Busted: The Top 4 Medicare Myths

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Every day, 10,000 people are eligible to enroll in Medicare. If your 65th birthday is coming up, get ready to join the Medicare masses.

As you do your research, you may run into common misconceptions about the government-funded health care program for people with certain conditions and disabilities and people 65 and older. We're busting four common Medicare myths, so you can make smart decisions about your health care.

Myth #1: Medicare covers everything

Fact: Original Medicare covers a lot, but not everything…

Medicare Part A covers hospital insurance. Medicare Part B covers medical insurance, like doctor's visits. Original Medicare includes Part A and Part B, which includes a lot, but not everything. That's where Medicare Part C (Medicare Advantage plans) and Medicare Supplement plans (also known as Medigap) come in.

Like Original Medicare, Medicare Advantage plans combine Parts A and B. Some Medicare Advantage plans also offer prescription drug coverage (Part D). Unlike Original Medicare, Medicare Advantage plans might also include other benefits at no added cost, like hearing aids or eye care, fitness memberships, wellness services, or a nurse phone line.

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Myth #2: Medicare offers free health care

Fact: It's not completely free…

Medicare has four parts: A, B, C, and D. Here are the basic costs for each part in 2019.

Part A – Most people don't pay a monthly premium for Part A, but there are costs for your hospital inpatient deductible and coinsurance.

Part B – The Part B premium depends on your income or if you receive Social Security benefits. Your Part B deductible and coinsurance will also vary.

Part C (Medicare Advantage) – Your monthly premium, deductibles, copayments, and/or coinsurance depend on which plan you enroll in.

Part D – This is your prescription drug coverage. Your Part D monthly premium, deductibles, copayments and/or coinsurance also depend on the plan you enroll in. If you have a higher income, you may have to pay more.

Myth #3: I'll be notified when it's time to enroll

Fact: It depends…

Generally, if you're collecting Social Security benefits, you'll be automatically enrolled in Original Medicare when you turn 65. If you're on Social Security disability benefits, you'll be automatically enrolled during your 25th month of disability.

If you're not getting Social Security, you can sign up for Original Medicare by contacting the Social Security Administration during your seven-month enrollment window, or you can choose a Medicare Advantage plan that fits your needs.

Many people sign up for a Medicare Advantage or Medicare Supplemental plan to fill the gaps that Original Medicare doesn't cover. For these plans, you won't receive a reminder. So mark your calendar for the initial enrollment period: three months before you turn 65, your birthday month, and the three months after your 65th birthday.

Myth #4: I can enroll anytime I want

Fact: Technically, you don't have to enroll at any particular time, but…

If you miss your enrollment period, there are penalties. That's why it's important to pay attention to the periods when you can enroll in Medicare or switch coverage.

For initial enrollment, you have a seven-month window to join. It includes the three months before you turn 65, your birthday month, and the three months after your 65th birthday.

For anyone who has a Medicare plan, you can change health care plans from October 15 through December 7. During this time ― also known as the Annual Enrollment Period ― you can make a change to your Medicare coverage. You can also make changes to your Medicare Advantage and Medicare prescription drug coverage during a "Special Enrollment Period" for certain circumstances.

You may hear many things about Medicare. It's always a good idea to check the facts and make sure what you're reading comes from a reputable source.

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