Which Medicare plan(s) best serve RV Travelers? A review of the process I followed to answer this question – and the path I chose…
Medicare can be confusing! Part A, B, D, Medigap, Advantage Plans with all kinds of perks and more. As an RV traveler, when it came to selecting the right Medicare plan, I had several requirements:
- Portability – I need access to doctors where I am at the moment as I have no “home base”
- Direct access to specialists – I do not want to have to get referrals from my “internist” or “general practitioner” to see a specialist
- Predictable fees with no “surprises”
- Access to discounted vision, dental, telehealth, and potentially other services
Medicare Parts A, B, and D
I quickly learned that Part A is hospitalization, Part B is coverage for doctor visits, and Part D is prescriptions. Note: I’m not an expert and while I do endorse a particular provider (the one I chose after weighing ALL my options), I only do so on the basis of my own personal experience.
Medicare is NOT Free
Even though you’ve paid into the program for DECADES, once you’re on medicare, you WILL have fees. If all you do is enroll in basic Medicare, you’ll face a $1600./year deductible for hospitalization charges (Part A); $226./year deductible for doctor visits (Part B), plus a 20% co-pay. On top of this, you get to PAY $164.90/month for Part B (billed quarterly.)
Part D – Prescriptions. If you go the route I chose (read on for details), you’ll need to enroll in a prescription plan. Currently, largely as a result of my lifestyle, I take ZERO prescriptions. Regardless, the government gives you a BIG incentive to get a prescription plan as soon as you turn 65. More accurately, there is a penalty if you don’t get one!
You get to choose the right plan for your needs. In my case, I chose the minimum plan, which for my zip code is currently $4.70/month. And heck, its there *just incase*.
Note: These fees are all current as of mid-2023
Medicare: Controlling your Costs
Most folks will likely want some kind of private add-on to help control healthcare costs when you’re on Medicare. As I did my “due diligence”, I learned there are primarily two routes to go:
Medicare Advantage Plans vs. Medicare Supplemental (Medigap) Plans
Medicare advantage plans (often referred to as Part C) are the programs you see advertised all day long on TV. They sound REALLY appealing – no monthly fees, lots of perks, etc. BUT, when you read the fine print, these are NOT for you – ESPECIALLY if you’re a traveler!
Medicare advantage plans will want you to establish a “home base” where your primary care doctor is situated. You’ll need referrals for specialists and you’ll encounter more out of pocket payments, and you’ll need to stay within their insurance providers network. In summary, Medicare advantage plans have provider limitations, additional costs, and lack of coverage while traveling.
Medigap (supplemental medicare plans) in contrast cost more but puts YOU in charge. There is no “network” to worry about. YOU can go to any doctor or specialist that accepts medicare and your copays are covered – especially if you opt for “Plan G.” Plan G is the most comprehensive medigap plan. There is also a Plan N. Plan N is a bit less expensive but offers less coverage. When I compared the two, I quickly determined that Plan G was worth the extra cost. It is standardized so that for each insurance provider that offers a Plan G, their coverage is equivalent to any other provider offering a Plan G.
In many cases, these plans also cover your $1600. per year deductible for Plan A. In my research, the best (current) monthly fee I found for a Medigap Plan G program was about $108. per month. Be aware that these plans can (and will) raise their monthly fees once you’re enrolled. That is, there may be annual or semi-annual increases.
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I chose a Medigap Plan G (type) plan with a TWIST…
As a member of Medishare (A Christian Health Sharing Program) for several years now, I was contacted by Medishare and advised that they offer a 65+ program now and as a current member, they invited me to consider their plan. Medishare’s “medigap plan” covers most everything that any Medigap Plan G program will cover with a few noted exceptions that you should ask about if you consider their program.
I already have developed trust in Medishare as they covered my heart attack expenses in 2019 (exceeding $100,000.) and another ER visit shortly afterwards due to a fall. They did so willingly and in a supportive manner.
In addition to choosing to support their mission for this reason, Medishare had several aspects that made my choice easy:
- Monthly fees of $102. with NO INCREASE guaranteed until age 75, and then you’re locked in at $150/month for the rest of your life. (My dad, in 2011 was paying over $200/month for his Medigap plan in his later years, and I can only imagine what the regular Medigap plans will cost in the future!) Considering the current inflation rates, this Medishare policy was a major motivator for me!
- An annual cap of $500. deductible for BOTH parts A and B (that is they absorb most of your Medicare annual deductible amounts)
- Access to vision and dental discounts. These are the same as I’ve enjoyed as a Medishare member for the past 10 years. I recently saved 50% on a dental checkup and cleaning and for vision, was offered about a 25% discount overall for glasses (frames and lenses) after securing a discount for my eye exam.
- Access to telehealth visits at NO cost. Honestly, its really nice to have access to a doctor (24/7) via the phone or web-cam video. Really, these can occur at ANY hour! These doctors also have limited ability to prescribe meds if they see fit. I’ve used them for a variety of situations that have come up and my wait time is typically less than 20 minutes – from the comfort of my camper! You can even specify the pharmacy to which they send your prescriptions – and its easy to change your pharmacy as you travel.
If you’re interested in learning more about Medishare – and considering it for your supplemental Medicare coverage, please click HERE. Its my personal referral link and I do receive a small benefit if you elect to enroll – but – that is truly NOT my motivation for sharing this info with you. If you would prefer to speak with the representative who made the entire process painless for me, contact me and I’ll get you directly in touch with him.
As RV travelers, we have unique needs – portability and access to specialists in a wide variety of locations. I believe for those reasons alone, Medigap programs far exceed the perks offered in Medicare advantage programs, and Medishare’s 65+ program goes above and beyond any of the other programs I’ve seen (including protection from runaway rate increases), including those offered by AMAC, AARP, Aetna, Blue Cross/Blue Shield and others.
When to Enroll in Medicare
There is a late enrollment penalty, so it pays to start on or before your 65th birthday. You’re allowed to start the process on the first day of the month 3 months before your birthday. That is to say if your birthday is September 20 (when you will turn 65), you can enroll on June 1st, and Medicare coverage will begin on September 1st.
You will need to apply online with ssa.gov, then wait 3-4 weeks to receive your medicare cards. In the interim, you can research your options (as I’ve detailed them above.) Once your cards arrive, you won’t be able to use them until (in this example) Sept. 1st (the month during which you turn 65), but you’ll have a Medicare number that you will need to enroll in a supplemental or advantage plan. In my case, since I chose medigap, I also enrolled in a prescription plan.
An important warning – shortly after enrolling in Medicare, I started receiving strange calls from scammers who wanted to know if I received my new plastic Medicare card. I suspected a scam, so I googled what I was being asked to do to learn that these miscreants are trying to get Medicare numbers – so… if you get contacted, do NOT give out your medicare number to ANYONE other than the agent you’re enrolling into a supplemental plan with OR to a medical professional you trust and are receiving services from.
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