Tom Schrette and Alan Cash

Tom Schrette and Alan Cash

J.L. Sousa

Dear Tom and Alan:

Kind of complicated. My husband retired a few years ago. We stayed on COBRA together until he turned 65 and went on Medicare with a supplement.

So far so good. I was able to stay on his COBRA plan. But … COBRA ends for me at the end of this month and my 65th birthday isn’t until this coming December!

What happens to me from July 1 to Dec. 1?

Hung out to dry

Tom: Kind of a good problem to have. You are guaranteed coverage in a new plan beginning July 1, because your COBRA ran out on you.

Since you exhausted your period of being on COBRA, it’s considered a “qualifying event,” which means whatever you apply for you will get.

Some people run into a snag when they want to leave COBRA early. This is a “voluntary” end of coverage and does not meet the standard of a qualifying event. In your case, COBRA “left you” — not the other way around.

You’ll just need a letter from your husband’s prior employer that has your name on it (not just your husband’s) and specifies exactly what date it ends.

I ran some quotes for you at age 64 so you’ll have an idea of the range of prices for your next health coverage.

A total of 25 different plans came up: the least expensive is WHA Bronze HMO, $710.91; the most expensive is Anthem Platinum EPO, $1,864.05. In between is: Blue Shield Bronze PPO, $912.59; Kaiser Silver HMO, $992.34; and, Health Net Silver EPO, $1,182.06.

Al: Now, for the good news. Sometime in September, you’ll want to go to the Social Security Office to sign up for Medicare A and B.

This will go into effect on the first day of your birth month. So, even if your birthday happens to be Dec. 25, everything starts on Dec. 1.

Once you get your Medicare card (what I like to call the keys to the kingdom), any supplement, Advantage plan, or prescription drug plan is guaranteed to you.

By the way, Medicare Part A is free, Medicare Part B is going to cost you $134 per month.

You can add a supplement to your Medicare benefits so that you end up with very few, if any, out-of-pocket costs.

For those who can afford it, I always recommend Plan F. With a first-year teaser rate, most Plan F providers offer it at about $135 per month.

The reason I’m not reluctant to encourage people to buy it is that for about $270 per month they have essentially 100 percent medical coverage. Also, under what’s called the “California plan,” you can change from any company’s Plan F to any other Plan F on your birth month with no underwriting.

In other words, they can’t deny your transfer.

Submit questions or reach the Health Insurance Guys at Schrette Insurance, 1556 First St., Suite 105, Napa, 94559; 255-9511;; or