Medicare and Insurance 101: The Essential Guide to Understanding Medicare and Insurance

If you are turning 65, about to sign up for Medicare,
already on Medicare, or a caregiver to someone on Medicare,
this guide was written just for you.

Table of Contents

Medicare and Insurance 101: The Essential Guide to Understanding Medicare and Insurance in Tennessee

Welcome to the essential guide to understanding Medicare and insurance in Tennessee. In this comprehensive article, we will break down the complexities of Medicare and insurance plans in Tennessee, providing you with the knowledge you need to make informed decisions about your healthcare coverage.

Whether you’re about to turn 65, eligible for Medicare due to a disability, or simply wanting to explore your options, this guide will demystify the world of healthcare insurance.

We’ll begin by explaining the basics of Medicare, including the different parts (A, B, C, and D) and what each one covers. From there, we’ll delve into the various types of insurance plans available, such as Medicare Advantage, Medigap, and Prescription Drug Plans.

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We will also explore important considerations, such as enrollment periods, eligibility requirements, and the costs associated with each type of coverage. Additionally, we’ll highlight key differences between original Medicare and private insurance plans, helping you understand the pros and cons of each option.

By the end of this guide, you will have a solid foundation of knowledge to navigate the complex world of Medicare and insurance in Tennessee confidently. So, let’s dive in and start unraveling this vital topic together.

          Medicare Advantage Plans Johnson City

What is Medicare?

Medicare is a federal health insurance program designed to provide coverage for individuals aged 65 and older, as well as certain younger individuals with disabilities.  Medicare is not controlled by the state of Tennessee though it can work alongside Medicaid which is handled through the state of Tennessee. Medicare in Tennessee is divided into different parts, each covering specific aspects of healthcare.

Part A is also known as Hospital Insurance. It helps cover inpatient hospital stays, skilled nursing facility care, hospice care, and some home health services. Most people do not need to pay a premium for Part A if they or their spouse have paid Medicare taxes while working.

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Part B is Medical Insurance, which covers medically necessary services and preventive care. This includes doctor visits, outpatient care, laboratory tests, and durable medical equipment. Part B requires a monthly premium, which is typically deducted from your Social Security benefits.

Part C is known as Medicare Advantage. It combines Part A, Part B, and often Part D (prescription drug coverage) into one comprehensive plan offered by private insurance companies approved by Medicare. Medicare Advantage plans may include additional benefits, such as vision, dental, and hearing coverage.

Part D covers prescription drugs. It is available as a standalone plan for those with original Medicare, or it can be included in a Medicare Advantage plan. Part D plans vary in cost and coverage, so it’s important to compare options based on your specific medication needs.

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Medicare eligibility and enrollment

To be eligible for Medicare, you must meet certain criteria. Generally, you qualify if:

1. You are 65 years or older and a U.S. citizen or legal resident who has lived in the country for at least five years.

Medicare Open Enrollment Johnson City2. You are under 65 years old but have received Social Security disability benefits for at least 24 months.

3. You have end-stage renal disease (ESRD) or Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), regardless of age.

Enrollment in Medicare is not automatic for everyone. If you’re already receiving Social Security benefits before turning 65, you will be enrolled in Medicare Part A and Part B automatically. However, if you’re not receiving Social Security benefits, you will need to sign up for Medicare during your Initial Enrollment Period (IEP), which begins three months before your 65th birthday and ends three months after.

It’s important to enroll during your IEP to avoid potential penalties or gaps in coverage. If you miss your initial enrollment period, you may have to wait until the General Enrollment Period (GEP), which occurs annually from January 1 to March 31. Late enrollment penalties may apply if you delay signing up for Medicare without a valid reason.

Are you turning 65 and still workingClick here to read our full blog on this subject.

HSAs and Medicare

Once you sign up for Medicare Part A or Medicare Part B, you can no longer contribute to a Health Savings Account, but you can still continue to use any funds you have in them for qualified expenses without paying any taxes or penalties on those withdrawals.

For more information about Health Saving Accounts, click here to read our blog on HSA Limits and Eligible Expenses.

Understanding Medicare costs and coverage

Medicare costs can vary depending on the type of coverage you choose and your income. Let’s explore the different costs associated with each part of Medicare:

Part A costs: Most people do not pay a premium for Part A if they or their spouse have paid Medicare taxes while working. However, there are other costs to consider, such as deductibles and coinsurance. For example, in 2021, the Part A deductible for hospital stays is $1,484 per benefit period. If your hospital stay exceeds 60 days, you may also be responsible for daily coinsurance amounts.

Part B costs: The standard Part B premium for 2021 was $148.50 per month.  In 2022 it was $170.10 and in 2023 it is $164.90. However, higher-income individuals may pay an additional income-related monthly adjustment amount (IRMAA). Part B also has an annual deductible, which is $203 for 2021, $233 in 2022, and $226 in 2023. After meeting the deductible, you typically pay 20% of the Medicare-approved amount for most services.

