Category: Medicare Supplement

4 Lightweight Tips to Prevent Medicare Fraud

4 Lightweight Tips to Prevent Medicare Fraud

 

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Very few people use this saying anymore, but the truth of it is still relevant—almost shockingly so. Especially when it comes to Medicare fraud.

 

No one wants to be a victim. No one wants to deal with some con down in Florida, racking up charges using their Medicare number. And no one wants to feel taken advantage of.

 

That’s why it’s much better to take the simple steps now. So let’s get started.

 

  1. Protect your Medicare Number!

First things go first. It’s the oldest tip in the book, but it works. This number is unique to you.  So protecting those 9 digits is doubly important: It’s your identity.

 

One way to protect your number is to avoid carrying the actual card unless you have to. And—this almost goes without saying—don’t share it with anyone except your doctor, health care provider, and your insurance agent, who will need it to write a policy.

 

  1. Take a Lesson From Sherlock Holmes.

This sounds like a pound-sized piece of advice, but it’s really not too heavy once you get into the habit. Be like Mr. Holmes and notice the small stuff. Check your Medicare Summary Notice for anything suspicious (i.e. billing to Medicare for care or services you didn’t receive). Check your pills before you leave the pharmacy to make sure everything is correct. Did you get your full prescription?

 

It pays off to notice things that no one else does. It’s elementary, my dear…umm…Medicare beneficiary?

 

  1. Strive to Understand for Yourself.

This is another tip that sounds heavier than it really is. So allow to me translate. For all intents and purposes, this means to ask questions. And I mean a lot of questions.

 

When you don’t understand your bill or your plan or your Medicare options, just ask. Ask your doctor’s office, or ask at your insurance agent’s office.  Shift the weight on the expert to help you understand. If he gives you a boulder-sized answer, give him another boulder-sized question. And don’t let down until you get a manageable answer. This might sound stubborn, but you have a right to know what you want about your health care. It’s the expert’s job to give you an understandable (yet accurate) answer.

 

Because knowing how Medicare works, your plan works, and why you were taken care of the way you were are excellent starting points for noticing and preventing fraud.

 

  1. Don’t go to the mousetrap for the free cheese.

Only a mousetrap has free cheese. This is the truth with all the sales and advertising junk pared away.

 

It’s not that I don’t understand the allure. Someone comes to your door or calls you to offers you something for free. Do you believe it? FREE! All you have to do is give them your Medicare number and then POOF…all your money saving dreams can come true.

 

But don’t fall for it. Don’t go for the cheese. This is a surefire way to get snapped into the metal jaws of Medicare fraud.

 

Stopping Medicare Fraud Ounce by Ounce

In closing, Medicare fraud is a crushing problem. The Medicare Fraud Strike Force is constantly hunting down the bad guys, trying to recover as many funds as they can. But it hardly puts a dent in the 60 billion dollar a year problem, according to AARP. This is why the government needs you to take the necessary measures of prevention. It’s a big problem, but I am confident that if enough people decide to get smart and do these small  “ounce-sized” things now, we can prevent another round of crushing Medicare fraud later.

 

Think you’ve been a victim of fraud? Want to make up to $1000? Then check out this post! 

 

Still have questions?  Call our office at 937-492-8800.  We can help!

CONSUMER ALERT: Seniors Should Beware of DNA Testing Scam

COLUMBUS – Ahead of World Elder Abuse Awareness Day this Saturday, June 15, the Ohio Department of Insurance and the Ohio Department of Aging are warning Ohioans of a new scam targeting seniors. Ohio consumers should be cautious of genetic testing firms visiting senior communities or making unsolicited phone calls and mailings related to DNA screenings.

“Scam artists are always looking for new ways to steal money or personal information,” said Governor Mike DeWine. “We want people to be careful and to know the signs of a possible scam.”

 

In the scheme, which has been reported in Ohio and other states, firms reportedly collect consumers’ personal information under the pretense of DNA testing to screen them for cancer, Alzheimer’s, or other life-threatening diseases. Victims are told that Medicare will cover the cost of their testing. However, Medicare provides limited coverage for DNA testing (which is why consumers should consult their health care providers). As part of the scam, consumers often are asked for their Medicare card number and Social Security number.

