7 Things You Need to Know About Medicare

Medicare health insurance provides financial relief for many seniors -- but enrolling is complicated. 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 (also called custodial care)
  • Most dental care, as well as dentures
  • Eye examinations related to prescribing glasses
  • Hearing aids and exams for fitting them
  • Routine foot care
  • Acupuncture
  • Cosmetic surgery

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 can also 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 Medigap plans, check out “The ABCs of Selecting a Medicare Supplement Plan.”

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 enrollment period, which is 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.”

Currently, Medicare numbers are based on Social Security numbers. Medicare recently announced that this will start changing in April, when beneficiaries will begin receiving new unique ID numbers as part of an effort to prevent identity theft. You’ll still need to safeguard the new number, though.

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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