00:00 Kurt Baker: Good morning and welcome back to another edition of Master Your Finances, presented by Certified Wealth Management and Investment. I am Kurt Baker, a Certified Financial Planner professional located in Princeton, New Jersey. I can be reached through our website, which is www.cwmi.us, or you can call me directly at 609-716-4700. This week, we’re very pleased to welcome back Amanda Reese, who’s been with Hafetz and Associates since 2011, and she started with the Medicare department of the company, and since then, she’s helped thousands of clients and grow the Medicare department to include five team members. Enthusiasm to educate her clients of Medicare and her patience to make sure her clients understand their options is what sets Amanda apart from most.
00:45 Kurt Baker: She takes pride in being knowledgeable about all aspects of Medicare, from signing up for Part A and B, to deciding a Medicare supplemental or Advantage plan for her client’s needs at the best, what to do for the prescription part or part D, and how to handle the “donut hole” that oftentimes we talk about. Every step of the way, Amanda will help and make sure that they understand the decisions they’re making for themselves and for their family. And to point them going ahead and to tweak the plans as they go along. I know, Amanda, I’ve worked with you a lot, so you’re fantastic. I can agree with everything that we just said about you is, you’re very caring and you’re very careful about making sure that people select the right plans, ’cause for sometimes this is a big one. The first time you go in, you get… There’s no underwriting, so most people need to understand that, that first transition into Medicare and some of these supplementals and things like that, you kind of pick and choose, and if anything happens, you might have trouble switching later on, so it’s important to really pay attention to what you’re doing, right?
01:50 Amanda Reese: Absolutely. Absolutely.
01:51 Kurt Baker: So you wanna give us a little bit of the basics about when people start with… ‘Cause we hear about the A, B, C, D and all that good stuff. I know it can get a little bit confusing. Do you wanna kinda just explain the basics of part A and B, and when people start to have to think about signing up for the different segments of the plan and how it all integrates and works together, what it all means?
02:12 Amanda Reese: Of course, so the Part A, we’ll start there with Social Security, it’s where you sign up for Part A, and that’s gonna be when you turn 65. So no matter what, you worked 40 quarters or 10 years here in the country, you will get part A for nothing. So you’re always gonna sign up for that when you turn 65. The other part you get from the government is part B as in boy, and this part, no matter how long you’ve worked will actually cost you a monthly premium. But this is also the part that depending on if you’re working for a company that’s over 20 employees, you may or may not have to get part B when you first turn 65. So if someone decides to keep working and wants to stay on their employer plan, they can get part A and waive part B without penalty as long as, again, that employer is over the 20 employees. And then once they do go to retire, we can help them get part B back.
03:19 Kurt Baker: Do you wanna explain a little bit about… You mentioned the penalty in there, ’cause I know there’s some important dates and things you need to understand about how and when you sign up for those parts, and how that might affect you if you just ignore it and don’t sign up when you’re supposed to. Do you wanna explain that penalty and how that, when you’re supposed to sign up and things like that.
03:36 Amanda Reese: Of course. So signing up starts three months before your birthday month, so three months prior to you turning 65, you’re gonna wanna reach out and have someone help you enrol in both A and B, prior to your birthday and prior to you turning 65, you can do this right online through the Social Security’s website. So they make it kinda easy, we can go through it, takes about 10 minutes and I can assist you in doing something like that. If for any reason you do not do it before your birthday, you also have three months after your birthday from turning 65. If for some reason then you also do not complete it during that three month after your birthday period, there are penalties. So part A has a 10% penalty, but as long as you worked 40 quarters or 10 years, you will not have a penalty because your penalty will be based on the zero dollar premium. But Part B, you have a 10% late-enrollment penalty for every 12-month period that you don’t sign up and you should have. So if you miss your initial three months before or three months after your 65th birthday, the only time you can sign up for part B would be between January 1st and March 31st. And then it does not go into effect until July of that same year.
05:08 Kurt Baker: Yeah, so as you point out, it’s pretty important to pay attention to those dates. And I know most people start wondering what to do this and that. And that’s really where we kinda get involved, obviously, ’cause it can get very confusing and you don’t wanna make any mistakes. So essentially, when you’re coming up on your 65th birthday, you really wanna just kinda check in. I have people we talk… I talk to my clients anywhere from three to six months ahead of time, even before these windows open up, just so they kinda know what they need to do and they kinda get their feet wet about, “Oh, okay. Now I kinda understand. Yes, I’m gonna keep working, or no, I’m not gonna keep working, or I need to have coverage,” things like that, so you can kind of at least understand what you’re gonna be doing and what dates you need to start to pay attention at. So that way it kinda reduces the stress level a little bit ’cause people, they hear about all this stuff, but they don’t really understand it until they have to kinda get involved, like most things, right?