 

“We want Ohioans to be aware and cautious as they consider DNA screening services,” said Ohio Department of Insurance Director Jillian Froment. “Consumers should never share their personal information, including Social Security number or Medicare card number, with anyone who reaches out unexpectedly. If you think you may be a victim of fraud or if you suspect potentially fraudulent activity, please contact us.”

 

“Scammers and shady businesses target older adults to steal money, get personal information, or in this case, improperly access individuals’ insurance benefits,” added Ohio Department of Aging Director Ursel McElroy. “As older adults get wiser to common scams, scammers are doing more to try to win their trust. Guard your Medicare or other insurance card like you would a credit card. To a scammer, it is just as valuable.”

 

To protect yourself, be alert if anyone conducting DNA cheek swabs requests that you agree to be billed for services in the event Medicare does not pay. These types of “testers” may be committing Medicare fraud because they are attempting to bill Medicare for a procedure that has not been ordered by a health care provider.

What Should Medicare Recipients Know About Genetic Testing?
  • In order for the testing to be covered by Medicare, it must be medically necessary.
  • Consumers should always confirm that their test has been ordered by their doctor, that it’s covered by their plan, and that it’s medically necessary.
  • If you are interested in DNA screening, talk to your doctor and determine if it is right for you.

How Can I Protect Myself from This Type of Scam?

  • If you or a loved one is approached by someone claiming to offer genetic testing, do not give your personal information (like your Medicare or Social Security information) to them.
  • Theft of Medicare card numbers may be used to commit identity theft or fraud.
  • Instead of receiving a DNA screening unsolicited from a firm not affiliated with your health care provider, talk to your doctor first and determine if the test is necessary.
  • Some consumers have reported receiving DNA testing kits in the mail without requesting them. Consumers should not use these kits but should instead talk to their doctor first.

If you suspect wrongdoing or if you believe you have been victimized, call the Ohio Department of Insurance’s Fraud and Enforcement Hotline at 800-686-1527 or the Ohio Senior Health Insurance Information Program at 800-686-1578.

Older Ohioans and their loved ones can learn more about scams and other forms of elder abuse and exploitation, along with ways to prevent and report them, on the Ohio Department of Aging’s website (www.aging.ohio.gov/elderabuse).

 

Source:  Ohio Department of Insurance

How to Understand Medicare in 3 Simple Steps

How to Understand Medicare in 3 Simple Steps

 

Medicare, like many other government programs, is far from being easy to understand. From family and friends, you get little snippets of guidance, but nothing that gives you a cohesive picture. From the government, you receive the overly exhaustive Medicare & You handbook that is so thick and dry, it might as well come with a “drowsiness may occur” label. And, as for the rest of the Medicare mail, there is little more than ads, ads, and more ads, very few of which offer any more substance other than a quick sales pitch for a Supplement or Advantage Plan (you’ll learn what these are later on). For those approaching 65, understanding Medicare is often daunting.

 

That’s why I am writing this post. I want to help you see your Medicare “big picture.” I’ll try not to go into mind-numbing detail (although I can’t promise this will be evening pleasure reading), and I won’t give you unhelpful bite-sized chunks. You will likely still have questions afterward, but I hope this step-by-step guide helps clears up some confusion about what you will encounter as you make the transition from your private (or employer) insurance to Medicare.

 

If you don’t have time to read this right now, you can call us at 937-492-8800, and we can set you up with a Medicare expert who will walk you through all this information one-on-one.

 

But if you are ready to learn, it’s time to get started.

 

Step #1: Learning the Parts of Medicare

The best way to understand a complex topic is to split it up into parts. Medicare has made this easy for us because Medicare is already made up of four parts: Parts A, B, C, and D. It is essential that you understand them before we go any further.

 

Part A (A.K.A. Inpatient care, A.K.A. Hospital Insurance)

Part A is coverage for care received while officially admitted in at a hospital. Beyond that, it also covers skilled nursing/rehab, hospice, and some home health services. However, for simplicity’s sake, think Part A equals hospital insurance!

