Stephanie Frisch

Stephanie Frisch

Stephanie Frisch is the owner of Insurance 101 and is an independent insurance broker dedicated to helping others make “educated decisions” about their insurance choices when it comes to Medicare, Long-Term Care Planning, The Health Insurance Marketplace-Covered California and Life Insurance. For answers to your questions, or an in-home, no-fee consultation, call (949) 351-2443.

It’s disconcerting enough to be living in these uncertain times.  Trying to understand Medicare if you’re needing to enroll now can be even more challenging; the Social Security office is closed to appointments, the community meetings that educate you about your Medicare options are postponed for now.

I’m writing this article on April 2. I truly hope that by the time this goes to print the “shelter in place” order will be lifted. But if not, read on.

First off, insurance is considered an “essential business.” My office is open for appointments. It’s just me, I take my temperature every day, wear gloves while pumping gas and going to the grocery store and follow all recommended precautions. While it’s not necessary to meet face to face for a Medicare appointment, it certainly makes explaining your options easier with visual aids and materials created by the insurance companies that I contract with.

Phone appointments are on the uptick however, and I completely understand someone’s desire to stay home and try to navigate the waters of Medicare over the phone. It is necessary to have access to a computer to do a phone appointment successfully. My client worksheet that we normally review face to face is emailed to you for us to do over the phone. Once we narrow down what Medicare option is best for you, I email you those materials from the selected insurance provider and we review that over the phone. If you already have your Medicare ID number, I can then enroll you over the phone as well.

If you don’t have your Medicare card yet, I can send you the information to enroll yourself into Medicare online, or, if you are past 65 and needing to go onto Medicare due to losing your group insurance (or simply deciding that Medicare is a better option for you than group insurance).

If you are needing to activate your Medicare after your initial enrollment period for Medicare (cut off is the last day of the month 3 months after the month of your birthday) then there currently is a hiccup .

There’s a form that needs to be signed off on by your group insurance offering from your current/past employer in order to activate the Part B portion of Medicare to become full “Medicare beneficiary”. Typically, you would walk that form, along with another one that just you fill out, into the Social Security office nearest to you. The hiccup is that currently these offices are closed. So, that means snail mail is your option. This will add weeks to the activation process (and I’m trying to speculate positively).

So, if this scenario applies to you, don’t delay, get the ball rolling to apply for Medicare today. I’m here to help, in person or over the phone. Also, I’m happy to answer any questions you have without scheduling any type of an appointment. Feel free to call me, 7 days a week.

With Open Enrollment behind us, many Medicare beneficiaries that are on a Medicare Advantage plan are unaware of the annual Medicare Advantage Disenrollment Period.

From January 1st to February 14th beneficiaries who wish to dis-enroll from their Medicare Advantage plan and go back to Original Medicare are allowed to. They can purchase a Medicare prescription drug plan and a Medicare supplemental plan to round out their Medicare coverage and fully protect themselves. Adding the Medicare prescription drug plan is a guaranteed right for them, but enrollment in a Medicare supplemental plan is not guaranteed unless certain criteria is met. If an individual does not meet the guaranteed issue criteria, then underwriting is involved. Sometimes someone doesn’t qualify right away for a Medicare Supplemental plan, and they may need to wait to add it until they do. Once someone is on Original Medicare, a supplemental plan can be added anytime in the year. Most people I meet with are unaware of this.

The second important enrollment period is the Medicare General Enrollment Period and it occurs annually between January 1st and March 31st, with coverage starting July 1st.

This is an important window of time for those that didn’t activate their Part B portion of Medicare during their Initial Enrollment Period, or had Part B activated but then dropped it. The first of the two scenarios is happening more frequently as the age requirement for receiving Social Security increases. Many people are still under the impression that they are automatically enrolled in Medicare Parts A and B when they turn 65. But now that most don’t qualify until after turning 65 for Social Security, they need to go online to Medicare.gov to enroll in Part B three months prior to their 65th birthday month. (Enrollment in Part A still happens automatically at 65 and for the majority of the population, and has no premium.) The second scenario; dropping Part B during the year generally happens because someone forgets to pay their premium (If you aren’t taking Social Security you get billed quarterly for Part B), or they fall on hard times and choose to not pay it.

In most cases, if you don’t sign up for Part B when you’re first eligible, you’ll have to pay a late enrollment penalty for as long as you have Part B. Your monthly premium for Part B may go up 10% for each full 12-month period that you could have had Part B, but didn’t sign up for it.

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