What Medicare does NOT cover

Medicare is health insurance for those over age 65. A surprising number of things that might seem obvious as health needs of elders are not included as benefits. This can get costly!

For example, in the normal process of aging, many older adults need glasses, hearing aids, and sometimes dentures. Foot problems are also common. But Medicare does not cover

  • vision problems. Routine eye exams and corrective glasses are not covered. Patients with high-risk diseases, however, such as diabetes and glaucoma, can be screened yearly. And cataract surgery is covered.
  • hearing problems. Testing to confirm hearing loss is covered. But hearing aids must be paid for out of pocket.
  • dental care. Anything routine, such as teeth cleaning, cavity repair, or dentures, is not covered. Dental surgery or care required because of a disease, such as cancer, is covered.
  • foot care. Injuries and diseases, such as bunions and bone spurs, are covered. But treatment for common gripes, such as calluses and tough toenails, must be paid for privately.

Similarly, age-related changes in health often lead to a need for help with basics, such as bathing, dressing, and cooking. And many seniors can’t live safely by themselves. But Medicare does not pay for assistance at home. And it does not cover long-term “custodial” care in a facility.

Isn’t retirement a time to travel? If you get sick outside the United States, Medicare will not pay for medical care or hospitalization. (There are exceptions if you are just over the border or on a cruise ship that has recently left port.)

Complimentary medicine, such as acupuncture and chiropractic care, is not covered. Nor is elective cosmetic surgery.

If your relative needs more than what basic Medicare provides, check into the options. “Medicare Advantage” plans may cover additional services.