If you are retired from the Military and have Tricare the process is simple. You are required to take part B of Medicare and you do not want to take Part D as that can mess with your Express Scripts.
However, if you are not retired it’s a whole different story. When a service member becomes eligible for Medicare, they have the “choice” to stick with only the VA or to also participate in parts A and B of Medicare because they are able to get medical care with the VA. If they choose not to take Part B and want it later the veteran will have a 10% per year lifetime penalty for every year they didn’t have it. Thankfully there are no penalties associated with part D, the prescription side, because the VA is considered credible there.
What does the VA say about Medicare? Here are some direct quotes from VA.gov
“Funding for VA health care could change in the future. We encourage you to sign up for every health care benefit that you’re eligible for so you have options if you need them.”
“Having Medicare means you’re covered if you need to go to a non-VA hospital or doctor—so you have more options to choose from.”
“If you delay signing up for Medicare Part B (coverage for doctors and outpatient services) and then need to sign up later because you lose your VA health care benefits or need more choice in care options, you’ll pay a penalty. This penalty gets bigger each year you delay signing up—and you’ll pay it every year for the rest of your life.”
“If you sign up for Medicare Part D (coverage for prescription drugs), you’ll be able to use it to get medicine from non-VA doctors and fill your prescriptions at your local pharmacy instead of through the VA mail-order service.”
Here’s an example: Say as a veteran you go to urgent care or even a non VA Emergency Room on the weekend and you get a prescription. If you only use the VA you’re not going to be able to get that RX filled until Monday when the VA opens, if it’s even an RX the VA will fill. But if that Veteran with Medicare has Part B and a secondary plan with a part D built in they’ll be able to go directly to their local pharmacy and get what they need to feel better.
What’s the solution?
If you watch TV I’m sure you’ve seen those Joe Namath and JJ Walker commercials, while they are annoying and very misleading, there are some shreds of truth to what they talk about!
There are plans that can significantly reduce your Medicare Part B premium of $170.10 as well as add extra benefits like dental (including dentures), vision, hearing aids and over-the-counter benefits.
I’m like you there’s no way I’d want to call one of those 1-800 Don’t-Care about you phone numbers! So, the answer is to talk to a local independent insurance agent. By being independent they’ll have access to multiple companies and plans to help you find the right one based on your needs.