Retired teachers: Don’t let the state replace your Medicare with Medicare Advantage

GUILFORD — I am shocked by the Vermont treasurer's office trying to get the state's retired teachers to move to a Medicare Advantage plan. Anyone who has done research quickly discovers many disadvantages.

Some years ago, I was trying to straighten out the finances of a naïve relative who had both multiple sclerosis and paralysis from the chest down. He believed the pitch from one of the insurance companies and had given up his Medicare coverage.

The Advantage plan denied him the care he needed, and he didn't even realize that had he stayed with Medicare there would have been no problem. The specialists would not have been “out of system.” The copays and limits that drained his resources would not have left him needing Medicaid, with almost nothing in the bank.

Living in a rural state with limited health care resources, I have had to patch together care from a number of providers, and when I consulted them, I was told, “Do not move to Medicare Advantage.” A number of them are not in Vermont, but are the closest specialists available. Regular Medicare is not trying to make a profit, the insurance companies are.

What is really scary is that the treasurer's office wants retirees to make a decision almost immediately (Oct. 27 at the latest).

The notification by mail has made it hard to get the information one needs to make an informed decision. It appears to have been written by an insurance salesperson, not someone looking at the question from the point of view of providing reliable medical advice. I have spent hours waiting on hold to get questions answered, and in some cases ended up being told, “Well, that question has to go to someone else, here's the number [or email address].” Then it's back on hold again.

If you are a retired teacher, don't take the easy way out and just let them take you off of original Medicare. Do your research - the premiums for original Medicare in 2022 were just released. Part A is free for most people, and the part B premium, about $158 per month, is deducted from your Social Security checks.

For me, this is the information I needed. My out-of-pocket costs seem reasonable, and no one is trying to talk me into adding services. The Medicare guide I was mailed a few weeks ago explains Original Medicare, and the rules will not be changed by anyone wanting to make more money while providing less service.

Now I have to figure out Part D.

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