06:00 Amanda Reese: Agreed, and I will also say a big telltale sign that your 65th birthday might be coming up is, they will absolutely get a ton of mail and a ton of soliciting phone calls. Everyone is going to try to show them their plans and wanna talk to them to try to have them sign up for their carriers plan. So that usually will be a red flag that, “Hey, don’t ignore it. Call somebody, talk to me, let me help you through it, and then we can deal with it.” ‘Cause you might not have to get it, but if… We need to make sure that that’s in fact what you need to be done.
06:40 Kurt Baker: Yeah, that’s very important. You’re right. I’ve met number of clients essentially complained to me like, “I’m getting all this mail. I don’t really understand it and people are calling me up and it sounds very confusing to me.” Because as you point out, they’re all coming from their own perspective. And I think a lot of those calls really have to do with the next part, I guess we should explain a little bit about… And that’s the Part C, I guess, so the supplemental or advantage plans that are out there, we see ads on TV for this, sometimes the employer might even have their own version of a plan that they can take. So that I think is where it starts to get really confusing for people. So do you wanna… Let’s touch on that a little bit. What is that part? And why are they getting so many calls and mailings and things like that, do you think?
07:23 Amanda Reese: Sure, and I also get those complaints from my clients as well, because we’re also used to, working and being in the workforce most of the time where your employer is giving you option A or you buy up to option B or vice versa, so you’re… Now you can choose any plan on the market. So you’re gonna be bombarded with all these options. So the biggest thing you wanted to make a decision on is whether or not you want your Medicare as your primary. So if you are looking to have your Medicare stay as your primary insurance and pay your claim, then you will then enroll into what they call a Medicare supplemental plan, and this Medicare supplemental plan will cover the deductible and the 20% co-insurance that Part A and Part B do not cover from the government. So you’re gonna show your red, white and blue Medicare card, and then you will also show a carrier supplemental card, and that will give you that fuller coverage so that you don’t have large bills for doctor’s offices, hospital stays, etcetera.
08:36 Amanda Reese: The other way you can also be covered is, if your Medicare is not primary. So you can choose a carrier, it’s called a Part C or an advantage plan, they are the same thing, and they will then now take over as your primary insurance. So whatever carrier advantage plan you choose, Medicare A and B now pays that carrier to have you as a client, that carrier now has the say so of what doctors, what hospitals that you can go to, and what copays are allocated to each service that you get done. So it’s just a little bit different way to be covered, but it’s definitely one of the biggest decisions that a client would have to make before we can proceed with other options and actual carriers and pricing and things like that.
09:30 Kurt Baker: Right, and I agree. That’s part of what happens. So they gotta really decide what direction they’re gonna go in, so as you point out, either Medicare can be the primary or you can have an advantage plan, and then that’s… And they work very differently as far as how an advantage plan works and a supplemental plan works, right? So, you wanna touch just a little bit what the difference is between the two, and then we’ll go into a little more depth after the break here in a few minutes.
09:56 Amanda Reese: Sure, these supplemental plans, Medicare being your primary, you can go to any hospital and any doctor in the country that accepts Medicare. You don’t need referrals, there’s no authorization for any type of testing or anything like that with an advantage plan, again, those plans could be an HMO or even a PPO. So there could be out-of-network benefits, but there is some type of network that you have to follow. So within that network, every time you go and get something done from maybe a specialist or need a surgery, there’s gonna be allocated copays that you’re gonna be paying for each of those items.
10:40 Kurt Baker: No, that’s great, yeah, so we’ll get into a little more, the detail about how this all works and then we’ll get into what part D is when we come back from the break in a few minutes. You’re listening to Master Your Finances, we’ll be right back.
10:51 Kurt Baker: Welcome back, you’re listening to Master Your Finances. I’m Kurt Baker, here with Amanda Reese with Hafetz and Associates, and we’re talking about the basics of Medicare at this point. And you’ve gone through Part A, which you automatically get when you’re 65, and then you have to sign up for Part B either at that time or when… You have to make those decisions essentially. Are you gonna stay in your employer’s plan? But Part B you pay for, Part A is essentially already paid for because you get that as a benefit. So you paid into it all those years and now you don’t pay any kind of premium, where Part B you do. And then we were talking about, right before the break, the advantage plans as supplemental to… You wanna talk a little bit more about the detail about how those work and when somebody might choose one over the other, and what kind of a decision-making process they kinda go through, since that seems to be one of the bigger things that people talk about when they get to the… When they’re switching from their employers plan over to the Medicare system, so to speak, right?
