to a qualified Medicare expert can help
There’s a lot riding on your choice of Medicare coverage. Arming yourself with accurate, up-to-date information can help you choose the best plan for your needs. One way to do this is by talking to a certified advisor who can offer you objective, personalized enrollment advice. They will help you weigh all the factors to consider in choosing a Medicare plan, such as:
- Whether the plan will cover the services you need to stay healthy.
- What your premiums, deductibles, and other out-of-pocket costs will look like.
- How Medicare will work with your existing health or drug plans.
- What your prescription drugs will cost under the plan.
- Whether you have a choice of providers, or you have to stick with providers and facilities from a network.
- Whether your plan will cover you while traveling.
How do I get unbiased Medicare advice?
If you’re wondering, “Who can help me choose the right Medicare plan?”, the good news is there are several ways to get impartial guidance from people who know the program inside and out. We’ve outlined some options below.
Medicare Brokers That Meet NCOA’s Standards of Excellence
Our free Age Well Planner tool connects you with information on licensed Medicare advisors who meet NCOA's strict Medicare Standards of Excellence (SOE). We’ve identified trustworthy Medicare brokers who meet rigorous guidelines to ensure you can be confident in the enrollment choices you make. Each one has gone through our intensive SOE training and certification process, enabling them to provide in-depth Medicare education and practical decision-making support. Talking to these certified advisors costs you nothing.
What does this mean for you, the consumer? It means our brokers:
- Will not pressure you into or attempt to steer you toward buying a specific Medicare plan.
- Are highly trained and monitored to ensure quality service delivery.
- Provide a broad range of plan options that meet your needs, not just the plans they represent.
- Offer additional, free support for Medicare coverage issues.
- Explain information in clear, easy-to-understand terms.
- Offer their services in multiple languages, with accommodations for those who are hearing impaired.
State Health Insurance Assistance Programs (SHIPs)
SHIPs offer free, impartial, and personalized insurance counseling and assistance to Medicare-eligible individuals, their families, and caregivers. They do not sell insurance products of any kind. These programs are available in all 50 states, Puerto Rico, Guam, DC, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
A certified SHIP counselor can help you:
- Learn the basics of Medicare, including who is eligible.
- Review your options for health and/or prescription drug coverage.
- Understand Medicare out-of-pocket costs as well as programs that can help you pay for these costs.
- Ensure your rights are protected under Medicare.
- Refer you to other agencies for additional help, if needed.
These trained volunteers can also help you address Medicare billing problems and complaints about medical care or treatment. Find your local SHIP office here or call 1-877-839-2675.
My Care, My Choice
Available in California, Michigan, and Ohio, My Care, My Choice is an online decision support tool for people who are dual-eligible (eligible for both Medicare and Medicaid). This resource can help you understand your Medicare and Medicaid coverage options and how the two programs work together. Visit the website and click on your state to get started.
Medicare Support Hotline
Call 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227) to talk with a customer support representative about your Medicare questions and concerns—or visit the Medicare.gov website to start a live chat. TTY users should call 1-877-486-2048. The Medicare Support Hotline is available 24/7, except for some federal holidays.
“For many older adults, making a decision about Medicare coverage feels incredibly daunting,” explains Brandy Bauer, Director of the MIPPA Resource Center. “Talking to an unbiased, experienced Medicare specialist can help you cut out all the background noise and tune into a plan that works well for your health needs and budget.”
1. Fidelity. How to plan for rising health care costs. Aug. 29, 2022. Found on the internet at https://www.fidelity.com/viewpoints/personal-finance/plan-for-rising-health-care-costs