Allsup Outlines Medicare Questions for Financial Planners As Annual Open Enrollment Approaches

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Many seniors seek help with complicated aspects of Medicare; they’re planning now for 2012 enrollment selections

Choosing Medicare coverage is complex and it can be difficult to get current plan information in order to compare plans. People regularly tell us they were referred to Allsup by their financial planner to help them sort through the options.

While many seniors rely on financial planners for guidance on retirement, estate and long-term care planning, increasingly they also need help with healthcare and Medicare planning, according to Allsup, a nationwide provider of Medicare plan selection services and Social Security disability representation.

“Seniors are expected to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on healthcare during retirement, as fewer employers offer retiree healthcare benefits and the baby boomers now entering Medicare live longer. This makes healthcare planning a very real financial issue,” said Adrienne Muralidharan, senior Medicare specialist for the Allsup Medicare Advisor®. The Allsup Medicare Advisor is an impartial Medicare plan selection service that helps people understand and choose the most affordable and appropriate Medicare coverage for their healthcare needs. (Allsup is not a Medicare plan provider and does not accept commissions from insurance providers.)

Planning Considerations for Medicare Annual Enrollment 2012

As financial planners begin considering year-end planning, Muralidharan noted, they should make sure to include Medicare in their discussions. The Medicare annual enrollment period this year starts a month earlier and runs from Oct. 15 – Dec. 7.

Among the areas to review with clients:

  •     Do they appear to have high costs, either costly premiums or out-of-pocket expenses?

Higher premiums can be charged to higher income earners for both Medicare Part B (medical services) and Part D (prescription drug) coverage. While there may be steps financial planners can take to help minimize a client’s income, higher costs also can come from not having the right level of coverage. Medigap plans can help clients manage unpredictable out-of-pocket expenses.

  •     Have they had a change in their health recently or do they anticipate one?

Although their plans and healthcare needs may change, many people enroll in Medicare and never change their coverage. They can miss important benefits as a result. For example, if they know in advance of a procedure they will need next year, now is the time to determine if their current plan will cover it. If not, they can find a plan that will.

“Just as clients need to review their financial portfolios regularly, they also need to review their healthcare coverage to make sure it matches their needs,” Muralidharan said. “At a minimum, clients should review their coverage every two to three years, and more often if there are significant changes in their health condition or their plan coverage.”

  •     Do they have concerns about the coverage or care they’re currently receiving?

Ask clients if they are able to see the doctors they want and go to the healthcare facilities they want to use. If they are finding a lot of restrictions, they should look at other plans.

“When people don’t have the access they want, rather than switching coverage, they may either avoid treatment or pay higher costs to get the coverage they want,” Muralidharan noted. “Even when a plan is not the best plan for them, seniors can be reluctant to change. So, financial planners can play an important role in helping them make the transition.”

  •     Can they make changes on their own, or do they need help?

Many people transition from an employer health plan to Medicare. While employed, their employer often provided them with two or three pre-screened plans from which to choose. Now in Medicare, they have dozens of plans from which to choose for medical and prescription drug coverage.

“Choosing Medicare coverage is complex and it can be difficult to get current plan information in order to compare plans,” Muralidharan said. “People regularly tell us they were referred to Allsup by their financial planner to help them sort through the options.”

Looking ahead, Muralidharan also noted that financial planners will need to begin discussing with clients the Medicare tax increase that goes into effect in 2013. One change raises the Medicare Part A (hospital services) tax rate on wages to 2.35 percent, from the current 1.45 percent, on earnings over $200,000 for individuals and $250,000 for married couples filing jointly. In addition, a 3.8 percent tax will begin on unearned income for high-income individuals.

Special Considerations for Baby Boomer Clients

All Medicare beneficiaries are allowed to change plans during the fall Medicare open enrollment period. People aging into Medicare are allowed to enroll in Medicare during the three months before, the month of and the three months following their 65th birthday.

However, they often come to their first enrollment period uncertain and overwhelmed. This is especially true for people who are still working and need to coordinate their coverage with an employer health plan, or who have a spouse or children in need of healthcare coverage.

“It’s important people understand that the choices they make about Medicare also could affect their family’s healthcare coverage,” Muralidharan said.

Financial planners interested in a guide to help clients who are new to Medicare can order Allsup’s free guide, “Medicare and Reaching Retirement Age.” It is available by phone: (866) 521-7655, or email medicarehelp(at)allsupinc(dot)com

For an evaluation of Medicare options, call an Allsup Medicare Advisor specialist at (866) 521-7655 or go to http://medicare.allsup.com.

ABOUT ALLSUP
Allsup is a nationwide provider of Social Security disability, Medicare and Medicare Secondary Payer compliance services for individuals, employers and insurance carriers. Founded in 1984, Allsup employs nearly 800 professionals who deliver specialized services supporting people with disabilities and seniors so they may lead lives that are as financially secure and as healthy as possible. The company is based in Belleville, Ill., near St. Louis. For more information, visit http://www.Allsup.com.

The information provided is not intended as a substitute for legal or other professional services. Legal or other expert assistance should be sought before making any decision that may affect your situation.

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Mary Jung
for Allsup
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Rebecca Ray
Allsup
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