Avoid Complacency, Act Before December 7 Deadline
Aging Matters

In a recent conversation with Bart Astor, a recognized expert in life's transitions and elder care, we discussed why a large number of seniors (70 percent) opt out of the annual Medicare open enrollment and comparison shopping for healthcare insurance. It's mind-boggling how much money is left on the table not doing so.

What's startling is that more seniors comparison shop for Internet services, cell phone plans, groceries, gas, cable and even travel deals than Medicare plans. However, healthcare costs rank most burdensome among common living expenses for older adults. That's according to a new survey "The Cost of Complacency," which reveals perceptions and behaviors among seniors when it comes to healthcare.

Only one-third of seniors reported they comparison shop for a Medicare plan at all, and only approximately one in three seniors review their Medicare plan annually to determine if they are getting the best deal.

I asked Bart, "why are seniors complacent about Medicare plans?" He claims it's because Medicare is confusing, complicated, and burdensome. So much so, that seniors prefer doing income taxes over comparing Medicare plans.

It's why I've avoided comparison shopping. But I wanted to understand why my premiums were 75 dollars more costly over my sister's plan and 100 dollars less than my friend's. Well, come to find out, my sister's plan is part of a large pool of former teachers, whereas my friend's policy had more perks like free gym classes, lower deductible, and extensive drug coverage. After doing the homework, I'm satisfied with my Medicare understanding.

But that's not all I or you need to understand. There's a component in comparison shopping that makes it complicated, and that is, what will your health care be like in the next year? And another factor that makes comparison shopping more complicated is the potential change in health guidelines, the most recent being the blood pressure marker.

How to get clear about forecasting your future health status? Bart suggests visiting websites like Medicare.gov, AARP.org, and visit local senior centers where you can sign up for free consultations. I go to the local Area Agency on Aging department. But getting personal guidance is the best solution for figuring out future health care expenses. And consider speaking with customer service reps healthcare companies who sell Medicare plans.

Also, do you plan to have extensive dental work, or need new glasses? These costs typically are not covered by original Medicare but you can find Medicare Advantage plans that do. So, know your future health needs.

Remember, December 7 is a hard and fast deadline. If you're new to Medicare, learn your options, and if you're an enrollee, shop new plans and know if what you have is the best plan. Act now. Don't leave money on the table or get stuck without the needed coverage.

Bart Astor authored AARP Roadmap for the Rest of Your Life: Smart Choices about Money, Health, Work, Lifestyle, and Pursuing Your Dreams, and Baby Boomer's Guide to Caring for Aging Parents.

Sign up here for my Age with Purpose weekly newsletter.

Carol Marak, aging advocate, Seniorcare.com. She's earned a Certificate in the Fundamentals of Gerontology from UC Davis, School of Gerontology.

Part of the Aging Matters Weekly Syndicated Column

Aging Matters is a weekly column tackling everyday challenges that our growing elderly population and their loved ones face. It is also published in a variety of syndication partners including newspapers all over the country.

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