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11 Costly Medicare Mistakes You Should Avoid Making

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Medicare covers the bulk of your health care expenses after you turn 65. But Medicare's rules can be confusing and mistakes costly. If you don't make the right choices to fill in the gaps, you could end up with high premiums and big out-of-pocket costs. Worse, if you miss key deadlines when signing up for Medicare, you could have a gap in coverage, miss out on valuable tax breaks, or get stuck with a penalty for the rest of your life.

Here are 11 common Medicare mistakes you should avoid making.

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Open enrollment for Medicare Part D and Medicare Advantage plans runs from October 15 to December 7 every year, and it's a good time to review all of your options. The cost and coverage can vary a lot from year to year—some plans boost premiums more than others, increase your share of the cost of your drugs, add new hurdles before covering your medications, or require you to go to certain pharmacies to get the best rates. And if you've been prescribed new medications or your drugs have gone generic over the past year, a different plan may now be a better deal for you.

It's easy to compare all of the plans available in your area during open enrollment. Go to the Medicare Plan Finder and type in your drugs and dosages to see how much you'd pay for premiums plus co-payments for plans in your area.

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There are no spousal discounts for Medicare Part D prescription-drug plans, and most spouses don't take the same medications. One plan may have much better coverage for your drugs while another may be better for your spouse's situation. "You need to look at the coverage for your specific drugs," says Tricia Blazier, of Allsup Medicare Advisor, which helps people with their Medicare decisions.

You can look up your drugs and dosages using the Medicare Plan Finder to estimate out-of-pocket costs for each of you under the plans in your area. Just be careful if you and your spouse sign up for plans with different preferred pharmacies—some plans only give you the best rates if you use certain pharmacies, so you could end up paying a lot more if you get your drugs somewhere else.

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If you choose to get your coverage through a private Medicare Advantage plan, which covers both medical expenses and prescription drugs, you usually need to use the plan's network of doctors and hospitals to get the lowest co-payments (and some plans won't cover out-of-network providers at all,........

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