 

Part B (A.K.A. Outpatient care, A.K.A. Medical Insurance)

Part B, on the other hand, is the exact opposite, covering care received while checked out of the hospital. So, in a sense, it covers (at least in part) about everything else. This includes diagnostic tests, x-rays, and outpatient surgeries as well as an extensive list of preventative care options. Note that Part A and B together make up what is known as “original” or “traditional” Medicare.

 

Part C (A.K.A. Medicare Advantage)

The C in Part C is for complicated, so I’ve decided to address this later on in the post. For now, just keep it in the back of your mind. This is one of your “2 main options” we will meet again in step 3.

 

Part D (A.K.A Prescription Drug Plan)

The D in Part D is for drugs. In other words, it helps cover the bills for your medications. Part D drug plans are offered by private insurance companies that are regulated by Medicare. Whether or not you need one will be determined by which option you choose in step 3. If you do need one, you purchase it as a stand-alone plan based on your medications and preferences. I recommend using Medicare’s Drug Plan Finder.

 

Step #2: Understanding Signing Up for Parts A and B (Who and When and How)

Now that you have a basic understanding of Medicare’s parts, you should know who should sign up for Parts A and B, when you should do it, and how it is to be done. Let’s start with “who.”

 

Who Should Sign Up?

These two Parts are absolute musts! Everyone should sign up for Medicare Parts A and B eventually. Where situations differ is in the answer to the next question: when?

 

When Should You Sign Up?

Since Part A is free for most everyone, almost everyone should sign up Part A during their Initial Enrollment Period (IEP). The IEP is the seven-month period starting 3 months prior to your 65th birthday month. The only reason you might want to opt of Part A is because of HSA contribution difficulty.

 

Part B, on the other hand, has an associated premium of $135.50 (in 2019). This means if you will continue working and have better value coverage with your employer, it may be a good idea to put off signing up for Part B until you are finished working. Why pay the extra premium if you don’t need to, right?

 

However, you have to be careful with this. If you are going to delay signing up for Part B, you must make sure that you are qualified, otherwise you will incur a penalty. And even if you are qualified, you need to make sure it makes financial sense for you to do so. To give you a quick run down, in order for it to be a good idea to delay Part B, the following three things must be true about your situation:

  • You must have insurance through active employment, not retiree benefits or COBRA. In other words, you must be working (or you spouse must be working if you are covered under their plan).
  • Your employer insurance must cover 20 or more employees.
  • Your employer plan should be a better value than Part B.

 

For more details about whether you should sign up for Part B, click here.

 

If you found that you cannot delay, you must sign up for Part B during the Initial Enrollment Period, just like for Part A.

 

However, if you can delay, you just sign up when you retire. You will likely have a Special Election Period to sign up after your employer coverage ends.

 

How Should You Sign Up?

Unlike the last one, this one is easy and straightforward! There are four ways to sign up for Parts A and B:

  1. If you are already receiving Social Security benefits, it is automatic!
  2. You can sign up online at https://www.ssa.gov/medicare/.
  3. You can call your local Social Security Office.
  4. You can go and visit your Social Security Office for an in-person appointment.

Once you’ve signed up, expect your Medicare card to come in the mail soon after. Not too difficult, right?

 

Step #3: Understanding Your 2 Main Options

After figuring out the who and when and how of signing up for Parts A and B, this is where you have to make a big decision. It is here where the Medicare trail diverges into three possible paths:

  1. You could go with Original Medicare (Parts A and B) alone.
  2. You could pair a Medicare Supplement with Original Medicare.
  3. You could go with a Medicare Advantage Plan (Part C—I told you we’d meet him again).

 

I promise I can count (I’d be in bad shape as a financial planner if I couldn’t). The reason why it says there are only 2 options in the heading is because, although a very choice few disagree, most do not believe option #1 to be viable at all. Allow me to explain why:

 

Original Medicare Alone Leaves Some Potentially Devastating Gaps!

Parts A and B alone do not cover everything. For Part A, you have a $1,364 deductible that you may have to meet more than once per year and limited to no coverage for extended hospital stays. And for Part B, you have a 20% coinsurance on all outpatient services. And these are just a couple of the many costly gaps!

 

To give you an idea of what this might cost you, this means a 120-day hospital stay would be over $31,000! And if you have outpatient chemotherapy and radiation like my father-in-law, you could wind up being on the hook for over $30,000 that Part B won’t cover! Since there is no out-of-pocket spending cap with Medicare alone, there is no limit to what you might spend.

