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What Medicare Won't Cover

Here’s how to plan for your other health costs

What Medicare Won't Cover

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Medicare does not cover routine eye exams, hearing aids, glasses or contact lenses. Nor do any Medigap plans.

It’s not unusual for people on Medicare to spend more than $5,000 a year of their own cash to cover ongoing health care and insurance costs. Then there are the needs Medicare does not pay for. Here are additional costs you might face, and how to cover them.



Hearing aids

Medicare covers ear-related medical conditions, but original Medicare and Medigap plans don’t pay for routine hearing tests or aids. 

Solution: If you are in a Medicare Advantage plan, check your policy to see if it covers hearing-related needs. If it doesn’t, or if you are in original Medicare, consider buying insurance or a membership in a discount plan that helps cover the costs of hearing aids. Also, some programs help people with lower incomes get needed hearing support. Or you can pay as you go. Congress recently passed legislation allowing some hearing aids to be sold without a prescription. The devices could be available in a few years. 


What Medicare Won't Cover

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Caption: Some Medicare Advantage plans offer dental coverage, but if yours doesn’t, consider buying an individual dental plan.

Dental work

Original Medicare doesn’t cover dental care such as routine checkups or big-ticket items such as dentures or root canals. Nor do Medigap policies. 

Solution: Some Medicare Advantage plans offer dental coverage, but if yours doesn’t, or if you opt for original Medicare coverage, consider buying an individual dental insurance plan or a dental discount plan.

What Medicare Won't Cover

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Medicare does not cover routine eye exams, glasses or contact lenses. Nor do any Medigap plans.

Opticians and eye exams

While Medicare does cover ophthalmological expenses such as cataract surgery, it doesn’t cover routine eye exams, glasses or contact lenses. Nor do any Medigap plans. 

Solution: For some people, it makes sense to buy a vision insurance policy for a few hundred dollars a year, to defray the costs of glasses or contact lenses.

Overseas care

Original Medicare and most Advantage plans offer virtually no coverage for medical costs incurred outside the U.S. 

Solution: Some Medigap policies cover certain overseas medical costs. If you travel frequently, you might want a policy that offers this. In addition, some travel insurance policies provide basic health coverage; check the fine print. Finally, consider medevac insurance for your far-flung adventures. It’s a low-cost policy that will transport you to a nearby medical facility or back home in case of emergency. 

What Medicare Won't Cover

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Medicare does not cover elective cosmetic surgery, including face-lifts or tummy tucks.

Podiatry and cosmetic surgery

Medicare doesn’t generally cover routine medical care for your feet, such as callus removal. Nor does it cover elective cosmetic surgery, such as face-lifts or tummy tucks.

Solution: If you face these costs, you may want to set up a separate savings program for them. 

Nursing home care

Medicare pays for limited stays in rehab facilities — for example, if you have a hip replacement and need inpatient physical therapy for several weeks. But if you were to become so frail or sick that you must move to an assisted living facility or nursing home, Medicare won’t cover your custodial costs. (Nursing homes average about $90,000 a year.)

Solution: Planning for nursing home care is a big issue, with lots of choices and decisions. But for those with limited income and savings, Medicaid might help fill in the gaps.

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