11:49 Amanda Reese: Absolutely. And just to make a note, a lot of people think that Medicare is gonna be signed up for them automatically, but if they are not already collecting Social Security before they turn 65, they physically need to sign up for both A and B, so that’s just a very important thing to note that it is not automatic unless they are already collecting social security benefits. So if you are about to turn 65 or have turned 65 and you didn’t do anything, definitely reach out as well because we can then try to see if we can fix that for them.
12:27 Amanda Reese: The biggest thing, again, between supplemental and advantage, and sometimes there’s also another wrench kind of thrown in there where an employer might have a retiree plan that kinda throws into the mix of the decision, but again, Medicare supplementals, they offer… They are a little… They’re a higher premium plan. So your Medicare is primary, you have this supplemental. But there’s plans on the market where if someone has like a plan G as in George, they only pay the Part B deductible, which is $198 a year, and then everything else is covered, so they can go to the doctors, have surgery, be in the hospital, anything medical that they need done, they’re not incurring any other copays or charges other than that monthly premium. With the advantage plan, there is a lower premium per month. There are even plans that are for zero dollars. So you pay nothing additional for the Advantage plan, but every time you go to the doctor’s, you have a copay, every time you need surgery, you pay a copay, if you go into the hospital, there’s a per-day charge for every day you’re there. So with the Advantage plans, although each month you’re not putting out money, if there is a time where you start to incur a lot of medical issues, it could get more expensive.
13:55 Amanda Reese: The other thing I just wanna note too is with Medicare Supplemental, the first time you turn 65, you can choose any plan with any carrier on the market. After you have Medicare Part B for six months, to switch those plans, you would go through underwriting, which would involve some health questions and a look back depending on your health for the last few years. They can increase what they think you should be paying per month or some carriers will flat out deny you, depending on what your health history is. You can always move from a Supplemental to an Advantage plan. Moving from an Advantage plan to the Supplemental, you will have that same underwriting to go through. So it is just something to be mindful because if you are in one of those Advantage plans and then you do start having some of these medical issues come up, you might not be able to get out of that type of plan where your copays start building up, where you’re paying a couple hundred dollars a month, maybe more than what it would cost for you just to be on the supplement.
15:12 Kurt Baker: Yeah, I agree, and that’s where some of this planning comes in. And I know one of the things we talk about, of course, with the Advantage plans is, as you pointed out, it is they do select the group that they’re in, right? It’s sort of like similar to an HMO where they’re gonna tell you which doctors and hospitals and things like that you can go to, and I know…
15:32 Amanda Reese: Absolutely.
15:33 Kurt Baker: At least where I am, when you do that search, it’s limited, it’s very limited on your choices, as far as the Advantage plans that I’ve looked at. So you have to be very cautious about just automatically saying, “Oh well, this is gonna be cheaper and… ” But your hospital may not be close to you, or the doctor’s selection may not be somebody that’s in your personal list of people that you wanna use, so you have to look at the providers as well, right, when you start talking about that?
16:06 Amanda Reese: Correct, and a big thing too is, think about it, if something were to come up and happen, do you wanna go to the best doctor in the country that you can find, or do you wanna go to the best doctor that that plan says you can go to? Because if they’re not in the network, and you don’t have a full PPO that gives you copays, some might do it at like a percentage coverage. But, it’s gonna be totally out of your pocket if they’re not in network. So now you’re paying out of the pocket per office visit. Hopefully, you would never need surgery by that doctor because they can charge thousands of dollars for that type of thing.
16:48 Kurt Baker: And another conversation that we have is: How are you gonna manage your retirement? In other words, are you gonna be staying home all the time and staying in New Jersey, or do you have a second home down in North Carolina or Florida, where you might be traveling around? And that does affect your plan selection, right? As far as which one you might wanna choose? Do you wanna explain the difference?
