Medicare is a federally regulated and funded health care program for seniors and some disabled Americans. Even though it is a federal program, companies are allowed to sell different private plans in every state. This is everything you need to know about Medicare plans in California.
There are four ways to qualify for Medicare. You can:
Even though there are hundreds of plan options for Medicare in California, there may only be a select few that are available to you and that make sense for your needs. Keep in mind that Original Medicare (the government-sponsored plan) is NOT the same thing as privately owned California Medicare Advantage and Medicare Supplement plans.
Original Medicare is what most people begin with when enrolling in Medicare. It consists of Part A, hospital insurance, and Part B, medical/doctor insurance. Once you have Part A and Part B, most people will make a decision between enrolling in a stand-alone Part D (prescription drug coverage) plan and enrolling in a Medicare Advantage plan with prescription drug coverage.
Medicare Advantage plans in California are great options for those who want a fully comprehensive plan. They are required to cover all of the same benefits that Part A and Part B cover, plus more! They allow you to roll all of your benefits into one plan with one premium. Once you decide that you want Medicare Advantage, you’ll have to decide whether or not you want an MAPD, a Medicare Advantage plan with prescription drug coverage. Then, you can look at all of the other benefits that Medicare Advantage plans in California provide: fitness programs, meal delivery, dental, vision, hearing, non-emergency transportation, etc.
Need help making your California Medicare decision? Make a list of the benefits that you need before you start shopping for plans. Also, make a list of the doctors and pharmacies you like to visit, and the prescriptions that you are currently taking. Make sure that the plan you select will cover all of your needs.
If Medicare Advantage isn’t right for you, you may want to consider CA Medicare Supplement plans instead. These plans are often called “Medigap,” because they close the gap between what Medicare covers and your out-of-pocket costs. Medigap plans usually do not include all the extra benefits that Medicare Advantage plans in California can provide. Instead, Medigap plans can cover your Part A and Part B premiums, deductibles, co-payments, and coinsurance.
If you stick to the basics (Part A and Part B), your costs will be standardized. Most people will have premium-free Part A (unless you did not pay Medicare taxes throughout your life). The standard Part B premium for 2019 is $135.50 per month, and the standard deductible is $185 per year. Most people will not pay any less or more, but those numbers can be adjusted based on your income. If you enroll in a Part D plan, your costs will be slightly different based on the plan you choose. However, the standard deductible for 2019 is $415. Premiums can reach as low as $13 or as high as $80 per month.
If you enroll in a California Medicare Advantage or Medicare Supplement plan, you will have a different premium. Some $0 premium Medicare Advantage plans may be available in your area. Keep in mind that if you are not paying a premium, chances are that your deductible and co-payments will be a bit higher.
Did you know that California Medicare recipients have access to Medicaid-level drug pricing? Regardless of the prescription drug coverage you have, as long as you have your Medicare card to prove that you have coverage, you can get great discounts. When you pick up your prescriptions, show your Medicare card to the pharmacy and ask for the Medi-Cal reimbursement price. If the Medi-Cal price is lower, they can give you that price instead.
Be aware that if you have a great Part D or Medicare Advantage plan, there is a chance that it will actually be cheaper for you to use your Medicare plan than using the Medi-Cal discount. Always make sure that the price is actually lower before going that route. Additionally, know that only pharmacies who accept Medi-Cal coverage can offer this discount price, so your favorite pharmacy may not participate in this program.
If you qualify for Medicare and meet the income requirements for California Medicaid (Medi-Cal), you can benefit from both programs! Those who qualify for both can even enroll in a dual-eligible special needs plan (DSNP), a type of Medicare Advantage plan designed specifically for those eligible for both programs. DSNPs generally cover most, if not all, of your health care costs.
Ready to apply? Most people will actually be automatically enrolled in Part A upon turning 65. If you are not automatically enrolled, or if it is time for you to enroll in Part B, your options are:
If you’ve decided that you want Medicare Advantage or Medigap, your best course of action will be to speak to a licensed benefits advisor (agent) in your area who can lay out all of your options and help you select the best one. To find out if there is a Medicare Plan Finder agent near you, and to schedule your no-cost, no obligation appointment, click here or call 833-438-3676.
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