At the age of 65, Americans get to reap the benefits of their payroll taxes and can enroll in Medicare. Every day, 10,000 more Americans reach this important milestone and become eligible. With the Medicare annual enrollment period fast approaching, here are five facts that surprisingly few people know about America’s government-run medical coverage program.
Medicare is Mandatory</strong
Once you reach 65 and begin claiming social security, you have to enroll in Medicare Part A. Part A covers hospital costs in the event of injury or illness. Part A is free to anyone over 65, providing you have accumulated enough credits over the course of your career.
Providing you, or your spouse, have worked for at least ten yours, you will have accumulated the necessary credits for Medicare. If you don’t join Medicare at the first time you are eligible, when you do join, you may have to pay higher premiums.
You Can No Longer Contribute to an HSA
Once you are enrolled in Medicare, you can’t make payments to a health savings account (HSA). You are, however, still able to take tax-free contributions from an existing HSA to pay for medical treatment.
You Can Change Coverage Options
Many people incorrectly assume that once they have selected their Medicare coverage, they are restricted to continuing that plan for the rest of their life. This isn’t true. You are able to switch your Medicare plan at any annual enrollment period. If, for example, you are on a traditional Medicare plan and want to change to a Medicare Advantage Plan, you can do so in the October 15 to December 7 enrollment period.
It Covers Equipment for Home Use
Medicare Part B covers “durable medical equipment.” This equipment includes anything you may need to improve your quality of life at home, including canes, crutches, wheelchairs, walkers, hospital beds, glucose monitors, oxygen equipment and even stair lifts.
Providing the equipment has been prescribed by a doctor for medical use, and you have met your deductible, Medicare will typically foot the bill for 80% of the cost.
Not ever Doctor Accepts Medicare
Currently, medical professionals are under no obligation to accept Medicare patients. To find out what doctors accept Medicare patients near you, you can visit the Medicare website.
There are also some services that are not included in Medicare plans. Long-term coverage typically falls outside of Medicare’s coverage. Most dental and eye care is also not included. There are Medigap coverage options offered by third party providers that are designed to plug the gaps in Medicare’s coverage; however, these must be purchased separately.
Medicare is complex and intricate program but the more you know about it heading into Medicare enrollment, the better. It will help you form a comprehensive understanding of what is and is not included in your Medicare coverage, where any potential gaps are, what is expected of you and what choices you have within the Medicare program.
You have earned the right to enjoy subsidized health care. Take advantage of it and ensure you are enrolled in Medicare.