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Wednesday, October 12, 2022

Tools and Apps That Work With Medicare

Choose a plan, share your health information, or even earn some extra money with these online apps for Medicare users.

Open enrollment for Medicare is upon us. It runs from October 15 through December 7, when you can opt to change your plan. New enrollees have seven months — three months before and after their birthday month — to sign up. While many seniors breathe a sigh of relief for attaining eligibility, there are a lot of choices to be made before you pick a plan. For a general overview of Medicare, go here or to the government Medicare site.

To review, Part A is for hospital and nursing home coverage, Part B covers doctors, outpatient costs, and durable equipment, Part C is Medicare Advantage that runs through private insurance companies, and Part D is for prescription drugs. 

If it feels like choosing the right Medicare plan is akin to deciphering the tax code, you are not alone. However, a couple of tools can kick-start the process for you. 

Choosing a Plan

AARP’s Medicare Question and Answer tool helps you navigate the program with input about your own situation. It will help with eligibility and enrollment parameters, and answer questions about plan “options, coverage and costs in an easy-to-understand manner.” It covers the gamut, from breaking down the late-enrollment penalty for Part A to explaining how to report Medicare fraud. AARP does a first-rate job of giving clear answers to a wide range of questions.

You can also try the Medicare government Plan Finder tool. Fill out information about how you usually use the health care system, and it will direct you to plans in your area that would be appropriate. Better yet, like the AARP tool, you can input the drugs you take along with your zip code, and it will recommend an optimal Plan D prescription drug program. That alone makes it worth the effort!

You might want to try an app like the Medicare PlanFinder. It will help you compare your existing employer’s health plan along with traditional Medicare, a Medicare supplement plan that covers some of the gaps in traditional Medicare, and Medicare Advantage options. It has a 4.2 star rating; some users have complained about giving out information like their doctor’s name or what drugs they take, but these determine which plans will work and the information is protected by privacy laws. 

Sharing Your Information

The government has “Blue Button” apps that are privately developed but authorized by Medicare to help with a variety of tasks related to Medicare. These apps not only help you find plans, but can make appointments, contact your doctor, and check your symptoms. You can also use the apps to share your medical information and claims with people that you approve. Lastly, they enable you to connect your claims data with research projects. As of this writing, there are 89 apps to choose from!

Making Money from Fitness

One app that is worth a write-up is Achievement. It is free, and using it can actually help you stay fit and pay you back in cold, hard cash. There are other apps that are similar, but Achievement is easy to use and plays well with other apps, making it a top choice. It has a 4.5 star rating after 3 million downloads.

So, how does it work? Register on the app, then connect the Apple Health app or another fitness app like FitBit. It will track your activity and reward you with points for different forms of exercise, up to 80 points per day. Then, you can earn more points for tracking what you eat, your sleep, weight, meditation, etc. Take advantage of bonus offers, such as 250 points for referring a friend and surveys that pay out extra points when completed. 

You’ll get paid $10 for 10,000 points, either via PayPal or with gift cards. Do the math, and that comes to about $30 a year for exercise alone. Not a jackpot, but it’s a meal out or a movie with popcorn. But you can jack that up to more than $200 by participating in those extra surveys, and that starts getting meaningful. 

Plus, if it gets you to exercise more often, then it’s worth it for the benefit to your overall health alone.

Medicare is complicated. Doing a little research with these apps and tools can help you optimize the program and get the most care for your dollars. It’s worth it to spend a little time now to get the best plan for your needs.