 

With that being said, I strongly recommend choosing one of the other two options (you can’t choose both). As the last part of our last step, we will look at what sets these two apart and outline some of the strengths and weaknesses of each.

 

What’s The Difference?

Medicare Advantage plans should be seen as an alternative to Original Medicare offered by private insurance companies that provide coverage that is at least as good as Medicare. Although you still have to sign up for Parts A and B, if you sign up for Medicare Advantage, the private insurance company will REPLACE Medicare as the payer of your claims. But you will still pay the Part B ($135.50 for 2019) premium each month.

 

A Medicare Supplement, on the other hand, pays SECONDARY to Medicare. Medicare pays what it normally pays for, and then the Supplement swoops in to pay your share of the costs (i.e. those gaps we talked about earlier such as 20% on outpatient services).

 

What Are The Strengths And Weaknesses of Each?

To put it simply, the Medicare Advantage Plan wins at cost effectiveness. As an in-the-ballpark figure, an Advantage Plan will cost you about $60 per month on average. Some are even $0 premium plan! A Supplement, on the other hand, will cost an average of about $110 per month. In addition, an Advantage Plan almost always has a built in drug plan, while you will have to buy a stand-alone drug plan if you have a Supplement, which (depending on your medications) is about an extra $35 per month.

 

However, a Medicare Supplement wins at just about everything else. They cost you less in out-of-pocket expenses throughout the year. Their benefits package is much more stable every year. You have more freedom to choose healthcare providers, and you are more likely to have out-of-state coverage.

 

For a more in-depth look at the pros and cons of these two options, click here.

 

When it comes to deciding, it is all about what is important to you. For instance, if you travel a lot, out-of-state coverage may be very important to you. Therefore, you may want a Supplement. However, if you are more cost-conscious, an Advantage Plan might be the best. It’s all about finding the best plan to meet your unique needs and preferences.

 

Retiring soon and don’t know what to do? Call us at 97-492-8800 to discuss your options. No high-pressure sales pitches here, just in-depth discussion about the ins and outs of Medicare!

 

Do I Need to Sign Up For Medicare If I Have Insurance with My Employer?

Do I Need to Sign Up For Medicare If I Have Insurance with My Employer?

This is an important question. If you sign up for Medicare, and you didn’t need to, you end up forking over cash in premiums for insurance you don’t even need. However, if you don’t sign up for Medicare and you needed to, the results are equally frustrating: penalties or high out-of-pocket expenses that suck the life out of your nest egg.

 

Here is an easy-to-follow guide to help you make a decision that’s the best for you. I’ll address each part of Medicare individually to help you come to a decision for each.

 

For a more in-depth explanation of the parts of Medicare, click here.

 

Part A (A.K.A Hospital Insurance or “Inpatient Care”)

This is an easy one. You can go ahead and sign up for Part A, regardless of whether you have insurance with your employer.

 

Why?

 

Because Part A is absolutely free! If there’s no premium, why not just take the coverage? As long you or your spouse has paid into Social Security for ten years or more, there is no associated cost.

 

There is only one reason why you would want to delay Part A: Health Saving Account contributions. You can still withdraw from a health savings account, but you cannot continue making contributions if you are on Part A.

 

But other than that, this is a simple decision. More often than not, you can just go ahead and sign up.

 

Part B (A.K.A Medicare Insurance or “Outpatient Care”)

Part B, on the other hand, is much more complicated. But in the end, your decision will boil down to your answers to three questions:

 

  1. Is my coverage through active, current employment?

The keywords there are “active” and “current.” In order to delay Part B without penalty, you or your spouse must have insurance coverage through active employment. You have to be on the floor or in the office (or at home in your PJs if you are lucky enough to have one of those jobs)! This means retiree benefits or COBRA or any other insurance that begins after you are done working do not count.

 

  1. Is your employer the primary payer (as opposed to Medicare)?

You can delay Part B without penalty as long as you can answer “yes” to question #1, but unless you can answer yes to this one, you may be stuck with some hefty bills on outpatient services. If Medicare is the primary payer and you don’t have Medicare, you will have to pay 80% of your outpatient healthcare expenses.

