Monday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: How to avoid going overboard and over budget on kids’ holiday gifts. Also in the news: A new episode of the Smart Money podcast on countering uncertainty and building wealth early, Medicare and prescription drug costs, and what you need to know about Medigap Plan D.

Avoid Going Overboard and Over Budget on Kids’ Holiday Gifts
To avoid overspending this year, find a gifting strategy that works for your kids and your budget.

Smart Money Podcast: Countering Uncertainty, and Building Wealth Early
Sean and Liz discuss how to counter uncertainty, and respond to a young listener’s question about building wealth.

Does Medicare Cover Prescription Drugs?
Original Medicare beneficiaries can buy prescription coverage called Part D. Medicare Advantage plans usually include coverage.

What Is Medigap Plan D? What You Need to Know
Medigap Plan D helps Medicare enrollees with some costs not covered by Medicare Part A and Part B.

Monday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: Cash back, miles, or…wine? Credit card rewards are evolving. Also in the news: A new episode of the Smart Money podcast on why you should question your bills and how to make the most of a raise, Medicare’s telehealth experiment could be here to stay, and the best way to ask for a cost-of-living increase.

Cash Back, Miles or … Wine? Credit Card Rewards Are Evolving
If cash back and travel feel blah, a new crop of credit cards will reward you in different ways.

Smart Money Podcast: Why to Question Your Bills, and Making the Most of a Raise

Medicare’s Telehealth Experiment Could Be Here to Stay
An astronomical increase in telehealth visits by Medicare beneficiaries in 2020 could prompt a reshaping of post-pandemic rules.

The Best Way to Ask for a Cost-of-Living Raise
Inflation rates are the highest they’ve been in 30 years.

Friday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: Medicare’s telehealth experiment could be here to stay. Also in the news: 4 best practices to simplify your small business, how Omicron could impact your travel, and 7 things to buy early this holiday season.

Medicare’s Telehealth Experiment Could Be Here to Stay
An astronomical increase in telehealth visits by Medicare beneficiaries in 2020 could prompt a reshaping of post-pandemic rules.

Can’t Keep Up? 4 Best Practices to Simplify Your Small Business
These best practices can help small-business owners simplify daily operations, free up time and focus on company growth.

Omicron, Travel Bans and How They Could Impact Your Trip
As countries rush to impose travel bans amid the omicron COVID-19 variant, here’s what you need to know.

7 Things to Buy Early This Holiday Season
Between limited inventory and shipping delays, here’s what you need to buy early this holiday shopping season.

Friday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: 4 reasons to shop Small Business Saturday. Also in the news: Substantial Medicare coverage for mammograms and breast cancer surgeries, therapies and prostheses, and PlayStation and Xbox consoles in short supply in 2021.

4 Reasons to Shop Small Business Saturday
In a time marked by widespread supply chain disruptions and inflation, underdog small businesses deserve our attention.

Does Medicare Cover Mammograms and Breast Cancer Treatment?
Medicare offers substantial coverage for mammograms and breast cancer surgeries, therapies and prostheses.

Will You Find PlayStation and Xbox Black Friday Deals in 2021?
Retailers will have PlayStation and Xbox consoles in short supply, if at all.

Wednesday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story:  Harsh vibe continues for home buyers in 2022. Also in the news: Important lessons from Mortgage application data, new for Medicare in 2022, 5 mistakes that can lead to a bad car loan, and TV Black Friday 2021 deals.

The Property Line: Harsh Vibe Continues for Home Buyers in 2022
Signs point toward a friendlier market for buyers in 2022, if only marginally so.

Why Might Your Mortgage App Fail? Learn From 2020’s Denials
Mortgage application data from years past can teach important lessons.

What’s New for Medicare in 2022?
Costs are going up for Original Medicare, including a big increase for Medicare Part B.

5 Mistakes That Can Lead to a Bad Car Loan
Extending the loan’s term and not shopping for a loan are among the common mistakes that can lead to a bad car loan.

TV Black Friday 2021 Deals: Are They Worth It?
Amazon has a 50-inch Fire TV for $329.99.

Friday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: What you need to know about Medigap Plan C. Also in the news: 5 steps to weed out Instagram ad scams, and cell phone Black Friday 2021 deals.

What Is Medigap Plan C? What You Need to Know
Medigap Plan C is no longer available for new enrollees. But there are other Medicare Supplement Insurance options.

5 Steps to Weed Out Instagram Ad Scams
Make sure you’re crystal clear on the return policy before tapping the “buy” button.

Cell Phone Black Friday 2021 Deals: Are They Worth It?
Best Buy’s trade-in deals include up to $900 off the iPhone 13.

Q&A: More about Medicare choices

Dear Liz: I’ve enjoyed your columns about choices between traditional Medicare and Medicare Advantage. I have a terminology question: What is the difference between a Medigap policy and a supplemental one? I have traditional Medicare and a supplemental plan, which covers the deductibles and copayments that Medicare doesn’t cover. According to your article, it seems a Medigap policy does the same. Please clarify and keep up the good work.

