Monday, May 16, 2011

Medicare, Tricare and Private Health Insurance

Medicare, Tricare and Private Health Insurance – OH MY!
Question: I have Blue Cross Blue Shield and Tricare. I turn 65 this October. I then must apply for Medicare or a replacement and Tricare for life. But one of the requirements to get Tricare for life is I must have Medicare Part B. My Blue Cross Blue Shield will at 65 go to my secondary insurance and Tricare for life will be third. I have two questions. What is best for me, Medicare or a Medicare replacement? If I choose a replacement for Medicare, do I pay the company of the replacement or the government? Also one more question. Can I apply for Medicare then get Medicare Part B from a replacement company?

Answer:  First, you need to be enrolled in Medicare Parts A and B and the only way to do this is through the federal government. Unless you are receiving Social Security Benefits, you will need to call Social Security (1-800-772-1213) to enroll in Part B. You may do this 3 months prior to your 65th birthday and I encourage you to do it sooner rather than later! (July for you) You should automatically be enrolled in Part A at age 65, but Social Security can confirm that for you when you enroll in Part B. Then you have the option of using your original Medicare Parts A and B as primary insurance and TRICARE for Life as secondary insurance (like a Medicare Supplement). TRICARE for Life will also cover your prescription drugs. When you refer to a replacement I am guessing you are talking about a Medicare Advantage plan where you assign your Medicare Parts A and B to the Advantage plan to manage and use their network. Unless you just really don't like TRICARE, there is no reason for you to do this. Tricare for Life will cover the deductibles and copays of Medicare. Unless your Blue Cross coverage is through an Employer paid group plan that costs you nothing, you don't need that either. It would be an unnecessary, added expense.

Medicare and Other Health Benefits: Your Guide to Who Pays First, a booklet available from The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, may clear up some of this for you. I will be happy to e-mail you a copy of the booklet. Click the “Ask A Question” button and request “Who Pays First” Booklet.