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Investor’s column: Medicare open enrollment starts in October. Here’s what you need to know

Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services via AP

Medicare is a federal insurance program designed for people older than 65, younger adults with disabilities, or those with end-stage renal disease that requires permanent dialysis or transplant.

If you fall into any of these three categories, you may be a candidate to receive Medicare coverage.

Let’s review what else you’ll need to know about Medicare enrollment.

The normal time to enroll for Medicare is between three months before you turn 65 to three months after. If you are still working and are covered by health insurance through your employer, you can postpone enrolling until you retire.

That said, don’t delay filing once you turn 65 because there are significant penalties imposed. Every year, Medicare offers an open enrollment period where you may makes changes to the Medicare plans you previously enrolled in. The period is Oct. 15 to Dec. 7 each year.

New Tom Breiter.jpg
Tom Breiter is the president of Integra Capital Advisors, a registered investment adviser in Bradenton.

Here is what you can do with your Medicare plan during open enrollment:

  • If you have Parts A&B, you can switch to Medicare Part C (or Medicare Advantage), which is often contracted by companies that have an agreement with Medicare. This service includes the coverage of both Plan A and Plan B (Original Medicare), as well as additional services like prescription drug coverage and private fee-for-service plans.

  • If you have Medicare Part C, you can switch it back to Original Medicare (Parts A&B)

  • You can re-evaluate your Part C plan and switch to a different Medicare Advantage plan.

  • If you already have Parts A&B, you can join or drop a Part D prescription drug plan, This part of Medicare adds the prescription drug coverage for Original Medicare, private fee-for-service plans, and some Medicare cost plans.

  • You can switch your Part D prescription drug plan to a different Part D plan.

The cost of Medicare insurance depends on a variety of factors. Medicare Part A is free if you worked for at least 10 years. The premium for Part B is paid automatically if you have filed for Social Security benefits, and costs about $134 monthly on average.

The cost may vary depending on your income, whether you’re still working and when you originally enrolled, but can be as much as $422 per month. The Part B premium also offers coinsurance after you’ve paid your deductible. This means that for some services you’ll pay only 20 percent of the total cost.

Medicare Part C is also known as Medicare Advantage. As mentioned above, Part C is coverage from private health insurance companies that takes the place of Medicare Parts A&B. These plans may offer additional coverage like dental and vision, but may also have more strict rules and guidelines to qualify for certain medical procedures.

Bradenton's Sue LaMastro, a Medicare counselor, wonders if members of Congress know on their own which prescription drug plan would be best for each of them.

In summary, if you have not yet filed for Medicare, mark your calendar for three months before your 65th birthday to research your options and decide which coverage to enroll in.

If you have already enrolled, now is a good time to review your plan and other options to and to make changes during the upcoming open enrollment period.

Tom Breiter is the president of Integra Capital Advisors, a registered investment adviser in Bradenton. He can be reached at 941-778-1900 or

Charges were filed in connection with a $1 billion Medicare care fraud scheme, announced the U.S. Attorney’s Office during a press conference in Miami, Florida on July 22. Federal prosecutors said it was the biggest Medicare fraud scheme in the na