Quite a few Medicare benefits could change at the beginning of each calendar year, so it makes sense to take advantage of these benefits before they change. Increasing the amount of affordable health care services you can receive in a calendar year is linked to better health outcomes and just makes financial sense. You’ve been paying into your plan all year; why not take full advantage of the benefits it offers before they could change? Read on to learn the top five ways you can take advantage of your Medicare benefits before they possibly change the following year:

1. Use preventive care benefits
Medicare plans cover specific preventive care services, such as annual checkups and routine health screenings, each year. For example, if your plan says “two office checkups per year” it can make sense to use this benefit before the year is over because studies show that regular preventive care saves you money down the line. Making sure to use all available preventive care benefits each calendar year is also a great way to help you remember to follow guidelines for regular checkups.

2. Use dental, vision or hearing benefits
Dental, vision and hearing are not covered by Original Medicare, but many Medicare Advantage plans or Medicare Supplement plans may offer these services. Most often, these types of plans offer a set amount of these services, such as two fully covered basic dental visits per year. If something concerning is found in a visit toward the end of the year, it may be possible to make a follow-up appointment as part of the next calendar year so that you don’t have to pay higher out-of-pocket costs for going beyond those set benefits.

3. Take advantage of therapy benefits
Whether it’s occupational therapy, physical therapy or speech therapy, it’s possible your plan has a set number of visits you can use per year with higher out-of-pocket costs once you go beyond that amount.  If you haven’t reached the maximum limit on these visits, it makes sense to take advantage of the ones you can. In some cases, there is no set cap on the number of visits you can use per year, since Medicare will typically cover sessions considered medically necessary. However,  there often ends up being a set number of visits you can use without having to pay extra in a year, so make sure to check with your insurance carrier and providers to stay within the range of coverage.

Senior woman in therapy

4. Use alternative care benefits
Some Medicare plans offer supplemental benefits in the form of alternative therapies such as chiropractic care, acupuncture or massage therapy. If you have a plan like this, it makes sense to use the benefits offered if there are a certain number covered per calendar year or if you are thinking of switching to a plan that might not offer these same services. Keep in mind that some Medicare plans will include rebates or discounts for these services even if they are not fully covered. Most supplemental benefits require a physician’s recommendation for coverage.

5. Obtain referrals
If you are thinking of seeing a specialist, it can make sense to obtain referrals before the year ends. This allows you time to do your research to find the perfect specialist for whatever it is you need help with, and allows you the flexibility to change to a Medicare plan that this specialist accepts if necessary. 

Using the end of the year as a time to make sure you’ve made the most of your Medicare benefits including preventive care, health screenings, covered therapy visits, supplemental benefits, and alternative care benefits can help you get more for your money in terms of coverage. Since you are already paying into these services, it makes sense to use them before the year ends. Additionally, taking the time to set yourself up for the next calendar year by finding out if there is some issue you will be able to treat from a “clean slate” in a new year of benefits can save you money. Finally, the end of the year is the perfect time to obtain referrals, since you have the flexibility to switch coverage if you need to in order to see a specific health provider. As a health literate shopper, taking advantage of these Medicare benefits before they possibly change at the end of the year can help you get the most for your money.