Medicare Insurance Johnson CityPart C costs: Medicare Advantage plans have their own premiums, deductibles, and co-pays. These costs can vary depending on the plan and the insurance company offering it. Some Medicare Advantage plans may have lower premiums but higher out-of-pocket costs, while others may have higher premiums but lower out-of-pocket costs. It’s essential to review the specific costs of the plan you’re considering.

Part D costs: Prescription drug plans (Part D) have monthly premiums that vary depending on the plan and the medications covered. Each plan also has a formulary, which is a list of covered drugs. It’s important to review the formulary to ensure your medications are covered and to compare costs between different plans. Some Part D plans have deductibles, co-pays, and coinsurance, which can affect your out-of-pocket costs.

The Basics of Medicare Supplements (Medigap)

Medicare Supplements, also known as Medigap plans, are private insurance policies that help cover the “gaps” in original Medicare. These gaps include deductibles, co-pays, and coinsurance. Medigap plans are standardized and labeled with letters (A, B, C, D, F, G, K, L, M, and N), each providing a different level of coverage.

Medigap plans are offered by private insurance companies and work alongside original Medicare. You must have both Part A and Part B to be eligible for a Medigap plan. These plans typically require a monthly premium in addition to your Part B premium.

It’s important to note that Medigap plans do not cover prescription drugs. If you want prescription drug coverage, you’ll need to enroll in a standalone Part D plan.

When choosing a Medigap plan, it’s crucial to consider your healthcare needs and budget. While Medigap plans offer standardized coverage, premiums can vary between insurance companies. Comparing plans and rates can help you find the best option for your specific situation.

The Basics of Medicare Advantage

Medicare Advantage (Part C) is an alternative to original Medicare. These plans are offered by private insurance companies approved by Medicare and provide all the benefits of Part A and Part B, and often Part D (prescription drug coverage), in one comprehensive plan.

Medicare Advantage plans may have additional benefits that original Medicare does not cover, such as dental, vision, hearing, and wellness programs. However, it’s important to note that these plans typically have a network of doctors and hospitals, and you may need to use specific providers to receive full coverage.

Medicare Supplement Johnson CityMedicare Advantage plans have different rules and costs compared to original Medicare. While you still pay your Part B premium, you may also have an additional premium for the Medicare Advantage plan. In some cases, the premium may be $0, making it an attractive option for those looking to save on monthly costs.

When considering a Medicare Advantage plan, it’s important to review the plan’s network, coverage, and costs. Make sure your preferred doctors and hospitals are in-network and that the plan’s benefits align with your healthcare needs.

How to choose the right Medicare plan for your needs

Choosing the right Medicare plan can seem overwhelming, but with some careful consideration, you can find the coverage that suits your needs. Here are some factors to consider when selecting a Medicare plan:

1. Healthcare needs: Assess your current and potential future healthcare needs. Consider factors such as doctor visits, prescription medications, and any chronic conditions you may have. This will help determine which plan offers the most comprehensive coverage for your needs.

2. Provider network: If you prefer to see specific doctors or use certain hospitals, make sure they are in-network for the plan you’re considering. Out-of-network care may not be covered or may have higher out-of-pocket costs.

3. Costs: Compare the premiums, deductibles, co-pays, and coinsurance associated with each plan. Consider your budget and how much you can afford to pay for healthcare services. Remember to factor in both the monthly costs and potential out-of-pocket expenses.

Johnson City Medicare
Johnson City Medicare

4. Prescription drug coverage: If you take prescription medications, ensure that the plan you choose provides adequate coverage for your specific drugs. Review the formulary, co-pays, and any restrictions on coverage.

5. Flexibility: Consider whether you prefer the flexibility of original Medicare or the convenience of a Medicare Advantage plan. Original Medicare allows you to see any doctor or specialist who accepts Medicare, while Medicare Advantage plans often have a network of providers.

By considering these factors and comparing different plans, you can make an informed decision about the Medicare coverage that best meets your needs.

Medicare Part D – Prescription Drug Plans

Medicare Part D provides coverage for prescription drugs. Whether you have original Medicare or a Medicare Advantage plan, you have the option to enroll in a standalone Part D plan to help cover the cost of your medications.

Medicare Drug Plans Johnson City
Medicare Drug Plans Johnson City

Part D plans are offered by private insurance companies approved by Medicare. Each plan has its own formulary, which is a list of covered drugs. It’s essential to review the formulary to ensure your medications are covered, as well as the associated costs.

Part D plans have different levels of coverage, and costs can vary depending on the plan and the specific medications you take. These plans typically have premiums, deductibles, co-pays, and coinsurance. It’s important to compare different Part D plans to find one that offers the coverage you need at the most affordable cost.

Enrollment in a Part D plan is typically done during your Initial Enrollment Period (IEP) when you first become eligible for Medicare. However, if you delay enrolling in Part D and do not have other creditable prescription drug coverage, you may incur a late enrollment penalty when you do enroll.

Medicare vs. Medicaid – What’s the difference?

Medicare and Medicaid are both government programs that provide healthcare coverage, but they serve different populations and have different eligibility requirements.

