Retirement HealthCare

What Will Your Retirement HealthCare Look Like?

Retire Fast.

Health care costs continue to skyrocket and there does not seem to be an end in sight.  For those nearing retirement, this is one of their biggest concerns.  As well it should be.  If you are one of the lucky ones to have a pension, these are becoming less secure.  Just ask any United Airlines worker.  With the loss of pension benefits, usually comes the loss of its health benefits as well.  The U.S. government passed the Medicare Modernization Act of 2003 (MMA) to help relieve the unexpected burden this places on retirees. 

The Medicare Modernization Act of 2003 (MMA) provides Medicare recipients more choices in health care coverage and better health care benefits.  Some of the new benefits under the MMA are:

Medicare-Approved Drug Discount Cards

The Medicare-approved drug discount cards program is temporary until the Medicare prescription drug plans start in 2006.   Through this plan, you can receive a discount on covered brand name and generic drugs.  Enrollment is not automatic; you must choose a discount card and then enroll.  You can learn more by reading the booklet Guide to Choosing a Medicare-Approved Drug Discount Card (CMS Publication 11062).

Preventive Benefits

Medicare pays for many preventive services. The preventive services include:

  • One-time "Welcome to Medicare" Physical Exam
  • Cardiovascular Screening
  • Cancer Tests
    • Breast Cancer Screening (Mammograms)
    • Cervical and Vaginal Cancer Screening (Pap Test and Pelvic Exam)
    • Colon Cancer Screening (Colorectal)
    • Prostate Cancer Screening (PSA)
  • Shots
  • Bone Mass Measurements
  • Diabetes Screening, Supplies, and Self Management Training 
  • Glaucoma Tests
  • Other Health Information
    • Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
    • Depression

Medicare Advantage Health Plans

Medicare Advantage is the new name for Medicare + Choice. Medicare Advantage Plans are available in most areas of the country. To join one of these plans, you must have both Medicare Part A and Part B.  Medicare Advantage Plans include:

Medicare Managed Care Plans - You see doctors in the plan's network. A primary doctor coordinates your health care. Referrals are required for most services and to see doctors out of the plan's network.

Medicare Preferred Provider Organization Plans (PPOs) - You can see any doctor, but it costs less to see doctors in the plan's network. No referrals are necessary.

Medicare Private Fee-for-Service Plans - You can see any doctor that accepts the plan's payment. No referrals are necessary.

Medicare Specialty Plans - A special type of plan that provides more focused health care for specific people.

Medicare Prescription Drug Plans

Enrollment to get a Medicare prescription drug plan is not automatic. If you want to participate, you must choose a plan offering the coverage that best meets your needs and then enroll.  You can get your prescriptions through a Medicare Advantage Managed Care Plan, the Original Medicare Plan or another type of Medicare Advantage health plan or a Medicare Managed Care Plan that is not a Medicare Advantage Plan.  You pay a premium for these benefits and you also pay a deductible.  This is above and beyond any premiums paid for Medicare Part A and Part B.

Regional Preferred Provider Organization Plans

The Medicare Modernization Act allows regional Preferred Provider Organization Plans (PPOs) to give all people with Medicare choices for Medicare health care coverage. In a regional PPO, members will have an added protection. PPOs will limit the maximum amount that members pay for care outside the network.

These new benefits should bring much needed relief to ex-pension beneficiaries.  Though, do not count on Medicare to replace all the benefits that were once provided by your pensions plan.  To regain your former level of coverage, you will likely need to purchase a Medigap policy and/or private medical insurance.

If you want more information about Medicare:

  • Call 1-800-MEDICARE
  • Visit the official Medicare website at
  • Visit the Health and Human Services website at
  • Read Medicare & You - available through the Department of Health & Human Services
  • Call your State Health Insurance Assistance Program
  • View Medicare Covers America - a health information cable television series produced by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

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