Do You Have a Choice of Medicare Plans?

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You may not be free to make a choice — either between traditional Medicare and the private Medicare Advantage system or among the private plans themselves — if you have health coverage from a former employer or union. Here are some of the ways this limitation can occur:

  • Your current plan is a special one offered only to retirees of the employer or union that sponsors it.

  • Your current plan pays the premiums for a Medigap supplemental policy. This type of policy can be used only with traditional Medicare, not with a Medicare Advantage plan.

  • Your current plan gives you coverage under a specific Medicare Advantage plan, meaning you can’t also be enrolled in the traditional Medicare program or any other MA plan.

Be aware that if you enroll in an alternative plan (unless it’s an alternative specifically offered by your former employer or union), you may automatically lose your current coverage for you and your dependents and may not be able to get it back later if you change your mind.

Some employer plans are so expensive or have such skimpy benefits that dropping them and relying wholly on Medicare may make sense. But think carefully before taking this step. Always check with your current plan’s benefits administrator so that you fully know the consequences.

Also, you likely don’t have a choice if you spend some months of the year in one place and the rest in another or travel around the United States most of the time. To maximize your chances of getting medical treatment anywhere, you need to enroll in traditional Medicare and choose a Part D drug plan that allows you to fill prescriptions at pharmacies throughout the nation.

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