BLOG #1...



Extra Medicare Charges for Part B are associated with


For most people, Part A of Medicare is "free". That is, you paid into it during your career and there is no direct cost associated with it once you start on Medicare. Part A covers hospital costs, once a $1340 deductible is satisfied. This deductible is assessed every "benefit period", which typically lasts 60 days. So, it's possible to be charged the deductible multiple times a year.

There's a charge for Part B, the part that covers physicians and associated expenses in addition to an annual deductible of $183. For those already on Part B, the monthly charge can vary, but those taking it for the first time in 2017 or 2018, the charge is $134.00. In recent years, the Part B premium has become "means tested", that is, the more you make annually the more your monthly charge. The deductibles mentioned are covered by some Medicare Supplement (Medigap) and/or Medicare Advantage plans. This chart features the income benchmarks:

Beneficiaries who file

an individual tax return

with Adjusted Gross Income:

Beneficiaries who file a

joint tax return

with Adjusted Gross Income:

Income related



Total monthly

Charge for the

Part B premium

$85,000 or less


$170,000 or less




Above $85,000 up to $107,000

Above $170,000 up to $214,000



Above $107,000 up to


Above $214,000 up to $267,000



Above $133,500 up to


Above $267,000 up to $320,000



Above $160,000


Above $320,000




So if your annual income exceeded $85,000 ($170,000 jointly) in 2016 (the IRS will look back two years) you should pay close attention to this chart to predict your monthly charges. Part D is also means tested , but that's a subject for another blog. Stay tuned... (see BLOG #5)




BLOG #2...



Medicare Advantage vs. Medicare Supplement... Which is Best for You?


I've assisted, or led the presentation of hundreds of Medicare Advantage and/or Medicare Supplement seminars. The presentations are regulated by CMS, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Their strict oversight has been mandated by Congress to help assure that employees of Health Plans and/or brokers are accurate in describing their services. Ironically, the oversight adds a layer of "government or legal speak" that can be confusing to those who are not accustomed to it.


When the seminars end, there is a Q & A session so that everyone can clarify their understanding of what they heard. Inevitably, someone asks the question, "What's the difference between a Medicare Advantage and a Medicare Supplement plan?"   Because the seminars deal directly with that question, it is always disappointing to hear it asked, but not surprising given that these things are complicated.


One of the big differences between the two types of plans is ACCESS TO DOCTORS. On a Medicare Supplement plan, you can go to any doctor who accepts Medicare. In Massachusetts, that's currently about 96% of all doctors. You can go to a specialist WITHOUT A REFERRAL, again as long as they accept Medicare. Access to doctors is especially important to those who have established relationships with a particular specialist, or want to be assured of access to certain doctors or hospitals, if they develop a chronic condition or disease. As Martha would say... that's a good thing.


However, Medicare Supplement plans are, typically, MORE EXPENSIVE than Medicare Advantage plans. Often a retiree on a fixed income may make a decision regarding the two types of plans based on the cost of their monthly premiums. The Medicare Advantage plan will, typically, have a contracted network of doctors and hospitals. Members of those plans pick a primary care doctor (PCP) from a list provided by the health plan. If the member requires the services of a specialist, they need to get a referral from their primary care doctor. That specialist will usually be in a "circle" of specialists that is part of the primary care doctors' "group". So, members in Medicare Advantage plans will usually pay a lower monthly premium and are required to select a primary care doctor and get referrals to specialists. Martha would also say that the lower premium is a good thing.


You might be asking... "That's all well and good, but what's the best type of plan for me?". Well, that depends. Ask yourself these questions to help you clarify matters:


  • Does my PCP accept any Medicare Advantage Plans?
  • If not, am I willing to change to another PCP?
  • Which specialists are in the referral circle of my PCP?
  • Can I afford the monthly premium of the Medicare Supplement?
  • What extra benefits can I get, if any?
  • Is the plan I am considering a not-for-profit, or a for-profit plan?
  • What is their ranking and reputation?
  • What does my doctor say about the plan I am considering?
  • What are the potential out of pocket costs associated with the plan?
  • Do I need to take a separate Part D plan (prescriptions), or can I get one that's included?


Part D is a subject for a future blog... Stay tuned!



 BLOG #3...


There are currently 21 Part D Plans (Rx Coverage) offered in Massachusetts...
Which is Best for You?


You have decided that you need a "Stand Alone" Part D plan either because you have Medicare only or a Medicare Supplement Plan (Medigap Plan). Let's assume that you have elected to choose a Medicare Supplement Plan because you want to be able to go to any doctor or hospital that accepts Medicare. You're not a big fan of referrals and want to avoid having to be told which specialist to use. OK fine, but you'll still need to elect a Part D plan to cover your prescriptions. So what's the best Part D plan available to fit your situation?


