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Published September 19, 2010, 12:00 AM

Bursack: Alphabet soup adds to Medicare confusion

Dear Readers: Part one of this two-part series addressed my personal experience of signing up for Medicare Parts A and B as one of the “working aged.”

By: Carol Bradley Bursack, INFORUM

Editor’s note: This is the second installment of a two-part series on applying for Medicare. The previous column ran in the Sept. 12 issues of The Forum.

Dear Readers: Part one of this two-part series addressed my personal experience of signing up for Medicare Parts A and B as one of the “working aged.” That means I’m not retired. Yeah, I figured that out without help. This continuation takes you through the rest of my Medicare sign-up process.

For months, I’d been receiving a deluge of mail from insurance companies telling me that I was turning 65 (oh, I’d forgotten!). With the birthday, I would have more decisions to make about my Medicare coverage. There are more Medicare parts, with plans within the parts, to consider.

I was tempted to stand on my roof and shout to all insurance companies nationwide, “Make it stop!” It seemed wiser, however, to restrain myself and just keep recycling the ads, so as not to alarm my children. Wisdom comes with age.

From my research, I found that we have many choices when it comes to Medicare supplement plans or “Medigap insurance.” Medicare Supplement Plans A, C and F include different coverage for the co-pays left from Medicare Parts A and B. There are other plans in the offing, by the way, so look for more letters and choices when you start your research.

Since the premiums aren’t huge, at least considering what I’ve paid in the past for health insurance, I chose Plan F, the “best” one offered. I won’t give you numbers here, as there are too many variables, but you can find out what is best for you on the www.medicare.gov site, once you are signed up for Medicare Part A, or you can call (800) 633-4227. If you call, be prepared for menus and significant wait periods.

These supplemental policies are similar across the nation, so I let my choice be governed by the ranking given the companies as to how well they pay claims. This is about trusting the company you choose, so choose carefully.

After choosing my supplemental insurance plan, I had one more step to take. Medicare Part D is for prescription drug coverage, and flawed as it is, I wanted it. I went online to the Medicare.gov site, which I could finally use under a login since I was in the system, and looked over Medicare D plans. Companies are ranked, so I looked for one with good ratings. Be sure to keep track of open enrollment times, which will come up yearly for Medicare D.

You also need to stay within the open enrollment time frame (generally three months before and after your 65th birthday) for your first application for Medicare B, and for your supplemental policy. You can learn more about all Medicare parts, plus open enrollment, at the

Medicare.gov site or by calling (800) 633-4227. It’s really not so bad, once you get the hang of it.

Carol Bradley Bursack is the author of a support book on caregiving and runs a Web site supporting caregivers at www.mindingourelders.com. She can be reached at carol@mindingourelders.com.