Medicare won't cover all your health care expenses. Here's how to prepare

  • Many people signing up for Medicare don't know that some budget-busters, like dental care and hearing aids, are generally not covered.
  • Routine vision, long-term care and health services received overseas are excluded from basic coverage. Even the difference between being kept at the hospital for observation instead of being admitted as a patient can result in surprise costs.
  • The average couple retiring today at age 65 will spend an estimated $280,000 on health care during the remainder of their lives.

For all those baby boomers approaching their 65th birthday, it's time to plan for Medicare.

After years of paying payroll taxes at work to help fund this government program, these older Americans finally get their turn to sign up and have health insurance for the rest of their lives. About 10,000 boomers turn 65 each day.

Yet many new enrollees are surprised to discover that basic Medicare does not cover a variety of health care expenses that can hit retirees pretty hard.

"A lot of people go into it thinking they'll be covered for everything," said Roger Luchene, a Medicare agent with Hammer Financial Group in Schererville, Indiana. "The three big ones are dental, vision and hearing. I'm actually surprised by how many people think that's covered."