Philip Moeller’s Get What’s Yours For Medicare: Maximize Your Coverage, Minimize Your Costs, due Oct. 4 from Simon & Schuster, is a companion of sorts to the excellent Get What’s Yours: The Secrets to Maxing Out Your Social Security, a book he co-wrote which returned last spring in updated form.
Baby Boomers nearing retirement age (please note I didn’t say simply “retirement,” since many will continue to work), these books are for you.
Yes, Medicare and Social Security are valuable programs into which you’ve paid federal taxes for years, and you should take advantage of what’s available to you. But no, neither program is simple to comprehend and navigate, and crucial mistakes in enrollment and options are easy to make.
Moeller makes this clear in the early going, with the terse line “This stuff is complicated.” That certainly goes for initial entry into Medicare, a hard lesson that I learned months before reading this book when I struggled to get straight answers from the Social Security Administration and elsewhere about how Medicare works.
It doesn’t work at all until you claim benefits, and doing that is dependent on a confusing array of options and deadlines. I personally spent weeks if not months getting straight answers to guide my process, and it was with great relief that I finally nailed down Medicare A (hospitalization), B (medical care) and D (prescription drugs) at the proper times and in the proper ways.
Medicare options also go beyond that, and you may choose additional forms of coverage, which can change over the years. But at least everyone on Medicare can opt to revise coverage during each year’s Oct. 15-Dec. 7 enrollment period. So at least you aren’t under as much time constraint to manage those options as you are for initial enrollment, which, when delayed or handled improperly, can cost you dearly — and for life.
To this end, Moeller ably assesses various Medicare options, such as Medigap supplement insurance and Medicare Advantage plans. Even so, a drawback for me, as with the Social Security book, was an over-reliance on detailed anecdotal descriptions of individuals’ situations which rarely had a bearing on my own.
I’d prefer more of an FAQ approach, with chapters organized into headings such as “What if my current medical bills are low? Should I get Medicare Advantage now anyway”?
But at least the chapter headings give you some guidance in where to focus, with headings such as “The Horse Insurers Want You to Ride: Medicare Advantage Plans” and “Open Enrollment: How to Fix a Medicare Lemon.”
It’s sad that Americans truly need such books and their advice, but we do. I’ve often said since I reached retirement age that we all should have a college-level course in how to approach retirement moves — they are that important, that demanding and that difficult.
But whether for Medicare or Social Security decisions, the Get What’s Yours book are the next best thing — even if you can’t ask questions of a course instructor.
No, we shouldn’t have to read a book to learn how to take advantage of the Medicare benefits we deserve. But at least these books provide such answers. And when the time comes, trust me, you’ll need them.
— Bruce Westbrook