Picking the wrong Medicare plan could cost you thousands of dollars

The second trap is making an uninformed decision about the type of additional coverage that is best for you.

Medicare Advantage plans combine traditional Medicare, parts A and B, into a single plan that often includes Part D (prescription drug coverage) benefits as well. Some people find the simplicity of Advantage plans appealing.

Medicare Supplement Plans, on the other hand, are used in conjunction with traditional Medicare, parts A and B. You will also have to purchase a Part D plan to cover the costs of prescription medication.

Jennie Phipps, a semi-retiree in Punta Gorda, Florida, turned to the internet and found lots of information.

An insurance broker answered the rest of her questions, and Phipps chose Medicare Supplement over the Medicare Advantage for its flexibility.

“With a supplement [plan], I could go anywhere for health care, while an Advantage plan limited me to providers within my network,” Phipps said. She divides her time between Florida and New Orleans, where her grandchildren live, so any plan that limits access to care was out of the question.

Her late husband had an Advantage plan that worked well for him while he was healthy and could limit doctor visits to his family practitioner. “But when he got cancer, he had both geographic and caregiver limitations as well as unexpectedly high copays and deductibles,” Phipps said.

Medicare.gov is an invaluable resource. Be wary of websites that have Medicare in their name, sometimes followed by the year. If they end in .com or .org, they most likely exist to sell you a plan.

It pays to comparison shop. For instance, the cheapest and most expensive Supplement policies in major cities in Pennsylvania can vary by as much as 103 percent.

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