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AARP Bulletin

Medicare Starter Kit

What Does Medicare Cost?

Learn about your potential out-of-pocket costs in Medicare

Ways to Help Reduce Medicare's Out-of-Pocket Expenses

Help paying for Parts A and B: If your income is low, you may qualify for Medicaid or a Medicare Savings Program, both run by states. Depending on which program you're eligible for, the state pays your Part B premiums and maybe other out-of-pocket costs. To find contact information for Medicare Savings Programs, go to Medicare's online state-by-state list or call Social Security at 1-800-772-1213. To see if you qualify for Medicaid, call your state medical assistance program at the number given in the state pages of your telephone directory or contact your SHIP.

Help paying for Part D: If your income is under a certain level, you may qualify for the Extra Help program in Part D, which provides low-cost drug coverage — zero or reduced premiums and deductibles, and low copays. For more information on this program, see related article "Extra Help Paying for Prescriptions." To apply, call Social Security at 1-800-772-1213, or go to its online application form.

Medicare supplemental insurance called medigap is private insurance you can buy to cover some or most of the out-of-pocket expenses of traditional Medicare — such as the hospital deductible and Part B copays — depending on the policy you choose. You cannot use medigap if you're in a Medicare Advantage plan.

If you're 65 or older and buy a policy within six months of enrolling in Part B, medigap insurers cannot deny you coverage or require higher premiums because of current or past health problems. You may be able to buy medigap later on and still have these guarantees, in some very limited circumstances. These federal protections only apply to people 65 and older, though some states have similar laws for younger beneficiaries. If you have Medicare because of disability, contact your state insurance department for information.

For more information on medigap insurance, see the Medicare publication "Choosing a Medigap Policy" (PDF). For step-by-step guidance on comparing different medigap plans, see related article "Medigap Explained."

Next: Do you qualify for Medicare? »

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