Veterans are entitled to enroll in both the Veteran’s Affairs (VA) health system and Medicare. But should those who have VA benefits also consider enrolling in Medicare? Enrolling in Original Medicare may not make sense, because you would still be exposed to large out-of-pocket expenses and have to pay annual premiums. However, a Medicare Advantage plan can be a very sensible option for veterans. Here’s why.
Medicare Advantage and Veterans Benefits
If you are a veteran thinking of enrolling in a Medicare Advantage plan, your first question might be, “How much more will it cost me?” The surprising answer is that enrolling may involve no additional cost to you, as many Medicare Advantage plans offer $0 premium packages. This is probably the strongest argument for joining a Medicare Advantage plan as a veteran. More coverage, more benefits, and more options for as little as $0/year.
Next, it’s important to understand that the VA system and Medicare have no overlap in benefits. To get VA benefits, you must use VA facilities, according to the official website of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. This can be a big deal if your local VA hospital is far away. However, if you belong to a Medicare Advantage plan, you can use the local health care resources in your network.
Another reason why veterans should consider Medicare Advantage is that VA health coverage can change. According to the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), health coverage with the VA varies from person to person and can change based on trends in federal funding or changes in VA priority groups. By enrolling in a Medicare Advantage plan, you can have peace of mind that you will always be covered.
In terms of drug coverage, it doesn’t always make sense for a veteran to join Medicare Part D because they can get their medications through VA. However, because drug coverage is usually included in Medicare Advantage plans, enrolling can widen your options at no additional cost. For instance, a Medicare Advantage plan could cover a specific drug you need that is not covered by your VA benefits.
There's also the issue of late sign-up penalties with Medicare. When a person is late signing up for Medicare, they are penalized for each year that they fail to sign up, according to the official U.S. government website for Medicare. However, if you enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan right when you're eligible, there will be no penalty.
The final thing to consider is Medicare Advantage supplemental benefits. With many Medicare Advantage plans, you become eligible for supplemental benefits that may not be covered by the VA, including hearing, dental, and vision services.
Medicare Advantage plans are supplied by private insurers, and come in a variety of coverage models. The specific plans available to you will vary according to your region. You can use the official U.S. government website for Medicare in order to find and compare your plan options.
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