How to not get ripped off at the doctor's office. But before you make an appointment, it's essential that you first call the office and find out whether they work with your insurance company. They'll still take your insurance, but there is no limit to what they can charge you, and your insurance company may cover only a small portion of it, or nothing at all. "If you go to Dr. Smith and he doesn't participate in your insurance plan, then he can pretty much charge whatever he wants," said Orly Avitzur, medical director at Consumer Reports. You need to ask whether they are "in network" with your provider. "Don't feel intimidated," Avitzur said. "Feel free to raise questions about tests, such as, 'Is this test necessary, and if so, why?'" Your blood work could be sent to a lab that's out of network. But if you have a test done in your doctor's office or a hospital, ask if the tests are going to be sent to a provider that's in your network. You should also call your doctor's billing department and let them know there's been a charge you didn't expect, she said.
If you recently retired or are planning to retire within the next few years, there are certain things you should know and understand. All retirees should understand the process of starting Medicare benefits at 65, the required minimum distributions you’ll need to take from your retirement accounts, and how the Social Security earnings test works. Here’s an overview of these topics so you can determine how they’ll affect you.
1. Not everyone needs to apply for Medicare benefits at 65
For many retirees, Medicare enrollment is an automatic process, meaning that an application for benefits is not necessary.
Specifically, if you’re already receiving Social Security benefits when you turn 65, you’ll automatically be enrolled in Medicare parts A and B on the first day of the month you turn 65. The same thing applies if you’ve gotten disability benefits from Social Security or the Railroad Retirement Board for 24 months, or if you have ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease).
If none of the above applies to you, you’ll need to take about 10 minutes and sign up for Medicare on the Social Security Administration’s website (or you can apply at your local Social Security office or over the phone). Your initial enrollment period begins three months before the month in which you’ll turn 65 and extends for three months after that month, for a total window of seven months. While you aren’t required to sign up during your initial enrollment period, not doing so can result in permanently higher premiums when you do.
You can read a thorough discussion of the application procedure and the things you should consider when applying for Medicare here.
2. You might need to start taking larger withdrawals from your retirement accounts
If you don’t need the money in your retirement accounts, it may seem like a good idea to leave it alone or just withdraw a little bit. After all, the benefits of tax-free growth can really produce some amazing gains over time.
However, after you retire, you need to be aware of the required minimum distribution (RMD) rule. This rule applies to pre-tax retirement accounts, such as traditional IRAs and most 401(k), 403(b), and 457 accounts. After-tax accounts like Roth IRAs and money resulting from Roth 401(k) contributions are exempt from the RMD rule.
Basically, the RMD rule says that after you reach…