TMH Living Well: Medicare 101 — Learning the basics | CraigDailyPress.com

TMH Living Well: Medicare 101 — Learning the basics

The Memorial Hospital

If you are nearing your 65th birthday, signing up for Medicare should be on your to-do list. If you've started the process, you are likely feeling overwhelmed by all the different parts (A, B, C, D, etc.) and the many supplemental insurance plans that go with it. If so, don't fret — help is available in Moffat County.

"Medicare often confuses people. They get so much information in the mail from various insurance companies. In Colorado alone there are nearly 40 supplemental plans, called Medigap plans," said Betsy Packer, Medicare coordinator for Northwest Colorado Council of Governments.

Understanding the basics is a good place to start, and that's Packer's job. She welcomes people to come to an upcoming information session, or to make an appointment to talk with her individually.

Signing up for Medicare

The first step is simply signing up. Did you know that you must enroll during a certain window or risk receiving penalties like having to wait or paying higher deductibles? You can delay your enrollment without penalty if you or your spouse are currently working and are covered by an active employer-sponsored insurance plan.

"The enrollment period is three months before your 65th birthday, the month of, and three months after," Packer said.

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An open enrollment period to make changes to Medicare drug plans (Part D) is coming up this fall and is scheduled for October 15 to December 7. Packer is holding informational sessions in Craig at Sunset Manor and the Bell Tower Building during this timeframe.

Packer and volunteers will help you decide which drug plan of the nearly 30 is right for you — depending on your medication use. For more information on upcoming sessions call Packer at 970-819-6401.

Knowing Your ABC's

Original Medicare is Part A and Part B. Part A is often referred to as "hospital insurance" and it covers hospital care, skilled nursing facility, nursing home care, hospice and home health services. Part B is often referred to as "medical insurance" and it covers medically necessary services including doctor visits to diagnose and treat, preventive services, clinical research, ambulance services, durable medical equipment, mental health care, second opinions before surgery and limited outpatient medications.

"Medicare Part A has no premiums and pays 80% of eligible costs, but there are deductibles. Part B comes with a monthly premium (except for preventive care), with reductions in cost if you meet set income requirements," Packer said.

Part C plans are offered by private insurance companies at a premium and are often called Medicare Advantage plans.

Cost of Medicare

While Part A is free if you've earned 40 credits (the equivalent of working 10 years) the cost of Part B is currently $104.90 a month. Of course, Medicare Advantage plans and other supplemental plans are an additional cost. Drug plans range from approximately $15 to $230 a month.

To learn more about the ins and outs of Medicare, attend a free information session sponsored by The Memorial Hospital this Thursday. Betsy Packer will answer your questions on who is eligible, the difference between the Parts A, B, C and D, what supplemental plans cover, options for lower-income individuals, open enrollment and Medicare fraud.

This weekly article with tips on living well is sponsored by The Memorial Hospital at Craig – improving the quality of life for the communities we serve through patient-centered healthcare and service excellence.

If you go

Medicare 101

Noon and 5 p.m. Thursday

The Memorial Hospital conference rooms

Light refreshments will be served at the presentation, available at two separate times. For more information on Part D open enrollment or generally on Medicare, call Betsy Packer at 970-819-6401.

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