How to Max Out Your Social Security

If you want to max out your Social Security benefit you will need to plan ahead. You can begin receiving Social Security at age 62 but most baby boomers will come out ahead to wait until FRA (full retirement age) at 66. Regardless of when you begin Social Security, most of us will go on Medicare A & B when we turn 65. How much is the spouse benefit?

How much does Medicare cost? Should I stay on my group plan or is it better to begin Medicare at age 65? Can I have Medicare without Social Security?


Social Security at age 62 or wait?

If you need to begin Social Security at age 62 for financial reasons, go ahead. It is your money. But if you want to max out your benefits the longer you wait the more you will receive each month. Apply for Medicare

The Catch 22 in your benefit is this. How long will you live?

If you are in relatively good health and your family has a history of living into their 80’s or older there’s a good chance you will have a long life too.

But we never know until we get there.

CNN Money addresses the question, “Should you tap your Social Security benefits early or wait?”.

Many people want to get their hands on their benefits as soon as possible, fearing (incorrectly) that Social Security will go broke. Others enjoy the sense of control they get from investing those funds instead of passively waiting for a higher payment down the road.

In spite of some claims, Social Security will not go broke. Technically, it already is. Excess payroll tax collections have mostly been borrowed by Congress to pay current obligations. The Trust fund is full of IOU’s but that does not mean Social Security will implode.

There are too many of us boomers out there and we are old enough to vote if they try and take Social Security away from us. Yes, I said us. I will turn 65 in September of 2015 and will go on Medicare. My plan is to delay SS until age 66 or possibly later.


Social Security planning

If you fail to plan you plan to fail. There is a lot to be said for that old saw.

Back in the old days when we wanted to go on vacation we planned ahead. Many of us ordered at trip planning kit from AAA that contained maps, information on lodging and restaurants and even included brochures of places to see.

That was then.

Now we go on the internet and let Google be our friend. We may map out our trip to get an idea of trip times but rather than bulky maps that never can be folded up neatly we rely on GPS to get us from point A to point B.

We don’t have a retirement GPS and we do need to plan ahead.

Of the items mentioned in the video, long term care planning is often the one that is most overlooked. I have a business associate that handles long term care for me. Let me know if you need an introduction.


Turn 65, go on Medicare?

At one time you had no choice. Most people retired at age 65 and some even a few years earlier. If you worked for a “big company” like AT&T or IBM you had a retiree health insurance plan.

But those days are mostly gone.

att retiree health insuranceMany large employers have cancelled their retiree health plan and shuttled their employees off to consultants like Aon or Towers Watson. Instead of a company health insurance plan you are forced onto Medicare. Your former employer may have set up a retiree HRA and made a deposit to help you pay for your Medicare Part B and either a Medicare Advantage plan or Medigap plus Part D.

The advice given by the service reps at Aon or Towers Watson is mostly inadequate. You may have also been told the only way to participate in the HRA was to buy your coverage through the consulting firm.

In many cases that may not have been completely accurate.

We helped several retirees find a plan that fit their needs and budget and still retain access to the HRA funding. In every case the premiums for plans we suggested were lower than those for comparable plans through Aon or Towers.

With more than 170 different Medicare supplement plans in Georgia, how do you find the right one for you? I will be glad to discuss the plans I considered as well as the one I will pick when I go on Medicare.

You can begin your search on our site. View plans side by side to compare benefits and rates. Of course we are always available to answer any questions you may have.

Georgia Medigap plans & Prices

Georgia Medigap plans & Prices

Still have questions?

Social Security can be confusing, even more so than Medicare. You are not the only one with questions.

Here are a few links to help you find your path and max out your Social Security benefits.

How to Max Out Your Social Security Checks

How to Calculate the Spousal Benefit

Social Security Spouse Benefits – The Rules of the Road

If you found this post to be of benefit please share it with your friends. Let us know how we can help.


#SocialSecurity #Medicareturning65 #AT&T

AT&T Retiree Health Insurance Plan Cancelled


AT&T retiree health insurance plans will be cancelled for 2015 and later. What are your options? How will you pay for your coverage? Are you required to use Aon? Should you go outside the Aon “umbrella”? 2013 Medicare open enrollment

Big companies are dropping retiree health insurance plans faster than a hot potato and AT&T retiree’s are no different. You join the ranks of Alcoa, PepsiCo, IBM, Fannie Mae, Savannah River Project and many more.

So where do you go from here? Should you buy one of the suggested plans from Aon? Or should you look for coverage in the open market?


Aon and the AT&T retiree

Aon is a large employee benefit conglomerate that has secured a contract with AT&T to provide “counseling” services to retirees. You have probably received your notice from AT&T and may have had a call from a counselor that want’s to schedule a phone interview.

Retiree’s that contacted us for advice have indicated their counselor seems to have very little understanding of how Medicare works and what your options. The advice seems to be little more than reading from a prepared script on a computer screen.

One recent comment from a forum ……..

I am an AT&T retiree. My wife and I have been exposed to Aon’s “customer service,” which is a joke, and not a funny one. We are SO grateful to have found this forum and at least feel that we have better options than Aon offers. Thanks to all for the great information — we are truly grateful.

Aon call center reps earn around $18/hour plus a bonus for each application submitted. They are paid to push product, nothing more. Their training is specific but they would not even qualify as a “30 day wonder”.

The Aon website is of limited value, even if you know what you are doing. This is not necessarily my opinion. I am merely repeating what AT&T retiree’s have told me. Product offerings are limited, and often pricey.

Shop and compare GA Medigap Quotes



HRA money

AT&T has agreed to deposit $2700 into the retiree’s HRA account + an additional $1500 for a qualified spouse of the retiree.

The money comes with strings attached.

stopIn order to receive the funds, the AT&T retiree (or their spouse) must purchase at least one plan from Aon. You may elect for a Medicare Advantage plan, Medicare supplement plan, or Part D prescription drug plan.

If you don’t like the Medigap options you are free to purchase your coverage outside of Aon by using an agent of your choice or going direct to a carrier. If you purchase outside of Aon the premium payment can be reimbursed by the HRA administrator.

We have found that plans promoted by Aon reps may not be in the best interest of the retiree. Whether this is intentional or simply due to a lack of understanding about how Medicare works is subject to debate.

Every AT&T retiree we have talked with have said the number of plans listed on the site is very limited and mostly seem to be higher priced offerings.

If you are looking for coverage outside of the Aon offerings, in Georgia you will find

  • As many as 20 different Medicare Advantage plans (depending on your zip and county)
  • Over 30 different drug plans (based on your county and zip)
  • Over 30 Medigap carriers offering over 170 different plans state wide

Navigating this maze of 200+ choices can be frustrating. Finding an agent that specializes in Medicare options and understands the AT&T retiree choices can be difficult.

Shameless plug follows ……….

Bob Vineyard at Georgia Medicare Plans has 40 years experience in the health insurance field. As an independent broker, he is able to offer you multiple solutions and answer all your questions. Call or email. You have questions, we have answers. You can also begin your shopping with our Medigap quote engine. Compare plans and rates side by side. Click for your instant quote.



 UPDATE: Discussions with AT&T retirees shows an alarming trend. When retirees compare rates for Medigap plan “X” with the EXACT SAME PLAN outside of the exchange the non-Aon rates are higher than open market rates.

Also, retirees are being told by the Aon reps they must buy ALL coverage through Aon to receive the HRA funds. If you are told that, ask to speak to a manager. The AT&T FAQ clearly states you must buy either Medicare Advantage, Medigap or drug plan.


Medicare Advantage

Medicare Advantage plans are essentially Medicare where your claims and benefits are managed by an insurance carrier instead of original Medicare.

Original Medicare does not have networks. You are free to use any doctor, lab or hospital that accepts Medicare assignment. That covers 96% of medical grammarly never make same mistakeproviders in the U.S.

Medicare Advantage is a managed care system. Some plans have very limited networks and severe penalties for using a non-par provider. These are HMO plans.

The next most common option is the PPO where you have a broader choice of physicians but is typically a much smaller number than the entire population of doctors in your area. Doctors can be dropped from the plan at any time.


Vera Brown of Augusta is still upset about a letter she received from her health insurer.

UnitedHealthcare wrote to notify her that it was dropping Dr. Sean Lynch, her physician, from its Medicare Advantage doctor network.

“I’ve been with Dr. Lynch for years,’’ says Brown, 67, a registered nurse. “He treats me like his mother.”

