1. Medicare: Learn the basics.
(Whether or not receiving benefits from HP
Advice and reference info from
(Updated Oct 9,
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You have 31 days to change your health plan if you lose
coverage from another employer or have a status change
such as marriage or divorce -- or transition to Medicare.
These restrictions are not unique to HP -- or unique to
health insurance. A fundamental principle of insurance is
that everyone continuously pays into the pool when they are
healthy. For example, that's why if you don't sign up
for each of the various elements of Medicare when you are
first eligible, you generally have to pay a late enrollment
penalty for years.
Outside HP, you have until
December 7 to adjust your Medicare coverage for next year.
This deadline may be different for coverage subsidized by HP.
If you have HP coverage and won't be able to resolve your
Medicare situation by the company enrollment deadline --
for example, because you can't get an ARHE agent appointment
in time, or your have an application pending for an
individual Medicare plan through ARHE -- enroll in the best
HP plan now and change later if necessary. There is a
confirmation and mop-up cycle after the stated HP deadline.
See Enrollment Guide (page 2)
Bookmark and explore the Official
(Note that official-looking "medicare
<dot> com" site that comes up in Google searches is
operated by a clever insurance sales agency -- not by the
Study the excellent "Medicare and
You" booklet. Three key tables in the current (2020)
- Page 6 through 8 explain Original
Medicare (+ Supplemental) vs Medicare Advantage plans.
- Page 20 explains how your other
insurance works with Medicare.
- Page 70 decodes the Supplemental
plans -- A through N.
You can download it from the
official Medicare site.
Even if you have a paper copy, it
is very helpful to use Adobe Reader's search feature to find
specific words or phrases in a pdf file. (To search for a
word or phrase in a pdf file, press Ctrl and F together on a PC
-- or Command and F on a Mac.)
Note that if you don't sign up for
each of the various elements of Medicare when you are first
eligible, you generally have to pay a late enrollment penalty
for years. (Covered throughout the "Medicare and You" booklet.)
2. AARP Website.
Membership in AARP is not
required to access these articles on the AARP website:
"Medicare Made Easy" Steps through
the key questions you need to answer to select your coverage:
- Your health. Open to changing
doctors, preexisting conditions, medications, change pharmacy.
- Your home. Travel around the
country or abroad. Second home. Rural area.
- Your costs. Premiums, copays,
coinsurance and deductibles; Medicaid or other assistance.
- Your coverage. Through job,
retiree, military, COBRA, or spouse’s plan. Affordable Care Act
Question and Answer Tool." answers many questions:
3. Key articles from the official
- Retiree insurance. "If
you're retired and have Medicare and group health plan (retiree)
coverage from a former employer... "5 things to know about
- Employer coverage (if still
employed.) "Even if you have coverage through a current or
former employer, you still may need to make some important
Medicare enrollment decisions. It’s important to understand how
your current coverage works with Medicare before making any
decisions." Three choices: "I have employer coverage and: I'm
turning 65 or I'm over 65 or I'm under 65 and have a
- What is the cryptic "Notice of
Creditable Coverage" letter?
4. Employee/retiree Medicare
plans are different:
Note that employee and retiree
are "group" plans that have been customized for the
specific employer. They don't have to match the government
specifications for Advantage or Supplemental plans -- making
comparisons with individual, standard open-market Medicare plans
difficult. You have to carefully analyze the features as they
apply to your specific situation (for example medications or
2. Traps and limitations