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Medicare: Nine Myths, Misconceptions and Costly Mistakes

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Kevin Toomey
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My guest today is insurance broker, Kevin Toomey. Medicare is quite confusing. Making the right choices can be stressful and overwhelming, even to those of us who consider ourselves savvy consumers.

JB: Welcome to OpEdNews, Kevin. You were really helpful to me recently when I enrolled in Medicare and we're going to share what I learned with our readers. Before we get started, please tell us about your professional background.

KT: I am currently an insurance broker for GM Goldman & Associates, Inc. and I've been in the insurance business for almost 18 years. The first insurance product I specialized in was long-term care insurance. Of course, when working with retirees in setting up long-term care insurance plans (LTC), a broker must be able to educate their clients on how Medicare works in relation to LTC. Eventually, I began receiving more questions and phone calls about Medicare than LTC. In the early part of my career, I just didn't realize how much help people needed as they approached their 65th birthday. Once the Medicare drug plans became available, people required even more help. Now, as we fast forward to my 18th year in the business, I'm fully aware of all the costly misconceptions, incorrect assumptions, mistakes, and errors that people make when going on Medicare. Unfortunately, much of this bad information is passed on from retiree to retiree and, therefore, thousands of dollars are thrown away due to poor choices made when going on Medicare. My role has been to break this chain of bad information and get people pointed in the right direction.

JB: Excellent! What myths and misconceptions have you encountered over the years, Kevin? Let's lay them out and dispel them one at a time.

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KT: Sure. When you go on Medicare, you'll have to make sure your doctors accept Medicare. Once you know that your doctors accept Medicare, then the misconceptions begin. Here they are:

Misconception #1: "Medicare Part B is supplemental insurance."

Medicare Part A (hospital coverage) and Medicare Part B (medical/doctor coverage) are your primary insurance plans. Supplemental insurance plans are purchased through separate insurance companies like Blue Cross and Blue Shield or Mutual of Omaha. The supplemental plans cover some or all of what Medicare doesn't cover. Therefore Medicare and Part A and Part B are your primary plans and supplemental insurance plans are your secondary plans.

One more thing: Medicare supplement insurance and Medigap plans are the same thing.

JB: Got it.

KT: Misconception #2: "My doctor will only accept certain companies when it comes to Medicare supplemental insurance."

Not true. If your doctor accepts Medicare, then, by law, they have to accept any supplemental company and plan you choose. It doesn't matter whether your doctor loves the company and plan you have or hates the company and plan you chose.

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JB: An enduring myth, so I'm glad we got rid of that one.

KT: Misconception #3: "The coverage offered within the supplemental plans can differ from one company to the next."

The coverages offered by the supplemental plans are all the same regardless of the company you choose because Medicare supplemental insurance is regulated by the federal government. These plans are identified by letters such as Plan A, Plan F, Plan G, Plan N, etc. If you like the plan coverage offered by Plan G, then you can choose any insurance company that offers Plan G and the benefits provided will be identical. It's the price that will differ. The insurance companies can all offer the same plans but charge different prices (premiums). The federal government ensure all the plans are the same, regardless of the company, but it doesn't regulate what the companies charge for the plans. Therefore, once you decide on the plan (i.e., Plan F), then you want to choose the company that offers the lowest price.

JB: That one sounds almost too good to be true!

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Joan Brunwasser is a co-founder of Citizens for Election Reform (CER) which since 2005 existed for the sole purpose of raising the public awareness of the critical need for election reform. Our goal: to restore fair, accurate, transparent, secure elections where votes are cast in private and counted in public. Because the problems with electronic (computerized) voting systems include a lack of (more...)
 

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