Look beyond premium costs when choosing a Medicare plan, Pt.1

Published 7:00 am Saturday, October 20, 2018

By  Trudy Liberman

Making decisions about Medicare coverage has never been easy. Over the years the task has become more complicated as Congress has moved to privatize the system.

Open enrollment, the time for evaluating your coverage and making changes if you can, opens Oct. 15 and runs through Dec. 7 this year.  This is the first of two columns that address decisions people about to become eligible for Medicare and those already on the program will have to make.

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While some 57 million people are still in traditional Medicare, which remains a social insurance program, the number of beneficiaries in privatized Medicare known as Medicare Advantage has grown steadily. Today one-third of all beneficiaries have joined private plans, many of them responding to sales pitches – sometimes questionable ones – from insurance companies that now regard their Medicare Advantage business as a major profit center.

With a Medicare Advantage plan, generous payments from the federal government to private insurers allow them to provide a person’s Medicare benefits along with some extras like eyeglasses, limited dental care, and gym memberships. The government payments have been so rich they’ve also allowed the plans to entice people to join by offering coverage with no monthly premium or a very low one.