You may have once thought Medicare was free. Well, some parts of it are for most of the 61 million who enroll in it. Others charge a monthly fee each month (also called a premium) or every time you use a medical service (copayment, coinsurance, and/or deductible).
Whether you’re nearing your 65th birthday and eligibility for Medicare or already enrolled in it, there are ways to save.
What is Medicare?
Medicare is health insurance provided by the federal government. Most people qualify when they turn 65. Medicare has several parts:
- Part A covers hospital services.
- Part B pays for doctors and other providers who may help.
- Part D provides prescription drug benefits.
You can enroll in a Medicare Supplement or Medigap plan to pay for out-of-pocket costs. You can also replace your Original Medicare with a Medicare Advantage plan that bundles everything into one policy.
There are several ways to save on Medicare costs. Be prepared to take a little more time and preparation to do so. It’s about timing! Sign up for Medicare when first eligible (up to six months before your 65th birthday).
Take advantage of the annual Open Enrollment Period to shop around for the right blend of price and benefits. Additionally, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Federal and state governments offer ways to help you pay for premiums and other healthcare-related costs.
Pay Your Taxes
If you or your spouse worked and paid taxes for 10 years or more, you’ll qualify for premium-free Medicare Part A. What if you worked less? If that’s the case, you’ll pay up to $471 a month.
Sign Up When Eligible
Sign up for Medicare when you first qualify. Why? If you don’t, you could end up paying more to enroll in Medicare. For instance, if you don’t enroll in Medicare Part A when first eligible, your monthly premium could go up by 10%.
- Part A: Up to 10% more on your monthly premium. It applies twice for the length of time you could have signed up but didn’t.
- Part B: Up to 10% of the standard premium ($148.50 in 2021). It applies as long as you enroll in Part B.
- Part D: Premiums rise depending on how long you didn’t have prescription drug coverage. It applies as long as you have a Part D plan.
Watch What You Make
What you pay in premiums for doctor services (Part B) and prescription drugs (Part D) is tied to your income. If you earn more than $88,000, your premiums go up for both. That also works the other way. If your income dropped, then your monthly payments could drop as well.
Enroll in Medicare Advantage
Medicare Advantage plans in Florida are bundled plans that combine Original Medicare (Parts A and B) with other benefits such as prescription drug coverage or vision and dental. Members work within a health network like an HMO or PPO for healthcare services.
Unlike Original Medicare, Medicare Advantage plans have yearly limits you’ll pay in out-of-pocket expenses. Once you reach this cost ceiling, your insurer will pay for qualifying medical services for the rest of the year.
Enroll in Medigap
If you want more control over future out-of-pocket costs, consider enrolling in a Medigap policy in Florida. Medigap (also known as Medicare Supplement) helps pay for out-of-pocket expenses. Original Medicare does not.
For instance, you’ll generally pay 20% of medical costs (coinsurance) under Part B coverage. A Medigap policy will pay that amount, depending on the type of plan you choose. Note: the best time to sign up for Medigap is when you first qualify for one. If you wait, the monthly premiums may rise or a carrier could decline coverage because of your medical history.
Insurance carriers don’t stand pat each year on their plan offerings. And neither should you. Explore your options during the annual fall Open Enrollment Period each year. Medigap policies offer the same benefits but prices vary by companies.
Premiums on Part D and Medicare Advantage plans also vary by carrier. The federal government provides plan finders for Medigap and Medicare Advantage to make the process an easy one.
If you have limited income, you could get help paying for Medicare expenses and your healthcare costs. Florida Medicaid, a state and federal program, provides healthcare insurance if you meet its income and requirements.
Medicare Savings Programs could help pay for premiums, deductibles, coinsurance, and copayments. Income and assets determine eligibility.
If you take prescription drugs, Extra Help can help pay for your prescription drugs or coverage plan. Like Medicare Savings Programs, income and assets determine eligibility. You could also turn to free prescription discount cards to save money.
Save Money on Medicare Costs
With a little bit of time, research and preparation, you can keep more dollars in your wallet when it comes to Medicare costs. Think about your needs before shopping. Just as you should compare your auto insurance, you should shop around for the best combination of benefits, price, and coverage.
Have more questions? Go to the Medicare website for answers or reach out to a professional agent for help.
About the Author:
James is a writer and editor for HealthCare.com and its web properties. He is a former newspaper journalist. James has an MA in journalism from Syracuse University and a BA in history from the University of Pennsylvania.
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