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1. Medicare Decoder    2. Basics    3. Advantage vs. Original    4. Compare Plans    5. Via HPInc/HPE    6. Trouble; Contacts

2. Medicare Basics.  (Whether or not receiving benefits from or subsidized by HP/HPInc or HPE.)

Advice and reference info from members. (Updated Feb 6, 2021.)  Questions or comments to: info@hpalumni.org

Practical advice from HPAA members.

HPAA members advise that you get started three months before your Medicare start date (which is the start of your birth month, or the previous month if born on the 1st.)

1. First, set up your online "My Social Security" account -- or gain access to the forgotten account you set up in the past. You will be asked questions based on your Equifax credit file. If this process fails -- for example if you don't currently have both a mortgage and a car loan -- Social Security will send a temporary password to either the postal address or email address they have on file for you. If you have a credit freeze or fraud alert at Equifax, you will have to temporarily lift it. Create a Social Security Account

2. Download -- or read online -- the official "Medicare & You" booklet. Don't wait for the printed copy in the mail, which may show up two months after you need it.

3. Sign up for Medicare A and/or B using your online Social Security account.

4. Then you will be able to add your specific Medicare insurance plan(s) -- Supplement/Medigap and/or Part D, or Advantage -- via your insurance provider.

Getting started with Medicare.

Here's the official Medicare step-by-step procedure:

The AARP also has a step-by-step procedure -- ""Medicare Made Easy"
https://www.aarp.org/health/medicare-insurance/info-2020/what-is-medicare.html  [AARP membership not required.]
...and a "Medicare Question and Answer Tool."

Members found this 20-minute video from investment company T. Rowe Price to be very helpful: "Making Informed Medicare Choices" Publicly available (no account needed.) Originally made in 2018; slides updated 12/2019. Member comment: "Very tightly edited -- there is little excess verbiage. If you don't follow something that's said, it might be something you should learn more about."

Get Medicare information from the official source.

Many Medicare websites that carry authoritative-sounding information and appear to be operated by impartial, non-profit, or official sources are actually cleverly-disguised sales pitches.

Much information on Medicare on websites or in the media is inadvertently oversimplified, out of date, or distorted due to condensation or paraphrasing.

1. Go to the source -- the official "Medicare & You" booklet and the official Medicare site. They are very well done:  http://www.medicare.gov   (Note that official-looking "medicare <dot> com" or <dot> org sites that comes up in Google searches are operated by clever insurance sales agencies -- not by the government.)

Go through the "Medicare & You" booklet sections in order...
1: Signing up for Medicare
2: Find out if Medicare covers your test, item, or service
3: Original Medicare
4: Medicare Advantage Plans & other options
5: Medicare Supplement Insurance (Medigap)
6: Medicare drug coverage (Part D)
7: Get help paying your health & drug costs

There are several key tables in the booklet:

- Page 6 through 8 explain Original Medicare (+ Medigap + Drug) vs Medicare Advantage plans.

- Page 21 explains how your other insurance works with Medicare.

- Page 72 decodes the Supplemental (Medigap) plans -- A through N.

You can download the "Medicare & You" booklet from the official Medicare.gov site. https://www.medicare.gov/pubs/pdf/10050-Medicare-and-You.pdf 

Even if you have a paper copy, much easier to use if you download the current copy and use Adobe Reader's search feature to find specific words or phrases. (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.) The pdf file is very well done --terms, phrases, and issues are hotlinked to sections in the booklet or to other articles on the site.

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. Very helpful articles from the official Medicare site:

- Retiree insurance. "If you're retired and have Medicare and group health plan (retiree) coverage from a former employer... "5 things to know about retiree coverage"

- Employer coverage (if still employed.) Find out what you need to do if you have employer coverage and you're turning 65, or are over 65, or are under 65 and have a disability.

- What is the cryptic "Notice of Creditable Coverage" letter? 

3. Check the official Medicare advice and savings sites for your state.

- State Health Insurance Assistance Programs. State-specific SHIP websites with information about local, personalized counseling and assistance to people with Medicare and their families. SHIPs can help you with things like: Your Medicare questions, including your benefits, coverage, premiums, deductibles, and coinsurance. Complaints and appeals. Joining or leaving a Medicare Advantage Plan (like an HMO or PPO), any other Medicare health plan, or Medicare Prescription Drug Plan. Highly recommended by HPAA members.  https://www.shiptacenter.org

- Medicare Savings Programs. If you have limited income and resources, you can get help from your state paying some or all of your Medicare premiums, deductibles, and coinsurance. https://www.medicare.gov/Contacts/#resources/msps

- State Insurance Departments. Information about Medicare Supplement Insurance (Medigap) plans sold in the state. https://www.medicare.gov/Contacts/#resources/sids

Links on the official Medicare site to other helpful contacts: https://www.medicare.gov/Contacts

4. Health insurance agents. You may not qualify for a company health insurance plan -- or, even if you do, have low years-of-service such that they should consider non-company alternatives. An experienced independent insurance agent licensed to sell health insurance in your state can help you sort through the complexity -- and adds nothing to the cost of any plan you purchase from them.

If you have found an especially helpful article on the medicare.gov site, please pass the word to info@hpalumni.org

Next step: 3. Advantage vs. Original Medicare

For more mutual help on this topic and many others, join the independent HP Alumni Association. If you were formerly a regular, direct employee of HP, HPInc, or HPE -- or are in the process of leaving -- join the HP Alumni Association. No charge, thanks to HPAA members.

As financial, legal, and personal advice must be tailored to the specific circumstances of each case, and finances and laws are constantly changing, nothing provided here should be used as a substitute for the personalized advice of competent financial, legal, and personal advisors.

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