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7 costly Medicare mistakes to avoid

  • A half-century after its creation, Medicare remains a popular program, providing health care to more than 55 million seniors and disabled Americans. Yet "popular" doesn't necessarily mean it's easy to navigate.

    Medicare may rival Social Security in complexity, adding to the challenges that some seniors may encounter when trying to ensure they're making the most of the program, according to "Get What's Yours for Medicare." That's the new book from Philip Moeller, who co-wrote a best-seller on Social Security called "Get What's Yours."

    Medicare is complex not only because it's a 50-year-old government program with layers of rules and regulations, but also because it's dealing with the health care industry, which itself is constantly changing, Moeller told CBS MoneyWatch. The downside: It's easy to get "shafted," as his book points out. Even signing up for the program can be easily mishandled or misunderstood, leading to costly mistakes or gaps in coverage.

    "It's complicated, but it doesn't have to be so complicated that you're frozen in your tracks," Moeller said. "My overall advice is don't get overwhelmed by the totality. Break it down into pieces and tackle the pieces."

    Moeller, who answers questions about Medicare at his column Ask Phil at PBS.org, says he has a good view into the some of the pitfalls -- and worst-case examples -- of what can go wrong for some seniors. Often, seniors hit a snag because of misperceptions of how the program works.

    Read on to learn about 7 Medicare mistakes that can cost seniors time and money.