Medicare is a federal health insurance program primarily for individuals aged 65 and older, as well as certain younger individuals with disabilities. It consists of different parts that cover specific aspects of healthcare, such as hospital stays, doctor visits, and prescription drugs. Medicare is funded through payroll taxes and premiums paid by beneficiaries.

Medicare B Johnson City
Medicare B Johnson City

Medicaid, on the other hand, is a joint federal and state program that provides healthcare coverage for individuals and families with low income. Eligibility for Medicaid is based on income and other factors, such as age, disability, and family size. Medicaid covers a wide range of medical services, including doctor visits, hospital stays, long-term care, and prescription drugs.

While Medicare is available to most individuals aged 65 and older, Medicaid eligibility varies by state. Some states have expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), allowing more individuals to qualify based on income alone.

It’s important to note that individuals can be eligible for both Medicare and Medicaid, and in such cases, the programs can work together to provide comprehensive coverage.

Common insurance terms and definitions

Understanding insurance terms can help you navigate the world of Medicare and insurance more effectively. Here are some common terms you may come across:

1. Premium: The amount you pay each month for insurance coverage.

2. Deductible: The amount you must pay out-of-pocket before your insurance coverage begins.

3. Co-pay: A fixed amount you pay for a covered healthcare service, such as a doctor visit or prescription medication.

4. Coinsurance: The percentage of costs you share with your insurance company after you’ve met your deductible.

Medicare Johnson City
Medicare Johnson City

5. Out-of-pocket maximum: The maximum amount you have to pay out-of-pocket for covered services in a calendar year. Once you reach this limit, your insurance company pays 100% of covered costs.

6. Network: The list of doctors, hospitals, and other healthcare providers that have agreed to provide services at negotiated rates to insurance plan members.

7. Formulary: A list of prescription drugs covered by a specific insurance plan.

8. Pre-authorization: The process of obtaining approval from your insurance company before receiving certain medical services or medications.

Conclusion – Navigating the world of Medicare and insurance

Understanding Medicare and insurance is essential for ensuring you have the right healthcare coverage for your needs. By familiarizing yourself with the different parts of Medicare, the types of insurance plans available, and the associated costs and coverage, you can make informed decisions about your healthcare.

Consider your individual healthcare needs, provider preferences, and budget when choosing a Medicare plan. Whether you opt for original Medicare with Medigap coverage or a Medicare Advantage plan, understanding the pros and cons of each option will help you find the best fit.

Additionally, be aware of enrollment periods and eligibility requirements to avoid penalties and gaps in coverage. Keep in mind that Medicare and Medicaid are distinct programs with different eligibility criteria, although some individuals may qualify for both.

By gaining a solid foundation of knowledge about Medicare and insurance, you can navigate the complexities of the healthcare system confidently. Remember to review your options periodically to ensure your coverage continues to meet your evolving needs. With the right information and the right plan, you can take control of your healthcare and enjoy peace of mind knowing you’re protected.

We would be honored to speak with you either on the phone, through a video chat, or in on of our Tri Cities Offices.

We have office in Johnson City, TN in the Boones Creek area at 4451 North Roan Street, Johnson City, TN 37615.  We are next to Dave’s Waves and across the street from Ingles.  We also have an office in Kingsport, TN in the downtown area at 419 East Market Street, Kingsport, TN 37660.

If you would rather, just complete the form below and we will be in touch shortly.

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Meet The Team

Laryn Hurley

Laryn Hurley

Life, Health, & Benefits Advisor

Laryn was born and raised in Johnson City.  She graduated from ETSU with a Bachelor’s in General Studies. As a former small business owner and founder of a 501c3 non-profit organization, Laryn is able to understand the unique needs of our clients. After having success as both a business owner and non-profit director, Laryn’s mission now is to serve others by helping them to reach their own life goals.  Laryn is excited to bring her vision to Veritas when helping clients choose the right insurance which will provide proper protection for their families and/or employees.  Outside of work, Laryn enjoys spending time with her boyfriend and dogs.

Andrew Darlington

President of Veritas Risk Management

Andrew has 25 years of experience in the insurance and risk management industry. He has worked with thousands of business owners to help protect their assets and firms.He started Veritas Risk Management in October of 2009 and has experienced agency growth each year since. Andrew will take the time to review the specific needs of each client so that he can provide the most personalized protection package. Originally from Memphis, Andrew graduated from King University and lives in Johnson City with his wife and 6 children.

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Andy Warner

Sullivan County Office Manager

By combining nearly a decade of insurance industry experience with a background in counseling and non-profit work, Andy brings a unique skillset to insurance that allows him to actively listen to and understand your specific needs and priorities. He believes that insurance should be personalized to each individual client and their unique situation – nothing more, nothing less. Andy lives in Kingsport, where he is the manager of our Kingsport officeHe is a member of the State of Franklin Chapter of BNI and has served on numerous boards in both the educational and non-profit realms. 

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As an independent insurance agency, we aren’t tied down to one insurance provider for our paycheck. Instead, we partner with you to help you find the best value available for your needs. Call our Tri-Cities office at (423) 292-4142 to speak with an agent. Alternatively, if you fill out the request form below, we will be in contact with you shortly.