In the United States, Medicare covers health care costs for U.S. citizens 65 years old and older. Because the original Medicare Plan does not pay for all health care expenses, individuals can purchase optional insurance policies, such as a Medigap policy or a Medicare Prescription Drug Plan, to cover any gaps in coverage. A Medicare Advantage Plan, which includes services similar to health maintenance organizations and preferred provider organizations may also be available, depending on geographic area.
Evaluate the cost of your options. Medicare consists of Part A, with premiums fully funded by the Federal government. Individuals pay premiums for optional Part B and part D. Examine your potential out-of-pocket expenses including premiums, copays and deductibles. Look at your previous year or two of medical expenses to help you with an evaluation of potential costs. If you currently have medical insurance, look at what your costs would have been without the insurance coverage.
Study the Medical Plan Finder on the Medicare website to learn which options are available in your area.
Check the benefits offered by Medigap or Medicare Advantage Plan policies if you have decided you want additional coverage. Find out if these plans cover extra services such as eye exams, hearing aids or dental expenses, or if they include all of the basic Medicare benefits you would receive under Parts A, B and D.
Contact any plan that interests you to get specific details on coverage. Ask if you can use any doctor you choose or are limited to the plan doctors. Find out if you can choose your hospital. If the plan covers prescriptions, ask for a list of what drugs it covers to make sure your medications are included. Ask if the plan covers you anywhere within the United States or when you travel internationally.
Ask to be sent plan information detailing the coverage and the costs.
Compare the costs of additional coverage and what you receive for the additional cost. Choose your plan by deciding what is important to you — lower premium costs or a higher premium with more coverage and flexibility.
Not all choices are available everywhere in the U.S. You might have limited choices depending upon where you live.
You make your choices when you first apply for Medicare. You can change your choices annually.
Diane Stevens' professional experience started in 1970 with a computer programming position. Beginning in 1985, running her own business gave her extensive experience in personal and business finance. Her writing appears on Orbitz's Travel Blog and other websites. Stevens holds a Bachelor of Science in physics from the State University of New York at Albany.