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Here’s How to Make Sure You’re Getting the Most Out of Medicare

Happy birthday, Medicare!

It was 56 years ago today that President Johnson signed this national health insurance program into law. Since then, Medicare has covered at least some healthcare expenses for millions of American older adults, including around 60 million alive today.

Unlike most government programs, Medicare is popular with many, many people: Gallup polls show that nine in 10 seniors positively rate their care and coverage. However — and this is where it begins to resemble other government programs — Medicare is complicated. To receive assistance, over-65s have to navigate their way through a maze of plans, coverage choices and sign-up rules. And even assuming you aced your enrollment, there’s still a chance you’re not making the most of the services offered.

To mark Medicare’s anniversary, here are some tips for mastering the ins and outs of the program.

Remember that Medicare is an evolving program 

Times have changed since LBJ gave the first Medicare card to his predecessor Harry Truman. At the time, the 33rd president had to pay out of pocket for prescription drugs and preventative care — both now covered under Medicare Part D (2003) and the Affordable Care Act (2010), respectively. The program adapts to unexpected events like COVID-19, so check Medicare.gov regularly for updates.

Make sure your Part D plan covers all of your drugs with the lowest possible out-of-pocket expenses 

There are two quick ways to do this. The first is to shop for plans on Medicare’s online plan finder. Simply enter your zip code, plus some details on what drugs you take and how often. The second way is to call Medicare’s helpline at 800-633-4227 and ask a customer service rep to run the search for you. They can even mail you the results. 

Mark October 15 through December 7 on your calendar 

This is the fall Annual Enrollment Period, and the only time you can switch plans. That’s important to know because you don’t want to rush into a big decision like changing from an Original Medicare to a Medicare Advantage plan. Talk to family, friends and other trusted advisors before making calls like this, so you can be sure no unwelcome surprises are awaiting you when your new plan kicks in.

Don’t skip your annual wellness visit 

No proverb rings truer than “prevention is better than cure.” These days, Original Medicare covers a yearly wellness consultation as well as routine screenings like mammograms and colonoscopies. 

Lean into the telehealth revolution 

Medicare has been expanding its use of remote care for several years now, but the COVID-19 pandemic sent telehealth into overdrive. If you have a phone, tablet or computer, you can talk with your medical providers, taking much of the stress and hassle out of routine consultations. Medicare even covers telehealth visits with physical and occupational therapists.

Keep your eyes peeled for perks and discounts 

If you’re a Medicare Advantage enrollee, ask your provider for a full list of discounts offered by your plan. As well as racking up savings on everyday essentials like vitamin supplements, you may also get affordable access to alternative therapies like acupuncture.


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Jul 30


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