Retirement is one of the hardest planning functions of our working lives. What do we plan for? How much do we set aside? What approach will provide the best understanding of the cost-of-living expenses that are unknown today? While we are moving in unchartered territory working through this thought process on a personal level, there is always room to discover a prudent plan of action. First, I have identified the most common approach to retirement planning. The three basics being utilized today are:1) I need enough money for my day-to-day expenses 2) I want to set money aside to leave to my Heirs and 3) I want to check off items on my bucket list. The most common approach does not address health care cost. If you do not include this in your plan you take from other parts of your plan, and it may be too late for adjusting for health care. Do not bankrupt your retirement. Do your planning right. Get your review today! Get on the right path! Editors Note: This article was submitted by Jennifer L Erickson with AAA Medicaid Consulting. She may be reached at 719-459-2519.
Seniors enrolling in Medicare often are surprised to discover that most Medicare health and prescription drug plans are measured by a fivestar rating system. Much like a reviewer guide to restaurants or hotels, Medicare plans are ranked from a low of one star to a high of five stars.The overall ratings provide an easy and intuitive way to help people evaluate and compare both the quality of the product being offered and the overall experience of real consumers.For 2024 plans, Blue Cross Medicare Advantage and Platinum BlueSM Cost plan members will be enrolled in a 4.5 out of 5-Star Rated plan. Additionally, Blue Cross Medicare Advantage plans are top-rated by its members for customer service receiving 5 out of 5-Stars[i].Star Rating categoriesThese ratings are based on the plans performance in five categories:Keeping people healthy: screening tests and vaccines. Includes whether members received appropriate preventative screening tests, vaccines, and other check-ups to help them stay healthyManaging chronic (long-term) conditions: Includes how often members with certain conditions got recommended tests and treatments to help manage their conditionMember experience: Includes actual members ratings of the planMember complaints and changes in the health plans performance: Includes how often Medicare found problems with the plan and how often members had problems with the plan Health plan customer service: Includes how well the plan handles member appealsDeveloped by Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), the Star Rating system is based on member surveys as well as information provided by doctors, health care providers and Medicare's regular monitoring activities. The standards are evaluated on an annual basis and are built to drive continuous improvement in the health care system and better health outcomes for Medicare enrollees.Shopping for a Medicare PlanEvaluating a Medicare plan should take other factors into account as well, such as covered benefits and which doctors, clinics and hospitals are included in the network. Also, the Medicare Annual Enrollment Period (AEP) from October 15 to December 7 is a great time to review your plan selection each year and make sure it's still the best fit for your needs. Related reading: From networks to enrollment periods, get smart on Medicare Advantage plans.Getting help sorting through your options is easy (and free!) with a licensed advisor. Blue Cross Advisors are available in your area for face-to-face meetings, telephone consultations or virtual visits. Appointment scheduling is available online at bluecrossmn.com/advisors.Backed by a service team of nearly 500 Minnesota-based Member Experience Advocates, Blue Cross retains 95% of its Medicare enrollees from one plan year to the next. According to a Blue Cross survey earlier this year, nearly all (98%) of Medicare-enrolled Minnesota seniors consider customer service to be an important factor within their plan. More information about Blue Cross Medicare plans can be found at BlueCrossMN.com/medicare.Editor's note: Every year, Medicare evaluates plans based on a 5-star rating system. Blue Cross offers PPO, HMO-POS, Cost and PDP plans with Medicare contracts. Enrollment in these Blue Cross plans depends on contract renewal.2024 Star Ratings are based on services and care members received in 2022 and are posted at Medicare.gov. Based on 2023 CAHPS results. Star rating information is on medicare.gov/plan-compare.
Every year, Blue Cross talks to seniors across the state to learn more about their thoughts and feelings about health-related topics. For 2023, our survey found that 71% of Minnesota seniors are prioritizing their health, which is an increase of 4% over last year.Having more seniors feel in control of their overall health is a trend worth celebrating.However, our survey also revealed how the process of enrolling in Medicare can be daunting, with a lot of information to process and options to assess. More than half of Minnesota seniors expressed some level of anxiety when first learning about their Medicare plan options. Words like perplexed and overwhelmed were often used to describe their apprehension.Customer service is key to understandingThe good news is those feelings of uncertainty largely disappear once seniors are enrolled in their Medicare plan and begin to use their coverage in ways that best address their personal health needs. It also makes sense why the importance of strong customer service among Medicare enrollees in Minnesota is nearly universal (98%).Here are a few more stats that show how seniors statewide approach Medicare-specific customer service: More than half (55%) of Minnesota seniors agree that having a local health insurance plan staffed by fellow Minnesotans can increase confidence. 71% of seniors call their Medicare plans customer service line at least once a year. Primary reasons for calling are to ask general questions about plan benefits, coverage and network. Driving factors that make a customer service experience positive include having a positive/respectful interaction with the representative (58%) and receiving clear/helpful explanations from the representative (55%).The value of local supportWe love all things Minnesota, and so do many seniors more than half agree that having a local health insurance plan staffed by fellow Minnesotans gives them more confidence.Backed by a service team of nearly 500 Minnesota-based Member Experience Advocates, Blue Cross retains 95% of its Medicare enrollees from one plan year to the next. The importance of local service is also reflected in the high rate (85%) of Blue Cross Medicare enrollees who use the services of a Minnesota insurance agent or broker.Additionally, Blue Cross Medicare plans are top-rated by its members for customer service, based on 2022 survey results from CAHPS (Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems), a nationally recognized indicator of member and patient satisfaction. According to Blue Cross data, more than two-thirds (78%) of Medicare member calls are successfully resolved in a single phone call.Blue Cross member John Hines, the long-time Twin Cities radio personality, just aged into Medicare last year. He relates to the complex feelings that come with enrolling in a plan not to mention the value of effective, local customer service.It took a minute, but Ive adjusted to thinking of myself as a senior and Im proud of how Ive kept my health top of mind in my first years of Medicare, said Hines. Like so many of my friends and family over 65, I appreciate having a friendly, knowledgeable voice on the other end of the line when I call Blue Cross with questions about my plan. Theres nothing better than knowing that Im going to get answers from someone who also calls Minnesota 'home'.Taking full advantage of your Medicare plan and resources is an important part of maintaining your overall well-being along with other core activities such as staying active, eating healthy and spending time with loved ones. For more health information and tips tailored to your needs, check out the latest issue of thrive. magazine and visit this blog often.Radio personality and Blue Cross member John Hines is a paid promotional spokesperson for Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota.