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What You Need to Know: VA Benefits and Medicare Advantage Plans

 

I am a Veteran on Medicare and have full VA health care benefits with TRI Care for Life, should I get into a Medicare Advantage Plan to get the extra benefits?

 

In the past, the general recommendation was to NOT sign up for an Advantage Plan. Advantage Plans, when you have full VA benefits with TRI Care for Life, could lead to conflicts in what is covered, specifically with respect to prescription drugs. Those conflicts could lead to higher costs or, at the very least, confusion over what was covered and at what cost. 


Over the past few years, things have changed.

 

VA benefits and Medicare Advantage Plans

There has been an increase in insurance companies offering Medicare Advantage plans to address this issue. These plans do not include the prescription drug program. Your medication needs flow through and are covered through the VA, yet provide the additional benefits of the Advantage Plans, usually with zero cost to you. This simplifies the process.


The biggest benefit may be the availability to see providers outside the VA. This includes Providence, MultiCare, Franciscan Health, The Cancer Care Alliance and more 


I meet many folks in Thurston County who still drive up to American Lake for care and services. The drive may be easy if you live in Lacey and traffic is good, but living in Tumwater and dealing with traffic, it presents a challenge to many. With the addition of one of these specialized Advantage Plans, these folks gain access to primary and urgent care locally. 

 

Additional benefits usually included:

  • An annual physical with lab work covered
  • Dental benefits (typically routine cleanings and x-rays
  • Access to the over-the-counter product catalog
  • Significant hearing aid discounts
  • Naturopathic and holistic services 
  • Free gym memberships
  • Vision credits on new glasses (typically 100 to $300) are available.
  • Home health care services where license providers come to your residence to perform physicals and tests.

 

Your Own Advocate

Some carriers are now offering internal services often referred to as Your Own Advocate”.


This person will be the internal contact with your insurance company. It will be the same person every time, eliminating the need to tell your story every time you call. You’ll have a direct connection to ask about services you need from someone who knows your history.

 

If you are receiving VA benefits, review your options

There have been plenty of changes and updates to Medicare Advantage Plans over the past few years. There are new options and benefits that didn’t exist just a short time ago. If you are a veteran with VA benefits, I strongly encourage you reach out and review these options. You could find yourself receiving a number of benefits with zero additional premium costs. At the very least, it’s another level of healthcare to keep an eye on so you stay up to date on what’s available.

 

As always, if you have questions, reach out to me.

 

Be well, be safe, and have a blessed day!

Brian Johnson, LUTCF

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