So Much Medicare Mail! Here’s How to Handle All the Medicare Information
When you turn 65 (and likely many months or even years before), you will get a ton of Medicare-related mail.
Trust me – we understand. It gets to the point where you don’t know what to read, what to trust, and how to stay sane!
You’ll likely get Medicare mail from the following places:
- Insurance companies (like Mutual of Omaha and Blue Cross Blue Shield)
- Scammers (junkmail)
- Social Security Administration
- Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS)
- Marketing organizations (like agencies and brokerages)
It can be overwhelming – to say the least.
So, what should you know about all of this mail, and what should you actually pay attention to?
1. Medicare mail you get from insurance companies
There are many insurance companies out there that sell Medicare-related insurance policies.
You can read more about them on our blog, but as a quick primer, here’s what you need to know.
Original Medicare only pays for about 80% of your medical bills. To cover the remaining 20%, many individuals purchase a Medicare Supplement. Insurance companies – regulated by the government – sell these supplements, and they might send you mail about them.
Medicare Advantage is the alternative to Original Medicare. This is run by private insurance companies – not the government – and they will likely send you mail to entice you to buy their policy.
Some popular insurance companies that might send you mailers include:
- Mutual of Omaha
- UnitedHealth Care
- Blue Cross Blue Shield
The majority of mail coming from insurance companies will arrive in/around October.
Most of this mail will be enticing you to sign up for their insurance policy, but we’d caution you to think twice.
Why? You won’t have the opportunity to price shop!
All of these carriers offer different prices, and if you’re looking at Medicare Advantage, the carriers also provide different benefits.
If you sign up directly with the insurance carrier, you aren’t giving yourself the chance to compare that plan against all the others on the market.
After all, don’t you want the best plan for the most competitive price?
An insurance agency like Medicare Allies can help you price shop all the competition to make sure you get the best plan for you.
And don’t worry – insurance agencies offer the exact same price as the insurance carriers, so you don’t save any money by buying directly.
2. Medicare junkmail and Medicare scams
Unfortunately, seniors are a big target for scammers.
There are many scams going on right now, including scams surrounding the new Medicare cards.
It can be difficult to tell which mail is junk mail and which mail is important, but here are a few things to consider:
- If the mailer asks you for important personal information, like your credit card number or your social security number, it’s junk.
- If the mailer throws around words like “free,” it’s probably junk.
- If the mailer has large, colorful graphics that scream “open me!” – it’s likely junk.
- If the mailer has “PRESORTED” or “PRSRT STD” in the postage area, it’s probably junkmail.
- If the mailer has fake handwriting on it, it’s meant to look like it comes from a live person – but it’s really a telltale sign that it’s junkmail.
These tips should help you sort out some of the mail more easily, but if you have any questions about whether a piece of mail is urgent or just junk, please don’t hesitate to ask us here at Medicare Allies!
3. Medicare mail from the Social Security Administration
There are a few pieces of Medicare-related mail you may get from the Social Security Administration. They may be labeled as coming from CMS, which we’ll cover in the next section, but either way, this is not junk mail, and you should keep it.
The mailers you might receive from the Social Security Administration include the following:
- Social Security Benefit Rate Change (BRI) Notice (mailed in December)
This notice tells you about benefit payment changes for the coming year due to cost of living increases, variations in the premiums that are withheld, and other factors.
- Initial IRMAA Determination (you could get this notice at any time)
You'll get this notice if you have Medicare Part B and/or Part D and Social Security determines that any Income Related Monthly Adjustment Amounts (IRMAA) apply to you. This notice includes information about Social Security's determination and appeal rights.
- Social Security Part B & Part D Income-Related Adjustment Amount Notice (mailed in November)
If you're in a higher-income household, this notice tells you about income-related Medicare Part B and Part D premium adjustments for the coming year. It includes the information in the December BRI notices.
- Social Security LIS & MSP Outreach Notice (mailed in May)
If we think you might be eligible for a Medicare Savings Program (MSP), this notice tells you about MSPs and the Extra Help available for Medicare prescription drug coverage.
- Social Security Notice to Review Eligibility for Extra Help (mailed in September)
You'll get this notice if you're selected by Social Security to see whether you continue to qualify for Extra Help. This notice includes an "Income and Resources Summary" sheet.
