How to Avoid 5 Common Medicare Mistakes

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Tom Baker / EyeEm

If hearing the word "Medicare" makes you want to pull your hair out, you're not alone. It's confusing, there are a lot of rules, different parts, and deadlines, and if you don't know the details, you could run up against some penalties.

Don't run for the hills just yet. We're revealing common Medicare mistakes, and telling you exactly how to avoid them — so you can get the right coverage for your health, lifestyle, and budget.

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Mistake #1: Assuming Original Medicare will cover everything

Original Medicare includes Part A and Part B. Medicare Part A covers your inpatient care in hospitals. Part B covers medically necessary services like doctors' visits, outpatient care, and more.

Original Medicare includes a lot, but not everything. It doesn't cover prescription drugs, deductibles and copays, dentures, hearing aid exams or hearing aids, routine vision care, and medical expenses while traveling overseas. That's just to name a few.

So how do you get covered for these things? That's where Medicare Part C (Medicare Advantage plans) or Medicare Supplement plans (also known as Medigap) come in.

Mistake #2: Missing your Medicare enrollment period

Considering a Medicare Advantage plan? If you miss the initial enrollment period, then you won't have coverage beyond Original Medicare (Parts A and B). And while Original Medicare covers a lot, it doesn't cover everything.

With Medicare Advantage, you get the coverage of Parts A and B. Many of these plans include other benefits like vision and dental care, hearing aid exams, a fitness program, and much more. It all depends on the plan you choose.

And if you don't enroll in Original Medicare when you're first eligible, you can face an increase in premiums and/or late penalties. It may sound confusing, but there are things you can do to make sure you don't miss enrollment dates.

Mistake #3: Failing to sign up for Medicare because you aren't receiving Social Security benefits

Generally, you'll be automatically enrolled in Original Medicare when you turn 65 if you're collecting Social Security. If you're not getting Social Security, you'll need to sign up for Parts A and B separately by ing the US Social Security Administration during your initial enrollment period. It includes the three months before you turn 65, your birthday month, and the three months after your 65th birthday.If you're on Social Security disability insurance, you'll be automatically enrolled in your 25th month of disability.

Mistake #4: Not signing up for Medicare Part D because you don't take any prescription drugs

Why pay Part D premiums if you're not prescribed to any medicines? Because there's no way to predict unexpected illnesses or injuries that may require prescription drugs. Unfortunately, Part D doesn't allow you to wait to sign up until the need becomes urgent (there are limited exceptions). For example, if you don't have Part D and you're diagnosed with high blood pressure, your medicines won't be covered. To avoid this, you need to sign up for Part D during your initial enrollment period. It's best to protect your health and wallet ahead of time.

Mistake #5: Failing to read your Annual Notice of Change (ANOC)

Every year, your Medicare plan will send you an ANOC — an Annual Notice of Change. It tells you what changes your plan is making for the following year that may affect your coverage. Make sure you read it, so you don't miss important information that could cost you money. Look to see if your doctors are still in your network, if any benefits have changed, and if your prescriptions are still covered. You should also look out for changes in costs like copays, deductibles, and coinsurance. Even small changes can add up over the year.

Amy Capomaccio is a health care writer at Aetna with experience in senior wellness, Medicare, Medicaid, and commercial health care. When she's not practicing new mindfulness techniques, Amy is spending time outdoors and traveling. Amy hails from Wakefield, MA and has a degree in Advertising and Public Relations from the University of Tampa.