When you’re nearing retirement, it’s time to reevaluate your health care benefits.
But rather than thinking of it as another to-do on what might seem like an overwhelming “I’m almost 65” list, think of it as an opportunity to pay yourself back, said Sherri Hebert, vice president and chief operating officer of Compass Rose Benefits Group.
Federal employees and retirees have the opportunity to change plans during the government’s open season, she pointed out. But people also have the opportunity to change their plan outside of open season if they begin taking Medicare. They can do that one time, starting 30 days before they become eligible for Medicare. Plus, there are additional programs for Medicare recipients offered by many carriers in the Federal Employee Health Benefits Program.
“With Compass Rose Medicare Advantage, the question should be, ‘Why not join it?’ You get all the benefits you have as a federal retiree and Compass Rose health plan member, plus many added benefits,” Hebert said. “You’re not giving up a thing. And you’re also saving money. Your Medicare Part B is being partially paid, and there are other programs that give you additional financial support too.”
Plus, the Office of Personnel Management has set regulations for the plans offered by FEHB carriers, points out Joni Huber, director of health plan administration at Compass Rose, which provides health insurance to employees and retirees of the Intelligence Community, Department of State, Department of Defense and Homeland Security.
“All Medicare Advantage plans are not created equal,” Huber said. “But for federal retirees, OPM requires that the benefits be as good or better than what’s on our current high option plan.”
We asked Hebert and Huber to share some of the benefits Compass Rose Medicare Advantage, a UnitedHealthcare Group Medicare Advantage plan, provides that can put money back in the pockets of federal retirees. They detailed five reasons to add Compass Rose Medicare Advantage sooner rather than later.
Reason 1: Medicare Part B subsidy
Every month, on Compass Rose Medicare Advantage, members get $125 toward their Medicare Part B Premium. That’s a savings of up to $1,500 a year.
It’s important to know when to sign up, Huber said.
Someone must be retired and enrolled in Medicare Part A and Part B to sign up for Medicare Advantage. Most people are eligible for Medicare once they turn 65. But there’s only a seven-month window to sign up. It starts three months before someone’s 65th birthday, then includes the birthday month followed by three more months.
“It’s important to know those timeframes, because if people don’t sign up when they’re first eligible, they pay a penalty on their Medicare Part B premium if they choose to enroll at a later time,” Huber said.
That said, people who choose to work past the age of 65 may take Medicare after retirement without incurring the penalty.
Reason 2: Reduced prescription drug costs
Everyone worries about their prescription medication expenses. It’s why the Compass Rose Medicare Advantage plan has a $1 co-pay for a 30-day supply of covered generics, Hebert said. Members also can get a 90-day supply of covered prescriptions from any retail network pharmacy.
Reason 3: Monthly funds toward health care supplies
In addition to reductions in prescription medication costs, there’s also a $40 quarterly over-the-counter allowance for a wide range of health and wellness products.
“This covers a ton of items,” Huber said. “From pain relievers and bandages to sunscreen and toothpaste — things that you need around the house no matter your age.”
Reason 4: Free gym memberships
When people say they’re too young for Medicare Advantage, Hebert said she likes to point out that there are fitness program benefits.
“Through RenewActive, you may be able to get your gym membership for free,” she said. “Why wouldn’t you do that?”
In addition to access to premium gyms nationwide, the benefit also covers virtual and online fitness programs too.
Reason 5: Free meals, transportation to medical appointments after hospitalization
Anyone who has been in the hospital or a rehabilitation facility can receive free meals and transportation to and from health care appointments (a dozen one-way trips).
“This is an amazing and underutilized benefit,” Hebert said. “People don’t have to worry about meals when they get home. Even if you could perhaps get up and make something to eat, you don’t have to worry because you know that your meals are coming.”
Can you join a Compass Rose FEHB plan after retirement?
Federal employees and retirees can add or change their health insurance plans during the government’s fall open season.
Luckily, federal employees can carry their health insurance into retirement. But there is one stipulation: A person must have had a Federal Employee Health Benefits plan for a five-year period before retirement, explained Joni Huber of Compass Rose Benefits Group.
“People mistakenly think it has to be five years with the same plan. It doesn’t,” she said. “You just have to have five consecutive years with an FEHB plan prior to retirement.”
And as to Compass Rose Medicare Advantage, there is no open season. If you’re already a Compass Rose Health Plan member enrolled in Medicare parts A and B, you can add Medicare Advantage at any time throughout the year, Huber said.