Answer: Medigap and supplemental policy are two terms for the same product: an insurance policy sold by private insurers to cover the “gaps” in Medicare coverage. If you have traditional Medicare (also known as original Medicare), it’s generally advisable to have a Medigap supplemental policy as well.

You can’t get a Medigap policy, however, if you have Medicare Advantage. Medicare Advantage is also provided by private insurers but is meant to be an all-in-one alternative to traditional Medicare, rather than a supplement to it.

Q&A: What you should know about Medicare, Medigap and Advantage plans

Dear Liz: I’ve read your most recent columns about Medicare Advantage and believe that more should be said before people decide to go that route.

You mentioned that switching from Medicare Advantage to Medicare itself can be problematic. As a couple who have had both plans and now have Medicare with a Medigap plan, I want to say that the best (and, by the way, easiest) switch my husband and I made was to go back to Medicare.

People should understand that Medicare Advantage plans become their primary insurance, severely limiting their ability to go to whatever doctor or hospital is most convenient. When traveling, they are limited to the hospital and doctor they chose with their Advantage plan, the one near home! My husband also could not go to a doctor I had because we were signed up at different local hospitals.

So I phoned Medicare in 2009 and a young man was so helpful, and in no time we were back on Medicare. He said to go to the Medicare website, choose from the many Medigap options offered that suited our needs, and we did. It was that easy.

We opted for no copays, skilled nursing care, and much more. Granted, our monthly premiums are more than they would have been before, but since that date we have not laid out one cent for medical care including doctor visits, my husband’s open heart surgery (at a hospital of our choosing), emergency room and surgery for my broken ankle, and annual EKGs to monitor his heart.

Surprisingly, we also have coverage for foreign medical treatments and took advantage of that in 2018 for minor surgery needed. The Medigap insurance covered 80% of that when our travel insurer refused to pay.

Our Medigap policy also allows us to go to any doctor or hospital without a referral. And, of course, Medicare is accepted throughout the U.S., and Medicare Advantage plans are not. The tens of thousands of dollars we have saved in the last 11 years make it worth paying more each month, and we have peace of mind.

Answer: Thanks for writing and for sharing your experience.

For readers who haven’t kept up with the discussion: Medicare Advantage plans are offered by private insurers as an all-in-one alternative to traditional Medicare, the government-administered health insurance program for people 65 and older. Medicare Advantage plans typically cover some things that Medicare does not, such as vision, dental and hearing care, but the plans also have regional networks of providers you’re expected to use. You’ll pay more, and sometimes all, of the bill if you use out-of-network providers.

Traditional Medicare allows you to go to any doctor or hospital that accepts Medicare — which includes the vast majority of both — but can have substantial copays and other cost-sharing. A supplemental plan or Medigap plan offered by a private insurer can cover those costs, and most Medigap plans also offer emergency coverage abroad.

The premiums for Medicare plus Medigap can be higher than those for Medicare Advantage plans, but ultimately may prove more cost-effective for people who travel frequently or who want more choice about their care.

If you sign up for a Medigap plan when you first enroll in Medicare, the insurer is required to take you. If you miss that open enrollment period, an insurer can charge you more or even deny you coverage because of preexisting conditions.

There are a few exceptions, however. If you initially enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan but want to switch to Medicare plus a Medigap plan within the first 12 months, you’re allowed to get a Medigap policy without underwriting.

Tuesday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: Parents with student debt want a do-over. Also in the news: What you need to know about Medigap Plan G, don’t let Social Security steer you wrong, and why Millennials and Gen Zers should be investing in Roth IRAs.

Parents With Student Debt Want A Do-Over
Nearly 1 in 3 parents regret their decision.

What Is Medigap Plan G? What You Need to Know
Medigap Plan G, part of Medicare Supplement Insurance, helps cover additional costs not met by Original Medicare.

Don’t Let Social Security Steer You Wrong
When to claim benefits is a complex decision. Don’t rely on the help line staff, and consider getting a pro’s help.

Why Millennials and Gen Zers Should Be Investing in Roth IRAs
Minimize your tax exposure while taking advantage of compound interest.

Q&A: Medicare Advantage plan downsides

Dear Liz: You recently wrote about Medicare Advantage plans, which often cover things like dental care, hearing and vision that traditional Medicare does not. You mentioned that the plans have networks of providers, but people should know that those networks don’t always include the experts they may need if they develop serious health issues. The plans themselves can have copays that make it expensive to get sick. If people want to switch to traditional Medicare and get a supplemental Medigap policy, they may face medical underwriting that could increase their costs.

Answer: Medicare Advantage plans are sold by private insurers as an all-in-one alternative to traditional Medicare. The plans are certainly popular — the percentage of Medicare beneficiaries who sign up for Medicare Advantage has been steadily increasing over the years, in part because these private plans seem to cover more. But the plans can vary widely in the breadth of their networks and how they share costs with beneficiaries.

Once you’ve signed up for Medicare Advantage, switching to traditional Medicare can be problematic, as you noted. Insurers aren’t required to cover you the way they are when you first enroll. Some may decline to offer you a Medigap policy or may charge you more, based on your health.