Take time to learn ABCs of Medicare
As debate continues in Washington over the best way to ensure the long-term sustainability of Medicare for future generations, the fact remains that beneficiaries and their caregivers need help understanding how the program works today.A recent survey of adults 65 and older conducted for the National Council on Aging found that most seniors are confused about or unaware of important aspects of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the health care reform law.With the Medicare program continuing to evolve, the number of beneficiaries who need to understand the changes is set to increase significantly.This year, the first wave of baby boomers is aging into the Medicare program at a clip of more than 10,000 every day - or one every eight seconds. By 2030, the number of Americans enrolled in Medicare will be almost double what it is today.As the Medicare-eligible population grows, it's imperative the confusion doesn't grow right along with it. With some smart research and evaluation of their needs, boomers turning 65 this year can cut through the ambiguity and get straight to the facts that will help them find the plan that's right for them.First, focus on understanding the program as it is structured today. Medicare has four main parts - A, B, C and D - that cover different types of health care services. By learning the ABCs of Medicare, boomers can start to identify the combination that works for them.Next, ask a few key questions about your health, budget and preferences: • What medications do you currently take? • Are you open to switching doctors, hospitals or pharmacies based on your Medicare plan's network? • Do you want coverage of additional services such as vision or dental care? • Would you prefer no monthly premium, or are you willing to pay a monthly premium if other out-of-pocket expenses, such as co-pays when you need to visit a doctor, are lower?Boomers' answers to these questions can help guide them to a plan that best meets their health and financial needs.Lastly, don't go it alone. Take advantage of the many resources available to better understand Medicare by visiting MedicareMadeClear.com and Medicare.gov.By educating themselves on the complex but critically important Medicare program, they'll be better prepared to make smart decisions about their health care coverage.Steve King is executive director of UnitedHealthcare in New Hampshire.