Medicare covers the majority of older Americans’ health care needs, from hospital care and doctor visits to lab tests and prescription drugs. Here are some needs that aren’t part of the program — and how you might pay for them.
1. Opticians and eye exams
While original Medicare covers ophthalmologic expenses such as cataract surgery, it doesn’t cover routine eye exams, glasses or contact lenses. Nor do any Medigap plans, the supplemental insurance that is available from private insurers to augment Medicare coverage. Some Medicare Advantage plans cover routine vision care and glasses.
Solution: For some people, it makes sense to buy a vision insurance policy for a few hundred dollars a year to defray the cost of glasses or contact lenses.
2. Hearing aids
Medicare covers ear-related medical conditions, but original Medicare and Medigap plans don’t pay for routine hearing tests or hearing 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 have original Medicare, consider buying insurance or a membership in a discount plan that helps cover the cost of such hearing devices. Also, some programs help people with lower incomes get needed hearing support. Or you can pay as you go. Congress passed legislation in 2017 that allows some hearing aids to be sold over the counter without a prescription. Medicare beneficiaries with mild to moderate hearing loss can now buy hearing aids at drugstores and other retail outlets without a prescription.
3. Dental work
Solution: Some Medicare Advantage plans offer dental coverage. If yours doesn't, or if you opt for original Medicare, consider buying an individual dental insurance plan or a dental discount plan.