Trying Not to Get Lost While Navigating the Medicare Maze

Guess who is turning 65? Yes, that would be me!

By the time you read this, I will have reached this major milestone. Now you know about it like hundreds of insurance companies selling Medicare plans. They have been contacting me (pestering is more like it) since the beginning of the year.

So, I just want to know how all these people got my name and know my birthdate. It makes me wonder who is sharing my information with all these folks?

If it didn’t happen to you yet, just wait. Right now I am good as I have insurance through my employer. I did have to sign up for Medicare Part A, though, and I received my red, white and blue card. Still, I have been inundated with all the options available for “someday” when I retire. I have attended two Medicare 101 classes to help me understand it, but to me it is just like a foreign language. There is Part A, Part B, Part C, Part D, and even F and G (I may have missed a letter or two). One pays for hospital bills, one for doctors and outpatient testing, one for drugs and one to cover all the things that the others don’t. Then, there is Medicare Advantage offered that packages all Parts B-H all together into one — I think!

You can get a low deductible, a high deductible, free gym memberships and some even offer dental and vision coverage. Do you want to be restricted on the doctors and hospitals that you can use or do you want the ability to go where you want for your medical care? The question is, are you willing to pay a higher monthly premium to have that freedom of choice?

The problem is you cannot predict what medical problems lie ahead. Sure, I am healthy right now, but cancer runs on my dad’s side and heart disease on my mom’s.

I honestly think it would be better to have fewer options thus causing less confusion. But, for now I must go to my mailbox every day and read through every marketing tool that they have devised so I will pick them.

I would advise that you meet with an insurance agent that can write your Medicare plan. They are trained to look at your health history, your tolerance for risk, the drugs you currently use and help you come up with an option that best fits your situation.

Our OPALs (Older People With Active Lifestyles) is a 55-plus group sponsored by Ohio Valley Medical Center and East Ohio Regional Hospital. We are actually offering two Medicare 101 classes in early October to help those just entering the Medicare market and to help those who already have a plan but want to see if they might want to change during open enrollment coming up in the fall.

If you are just a little confused and would like to attend one of our classes, feel free to contact me at the hospital. The classes are free of charge and we even provide snacks to give you strength as you try to understand all your options. I would be thrilled to see you so we can commiserate on the confusion this Medicare maze causes all of us.

Mary Velez is the community outreach director and the corporate director of volunteer services at Ohio Valley Medical Center and East Ohio Regional Hospital. She obtained a master’s degree from West Virginia University in community health education. She has a bachelor’s degree from West Liberty State College in physical education and special education and taught school in West Virginia for nine years.

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