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Take a look around the kitchen of anyone over the age of 50 and there’s a good chance you’ll see a small, narrow box of pills. The kind of box that has the days of the week labeled on it, with a handful of pills in each day. As we age, it’s only natural that our bodies start to deteriorate. This gradual aging process typically requires more medical attention, including things like prescription pills.

Prescriptions are not cheap and when you have to pay for several prescriptions each month, plus more frequent doctor visits, it’s important that you’re covered by a health insurance plan that covers your needs.

Unfortunately, health insurance can become a little more complicated as you near 65, the age you’re eligible to start receiving Medicare. Does Medicare cover all your expenses? Do you need additional insurance? What is long-term care insurance? How do you decide what the best option is for you?

Let’s sort out what options are available to Americans nearing the age of 65 and Medicare eligibility.

Retiree Coverage vs. Medicare Advantage vs. Medicare Supplement Insurance

We should distinguish what the difference is between retiree coverage, Medicare Advantage, and Medicare Supplements.

Retiree Coverage

If you worked a job that offers you health benefits through its group health  plan, that’s considered retiree coverage. This coverage will vary depending on the company you worked for. Some companies might cover your spouse, others might not. Will your benefits and premiums ever change? Will your retiree coverage change once you turn 65 and become eligible for Medicare?

It’s very important that you know the answers to these questions because the premiums from your employer coverage may start to skyrocket after you hit 65 depending on the cost sharing from your previous employer.  Some plans may cost up to $800 a month vs a Medicare Advantage premium of zero (part B premium must still be paid) or a Medicare Supplement premium average of $160.

Medicare Advantage 
Medicare Advantage is an insurance plan from a private company that contracts with Medicare to provide you with Part A and Part B benefits. Most Medicare Advantage plans also have prescription drug coverage. These plans come in different options, much like your pre-Medicare health insurance plans.
Types of Medicare Advantage plans include Health Maintenance Organizations (HMO), Preferred Provider Organizations (PPO), Private Fee-for-Service Plans, Special Needs Plans, and Medicare Medical Savings Account Plans.
Medicare Advantage plans may offer benefits some employer health plans may not offer, like memberships to a local gym and transportation service. Other Medicare Advantage plans offer coverage with zero copays for doctor visits and in-patient hospital stays. These are considerations you can discuss with an insurance agent discuss with an insurance agent in greater detail if you think this is an option for you.
Medicare Supplement Insurance
A Medicare Supplement insurance plan (also known as Medigap) is sold by private health insurance companies and it’s meant to supplement costs not covered by original Medicare. So if you have health care costs, Medicare will pay its share and then Medigap will step in and pay. Medicare Supplement insurance is different than Medicare Advantage because it’s not replacing a Medicare plan like and Advantage plan is. It’s extra insurance in addition to Medicare.
Retiree coverage will depend on your employment history before your retirement. You should look into what options your employer offers. If you’re interested in Medicare Advantage or Medicare Supplement insurance, that’s something you can discuss with an insurance agent to determine what the best plan of action if for you as you reach the age of 65.
Your health is extremely important and it becomes harder to maintain as you age. You need more help, which requires more insurance coverage. As you reach retirement and the age of 65, it’s important that you look at all the different options available to you and make the best decision for you.

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