Over 57 million Americans are covered with Medicare and this includes both senior citizens and the permanently disabled. There are different programs that provide coverage for the services needed by older Americans and these range from hospital services and outpatient care to prescription drugs. However, one of the issues that arise is while so many people rely on Medicare to maintain their health and manage serious medical conditions, very few of them understand how it works, so they end up making mistakes that can cost them dearly. Luckily, there are steps you can take to lower these costs so you are not paying more than you need to. Here is Part 1 of the many steps you can take to lower Medicare costs.
First, it is important to remember that Medicare is not just one program. There are multiple facets under the umbrella. Medicare Part A offers hospital insurance and covers inpatient care; care in a skilled nursing facility; some home health care as well as hospice care. Medicare Part B covers routine outpatient care like doctor’s visits and any lab tests. Part C gives you the opportunity to sign up for Medicare Advantage rather than being covered by Parts A, B, and sometimes D. Keep in mind that the different Advantage plans cover various things. Finally, Medicare Part D covers prescription drugs, although you must sign up through insurance companies that work with Medicare and coverage varies between plans.
Unless you educate yourself on these differences, you will not be able to make informed choices about the care you need. For example, you wouldn’t know whether or not you’re better off with a surgical procedure on an outpatient basis or as an inpatient in the hospital.
For the most part, people become eligible for Medicare at 65 and you are able to sign up during a seven-month window with the initial sign-up period beginning three months before your 65th birthday and includes the month of your birthday and lasts for three months after. Now, if you are already enrolled in Social Security, you will likely be automatically signed up for Parts A and B. However, you want to be sure of this because if you are not collecting Social Security benefits, or you are not automatically enrolled, it is critical that you sign up for Medicare Part B during that seven month window. If you fail to sign up on time, you could face a big penalty with your monthly premium for Part B coverage going up by ten percent for each twelve-month period you didn’t sign up when you could have been enrolled. This penalty lasts the entire time you have Part B coverage.
Next month, we will go over more steps to lowering your Medicare costs which include knowing when open enrollment is and advocating for yourself.