Freddie was 72 years old with Medicare Parts A and B but no Medicare Advantage or Medicare Supplement plan and no Part D coverage for drugs. He can’t remember the last time he went to the doctor and he takes no prescriptions.

He needs some major dental work done, so we identified the Medicare Advantage and Prescription Drug plan in his county that offers the most generous dental benefits with $0 copays. (Some Medicare Advantage plans have a dental benefit that sounds generous but actually requires a hefty co-insurance, meaning that the patient pays a large percentage, and the insurance company pays the rest.)

Two-thirds of Medicare Advantage plans have no monthly premium and they are available in most counties. Members pay copays or coinsurance as they use medical services during the year. Those who don’t need medical services have protection without paying a premium for it, but the coverage is there in case it’s needed.

Since Freddie waited seven years past the time he was eligible for Part D to add prescription drug coverage, he has to pay a late enrollment penalty of about $30 per month. Medicare beneficiaries who go more than 63 days after the end of their Initial Enrollment Period without Part D or other creditable prescription drug coverage may owe a late penalty.

The penalty amount changes a little bit each year but is currently about 33 cents per month for every month late. It is owed as long as you have Part D (usually for life). Those with income low enough to qualify for either Medicare’s Extra Help program or for Medicaid will have the late fee waived.