Beth Pinsker: Medicare’s Meena Seshamani answers your questions about open enrollment

If you’re brimming with Medicare open-enrollment questions and trying to figure out which plan you should choose before the Dec. 7 deadline, should you worry that you’re overthinking things and just let it go? 

“Absolutely not,” Dr. Meena Seshamani, the deputy administrator and director of the Center for Medicare, said in an episode of the Barron’s Live podcast released Friday. “Given how complex this is, it’s important to start now, ask your questions and evaluate your options, so that you can make the choice that’s best for you.”

During the interview, Seshamani, who is both a medical doctor and a professor, answered questions from viewers on all aspects of the Medicare program, including changes to Part D drug coverage and what working seniors need to know about their plan choices. But it’s almost impossible to even make a dent in all the information seniors crave in one short session. 

For more information, Seshamani steered Medicare enrollees to, 1-800-Medicare and

“We want to make sure people know that there are resources available where you can talk to someone and say, ‘These are the medications I’m taking,’ or ‘This is my family situation, and I’m trying to navigate it,’” she said. “People are available to help. And we want to make sure, especially during this open-enrollment time, that everyone is able to pick the option that works best for their unique story.”

You can listen to the full interview below. Our readers had so many questions and Seshamani couldn’t answer them all, so here are a few additional answers: 

When does the monthly Part B premium increase? 

New pricing goes into effect for Part B of Medicare, which covers regular doctor visits and other routine, non-hospital care, as of Jan. 1, 2024. The new premium will be $174.70 a month for 2024, an increase of $9.80 from $164.90 in 2023. High-income seniors may pay additional surcharges, known as IRMAA. 

How can I use my HSA account to pay for my Medicare premium?

You can use a health savings account to pay for qualified medical expenses at any point, so if you have money saved up, you could use it to pay your Part B premium until you start claiming Social Security. Once you start receiving Social Security, the government takes those premium payments directly from your monthly benefit. You should also note that after you enroll in Medicare, you can no longer contribute new dollars to your HSA. 

Does Medicare have an out-of-pocket maximum?

Medicare Parts A and B have no statutory maximum out-of-pocket limits, but Medicare Advantage and Medicare supplements, or Medigap plans, have out-of-pocket limits that will vary by plan. 

I have private insurance through that’s cheaper than a Medicare plan. Can I keep it when I turn 65 without facing penalties?

No. If you’re working after age 65, your workplace insurance plan may qualify as “creditable” and you can keep it without penalty. When you get ready to retire, then you can look into enrolling in Medicare. If your health-insurance plan is not through work but through the government exchange, you will have to enroll in Medicare and choose a Medicare Advantage or Medigap plan that best suits you. 

Does Medicare provide coverage in foreign countries? 

Medicare rarely provides any coverage outside of the United States and its territories. That goes for both traveling abroad in the short term and living abroad for longer stretches of time. The exceptions that Medicare lays out all involve circumstances where the closest hospital to your home is actually in a foreign country or you are traveling through Canada and have a medical emergency. 

Do you have more questions about Medicare, how it fits into your overall financial plan and what strategies can help you make the most of your money? You can write to me at 

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