7 Facts You Need to Know About Medicare

Medicare open enrollment begins today. Here's what you need to know, as well as where to find help.

4. Medicare is not all-encompassing

Medicare doesn’t cover all health care-related costs. Services and items that Part A and Part B generally do not cover include:

  • Long-term care
  • Most dental care
  • Eye examinations related to prescribing glasses
  • Cosmetic surgery
  • Acupuncture
  • Hearing aids and exams for fitting them
  • Routine foot care

You can use Medicare.gov’s “Your Medicare Coverage” search tool to determine whether other services or supplies are covered.

5. You might want — or need — a supplement

If you opt for Original Medicare, you also can buy a Medicare supplement insurance policy to help pay for expenses the Original Medicare plan doesn’t cover, like copayments and deductibles. These supplemental policies are also known as Medigap plans.

Folks who opt for Medicare Advantage do not have the option of supplementing their Medicare Advantage plan with a Medigap plan, however.

To learn more about Medigap plans in general, check out “The ABCs of Selecting a Medicare Supplement Plan.”

To learn about how you might be affected by two popular Medigap plans becoming closed to new enrollees soon, don’t miss “A Big Change to a Popular Medicare Option Might Increase Your Costs.”

6. Beware the Part D late penalty

If you put off prescription drug coverage, it can cost you for the rest of your life. Medicare calls it the “Part D late enrollment penalty.”

You may owe this penalty if you go without prescription drug coverage for any continuous period of 63 days or more after your initial Medicare enrollment period — when you’re first eligible to sign up for Medicare.

This is no one-time fee, however. By law, the Part D late enrollment penalty becomes part of your monthly drug coverage premium. So, you generally must pay the penalty for as long as you have a Medicare drug plan.

To learn more about this penalty — including how you can avoid it — visit Medicare.gov’s “Part D late enrollment penalty” page.

7. Safeguard your ID number

Seniors receive a unique Medicare ID number upon becoming a beneficiary. Your Medicare number is like other sensitive personal information in that it’s valuable to identity thieves. The Medicare blog explains:

In fact, thieves consider your Medicare number and other protected health information more valuable than credit card information because people can reuse them to bill Medicare for services that you didn’t get. When people steal your identity and bill Medicare for items or services you didn’t get, it drives up costs for everyone.

Until recently, Medicare numbers were based on Social Security numbers. That started changing earlier this year, when Medicare started sending beneficiaries new Medicare cards with new unique ID numbers as part of an effort to prevent identity theft. You’ll still need to safeguard the new number, though.

To learn more about this change, check out the “New Medicare Card” webpage.

Do you have any Medicare tips you would share with others? Tell us about them by commenting below or over on our Facebook page.

Karla Bowsher
Karla Bowsher
I’m a freelance journalist and former newspaper reporter who has covered both personal and public finance. I've worked for a top 50 major metro daily and a community newspaper as well as ... More

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