17:11 Amanda Reese: Absolutely, yes. So with a Supplement plan, Medicare is your primary again, so this allows you to go to any hospital and any doctor in the country that accepts Medicare. So you can have a set of doctors here in New Jersey, you could have a set of doctors in your part-time home in Georgia, and it doesn’t matter. Your Medicare will pay both places, and you will only have those limited out-of-pocket copays, depending on what plan you choose. With the Advantage plans, there are some plans, again, that are PPO-based. So with HMO policies, the only out-of-network coverage you have are true emergency room visits. Other than that, if you do have a PPO, there are some carriers that have multiple networks within different states, but you would have to call ahead, let them know that you’re going to that state, open up the network there. You would have to do a little bit of research to make sure you know what doctors in the area, work with that plan. And then once you come back to New Jersey, you have to call again to close the network and open it back up here in New Jersey so that they can start using their doctors here again.
18:29 Amanda Reese: So it’s just a little bit more work, and New Jersey does not have many of those type of plans here in this state. There are other states throughout the country that have better Advantage plans, I guess you can say, with more coverage, or easier to access coverage, might be the correct wording. But here in New Jersey, we are very much a supplemental state. For some reason, and maybe you can shed some light, but whenever something really goes wrong medically, we tend to want to go over the border to Philly or New York to get a second opinion. So with that being said, the Medicare Supplement, having your Medicare as your primary insurance, is an important decision. And just to ease people’s minds, a plan G where you would only pay the 198 for the entire year, and then everything else is covered at 100% is about like 170 a month for a 65 to 70-year-old. So it’s not like it’s a couple hundred dollars. It is pretty inexpensive, especially compared to those individual policies that some people might be on as well.
19:50 Kurt Baker: Yeah, no, I agree, and honestly, we always do the analysis, of course, but when you start adding in their preferred locations to go, as an example, you might wanna go to Penn Medicine in Philadelphia, you might wanna go to New York City. And if you live in New Jersey, geographically, that’s pretty close, but when you start talking about your plan designation, it may not fit into the Advantage plans. And that’s oftentimes what we see is that they’re gonna have to… If they really need a specialist, when you have the Supplemental plan, you just open up a lot more options, especially when you’re dealing with the tri-state area, and you can easily travel there and use those facilities as far as you getting there. So you wanna make sure that your medical coverage also permits you to go there as well. So that’s what we seem to see happening to most people, ’cause these companies keep buying each other up too, as we know, and we’re ending up with larger and larger conglomerates, so you wanna be able to access all those facilities within those large hospital organizations, right?
20:50 Amanda Reese: Absolutely.
20:51 Kurt Baker: Yeah, so yeah, it’s very interesting. So we’ve gone through all of those. And you wanna touch briefly on what happens… ‘Cause this comes up too, we have a lot of people that retire and then they travel. How does that fit into Medicare? What do they cover? And I know I always advise people to get travel insurance when they go outside of the country. So you wanna explain briefly how all that works before the break.
21:15 Amanda Reese: Sure. So Advantage plans, again, outside of the area, they’re really just gonna have emergency room coverage only. The Supplemental plans will have out-of-country coverage for you. So if you do go out of the country or you are traveling a little bit, I do also suggest, depending on the type of trip, travelers insurance is probably a lot better and a safer way to go, but maybe if you’re just sitting on the beach in a resort and you don’t really… Not doing anything and just going to relax, you can rely on the Medicare Supplemental travelers insurance. So, how it works is, there’s a $250 copay for every emergency, and then they pay up to 80% of a $50,000 life time max. So when you are there, you are paying out of pocket, and then what you’re doing is bringing back all the receipts. Even if they’re in a different language, it’s totally fine. So all the receipts for the visit, all the receipts for any medications that they’re getting, and then we submit them to the Supplemental plan. And at that point, the Supplemental plan will cut a check for the 80% of what bills were sent in.
22:37 Kurt Baker: Yeah, no, I agree with… It’s always good to have multiple layers of protection, right, so even if you…
22:41 Amanda Reese: Absolutely.
22:43 Kurt Baker: Make that trip and you forget, “Hey, oh, I forgot to get the travelers insurance.” At least, by default, by having a good Supplemental coverage, you’re gonna have something in place. And I know another area that, when I hear people, if they get injured overseas, and the reason I kind of like the travelers insurance is, ’cause a lot of them will help you get back to the United States, which tends to be the…
23:04 Amanda Reese: Correct.
23:05 Kurt Baker: Big struggle. Because if you really… You may not wanna use a doctor in that particular country, you wanna get back to the US to use who you wanna use, and that could be a very large expense if you’re not covered, right?
