Tom Schrette and Alan Cash

Tom Schrette and Alan Cash

Dear Tom and Alan:I’m heading toward 66-years-old but still working.

The boss and I are on great terms with each other and I have no plans to retire in the near future. He says my monthly health insurance costs are enormous (he pays 50 percent for me).

My Medicare card says I have Part A. Is there any way for me to lower my healthcare costs but still be covered?


Tom: Yes, indeed. Go directly to the Social Security Office and sign up for Medicare Part B. When you have both A and B, you will be covered at 80 percent for medical.

Part A costs you nothing, Part B will probably be $134 per month. Not bad for 80 percent coverage and most likely much cheaper than your current 50 percent through your employer.

Al: The other thing you have with Parts A and B in place is the opportunity to sign up for a Medicare Supplement (plus a drug plan, Medicare Part D), or for an Advantage Plan (aka, Medicare Part C).

As if Medicare Parts A, B, C and D weren’t confusing enough, Medicare Supplements are also listed alphabetically: Plans A, B, C, D, F, G, K, L, M and N. Plans E, H, I and J were eliminated in 2010, Plans C and F are going away in 2020.

Tom: In 1990, Congress standardized all Supplement plans so that whichever insurance company offered the plan, the benefits would be the same.

So, basically, Medicare Supplement Plan N, for example, will look exactly the same for Blue Shield, Anthem, AARP, Mutual of Omaha, Cigna, or Health Net. The only difference is the price.

Using Plan N as an example, the current rate for Owen is $113.06. Add that to the cost for Part B ($134), and you have some excellent coverage for less than $250 per month.

Al: We’re required to provide each prospective customer with the brochure “Choosing a Medigap Policy” from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). On page 11 is a summary of all plans A through N.

Plan A doesn’t cover much at all; Plan F has a high deductible option at about a third of the price of regular Plan F; Plans K and L each have an out-of-pocket annual maximum.

Tom: A few columns ago, we mentioned a new variation from Anthem Blue Cross beginning just this year: “Innovative Plan F.”

The benefits are the same as regular Plan F, but include vision and hearing as a bonus. Also, the new one costs less than regular Plan F.

Unfortunately, Innovative Plan F is going away for new subscribers in 2020 along with Plans C and F. If you have it you can keep it, but it won’t be available for those just turning 65.

Once again, we ran out of room for drug plans!

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Submit questions to schrette@gmail.com or alancash@gmail.com.