Your Money: How to get the most out of Medicare

Medicare is always changing, and it's Philip Moeller's job to keep track of what that means for the people Medicare serves.

Moeller writes about retirement and finances for Money Magazine and the PBS NewsHour and he's working on a book called "Get What's Yours: Medicare."

Moeller joined MPR News host Kerri Miller Wednesday to offer tips on how to get the most out of the entitlement program.

1. There is no need to get Medicare right when you turn 65 if you're not retired. "You shouldn't have to pay for it if you don't need it," Moeller said.

2. Spend some time to make sure the transition into Medicare is something you truly understand. "You have a smaller set of choices, because the state of Minnesota has decided that it would like to have its own version of Medigap policies," Moeller said.

3. If you're still working and you're past the age of 65, stick with your employer's coverage. The benefits go up if you wait to take Social Security — and there are a lot of people who recommend you wait to do so until you're 70, Miller said.

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4. Medicare is a one-to-one program; unlike employer coverage, it does not have group or family plans.

5. Additional supplemental coverage or Medigap will cover the 20 percent of what basic Medicare does not.

6. It's best to have either basic Medicare with Medigap coverage or a Medicare advantage plan.

7. Medicare is always changing; be aware of the updates. "Medicare is not a static program," Moeller said.

8. Medicare does not cover you if you're out of the country. Some Medigap plans and special policies will cover emergency foreign care; make sure to get the details if you're planning a trip abroad.

9. Have a good relationship with your primary care doctor and develop a care plan to avoid unnecessary tests and visits. "There's a free 'Welcome to Medicare' physician consult that's part of Medicare," Moeller said. "That can be a valuable session to sit down with your doctor [...] and map out plan of care for [you], to take advantage of what Medicare offers."