The way to find out if your employer is the primary payer is pretty simple. If your employer’s health insurance plan covers 20 or more people, the employer pays first. If it insures less than 20 people, then Medicare pays first. Ask your employer or human resource representative for the exact number to make sure!

 

  1. Is your employer plan less expensive?

None of these questions really matter if Medicare is the better value. Perhaps you can delay Part B without penalty (question 1) and without paying extra on outpatient services (question 2), but if Part B is the better value, why would you want to? That is why you must perform a cost to benefits analysis. If Medicare is the better value, then you should sign up for Part B. If it is not and you answered “yes” to the other two questions, it may be a good idea to delay.

 

Part D (Prescription Drug Coverage)

All that matters when it comes to deciding if you need to sign up for part D is whether or not your current drug coverage is “creditable.” In order for your drug coverage to be considered “creditable,” it must be at least as good as part D. In other words, it is expected to pay (on average) at least as much as a Medicare part D plan. To find out, ask your human resources department. When you turn 65 your employer will send you a letter telling you whether or not your coverage is creditable, but it is a good idea to find out beforehand for planning purposes.

 

So Let’s Recap!

  • Sign up for Part A unless you want to continue HSA contributions.
  • It might be a good idea to delay Part B if have insurance through current employment, your employer pays first, and your employer plan is a better value than Medicare.
  • As long as your current drug plan is considered “creditable,” you can delay Medicare Part D.

 

Are You Still Unsure About Your Decision?

If you still have questions about how your employer plan coordinates with Medicare (or about Medicare in general), you are not alone. Many people approaching 65 find themselves overwhelmed with all of the options and information. The good news is that Seniormark is here to help, and we offer our services at no cost to you. We will guide you through the entire process, ensuring that you avoid all the costly mistakes and pitfalls. Call Seniormark at (937) 492-8800 for a free consultation.

 

Medicare Supplement Insurance: Are You Insurable?

Medicare Supplement Insurance: Are You Insurable?

If you are in your Medicare Supplement Open Enrollment Period, you are 100% insurable, no questions asked. If you are in a guaranteed issue period, some plans may not be available to you but—again—you are 100% insurable. Still no questions asked.

 

But even if you are not in one of these two groups, it is likely that you will be able to get on a plan anyhow. You will have to undergo some health evaluation questioning, but that doesn’t mean your less than perfect health will prevent you from getting the coverage you need.

 

Lower Your Expectations

You’re 65 or older. Insurance companies don’t expect you to be able to land a round off back hand spring or have an empty medicine cabinet or even have decent cholesterol. In fact, I am looking at the most recent application for AARP Medicare Supplement Insurance, and they do not ask anything about blood tests or weight or most resolved issues. This is typical across most applications.

 

The only thing they look for is that you don’t have any “big-ticket” pre-existing conditions or alarming circumstances on your health resume: cancer, upcoming surgery, Alzheimer’s disease, etc. In short, they are looking to answer this question: is your health stable? They are not concerned with whether your health is particularly impressive.

 

Two Examples of Supposed “Uninsurables”

This week a client of ours called in who thought she was uninsurable because she had cancer 4 years ago. But this just wasn’t true. In fact, most insurance companies will offer you coverage if you have been cancer free without treatments for two years. After we assured her of the good news, she was promptly put on a great plan for her needs.

 

We also had another case of a man who just had a stent put in 1 year ago. Although he thought this would make it difficult to find a provider, this wasn’t the case either. We shopped some supplement plans for him and found him a plan that still insured people with stents as long as it wasn’t put in within a year.

 

Concluding Thoughts

The goal of this post is not to deceive you into thinking that no one is uninsurable, but I do want to give those people with imperfect health some hope. Even pre-existing conditions as bad as diabetes can be insured. There are a lot of insurance companies out there, so shop around. Chances are one of them will take a chance on you!

 

Great news!

Right now, we have a company who is accepting anyone without answering ANY health questions!  They are only doing this until June, so if you are interested, give us a call.  BONUS:  They offer a gym membership along with their supplement!

 

Need help finding a Medicare Supplement for your unique situation? Looking for a licensed expert with a passion for assisting retirees? Contact Seniormark at 937-492-8800 for a free consultation.

