Opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of Rolling Stone editors or publishers.
Healthcare coverage in retirement is such a looming necessity that many people actually put off ending their professional careers to avoid it. Whether retiring between 60-64 years old and needing health insurance before Medicare or retiring at 65 years old and needing help with Medicare, there are many ways to figure out the right plan for you. Many people turn to Google to start searching for information. Most of the time when I talk to them after doing this, they find small nuances of these health insurance systems that they try to then craft their entire decision around. This often confuses them and sets unrealistic expectations.
So, here, I try to lay out the top five ways to find professional help deciding what the best path is for you.
1. Retiring Prior to Medicare Eligibility
The first element I think is necessary to cover is the obvious problem of needing to bridge your healthcare from your career with group coverage to Medicare. There are many options for this niche, but the first place I would recommend turning to is the Healthcare.gov Federally Facilitated Marketplace certified agent finder. Though you might not always be best off with a marketplace plan, you need an agent who is qualified to offer them for sure. It is also advisable to consult at least two of these agents to compare their solutions.
2. Non-Commissionable Consultants
Some consumers are worried that a commissionable consultant might steer based on their compensation for a specific plan. While we find that this isn’t the case most of the time, we understand the concern. Fortunately, there are some consultants who charge a fee and do not take a commission. Most commissionable agents can also forego a commission and take a fee instead if that’s what you prefer. This would be a way to tap into the normal agent force and get bias-free information.
3. Medicare Help From the Source
Medicare’s tool on Medicare.gov has gotten increasingly useful in the last few years. It’s an excellent source for Part D and C selection. It isn’t quite as good for shopping a Medigap plan, so we recommend using Medicare’s tool for Drug Plans; and if you aren’t trying to choose a Medicare Advantage Plan (Part C), consider consulting an agent or non-commissionable advisor for the best Medigap plan.
4. Independent Agents
If you choose to find an agent, Google can be a great resource, but it can also get your information sucked into a lead algorithm that sells your information to one million agents. This can drive you crazy. Consider using Google to find local agents who are independent and call their number. I’d recommend meeting with two or three of them either virtually or in person. Make sure to ask if they have taken the AHIP (an annual certification for Medicare agents) and they have active life and health insurance licenses in your state.
5. State Health Insurance Programs
Several states have contracted nonprofit groups available for residents to consult annually for their Part D Prescription Drug Plan and other coverage options. These are non-biased groups that can help without fear of steering. The only thing we advise to look out for here is that they often have turnover and might not be experienced. They also end up getting bombarded by people and might be overrun during the annual Open Enrollment period.
Medicare and health insurance can be massively confusing, but these sources can help alleviate the pain of making decisions.