23:18 Amanda Reese: Correct, absolutely. And there are some countries where you check in for a hospital visit and the first thing they do is ask for a credit card. And they don’t let you leave until you pay, ’cause I’ve had it happen to clients. So it’s something that to be very mindful of, and as I talk to clients too, it’s a different vacation if you’re maybe traveling to Europe for a couple of weeks and you’re walking around and you’re doing a lot of excursions and things like that, compared to maybe just going and sitting on a beach somewhere and not leaving the resort and doing a very low key vacation. So everyone has their own comfort level of what they like to do, but definitely for that European vacation where you’re gonna be out and about daily walking around, absolutely something that I would consider to have travelers insurance especially so they would fly you home.
24:12 Kurt Baker: And by the way, it’s very inexpensive when you start adding it into your actual trip bill. Yeah, we’re gonna talk about, I guess, part D or the prescription when we come back. You’re listening to Master Your Finances. We’ll be right back.
24:25 Kurt Baker: Welcome back. You’re listening to Master Your Finances. I’m Kurt Baker, here with Amanda Reese of Hafetz and Associates, and we’ve been talking about Medicare. We went though Part A, B, and the Advantage and Supplemental plans or part C, and the last part that people talk about, which is kind of important, is Part D or the prescription. So how does that fit into all this and how do people properly manage Part D in your view, Amanda?
24:49 Amanda Reese: Absolutely. So, Part D is a huge part. Medicare A and B are medical-based. The Part D plan is if you have Medicare and your Supplement plan, you’re gonna choose a standalone prescription plan to round out your coverage, ’cause the Medicare and the Supplement are only gonna cover the medical. So you have to purchase a prescription drug plan. The government is not going to be giving you any type of prescription coverage unless you buy this type of plan. The Advantage plans also can have this Part D plan attached to their medical as one policy, so it’s a full policy of medical and the prescription wrapped into one. So with the Advantage plan, you only kinda use one card, whereas with the Supplemental, you have your Medicare card, your Supplemental and prescription card that you carry with you. The biggest thing about the Part Ds, they all follow the same outline of how they work. So these prescription plans, they start and may or may not have a deductible. So all depending on the plan that you’re choosing, there could be a deductible and you would have to pay in the beginning of the year. So that’s, you pay the full price until you reach a certain amount, and then you have copays after that.
26:15 Amanda Reese: So once the deductible is met, you pay specific copays. Then there’s what they call the “donut hole” that comes into play, and a lot of people think of donuts and it’s great, but this is not so fun. So what happens is, if you happen to be taking any brand name medications that are very high cost. Not your copays that you’re paying, but the cost of that actual drug with the company plan. If it reaches a certain level of about $4,000 this year, then instead of paying a set copay, so maybe your copay is like $45 a month. Now they’re gonna move you to a 25% copay. So if that specific medication was maybe… I don’t know, we’ll just say $500. Your $45 copay is now going to jump up to $125 for the same one month supply of medication. So a big part about what we do with Medicare is we talk to clients prior to even enrolling in this type of plan. You know, “Let’s talk about what medications you’re taking, let’s talk about what pharmacy you like to go to, and how much of every medication do you get a year?” Because there are some people who have maybe like a cream or an inhaler that they might only get once or twice a year, that could be a little bit more expensive.
27:53 Amanda Reese: So some people don’t ever reach the donut hole, so there’s nothing to worry about. If you’re taking very low cost generics, you’re not even getting close to that donut hole. But unfortunately, I do have some clients who after two or three months are already in that donut hole, and they do have a lot of out of pocket for the year based on those more expensive medications. So it is something that you can plan ahead for. I always tell clients, if they call me nine and even 12 months in advance to turning 65, we still do this comparison for them because it’s something that they can have a conversation with their doctor and start talking about what medications you’re on, have you tried the generic form, if not, is there another medication out there that might do the same thing for you, that we can use to help lower your cost?
28:53 Kurt Baker: Yeah, that’s very important. And I know you have the initial one, right, but the interesting part about part D, is you do an analysis as you go along once you’re into Part D?
29:02 Amanda Reese: Correct. So the prescription plans are calendar year. So this deductible that comes into play, say you turn 65 in September, your deductible for 2020 for this year will be from September to December, and then in January, everyone starts all over again. So every calendar year, we’re gonna… I say we, because that’s what I do with my clients, but… With my clients, every year, I do look into their medication plans, what medications have changed. Maybe they’re taking more of something or maybe they dropped a medication that can affect what plan might be lowest overall cost, because we take into consideration not only if your… If you have a standalone plan, there’s a premium per month, so that premium per month, but also how much you’re paying in copays, ’cause every company may charge a different copay for that same medication because it might be in a different tier, or they may charge more or less.
