Medicare is a federally-funded program that can often feel intimidating to those without much experience in government healthcare. For those 65 years old and older, Medicare makes healthcare more affordable, but its rules and regulations can be confusing if you’re not careful. 

Failing to make the right choices about Medicare can lead to costly mistakes. You might be left without coverage, with gaps in coverage, or even get stuck with a penalty for the rest of your life. Here are the biggest Medicare mistakes and how you can avoid them whether you or someone you love is approaching Medicare years. 

1. Checking Your Provider Network

If you choose original Medicare, or Plans A, B, and D, your healthcare will be through the government. You’ll need to go to Medicare-approved providers, and this might limit your network. On the other hand, a Part C plan, also known as Medicare Advantage, will also limit your providers since you’ll be covered through a private insurance company. 

No matter where you get your coverage for Medicare, you’ll need to use the plan’s network of doctors and hospitals if you want to pay the least for services. Like with an employer-sponsored plan, you’ll need to check that your current providers are covered under this plan to avoid paying more. Search HealthMarkets for more information about Medicare Advantage plans. 

2. You Don’t Consider Switching Plans

There are new rules about Medicare Advantage starting in 2019. Now, you have the opportunity to switch your plan after open enrollment. In the past, you’d need to wait for open enrollment at the end of the year to make any changes. Now, you can change from January 1 to March 31 to a different Medicare Advantage Plan. 

In addition, if you face life changes like moving to a new address, you can switch your plan during the year. It’s good to know your options so you don’t keep paying for a plan you can’t use. 

Elderly, Corridor, Doctor

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3. Forgetting Medigap Coverage

Medicap is a type of supplemental health plan intended for original Medicare. Basically, Parts A, B, and D leave a lot of gaps in cover. Things like dental, vision, hearing, and even long-term care are often not fully covered, if at all. A Medicare supplement plan can help fill in these gaps in coverage. 

However, you need to be careful about your enrollment period. If you buy your Medigap plan within 6 months of enrolling in Medicare Part B, you can’t be charged more for preexisting conditions. Unfortunately, if you switch plans after this or if you don’t buy a plan during this 6 month window, you might need to pay more for any health conditions. 

4. Not Paying Attention to Your Income

Your income determines what you pay for Medicare Part B. In 2018, the average premium was $134 per month, but this can go up to $428.60 if you make over $85,000 a year (or over $170,000 for joint filers). This surcharge can be steep, so be careful about raising your income over this threshold.

If you’re near the income cutoff, pay close attention to your financial moves. If you roll over a traditional IRA to a Roth IRA or you make a large withdrawal from a retirement account, for instance, you might reach this cutoff. 

5. Not Researching Medicare Part D Yearly

Every year, you should review all of your Medicare costs and options. This is especially true for Medicare Part D, also known as your prescription drug coverage. Every year, the cost and coverage of certain drugs changes. 

If you’re currently taking certain medications, these costs could rise or drop without any formal notice each year. Luckily, you can browse these changes to compare your options before you sign up, so be sure to check your current medications to avoid surprises. 

Final Thoughts

Preparing yourself to enroll in Medicare might feel complicated, but it’s much simpler than you think. While the regulations and rules are always evolving, this program has helped millions get the care they need at a price they can afford.

If you or a loved one is approaching 65, make sure you educate yourself about these mistakes. They can cost you big if you’re not careful. In your retirement years, you should be spending time doing the things you love, not worrying about healthcare. 

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