Medicare Advantage: Lessons Learned at Age 66

Getting My Education

A man points to 2 prescription bottles in his medicine cabinet. Turning to his friend he says, “This one I take for a good night’s sleep. The other one’s for the headaches I get trying to understand how Medicare works.”


That was me! Confused about Medicare, with an uneasy fear before encountering its many options, dealing with an insurance industry and government. Both are not known for being consumer-friendly institutions, am I right? I pictured the initial call to Social Security listening to a labyrinth of automated menus as I keep repeating, “Representative. rep-re-sent-a-tive,” eventually getting one who tells me, “I’m going to ask you a few questions so we can transfer you to the right department”,…which then asked me the same questions.

OK, it was similar to that, and no wonder people are confused about Medicare. We are talking about the government here: everything must be as wonky and confusing as possible. But boy did everyone know when I turned 65: mail falling out of my box, my phone ringing off the hook, and emails inviting me to “seminars.” On TV Joe Namath and JJ are badgering me every 10 minutes. On the other channel, Medicare Advantage ads show seniors dancing and having dinner on a deck at sunset. All I want to do is get to that point!


Medicare Basics From a Medicare Rookie

If you’re not working when you reach 65, you need both A and B. C and D are optional. A is free, but the rest of the alphabet has a bill attached…but often no monthly premiums with C. Got it? Neither did I at first. A is hospitalization. B is medical and doctors, D is drug coverage. C once was Medicare Choice but is now Medicare Advantage, which is optional private insurance instead of the original government Medicare plan.

With A and B there are big deductibles, so you need yet another plan to fill the gaps. That would be a Medigap plan. They cover…well honestly I’m not sure what they cover, there are so many. I do know C sometimes includes D and Medigap but not always. Or is it the other way around?

Also, You will find that insurance companies all say they have the best plan, or the most plans, or the plan that covers the most “extras” (shouldn’t there be a Part E for that, or is there an E for eyeglasses?). All I could say at first was, “Young folks, enjoy your liberty.”

Many Medicare Advantage Plans are Local

These plans are based on county and zip code, so it’s very important to have someone who knows the local offerings up and down. That would be Health Benefits Associates right there on Lakeside Drive in Reno. To me, they are translators who made it all so easy to understand for me, even enjoyable. Knowledge is power, and one heck of a confidence generator. Life is funny that way.

That first call to Social Security wasn’t easy, and the whole subject was a bit frightful. But I learned how it’s actually quite simple. Meet with my Medicare agents at Health Benefits Associates. They’ll protect you from Medicare mistakes and help you no longer be confused about Medicare, which can end up very expensive.

And I wrote this because I want to help make Medicare simple and stress-free for folks my age who need it.