 

10 Terms to Beef Up Your Medicare Literacy

10 Terms to Beef Up Your Medicare Literacy

In this day and age, you have a vast pool of knowledge available to you. But none of that matters if you can’t understand any of it. If you’ve done any researching on the Internet about Medicare, you know what I mean. To help you out, I compiled a list of important terms that often catch retirees unaware.

 

  1. Annual Enrollment Period (AEP)

The AEP is the busy time of year for Insurance companies such as ours. You can think of it as the black Friday of Medicare. It is the time of year (October 15—December 7) when Medicare beneficiaries can switch plans, drop plans, and join new ones. It is an open market, a bustling time for anyone involved with the Medicare industry.

 

  1. Open Enrollment Period

The day you turn 65 and are signed up for Medicare Part B is the first day of your open enrollment. This 6-month long time frame is the window in which you can get on ANY Medicare Supplement plan, regardless of health! You will want to take advantage of this…your options narrow significantly outside of open enrollment.

 

  1. Deductible

A deductible is the money you have to pay upfront before the benefits of a plan begin. For example, Part A of Medicare has a $1340 deductible. They will not cover anything until you reach it.

 

  1. Copayments

Copays are a set dollar amount you pay in addition to the payment made by the insurer (whether it be Medicare or a private insurance company). Think of the $10-50 fees when you visit the doctor’s office or buy a certain prescription drug.

 

  1. Coinsurance

This is very similar to copayments, but it is a set percentage instead of a dollar amount. For example, the Medicare Part B coinsurance is 20%. This means you pay 20% of the total bill, not a set dollar amount.

 

  1. Out-of-pocket Costs

All three of the previous terms (deductibles, copays, and coinsurance) are all a part of a much larger concept of out-of-pocket costs. In other words, your out-of-pocket costs are everything you pay for your healthcare beyond your premium. One warning you will receive a lot is this: With only traditional Medicare (parts A and B), there is no limit to your out-of-pocket spending. Yes, I am low-key warning you again, but hopefully you fully understand it now.

 

  1. Donut Hole

Speaking of out-of-pocket costs, for a Part D drug plan, they are highest in the donut hole, a gap in prescription drug coverage. You enter the donut hole when you reach $3750 in total costs and exit it once you reach $5000 in out-of-pocket costs.

 

  1. Drug Tiers

Drug plan companies often organize the medications they cover into levels. They call these levels—you guessed it—tiers. Drugs on a lower tier (often generic brands) have lower copays and coinsurance. Drug on a higher tier (such as brand name or specialty drugs) often have higher associated costs.

 

  1. PPO

PPO stands for Preferred Provider Organization. So a PPO is a health plan that has a network of “preferred” doctors and hospitals. If you use those doctors and hospitals, they reward you will lower out-of-pocket costs.

 

  1. HMO

HMOs (Health Maintenance Plans) are a little bit more intense than PPOs. It is the same idea, but HMO plans won’t cover you at all if you don’t use their network of hospitals and doctors.

 

That brings this list to close. If you are still confused about a term on this list, ask us for help in the comments section. Have you come across another difficult word on your Medicare planning journey that you think we should add? Let us know. We want to hear from you!

 

Annual Enrollment is the only time of year you can switch your Medicare Advantage Plan or Part D Drug Plan! Looking to review your plans with a Certified Senior Advisor this open enrollment season? Call Seniormark at 937-492-8800 or click here to set up a free consultation.

Don’t “Set It and Forget It” This Annual Enrollment Season!

Don’t “Set It and Forget It” This Annual Enrollment Season!

Does anyone remember Ron Popeil?  If you don’t, allow me to rephrase the question.  Does anyone remember the “set it and forget it” infomercial king?

 

I bet it’s ringing a bell now.

 

I, for one, can still see him in his green apron, armed with nothing but some well-seasoned meats and a fancy rotisserie cooker, taking the cheesy and overly scripted infomercial world by storm: “All you have to do is…”  The unrealistically enthused audience chants, “SET IT AND FORGET IT!”

 

He was like the Billy Mays of the 70s, but with food instead of cleaning products.

