Tom Schrette and Alan Cash

Tom Schrette and Alan Cash

Dear Tom and Alan:

I am a widow with not very much income. I’ll soon be 65, so I’m looking into all the details of Medicare. Now, I’ve heard some people complaining about Covered California, but for me it’s been great.

Mine has been a Bronze Plan through Blue Shield.

Yes, it has a very high deductible ($6,000!) but my monthly payment is only two dollars!

So you can see how someone on a fixed income could get very comfortable with that!

Is there any way to continue on Covered California when I start Medicare?


Tom: Sorry, Hazel, Covered California is only for under age 65. However, you can say goodbye to that huge deductible. When you get on Medicare, you will pay zero for Part A (hospital) and $135.50 per month for Part B. There are programs available to help pay for Part B for limited income persons.

Speaking of income, as an individual, your household income was less than $48,000, but more than $17,000, because you qualified for a subsidy from Covered California and had to pay only $2 per month.

Al: If your annual income was below $17,000, you could go on Medi-Cal. That would now make you a “medi-medi” when you started Medicare while at the same time being on Medi-Cal.

Covered California insists that you notify them in case of any changes in your status. So as soon as you get your Medicare card, you’ll want to call them.

Tom: If you qualify as a “medi-medi”, that can be a good scenario because the costs to you are minimal. If your income is such that you make too much to be on Medi-Cal, you could check out the SCAN Plan.

This is a Medicare Advantage Plan available in Napa and Sonoma counties. The cost is $45 per month and the plan includes drugs. Kaiser Senior Advantage is also available at about $95 per month (I’m not exactly sure of the price because brokers are not allowed to sell Kaiser Senior Products).

Al: For anyone who can afford it, our default recommendation to the “newly 65’s” is a Medicare Supplement plan. Specifically, Plan F with your Medicare

Parts A and B combines to give you virtually 100 percent medical coverage. You must also choose a prescription drug plan at an additional charge.

So, as the salesmen say, here’s the damage:

Medicare Part B—$135.50.

Medicare Supplement—$140 (approximately)

Drug plan—$20 to $150 depending on which one.

Typically under $300 per month for full coverage that works in every state in the country.

Tom: Doesn’t sound as good as $2 per month, but then the true retail cost of that Blue Shield Bronze PPO Plan is actually closer to $1,200 per month for a 64-year-old making more than $48,000 per year.

Al: We’ve had more than one person tell us of getting a bill due to receiving too much subsidy. They want it back!

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