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How To Handle Insurance, Changes After Being Laid Off

Question: What about insurance and other changes now that I just was laid off and I am over 65?

Answer: Life is changing for many of us right now. All of us hope to some day retire, but many of us are having to address that life change sooner than we ever expected.

You said that you are over 65, so you may already have Medicare. If you don’t already have Medicare, you should consider signing up for Medicare Part A and B. This sign up process requires paperwork to be completed and turned into the Social Security Administration (SSA). There are two forms to complete: you complete form CMS-40B and the employer completes form CMS-L564. You can find these forms online, or from the local SSA office. Senior Life Matters has the forms and can mail them to you personally if you wish.

Once these two forms are completed, make a copy to keep for yourself. Deliver the completed forms to the local SSA office. The local SSA office currently has some contact precautions and restricted hours due to our public health crisis, so I recommend calling before you go. Jamestown SSA is (877) 319-3079, Dunkirk is (888) 862-2139, and Olean is (877) 319-5773. You can also call the national number to get guidance, (800) 772-1213, or the website, ssa.gov.

If you have Medicare Part A, you now need Medicare Part B. Medicare Part B will cost you $144.60 each month. If you collect Social Security, the premium will be deducted from your Social Security check. If you don’t collect Social Security, then they will bill you quarterly, which is every three months.

With this work stoppage, you may want to consider collecting Social Security Benefits if you haven’t started yet. That can also be reviewed with the SSA staff when you speak with them. Let them know you need Medicare right away, regardless of your decision to collect SSA benefits.

When an person has left his employment and lost his insurance regardless of why, he has eight months to sign up for Medicare. I don’t recommend waiting eight months since that means you may not have adequate insurance for those eight months. COBRA should not be used in place of Medicare.

Once you have both Medicare Part A and B, you can begin to decide what type of insurance you want in addition to that basic coverage. You may be eligible for a retiree plan, which may be useful and cost effective. Your human resources department can help you through that question. If retiree coverage is not offered, you should then look to insurance products available to you.

There are the Medicare Supplement plans which are lettered plans (A-N) and these follow Medicare in their payments for medical bills. These plans tend to have relatively high premiums that are between $60 and 300 monthly, depending on the plan (letter) you choose and the company. A comprehensive policy (plan G) from the lowest-priced company costs around $184 monthly. These Medicare Supplement plans do not have drug coverage, so you would then look to Medicare Stand Alone plans, and/or possibly Veterans Benefits for your drug coverage.

You could also look at Medicare Advantage Plans. These are plans that replace your Medicare coverage. These plans range in premiums from $0 to $215 monthly. They usually include drug coverage (Part D). For a list of Medicare Advantage Plans available to you, look at medicare.gov or your Medicare and You 2020 handbook.

There are many plans to choose from and many factors to consider, such as your doctors, your medications, and your financial situation which may look very different now. Remember that whatever plan you choose, you can change your mind each year during open enrollment between Oct. 15 and Dec. 7. There are also special enrollment periods available in some situations that allow you change at other times.

You may want to begin collecting Social Security if you haven’t already started.

Senior Life Matters is a community based program sponsored by Lutheran Jamestown. For questions and concerns or to reach Janell Sluga, GCMC, call 720-9797 or e-mail at SLM@lutheran-jamestown.org.

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