- Social Security LIS Redetermination Decision Notice (mailed in November)
If you get Extra Help and you were reviewed by Social Security, this notice tells you whether you still qualify for Extra Help in the coming year.
- Social Security LIS & MSP Outreach Notice (mailed in November)
You'll get this notice if we think you may be eligible for the Qualified Disabled and Working Individuals (QDWI) Program. This notice lets you know about the Medicare Savings Programs (MSPs) and the Extra Help available for Medicare prescription drug coverage.
4. Medicare mail from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS)
All mail from the Department of Health and Human Services or the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) is important! You should make sure to read it and keep it.
Here is a list of the potential Medicare mailers you will receive from CMS:
- "Welcome to Medicare" booklet and letter (sent during the 7-month Initial Enrollment Period that you're first eligible for Medicare)
You’ll get this letter if you’re automatically enrolled in Medicare Part A (Hospital Insurance) and Medicare Part B (Medical Insurance). Your coverage starts on the dates listed on the enclosed card. The booklet explains some important decisions you need to make, including whether you want to keep Part B.
- New Medicare card (cards are being mailed April 2018-April 2019)
All people with Medicare are getting new Medicare cards. These new cards have a new Medicare Number that's unique to each person with Medicare, instead of their Social Security Number.
- "Medicare & You" handbook (mailed in late September)
The "Medicare & You" handbook is mailed to all Medicare households each fall. It includes a summary of Medicare benefits, rights, and protections; lists of available health and drug plans; and answers to frequently asked questions about Medicare.
- Medicare Summary Notice (MSN) (You’ll get your MSN every 3 months if you get any services or medical supplies during that 3-month period)
This is not a bill. It’s a notice that people with Original Medicare get in the mail every 3 months for their Medicare Part A and Part B-covered services. The MSN shows 1) all your services or supplies that providers and suppliers billed to Medicare during the 3-month period, 2) What Medicare paid, and 3) the maximum amount you may owe the provider.
- “Medicare Premium Bill” (CMS-500) (Mailed on the 10th of the month when the bill is due)
The “Medicare Premium Bill” (CMS-500) is a bill for people who pay Medicare directly for their Part A premium, Part B premium, and/or Part D IRMAA (an extra amount in addition to the Medicare Part D premium). Note that you might be paying for this directly out of your social security check, in which case you wouldn’t get this letter.
- Medicare Easy Pay (Mailed if you requested this information)
This letter is for anyone who gets a bill for their Medicare premiums from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) and has requested information about Medicare Easy Pay.
- Medicare Current Beneficiary Survey (MCBS) Selection Letter (mailed in late summer)
The Medicare Current Beneficiary Survey (MCBS) is a survey of people with Medicare. CMS uses it to learn more about things like how people get their health care, the rising cost of healthcare, and how satisfied people are with their care.
- Qualifying Health Coverage Notice & IRS Form 1095-B (Mailed in the beginning of March)
The Qualifying Health Coverage (QHC) notice lets you know that your Medicare Part A (Hospital Insurance) coverage is considered qualifying health coverage. If you have Part A, you may get IRS Form 1095-B from Medicare in the early part of the year. If you don't get Form 1095-B, don't worry. Not everyone will get this form from Medicare, and you don't need to have it to file your taxes.
- LIS Choosers Notice (Mailed in November)
You'll get this notice if you get Extra Help, you joined a Medicare Prescription Drug Plan on your own, and your plan's premium is changing. This tan notice lets you know you'll have to pay a portion of your plan's premium in the coming year unless you join a new $0 premium plan.
- Change in Extra Help Copayment Notice (Mailed in October)
You'll get this orange notice if Social Security determines that you still automatically qualify for Extra Help, but will have different copayment levels next year.
- Reassignment Notice – Plan Termination (Mailed in October)
You'll get this notice if you get Extra Help and your current Medicare drug plan is leaving the Medicare program. This blue notice lets you know that you'll be reassigned to a new Medicare drug plan for the coming year, unless you join a new plan on your own.
- Reassignment Notice – Premium Increase (Mailed in October)
You'll get this notice if you get Extra Help and your current Medicare Prescription Drug Plan premium is increasing above the amount covered by Extra Help. This blue notice lets you know that you'll be reassigned to a new Medicare drug plan for the coming year, unless you join a new plan on your own.
