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Keeping health-care costs down while still getting good health coverage is very important, especially for seniors on a fixed income. As a Medicare beneficiary, you can take charge of your health-care costs by understanding how to keep your medical bills and Medicare premiums at a minimum.

Enroll in Medicare on time

Although most beneficiaries are automatically enrolled in Medicare, your Initial Enrollment Period (IEP) (when you’re first eligible for Medicare) is usually the best time to decide which type of Medicare coverage you want, and enroll accordingly.

If you’re not automatically enrolled, or if you want to sign up for private Medicare insurance plans provided by Medicare Advantage or Medicare prescription drug plans, it’s important to enroll in Medicare as soon as you’re eligible, to avoid paying higher Medicare premiums or a late-enrollment penalty:

  • Make sure you sign up for Original Medicare, Part A and Part B, during your IEP to avoid late-enrollment penalties that may be added to your monthly premiums.
  • Decide whether you want to add Medicare Part D prescription drug coverage and/or a Medigap plan. Or, you can sign up for a Medicare Part C (Medicare Advantage) plan. If you choose any of these options (Medigap, Part D, or Medicare Advantage) it’s best to sign up during your seven-month Medicare Initial Enrollment Period (which starts three months before you turn 65, includes your birth month, and ends three months after the month you turn 65).

Choose the right Medicare plan for your needs

Selecting a Medicare plan that’s appropriate for you can make a big difference in your total health-care costs and help you avoid unnecessary medical bills.

For example, if you’re thinking of joining a Medicare Advantage (Medicare Part C) plan, don’t necessarily choose the plan with the lowest monthly premium. Be sure to take into account your out-of-pocket expenses (deductibles, copayments, and coinsurance), because it’s quite possible that a plan with a higher premium can result in lower out-of-pocket costs. You can compare Medicare Advantage plans with no obligation to find the one that’ll help you keep your health-care costs down.

Instead of enrolling in a Medicare Advantage plan, it might make more sense for you to stay with Original Medicare and add prescription drug coverage (Medicare Part D), or a Medicare Supplement (Medigap) plan, or both. For example, if you do a lot of traveling, some Medigap plans offer coverage outside the U.S.

To compare the Medicare plans available in your area, you can use our no-obligation plan comparison tool; just enter your zip code on this page to get started.

Join a Medicare Savings Program

If your income and financial holdings are below a certain limit, you may qualify for one of four Medicare Savings Programs. These programs are designed to help low-income individuals reduce medical bills by paying for either the Medicare Part A or Medicare Part B premiums or both. Some of these Medicare Savings Programs will also pay a portion of your deductibles, coinsurance, and copayments.

Get help with Medicare Part D drug costs

Another way to reduce your medical bills is to seek Extra Help for expenses associated with your Medicare Part D prescription drug coverage. In order to be eligible for Extra Help, you need to have limited resources and a limited income. If you qualify, you can receive help with your monthly Medicare premiums, annual deductibles, and prescription copayments. You can apply for Extra Help online or call Social Security at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY users 1-800-325-0778), Monday through Friday, 7AM to 7PM.

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