 

But I digress…back to the topic at hand.  The reason I retrieved this slogan from memory lane is to make a point: Many people have the “set it and forget it” mindset with their Medicare Health Insurance Plans.  They think that once they undergo the process of enrolling in Medicare, enrolling in supplemental coverage or an Advantage plan, and signing up for a drug plan that they never have to change anything again.  Happily ever after.

 

But this just isn’t true.  Yes, most of the work is done.  And you’ve definitely done the minimum to get by.  But there’s a good chance your situation will change over time.  And, even if your situation doesn’t change, there is a very good chance your health care plans will, oftentimes drastically.  This leaves you in an ill-fitting plan that doesn’t meet your needs or your budget.  You may need to switch!

 

When it comes to Medicare Annual Enrollment, there is a reason for the season.  From October 15—December 7, you have the opportunity to make strategic changes to your health care plans.

 

Here are 3 reasons you might need to make changes this year!

 

The Medicare Supplement Creep

Medicare Supplements are typically consistent from year to year.  The benefits are guaranteed to stay the same, and the premiums rarely increase drastically.  But the premium cost almost always creeps up, dollar by dollar, slowly but surely.

 

If you stay on that ride for too long, you could end up paying $100+ more a month than you should.  In fact, if you have been in the same Medicare Supplement Plan for 4-5 years, there’s a good chance you’re paying too much for it.  Shopping around for a better deal this year could save you hundreds…and all without reducing your coverage.

 

REMINDER:  You can change your Medicare Supplement any time of year (click here for related info), not just annual enrollment.

 

The Advantage Plan Leap

There are so many aspects of an Advantage Plan that can frog around over time.  The deductible may go up.  The premium may go down.  You might have higher copays.  Your coinsurance might drop.  And beyond benefits and price, doctors and hospitals may go in and out of your plan’s network.  A doctor available to you this year, may not be available the next.

 

This is why it is important to review your plan.  Is your family doctor still within the plan’s network?  Is it still the best value for you?  If you simply set it, forget it and let it skate by another year, you’ll never know.

 

The Drug Plan Drop

A drug plan may vary in cost from year to year, but what you really need to check is the list of medications the policy covers, also known as the formulary.

 

Over the years, a drug plan may discontinue or reduce coverage on certain medications.  Imagine if the drug it discontinued was your most expensive one, and you didn’t realize it.  Yeah…it could be a financial disaster.

 

Review Your Plan This Year!

So make sure to take control of your health insurance options.  Review your plans, and take careful note of all the changes.  The “set it and forget it” philosophy might work well for cooking chickens, but it doesn’t work for this.

 

For your health insurance, I offer another slogan:  If you set it and forget it, you might regret it.

 

Maybe that will catch on…

 

Yeah…probably not.

 

Looking to review your plans with a Certified Senior Advisor? Call Seniormark at 937-492-8800 for a free consultation.

A Little Known Reason Why Medicare Will Deny Coverage For Your Nursing Home Stay

A Little Known Reason Why Medicare Will Deny Coverage For Your Nursing Home Stay

There are few things more wrinkle-inducing than the stress of any unexpected bill, let alone a $6000-8000 nursing home expense left uninsured by Medicare.

 

But it happens everyday. If you receive only custodial care at the nursing home, Medicare will not cover you.  (Read this blog for a few answers.)   And even if you are receiving skilled nursing care, there is still a chance you won’t be insured.

 

Here’s the reason: Many people don’t receive 3 days of inpatient care before moving onto the nursing home. This is a requirement for coverage!

 

Check Your Status!

What really throws people for a loop is that not all hospital stays qualify as the required inpatient care. So even if you stay a week in the hospital’s luxurious half-room with a moaning mystery patient on the other side of the curtain, that doesn’t mean you satisfied the requirement (even though you definitely earned it, in my opinion).

 

Why, you ask?

 

It has to do with your official status. Some people are formally checked-in, but others are filed under “observation status”. In other words, they are not receiving any specific treatment but are rather checked in for the purpose of evaluation, testing, and monitoring. In almost all respects, they receive similar care to those who are formally checked in, but these patients are billed and covered like they are receiving outpatient services. They don’t fulfill the 3-day inpatient requirement and—when they move on to a skilled nursing facility like a nursing home—they are denied coverage when they need it most.