- Reassign Formulary Notice (Mailed in December)
You'll get this notice if you get Extra Help and Medicare reassigned you into a new Medicare drug plan for the coming year. This blue notice tells you which of the Medicare Part D drugs you take will be covered in your new Medicare drug plan.
- Medicare Advantage (MA) Plan Reassignment Notice (Mailed in late October/early November)
You'll get this notice if you get Extra Help and your current Medicare Advantage (MA) Plan is leaving the Medicare Program. This blue notice lets you know that you'll be reassigned to a Medicare Prescription Drug Plan for the coming year if you don't do one of these on your own: 1) join a new Medicare Advantage Plan, or 2) join a Medicare drug plan.
- CMS Non-Renewal Action Notice (Mailed in January)
This notice reminds you that you need to join a new Medicare drug plan if all of these apply: 1) Your Medicare plan left the Medicare program this year, 2) You don't get Extra Help, or 3) You want Medicare prescription drug coverage.
- CMS Non-Renewal Reminder Notice (Mailed in November)
You'll get this notice if your plan is leaving the Medicare program (and you don't get Extra Help). This notice reminds you that you need to choose a new plan for the coming year.
- Deemed Status Notice (you could get this notice at any time)
If you get this purple notice it means you automatically qualify for Extra Help, because of any of the following: 1) You have both Medicare and Medicaid, 2) You're in a Medicare Savings Program, or 3) You get Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits.
- Auto-Enrollment Notice (you could get this notice at any time)
If you get this yellow notice, it means you automatically qualify for Extra Help because you qualify for Medicare and Medicaid and currently get benefits through Original Medicare. You'll be automatically enrolled in a Medicare Prescription Drug Plan unless you decline coverage or join a plan yourself.
- Auto-Enrollment Retroactive Notice (you could get this notice at any time)
If you get this yellow notice, it means you automatically qualify for Extra Help with a retroactive (in the past) effective date because of one of the following: 1) You qualify for Medicare and Medicaid, or 2) You get Supplemental Security Income (SSI). You'll be automatically enrolled in a Medicare Prescription Drug Plan unless you decline coverage or join a plan yourself.
- Facilitated Enrollment Notice (you could get this notice at any time)
This green notice lets people with Medicare know that because they qualify for Extra Help, Medicare will enroll them in a Medicare Prescription Drug Plan if they don’t enroll themselves or decline coverage. People who get this notice qualify for Extra Help because of one of the following: 1) You belong to a Medicare Savings Program, 2) You get Supplemental Security Income (SSI), or 3) You applied and qualified for Extra Help.
- Retiree Drug Subsidy Notice - Dual Eligibles (you could get this notice at any time)
You'll get this notice if you're eligible for Medicare and Medicaid and already have qualifying creditable prescription drug coverage through an employer or union. This notice alerts you that you automatically qualify for Extra Help, and can join a Medicare Prescription Drug Plan at no cost to you.
- Loss of Deemed Status Notice (Mailed in September)
You'll get this grey notice if Social Security determines that you no longer automatically qualify for Extra Help for the coming year.
5. Medicare-related mail from marketing organizations (like agencies and brokerages)
You might also get mail from insurance agencies or brokerages that specialize in senior market insurance products.
Medicare Allies would fall into this category, though we don’t currently send any promotional mailers.
These organizations are likely letting you know of how advantageous it can be to work with an agency rather than directly through the carrier:
- Working with an insurance agent is free.
- You will pay the same exact price whether you purchase your insurance directly from the carrier or through an insurance agent.
- An agent has the advantage of comparing prices for many different carriers. They’ll let you know which insurance company has the cheapest price, which can save you literally hundreds of dollars on insurance costs.
Plus, it’s just much better working with a Medicare expert – he or she can help you by explaining how Medicare works, and you get a personal contact to help you if you ever need anything.
You should make sure to research these organizations before contacting them. You want to look for things like:
- How many insurance companies do they represent?
- How many years have they been in the business?
- Do they have any reviews or testimonials to prove their value?
- Are they willing to take the time to answer my questions?
Of course, we hope to earn your business here at Medicare Allies, but you should always do your research before choosing an agency.
If you’re aging into Medicare and need help navigating the confusion, please contact our team! We have Medicare experts waiting to help you.
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