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5 mistakes retirees make choosing a Medicare plan
Enrollment » Avoiding common missteps can save you thousands of dollars.

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Mistake No. 5 • Assuming retiree health coverage from a former employer is automatically the best deal or misunderstanding how it interacts with Medicare’s various parts.

Retirees are often loyal to their old employers, Votava said, but their retiree plan may not be the gold standard in terms of value for their money. In some cases, retirees could get better coverage at a lower cost by going with original Medicare and a Medigap plan or a Medicare Advantage plan. A basic rule of thumb is if seniors are spending more than $250 to $300 a month for their retiree coverage, they should shop around, Votava said. "Even people who are paying $200 could be paying $125."

At a glance

Consult resources before you enroll

Medicare.gov » Has a Plan Finder tool that works by plugging in your ZIP code. Counselors are available at 1-800-Medicare (1-800-633-4227)

Shiptalk.org » State-run help centers offer advice

AARP » Has Medicare enrollment guides in English and Spanish at AARP.org.

Kaiser Family Foundation » Offers descriptions of how Medicare works at KFF.org

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Still, the decision of whether to drop retiree coverage can be complex, and it’s often irreversible, so take your time and seek professional advice if you need it.

If you have retiree coverage from a former employer, make sure you follow its rules concerning Medicare Advantage and Part D, Lipschutz said. Some retiree plans require you to enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan. Some will work with Part D plans while others prohibit you from signing up for a stand-alone drug plan, he said. "Sometimes people will enroll in a Medicare Part D plan and that enrollment might jeopardize their retiree coverage all together," Lipschutz said.

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