Costly Medicare Misconceptions

Four Medicare misconceptions that can cost you
By Kristen Gerencher, MarketWatch
First Posted: March 07, 2011 – 8:05 am

SAN FRANCISCO — The federal Medicare program is popular among older Americans, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy to navigate.

Medicare is a complex web of health benefits serving more than 46 million seniors and disabled people.

It’s easy to get confused, said Joe Baker, president of the Medicare Rights Center in New York. For instance, because the age to collect full Social Security benefits “is moving up to age 67, a lot of folks think Medicare eligibility has changed as well, but it hasn’t,” he said. “It’s still at 65.”

Here are four common Medicare misconceptions:

MEDICARE WORKS LIKE PRIVATE HEALTH INSURANCE: With Medicare, you can’t be rejected for coverage because you’re too sick, and you won’t face higher premiums if you’re ill. That gives Medicare a big consumer advantage over many private individual health plans that are currently allowed to deny coverage or charge higher premiums based on health status.

But if you’re a high earner, you’ll pay a premium surcharge for Medicare Part B, which covers doctors’ visits and outpatient services, and Part D, which covers prescription drug costs.

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