MHI – Q: Is there such a thing as a Medicare plan with a zero dollar premium?

Posted by Jan
A: There are three general types of insurance to go along with your Medicare – Medicare Supplement plans (also called Medigaps), Part D drug plans and Medicare Advantage plans (also called Part C). A few Medicare Advantage plans do have zero dollar premiums.
Before you get too excited, a zero dollar premium plan is not the same thing as a zero dollar cost plan. I hesitate to say that you get what you pay for because many people are very happy with their Medicare Advantage plans. Let me just say there is a certain amount of risk associated with Medicare Advantage plans.
Let me tell you about my friend Pam. She joined a zero dollar premium Medicare Advantage plan when she became eligible for Medicare at age 65. Although she preferred the peace of mind associated with a Medicare Supplement (no networks or copays at the time of service), she was afraid the premium was just too high for her to handle on her limited income.
For three years, all she had to pay was her Part B premium (you have to pay that whether you get a supplement or a Medicare Advantage plan). She did not take any prescriptions and she hardly ever went to the doctor. She had no copays at the time of service because she was not receiving any services. Like many people in excellent health, she reaped the financial reward of taking good care of herself in her younger years.
Time passed; things changed. First, a cardiac event followed by a stent. She started taking a couple prescriptions. Then a suspicious mammogram. An ultrasound. A lumpectomy. More prescriptions. Doctors’ appointments with her primary care doctor. And the specialists - the surgeon, the cardiologist, two different kinds of oncologists - one medical and one radiation. She had her 14th radiation treatment this morning; only 19 more to go…at $60 per session. That’s $1,980 for the radiation alone.
The moral of the story: zero dollar premium plans seem like the deal of the century if you are in excellent health. However, copays can become oppressive if your health starts to deteriorate. 

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