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Retirees need advisors’ help in transition to Medicare

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For retired workers and those just beginning the transition from employee to retiree, securing health care coverage is new territory. Fewer employers are providing benefits for retirees than just a few years ago, according to a survey released Monday by Allsup.

See also: 5 ways retirees can cut health care costs

Data from the Kaiser Family Foundation show just a quarter of employers offered health benefits to retired workers in 2012, Allsup found, down from 32 percent in 2007.

Allsup provides Social Security and Medicare compliance and selection services for individuals, employers and insurers.

“At many companies, retiring used to mean transitioning from your employer’s health plan to a retiree health plan,” Paula Muschler, manager of the Allsup Medicare Advisor, said in a statement. “Now, rather than selecting from one or two employer-provided options, more and more individuals are faced with trying to navigate through dozens of different Medicare plan options.”

Muschler stressed the importance of advisors discussing Medicare planning with clients before their 65th birthday and throughout their retirement.

“Since fewer employers offer retiree coverage, it’s important that people begin to study their options early enough to make good choices based on their needs,” she said.

Pre-retirees have the three-month period before and after their 65th birthday to select their Medicare plan without penalties. “If a client is past their initial enrollment period, then financial advisors can intervene to help them make wise choices going forward,” Mushcler added.

Allsup noted retirees have an average of 31 plans for prescription drug coverage and 20 Medicare Advantage plans. Retirees can also be covered by a spouse’s plan or veterans’ benefits, which could affect the type of Medicare plan they choose.

Workers who are older than 65 and already enrolled in Medicare may be able to apply for supplemental coverage. “Retiree coverage is secondary to Medicare, so they already would have Parts A and B, but losing their retiree group health coverage triggers their option to buy Medigap,” Muschler said.

“Health care is one of the primary financial concerns for seniors, and financial advisors can reassure their clients with careful preparation and expert Medicare assistance,” Muschler said.