 

Sounds a bit unfair, right? I agree wholeheartedly. Luckily, the government is aware of the issue and is taking steps to resolve it.

 

Baby Steps

One of these small steps occurred in August of 2015 when Obama signed the Notice of Observation Treatment and Implication for Care Eligibility Act. I know—legislators have a knack for snappy titles. But in all seriousness: What the article lacks in creativity, it makes up for in functionality. This Act requires hospitals to alert you of your observation status and how it will affect your Medicare coverage in both writing and in person.

 

Potential Strides

The Notice Act doesn’t solve the whole issue, of course. It would be better to just allow all hospital stays to count toward the 3-day inpatient requirement. The good news is—yet again—politicians are working toward this.

 

But until then, be aware and ask about your status.  It pays to be educated. And it can save you an arm and a leg to know what others don’t and what hospitals neglect to tell you.

 

Turning 65 soon and confused about Medicare?  Call Seniormark at 937-492-8800 or click here to sign up for a free consultation!

Think Poor Health Will Stop You From Getting Medicare Supplement Insurance? Think Again.

Think Poor Health Will Stop You From Getting Medicare Supplement Insurance? Think Again.

Insurance companies can’t refuse you coverage for having cancer or being on an expensive chemo-treatment. They can’t deny you a policy for having diabetes or (Burger King-induced) sky-scraping cholesterol or any other pre-existing condition for that matter. These companies are federally mandated to grant you coverage as long as you enroll within the Medicare Supplement Open Enrollment Period. This is good news for you!

 

The Open Enrollment Period

The Medicare Supplement Open Enrollment Period is a 6-month window beginning the day you both turn 65 and are enrolled in Part B of Medicare. During this time frame, you have all the privileges of someone who doesn’t have poor health, including:

  • Access to all 11 Supplement plans (A, B, C, D, F, HDF, G, K, L, M, and N)
  • No premium hikes due to health conditions
  • No medical underwriting

 

You’ve Got Another Shot.

And then there’s guaranteed issue. Although this is based on very specific circumstances (such as coming off of employer insurance or your current plan discontinuing service), it still offers many people with pre-existing conditions another shot at getting on a plan. It is important to note, though, that some plans may not be available under guaranteed issue. It isn’t an all-access pass like the Open Enrollment Period, but it does give you the assurance to know you will not be denied.

 

 

It’s Not the End of the World!

But don’t sweat if you are no longer within the Open Enrollment Period. This definitely does not mean you won’t be able to get Medicare Supplement Insurance. It just means you will have to answer questions about your health, where they might look at your whopper addiction with a more critical eye.  You may have to pay more, but (depending on your specific conditions) they won’t automatically deny you coverage.

 

Of course, this doesn’t mean that there aren’t still circumstances where you will be unable to receive coverage. But—because of open enrollment and guaranteed issue—this doesn’t happen nearly as much. The government is making strides to ensure that health coverage is available to those who need it most: those who are unhealthy.

 

Need help picking out one of the 11 Medicare Supplement Plans? Want somewhere to start? Call Seniormark at 937-492-8800 or click here to set up a free consultation.

2018 Medicare Parts A & B Premiums and Deductibles Announced

2018 Medicare Parts A & B Premiums and Deductibles Announced

 

Yesterday, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) released the 2018 premiums for the Medicare inpatient hospital (Part A) and physician and outpatient hospital services (Part B) programs.

For 2018, the Part B premium will be $134 for those new to Medicare.  For those already on Medicare, their premium will be between $108-$134, depending on the amount of their social security cost of living increase.  The Part B deductible will remain the same ($183). There are some changes to the numbers which are listed below, but if you have a Medicare supplement policy, it will take care of some, if not all, of these expenses.
2017                     2018
Part B Premium                                              $109.00                $134.00
Part B Deductible                                           $183                     $183
Part A Hospital Deductible                             $1316                   $1340
Part A Hospital Coinsurance Days 61-90        $329/day          $335/day
Part A Hospital Coinsurance Lifetime Reserve Days
$658/day          $670/day
Skilled Nursing Coinsurance Days 21-100
$164.50/day      $167.50/day

For more information on the 2018 Medicare Parts A and B premiums and deductibles, please contact our office at 937-492-8800.