Seniors, Beware of services that charge $300-$400 for "Medicare Advice." They are popping up everywhere but it is unlikely that you would see a return on that investment. What's really bad is that these $300-$400 Medicare advice services are probably really trying to sell you something else besides Medicare advice.
There's no silver bullet. Depending on your income, drug list and your tolerance for risk you are going to spend between $1254 (the basic Part B premium unless you qualify for a Medicare Savings Program) and $3600 a year on Medicare and supplemental insurance each year depending on where you live (double that for a couple of course). And you are going to spend some additional amount of money out of pocket. The drug list, your willingness to go without a supplement (almost no one takes that risk), and your choice of doctors controls that spread almost entirely. No Medicare advice firm can change your drug list or your doctor preferences.
So here's $400 worth of Medicare advice for free. There are only three basic ways you can save money relative to Medicare:
- If you make under a certain amount (and possibly facing an asset test), you can get your Medicare Part B and C or D for free or highly discounted through state programs such as Vets' Services and Medicaid (but all states programs are different) and/or Social Security (rules are same throughout the United States). Contact these organizations if you want to know if you qualify. In some Northeast states, almost 50% of seniors who buy their own Medicare supplemental insurance (as opposed to getting it from a former employer) qualify for some kind of additional assistance.
- Find out if your state has a pharmaceutical assistance program for people on Medicare. In Massachusetts where I live, even if you make up to $70,000 in retirement you can get Massachusetts' Prescription Advantage. People who make from between about $50,000 to $70,000 have to buy into the program but it provides great donut hole protection if you need it (about 10% of you do). If you make under about $50,000 (but you are not in group 1 above), Prescription Advantage costs nothing and provides even better donut hole protection. I suspect Massachusetts has the best such program but about 20 other states have some type of pharmaceutical assistance program. If yours does, and you qualify, join it even if you will not save any money. Belonging allows you to change Part C or Part D plans one additional time during the year after annual enrollment.
- You need to run your drug list through the Medicare Plan Finder after you have decided whether you want private Medigap insurance or a public Part C Medicare Advantage health plan as your supplement. This will help you find out how you can save money using preferred pharmacies, zero-premium Part C plans if they make sense, and other features of Part C or D vs. Medigap plans