Georgia Health News

A new wave of physicians are being cut from UnitedHealth Group’s Medicare Advantage network, continuing a trend that started last year and has reportedly already shaved more than 30,000 physicians from the same network.

UnitedHealth started notifying physicians who are being terminated from the network over the last few weeks, according to state medical associations in states such as Alabama, Georgia, Massachusetts, North Carolina and Tennessee.

Medical Economics


When you choose a Medicare Advantage plan you must review your plan every year, usually during open enrollment. Premiums will change from year to year, benefit changes include higher deductible’s, copay’s and out of pocket limits (OOP).

Five years ago the average OOP limit for Advantage plans was $2900. Now it is $5400.

Even though your premiums may not increase your cost sharing will go up every year. Too many retiree’s make the mistake of focusing on the monthly premium and fail to account for the total cost of the plan which includes your deductibles, copay’s and coinsurance.

Your OOP limit only applies to in network APPROVED claims and does not include your prescription drug expenditures.


Medicare supplement coverage

Medicare supplement plans, also called Medigap insurance, is designed to work exclusively with original Medicare.

FB Groucho Marx3Any doctor, lab or hospital that participates in Medicare will also accept your Medigap coverage. They don’t care if you have a Medigap plan or the name of the carrier.

Contrast that with Medicare Advantage where you pick your doctor from a list of approved providers. If the doctor of your choice is not on the plan you can expect to pay out of pocket up to the Medicare approved amount.

Medicare supplement plans are standardized. The benefit structure is designed by Medicare. Page 9 of “Choosing a Medigap Policy” has this to say.

Every Medigap policy must follow federal and state laws designed to
protect you, and the policy must be clearly identified as “Medicare
Supplement Insurance.” Medigap insurance companies in most
states can only sell you a “standardized” Medigap policy identified by
letters A through N. Each standardized Medigap policy must offer
the same basic benefits, no matter which insurance company sells it.
Cost is usually the only difference between Medigap policies with
the same letter sold by different insurance companies.


All Medigap plans with the same letter have exactly the same benefits. The only difference is the premium.

When you pay more you don’t get more, you simply paid too much.

The most popular plan if Medigap plan F followed by plan G and N.

Consider plans that deliver the most value and have a stable rate history. We suggest limiting your choices to carriers that have at least a 5 year track record of writing Medigap plans in your state.


Caveats and considerations

The HRA monies offered to AT&T retiree’s can change at any time. AT&T made a business decision to drop the current retiree medical plan in favor of the retiree HRA option. Only AT&T can say if they will continue this practice or not. Future deposits to your HRA are not guaranteed.

You must follow the rules in order to receive the HRA monies, but you are not required to buy all your coverage from Aon.

Outside of Aon you have more choices, but with over 200 options you may find it overwhelming.

Consider contacting an agent that is familiar with plans in your area. A knowledgeable agent can save you a lot of time, money and frustration. My clients tell me they learn more in a 15 minute phone conversation than they have learned through weeks of searching on the internet. bob on fb

Most agents will offer advice at no charge. They have access to the same plans you would have if you went direct to the carriers. Premium rates are exactly the same as you would be charged by the carrier. Agent service fees are “hard wired” into the pricing of each plan so you will not pay more for using an agent.

Offering advice, helping you find a plan that fits your needs and budget is how we earn our living. This is not a hobby. This is our livelihood.

That’s me on the right. >>>>

If you feel that a Medicare Advantage plan is best for you and you want to keep the HRA money, you must buy from Aon. Buying an Advantage plan from an agent means you forfeit the HRA deposit.

Advantage plans come with one additional caveat.

If you start out with an Advantage plan and later decide you should have picked a Medigap plan you may be able to qualify now, but not in the future.

However you can buy a Medicare supplement plan through an agent and in most cases, the carrier will pay a service fee to the agent for assisting you.

Some AT&T retiree’s may be able to qualify medically for a supplement plan. If this is the case with you, there are more plans to pick from at more favorable pricing.

If you are exercising your right to a Medigap plan under the Medicare guaranteed issue provisions you plan choices are limited, premiums are often higher and your agent most likely will not be compensated for these plans.

As an AT&T retiree you have a lot of factors to consider in making your decision. Choose wisely. Are you ready to shop and compare?