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Abe Wischnia

Special features columnist

Abe Wischnia is a special features columnist at Consumer Rescue, focusing heavily on the Medicare system. His goal is to help seniors navigate the complex rules, coverage issues, plans, and premiums while also helping his readers steer clear of scams and fraud. Abe started his career as a television news reporter and newscaster. He later transitioned to roles as a senior public relations and investor relations executive for companies in technology and biotech. With degrees in journalism and an MBA, Abe has written for newspapers, television news and documentaries, magazines, and corporate publications.
Medicare 101, taking notes in class, a notebook, pen and glasses on a desk

Approaching 65? Here’s your Medicare 101 crash course

What if you had to make a healthcare decision that could affect the rest of your life?

That’s not a hypothetical question if you’re 65 and about to go on Medicare. Every day another 10,000 Americans turn 65 and need to make critical decisions regarding how they structure their healthcare going forward.

But Medicare comes with complicated rules that can be confusing and can lead to problems if ignored or misunderstood. It’s important that you make informed choices.

Read on as I take you through a simplified Medicare 101.

A doctor's office for elderly people on Medicare.

I have Medicare drug insurance. Why did I get this $2,055 bill?!

After Michael Foxhoven learned that Medicare covers shingles and Tdap vaccinations, he made appointments for both himself and his wife at their doctor’s office. Since they were due for a Covid booster, they figured they could also get that out of the way in the same visit.

But a few months after that appointment, Foxhoven got the sticker shock of his life. That’s when he received a $2,055 bill for the vaccinations that he thought Medicare would cover.

So why didn’t it?

The answer will probably surprise you.

Medicare prescription drug plan coverage, pills at the pharmacy.

How to save money on your Medicare prescription drug plan

If I could show you how to save money on your Medicare prescription drug plan, would you be interested?

You have an opportunity to possibly do so during Medicare’s annual election period – better known as open enrollment. 

Regardless of which name you use, this is the period between Oct. 15 and Dec. 7 when Medicare beneficiaries can elect to change prescription drug plans, change Medicare Advantage (Part C) plans, switch from original Medicare to Part C, and vice versa. Changes you make are effective Jan. 1.

Last week, I wrote about why and how to be a careful shopper when you’re looking at Medicare Advantage plans. I used an enticing offer I received as an example. Today, I’ll do the same about your prescription drug coverage.

Elderly couple on a bench to illustrate an article about shopping for a new Medicare plan.

Unhappy with your Medicare plan? Go shopping for a new one now

If you’re unhappy with your current Medicare plan, you’re in luck. It’s that time of year — Medicare shopping season.

For insurance companies that sell Medicare Advantage (MA) plans, now through Dec. 7 is sort of like the holiday season for retailers, with lots of advertising, promoting products and deals.

Read on to learn why Medicare beneficiaries should shop around but not necessarily buy a new plan. I’ll also explain how to avoid making bad decisions that could affect your health care — and your wallet.

Stanley Steemer van, yellow van

Why did Stanley Steemer charge me $1,408 and damage my wall, too?

The coupon offer from Stanley Steemer was attractive: $160 to clean up to eight furnace air ducts. Roberta Cirino thought she was doing a smart thing by responding to the mailing from the well-known cleaning service company. However, what happened next is a homeowner’s nightmare. The job came complete with a shockingly high final invoice and repair bills to fix the damage the Stanley Steemer crew did to her wall.

To add insult to injury, the owner of the franchised location responded to Cirino’s complaints about this “hatchet job” with indifference.

Now Cirino is asking Consumer Rescue to help right this wrong. She would like Stanley Steemer to adjust her bill and pay for the damage to her wall.

That seems like a more than reasonable request. So why hasn’t the company already agreed to correct the problem?

A map of the world to illustrate an article about global Medicare coverage.

Will Medicare cover you on an international trip? (Don’t bet on it)

If you have Medicare as your primary insurance and get hit with a health-related emergency while traveling in another country or on a cruise ship, will your treatment be covered? That’s the question many of our readers are asking.  That’s the question many of our readers are asking. 

Read on to understand what your Medicare coverage will and won’t do if you face a medical problem during an international trip. And, of course, I’ll also tell you how to make sure you are protected.

Old style telephone to illustrate an article about Medicare Advantage calls.

Why does my Medicare Advantage plan keep calling me to schedule a home visit?

My sister-in-law recently asked me why her Medicare Advantage plan was repeatedly leaving voicemails asking her to set up a home visit. The messages offer to pay her $50 to do so. The money was tempting but she had concerns about the legitimacy of the calls.

She’s not the only one getting such requests. A Consumer Rescue reader submitted a similar question, asking if Medicare rules require her to agree to a visit.

If you’re enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan, chances are you’ve gotten or will get such a call. That has to make one wonder why the plans are willing to pay people to make the calls. Also, why are they so persistent, and why are they willing to pay you for the visits?

Elderly couple sitting in a field, must you join Medicare at age 65?

Reader question: Am I required to join Medicare when I turn 65?

There’s a lot of confusion about whether you are required to join Medicare when you turn 65.  Unfortunately, depending on who you ask, the answer you get may be wrong.

Recently, my wife and I had lunch with some long-time friends. He’s retired and enrolled in Medicare. She will soon turn 65 but does not plan to retire for at least another two years. The health insurance coverage she has through her work is fine.

She told us that she had attended a retirement planning session offered at her workplace, where the presenter said you must enroll in Medicare at age 65. She wanted to know if that was true. I told her that if the presenter actually said that, then she received some bad information.

Then just last week, an acquaintance asked me that same question.

So the purpose of this article is to give you the real answer, which is:  “It depends.”