30:11 Amanda Reese: So that kinda stuff actually changes every calendar year. So it’s super important that people, especially with the standalone prescription plans, are looking at changing their prescription plan every year because some plans as per last calendar year, we had a bunch of changes. And there was a plan that was $24 and jumped up to like $58 a month. So if a client did not change their plan, their plan automatically rolled over and automatically renewed for them, which is great, but now they’re paying over double the price that they were the year before, and you’re locked in for that full calendar year.
31:01 Kurt Baker: Yeah. And that’s really important. I think you’re bringing up something I wanna make sure I clarify for people, because sometimes I think when they make this major decision, when they turn 65 or whenever they move into the… Or when they stop with their employer plan and they go out and they start choosing whether to do a Supplemental or an Advantage plan. And this is really how we kinda met, as I had clients coming to me, needing the help, and then we partnered together because I wanted to make sure they were getting the right plan. So I just want you to explain to them why there’s no additional cost to this, and also what you get is you get your advisor involved in this decision, and then we can actually help you directly when you start having these questions, because if you go and just take one of these phone calls from a… A call from a solicitor on the phone, you’re not gonna have a designated rep, so to speak, for the rest of your retirement years. Whereas if you go through a broker’s firm like we’re working with, you’re gonna have a nice group of people who are gonna know who you are and can help you out and there’s no difference in the cost because it’s all the same cost regardless of how you get it, right?
32:09 Amanda Reese: Absolutely. It costs nothing more for the client to talk to someone like me and just get my opinion on what they think. It’s completely free. The supplemental prescription advantage prices are the same if they went directly to the carriers as if they go through me. So the carriers already embed any commissions, and they’re the ones that are paying us, not the clients. And it’s not something where I help you sign up and then kinda send you on your way. I’m a part of your journey, so I am here for yearly reviews, I even tell my clients, if you lose your wallet or have a misplaced ID card, I can help you order ID cards, I can help you if you get a bill that you don’t think you owe to look into it and clear that up for you. So it’s something that we have a relationship with, not only when you start, but going forward, and I can tell you, I have clients from when I started in 2011, and I still talk to them every year, and we have a great relationship because after a while, now we talk about grandkids and all the fun stuff.
33:20 Kurt Baker: Yeah, absolutely, yeah, it’s really important in my particular view, and that’s how I started getting involved because I felt this was really important, and I saw people making mistakes. And they were just automatically signing up for something and regretting it later, not realizing that there were other options out there, they might automatically roll into their employer’s plan, not realizing that there were other options that might actually be better in their case, the employer plan might have been fine. But a lot of the employers are really trying to offload this long-term cost of retiree medical cost. So they are setting up these plans which kind of alleviate them of that long-term potential liability. So even your large employers are rolling in to these types of plans, where maybe 20 or 30 years ago, that was not the case. They would keep you on their plan throughout retirement, right?
34:09 Amanda Reese: Absolutely. And the biggest part is too, is they can also just give it for a few years, so I have a lot more clients saying, “Well, we’re covered for the next five years, and then we kinda get kicked off.” So they kind of have a retiree plan, but there’s an end date.
34:28 Kurt Baker: Right.
34:28 Amanda Reese: One of the biggest things clients should realize is that depending on your circumstance, some of these mistakes can cost you, so knowing everything ahead of time so that they can make the best decision for themselves is exactly what they need to do, because I wouldn’t wanna see someone who has a lot of medical issues, go into an advantage plan and start incurring a lot of bills that could bankrupt them or definitely put a dent in their savings or retirement because they didn’t realize that they maybe could have a supplement plan, that kind of stopped those coverages from coming and has more coverage that way. So it is absolutely something that knowing every aspect or every choice that they potentially could have is a huge advantage for them for making this decision.
35:26 Kurt Baker: I agree 100%. So I appreciate everything you do, and I love working with you. So we’re gonna come out of break and we’re gonna talk a little bit about some of the things that have been going on the last few months, now that we’ve been affected by COVID-19. You’re listening to Master Your Finances. We’ll be right back.
35:42 Kurt Baker: Welcome back. You’re listening to Master Your Finances. I’m Kurt Baker, a certified financial planner professional here with Amanda Reese with Hafetz and Associates. I’m gonna have to say, you’re fantastic, I appreciate all you’ve done to help the clients that I have, and we’ve helped them transition to retirement and help them with their Medicare choices, especially the supplemental or whether to take advantage plan or whether to take the employer plans and things like that, and do a full analysis, including what the best drug program is for them, and then to help them monitor that throughout retirement and make sure they made a good choice upfront and keep that going. I know now we’ve had a little bit of a disruption, so how has COVID-19 affected signing up for the plans and how people process getting on Medicare and things like that, what have you noticed in last few months and how have you made adjustments to that?
