Guide to get the most out of medicare

Get the most from this comprehensive health insurance option for seniors

Last updated: October 2014

Medicare offers comprehensive health insurance coverage to people 65 and older and younger people with disabilities and certain medical conditions. But the decisions and choices you face can be confusing and overwhelming. And if you make a wrong move, you can end up losing a lot of money.

Here's our step-by-step guide for getting the most out of Medicare.

Starting Medicare has never been as simple as signing up when you turn 65. If you time your enrollment wrong you can end up paying extra money for Medicare for the rest of your life—or payig for parts of Medicare that you may not need. Our guide walks you step by step through the process.

Your first big decision after enrolling in Medicare will be whether to stick with original Medicare plus a Medigap supplemental plan—or get your Medicare benefits through a private Medicare Advantage plan. We lay out the advantages and disadvantages of both options so you can choose the right one for you.

There's a lot to consider when picking a Medicare Advantage plan. What will you have to pay out of pocket? Are your doctors in the plan? What would your drugs cost? We explain exactly how to use Medicare.gov's search tool to research the best plan for you.

Shopping for these supplemental plans that pick up Medicare's out-of-pocket costs can confuse the savviest consumer. We explain how Medigap work, how they are priced, and how to go about finding a plan that will work for you.

If you take prescription drugs regularly, finding the best Medicare Part D plan is going to take some work. Use our step-by-step guide to researching plans on Medicare.gov so you don't end up paying more for your medications than you have to.

You don't have to guess the answer to your questions on Medicare enrollment, plan choice, benefits, billing, or coverage disputes. Every state has a free State Health Insurance Assistance Program that provides free individual counseling. We have the full list here.

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