May 20, 2024

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How To Save on Healthcare Costs That Medicare Doesn’t Cover

3 min read
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Medicare is undeniably a cornerstone for healthcare costs in retirement, but it doesn’t cover everything. Being aware of its limitations is important for retirees, so you’re not caught off guard by a huge bill you aren’t prepared to pay.

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What Healthcare Costs Does Medicare Not Cover?

According to, here are some of the items and services Medicare doesn’t cover:

  • Long-term care or custodial care

  • The majority of dental care

  • Eye exams for the purpose of prescription glasses

  • Dentures

  • Cosmetic surgery

  • Massage therapy

  • Routine physical exams

  • Hearing aids and exams for fitting

  • Concierge care (also known as platinum practice, direct care or concierge, retainer-based or boutique medicine)

  • Covered items or services from an opt-out doctor or other provider (except when it’s an urgent need or emergency)

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How To Save on Healthcare Expenses Medicare Doesn’t Cover

Here are some options for covering those healthcare costs that Medicare won’t cover.

Medigap or Medicare Advantage Plans

“Reducing expenditures for long-term care, dental work and eye exams — often covered by additional health-insurance programs like Medigap or Medicare Advantage Plans, which typically expand coverage beyond what Medicare alone offers — can be designed into your retirement plan,” said Dr. Kevin Huffman, doctor of osteopathic medicine, a board-certified bariatric physician and the CEO and founder of AmBari Nutrition.

Health Savings Account

“Do this: Before you retire, invest in a health savings account (HSA) — funds you use for qualified medical expenses are tax-exempt: massage therapy, dentures, even regular physicals,” suggested Huffman. “Understand the specifics, and these accounts can be a key way to keep healthcare costs in check upon retirement.”

According to Charles Schwab, contributions to an HSA are tax deductible and earnings and withdrawals are tax-free.

Local Community Healthcare Options

“On top of that,” said Huffman, “use local community and preventative care. There are plenty of organizations that offer reduced-price — if not free — services, such as eye exams and dental care. If you learn about local events such as health fairs and health screenings in the community, you might be able to catch any health issues before they become expensive treatments.”

Long-Term Care Insurance

“Long-term care insurance is intended to cover services like nursing home care, assisted living and home health care,” said Jennifer Silver, DDS and owner of Macleod Trail Dental Clinic. “I believe that buying this insurance can be a proactive step to prepare for future long-term care needs. It provides financial support for services that are not typically covered by Medicare.”

Standalone Dental and Vision Insurance

“As per my observation, standalone dental and vision insurance plans can be purchased to cover routine check-ups, dental procedures and eyewear expenses,” said Silver. “Some Medicare Advantage plans also include dental and vision coverage, offering retirees more options to address these specific healthcare needs.”

Pay in Cash

When talking about services medicare doesn’t cover, the best way in my opinion is to offer cash,” said Dr. Walter Porterfield, lead doctor at Clarity Hyperbarics. “Many times long term care, dental offices, chiropractors and such are small businesses. The headache often associated with Medicare supplements and secondaries can take up hours of a staff member’s time, which ultimately costs the business money.

“If you offer to pay cash up front, oftentimes cost of care can be significantly reduced. For example, I had a patient bring $1,000 cash to her appointment and used it as a negotiation tool.”

Be Proactive

“Finally, eat well, exercise and reduce stress,” said Huffman. “These lifestyle changes improve wellness and can reduce the need for many therapies and treatments, and we know that helps control costs.”

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This article originally appeared on Retirees: How To Save on Healthcare Costs That Medicare Doesn’t Cover


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