36:30 Amanda Reese: Sure. So unfortunately, we’ve had a surge of people wanting to sign up for Medicare, whether they unfortunately lost their jobs or choosing to retire, and the biggest thing with COVID was, is that all the Social Security office is closed. So normally, you would have forms that you need to get filled out and then you take them physically down to the office, so that could no longer happen. So in about a week, the government became almost paperless, so what they do is, there’s a few options. We have had great success with people mailing things in if they would like to mail them in, the only thing we always tell them is send it certified, so you have some type of tracking. And just so you can make sure it was delivered, but they’re just gonna send those papers right to the local office.
37:25 Amanda Reese: The Social Security also came out with a fax number, so now I can help my clients, we can get paperwork back from their HR and themselves, and we can fax it in. So that happens a little bit quicker. And just last week, Social Security opened up a portal on their website, and it now allows people to sign up electronically, and the only thing you need is proof that your company plan is ending. So it’s a great resource. They’re doing things where people will get responses within two and three weeks, which is awesome, so we can get your part B up and running. The only caveat is, is that you need to have your paperwork either postmarked or sent in before you want that effective date to happen. So for example, say you were looking for an August 1st effective date, as long as you send in the paperwork any time before July 31st, then you will get that August 1st effective date.
38:35 Amanda Reese: Social Security offices, they do have people there, managers, that are grabbing these packages being mailed. They do let them sit for three days, and then they open them and send them remotely to be processed. So we have been able to get a ton of people help during this time, but it is different. So we are so used to being able to just go down to the office, ask all the questions, get the forms if you need them, then go get them filled out and bring them back, and that just has changed a little bit. We need to get the forms offline and then mail, fax, or even just go online and fill those forms out and submit them to the government to start this whole process.
39:20 Kurt Baker: That’s really fascinating. So do you envision even when this current phase of lockdown, so to speak, is up, do you think they’ll continue to use those? Have they indicated whether or not they plan on leaving that open? It sounds like they’ve increased some efficiencies, yeah.
39:35 Amanda Reese: I agree with you for… I hope that they don’t take these resources away because it is something that, God forbid, someone was let go yesterday and they needed insurance for today, for July 1st, and yesterday, I could have helped them go online, fill these documents out through their portal, submit them, and they would lock in being able to have coverage for today. So I’m hoping and crossing my fingers that they do keep this type of portal and fax numbers and things up and running once COVID does clear up, hopefully. Also, fingers crossed for that.
40:19 Kurt Baker: Sure. Absolutely. Yes, definitely.
40:20 Amanda Reese: So it’s definitely more efficient, it’s definitely more helpful for the clients. It just does take a little bit more technology, but again, I have been able to help clients email documents to HR and get those documents back, help them fax things in to get things rolling, so we’ve been able to kind of jump over all the hurdles that have been in front of us to help everyone.
40:45 Kurt Baker: Well, I guess that’s one of the benefits of this whole crisis is it sounds like a lot of companies are becoming more efficient, and including the government in this case, so a lot of us have been kind of forced into it, and it sounds like the government responded in a pretty good way, so hopefully they keep that on board and keep going with that. I know another thing I wanna make sure we touch on is once you get set up on these plans, I know the company plans will often have things like dental and vision and things like that. You wanna explain about what those options might be once you’re on the Medicare system and the Supplemental and/or Advantage, whatever the case may be. How do they get those types of coverage later on in life?
41:19 Amanda Reese: Absolutely. So yes, most people come from these employer plans. They have dental, vision, even maybe some type of cancer policy, and what we do is we also offer those types of plans as well. Some of the Supplemental plans have discounts built into the carriers, some of the Advantage plans will give you reimbursements. So say they give you maybe $200 towards cleanings as a reimbursement every year. But what we also have are full fledged dental plans, coverage from day one. There are no waiting periods for some of our options, ’cause I know when people are looking for dental, it’s usually because they need something done rather quickly. So that is a huge thing that I do agree with. We do have some good carriers with dental. I will be honest, Delta Dental is one of the carriers that we use the most. Not only can you see a dentist here in New Jersey, but if you’re traveling, as long as that dentist in that state accepts Delta Dental as well, you can use it. So if you have maybe like a tooth emergency and you’re in your home in Georgia for a stay, then you can still go to a dentist down there. There’s not gonna be any type of lack of coverage.