We suggest that you go to:
(Copy and Paste into your browser)


and see which Part D plans are available in your area. You will need to enter your zip code. This tool provides useful information to help you review Medicare drug plans based on your current prescription needs. The drug costs displayed are estimates and may vary based on the specific quantity, strength, and/or dosage of medication. Variations are also impacted by whether you use mail away and which pharmacy you use.


Unlike Medicare Supplement plans, which can be selected monthly, Part D plans can only be selected during the Annual Open Enrollment (Oct 15 to Dec 7) for an effective date of January 1, or during a 7 month window around your 65th birthday, or at Special Election Periods. Special Election Periods generally result when you retire and leave your employer's health plan, move from the service area or at other times defined by Medicare.


Part D Plans vary widely. The most expensive does not mean that it's the best for you. Use the website noted above and you can save money by selecting the best plan tailored to fit your needs. OR... you can contact us and we will research it for you.


P.S. Please note that unlike Medicare Supplement Plans, Medicare Advantage Plans can include Part D coverage built into the product, but not always. It's a choice. This gets confusing. You cannot elect a stand-alone Part D Plan, if you intend to use it with a Medicare Advantage Plan. In fact, if you do, you will be automatically disenrolled from your Medicare Advantage Plan.


P.P.S. Also, selecting a Part D plan is not mandatory, but you may incur a penalty if you do not take the option when you first become eligible for it.





Medicare Supplement "Core" vs. "One" Plan


Oversight for Medicare Supplement plans comes from the state, not the federal government. The states mandate the coverage that must be provided. Most states have a series of Medicare Supplement plans that are designated by a letter of the alphabet, each different from the other. As one of three "exception" states, Massachusetts has only two plans: The Medicare Supplement "Core" plan and the Medicare Supplement "One" plan.

Most Massachusetts carriers have branded their respective offerings by using the "Core" or "One" names, but some use their own brand. You can tell which is which regardless how the product is named by the premium. "Core" plans are exactly what the name implies; they are stripped down versions where deductibles and copayments may apply. In 2016, for example there is an $1288 hospital deductible when someone is hospitalized. This applies every "benefit period", which is an every 60 day period after someone has been released from the hospital. That means that the deductible can be owed multiple times a year. The hospital deductible is changed annually and is associated with Part A of Medicare. A much smaller Part B (doctors) deductible and copayments for some services also applies to the "Core" plan. Most of the time the "Core" plans do not cover you outside of the country.

The "One" plan is always more expensive. It covers most copays, all Medicare deductibles and it covers beneficiaries world-wide for emergent or urgent care. All Medicare approved services are covered so once the premium is paid there are, usually, no further charges for hospital and doctor services.

As mentioned all carriers are mandated to offer the same benefits and they all have the same doctors and hospitals in their networks. To differentiate, look at the premiums and see if they offer any extra benefits. If you used a certain health carrier during your working career but they offer a more expensive Medicare Supplement plan, it makes good sense to consider other health plan carriers once you elect Medicare. The basic benefits are mandated by the state, so why pay more than necessary?



 BLOG #5...


Extra Medicare Charges for Part D are

associated with



Medicare Part D covers prescription drugs. Most people know that the basic
plan design has an annual deductible, cost sharing, a coverage gap (sometimes
referred to as the "donut hole") and then catastrophic coverage. What they usually don't know is that Part D, like Part B, is "means tested", so the more you make over a certain threshold the more premium you will have to pay. Even at the highest of income levels, Part D is still a pretty good value. The chart below indicates how much additional you will have to pay for Part D when your income (they look back two years) exceeds specified limits:




        Modified Adjusted Gross Income


         Line 37 of Itemized Tax Return



Prescription Drug Coverage

   Monthly Premium Amount                                 

 Individuals with a MAGI of $85,000

or less - Married couples with a MAGI

of $170,000 or less

 Your plan premium
                   Individuals with a MAGI of $107,000
                   or less - Married couples with a MAGI

of $170,000 up to $214,000

 Your plan premium + $13.30
Individuals with a MAGI above $107,000 up to $133,500 -Married couples with a MAGI
above $214,000 up to $267,000 
Your plan premium + $34.20 
 Individuals with a MAGI above $133,500 up to $160,000 -Married couples with a MAGI
above $267,000 up to $320,000
   Your plan premium + $55.20

 Individuals with a MAGI above $160,000 - Married couples with a MAGI above $320,000


 Your plan premium + $76.20

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