42:44 Amanda Reese: Medicare is gonna cover your eye visits, which is great, but frames and lenses, that’s still on you and up to you. So there are policies out there that are very minimal per year that will give you the coverage to be able to get those new frames and lenses every year, especially if you like the no-line bifocals and the scratch-resistant, and now they have the blue light lenses, and things like that, ’cause each one of those items costs a little bit more every time. So with those separate plans, you get those extra discounts and percentages off when all those things add up. And then a big thing we also use is like a cancer type of policy, and this is just coverage… Unfortunately, cancer has become quite… Not something that’s out of the norm for someone maybe to have, and these cancer policies will give you a lump sum of money if in fact you are diagnosed. So it can help with travel. So if you need money to go and travel and maybe get treatment, and maybe you can’t travel home after a treatment, so you need to say in a hotel one night.
44:00 Amanda Reese: Or you need to help supplement income if a loved one or a relative is gonna be taking off from their work and their employment and wanting to help you. So this is a way that we do that, and most employers actually offer these types of plans, so they might be used to something like that, and then they don’t have to give that up once they do stop working.
44:24 Kurt Baker: Well, those are all great. Another thing I hear clients talk about a little bit, if you can explain how these work, is these… The GoodRx card. They may not use a prescription plan or they may use it in conjunction with it. Are you familiar with those and how those work basically?
44:37 Amanda Reese: Absolutely, yeah. So GoodRx is always a great option. So I even try to get my clients to download the GoodRx app on their phone, so this way it’s always with them. Even if they use a prescription coverage with their Part D prescription drug plan with Medicare, even if they have that, if they can get a coupon that lets them pay less for a certain medication, I always tell them, “Absolutely go for it. Why pay more if you don’t have to?” Also, if you’re putting medications through the GoodRx Program, which is just like a discount program, so just so everyone knows, it does not cover the penalty if you don’t have a prescription drug plan, so it’s just a discount plan, you use it in conjunction with. But for whatever reason, you can get a medication for cheaper, then it also doesn’t go towards that bank of money to push you into the donut hole. So it can also save you not only on that medication, but paying higher premiums or co-pays on other medications as well, throughout the year.
45:46 Kurt Baker: So you can blend the two together to stop you from hitting the donut hole potentially.
45:51 Amanda Reese: Yes. Absolutely.
45:52 Kurt Baker: You can use it in one place and use it… So even if they’re a similar cost, you may decide to use the GoodRx instead of your plan if you think another medication might be better handled by your Part D, right?
46:02 Amanda Reese: Correct. And it will stop you maybe from getting into the donut hole and then having to pay, instead of that $45 copay, it jumps to a 25% copay, which could be a lot more.
46:13 Kurt Baker: Wow. Well, fantastic. You’ve covered an awful lot. Any final words of wisdom before we sign off. I know it’s very complicated, and I guess the bottom line from my perspective is, have an advisor involved in this and help you out. You need somebody to kinda guide you through all this because it can be complicated. And it’s important to kinda do it right, ’cause there’s a lot at stake in my view.
46:34 Amanda Reese: Correct. My biggest thing is for people, especially if they’re so confused and they’re overwhelmed and they’re kind of putting it off, is to just call somebody. Let me be able to help you, to help explain all your different options. Let me talk to you, see what your lifestyle is like, see what’s important to you in regards to insurance and be able to help you find a plan that works best for how you like to be covered, and also your budget, because both of those things do matter. And we go over everything. And there’s no additional cost. People always ask me before I start talking to them, “How much is gonna cost for my knowledge and expertise.” And it’s nothing. You can get this advice for free. All you have to do is give me a call. So I love being able to help people. It is a big part of my job, which I’m very fortunate to be able to have. And I just love to be able to help people find the plan because there’s so much misinformation out there. So get the right information, get all your options as well, and in this way, they can make the best decision going forward.
47:47 Kurt Baker: Absolutely, Amanda, and I appreciate it very much. You’ve been listening to Master Your Finances. I am Kurt Baker, certified financial planner professional. You can listen to this podcast as well as all the podcasts by going to MasterYourFinances.us. Remember, together we can master your finances so you can enjoy financial peace of mind.
50:00 Announcer: That was the weekend rewind edition of Master Your Finances with Kurt Baker, a certified financial planner with Certified Wealth Management and Investment LLC. You can catch him at his normal time every Sunday at 9 AM. Tomorrow weekend rewind is back with health 411. So be sure to tune in right here on 107.7 The Bronc.