As September rolls to a close, we’re reminded about cooler temperatures and changing leaves. And one more thing — the annual Medicare Open Enrollment Period and the tons of advertisements about to appear in our mailbox.
As we age, our needs change too. Our doctor may have prescribed new medications during the last year, or our health may have changed for the better or for the worse. Either way, our Medicare plan is a not a “get it and forget it” thing. If there’s one thing we can count on, it’s change. Change is constant and our Medicare plan may need to change too.
Here are a few questions to help you decide if you should open that mail…
- Have I changed or added a new doctor? Is he/she in my plan’s network?
- Is the specialist care I need covered by my plan?
- Are my prescriptions all on my plan’s formulary?
- Has my health changed enough that I should question changing my health care needs?
- Is my current plan working well with my other coverage through my employer or union?
- Can I still afford my premiums?
- Am I still OK with my plans deductibles, copays and coinsurance?
- Are my overall out-of-pocket costs are still in line with what I can comfortably pay?
- What about my annual out of pocket limit? Still adequate?
- Has my doctor billed me for any unexpected excess charges that I didn’t understand?
- Is my pharmacy and doctor still easy to get to?
- Would it be easier to refill my prescriptions through the mail? If so, can I do that with my current plan?
- When I have a question, is my current plan easy to contact, talk to?
- Am I OK with the amount of paperwork needed to handle my medical bills?
- Am I happy with the care I’m receiving from my doctor and specialists?
- Am I happy with the cost and convenience of my current Medicare plan?
These questions should give you a pretty good idea on whether you should pay attention to the marketing material that will flood your mailbox (or inbox) over the next 2 months. Instead of considering all the mail as “junk mail,” consider instead reading it over and making some comparisons. It could save you money or make your life easier.
How many times have we given of ourselves, thinking not of our gain but only (perhaps in Christian charity) doing something for the benefit of someone in need – and then we are accused or punished as if what we had done was selfish and Oh So Wrong! Some have found out the hard way that elder care giving can lead to this upsetting situation.
Carol Bradley Bursack has written an article (Family caregivers can have issues if they don’t keep good records) that serves as a wake-up call to the possibility of family discord unless we document by keeping receipts for purchases that we make for our parents. What we (and the parent) consider not only harmless but a godsend could later back-fire with misunderstanding amid accusations of financial misappropriation. Being prepared ahead of time is the antidote to legal, financial, or familial disruption.
It becomes difficult for your parent to get out so you buy groceries or prescriptions or you name it. Your parent gladly reimburses you for what you spent. It is no big deal for you; you are simply caring for a loved one. Good so far. Later however, it can backfire from any of several directions…
- Your out-of-town (read out-of-touch) sibling or in-law visits and notices in your parent’s checkbook a number of payments to you. It seems that you have been taking advantage of your parents, doesn’t it?
- It becomes time for your parent to go on Medicaid. In the Medicaid ‘look-back’ the payments that your parent made to you now look like you were benefitting from parental asset ‘give-aways’. Medicaid will reduce benefits by the amounts paid to you- unless you have keep receipts documenting the true purpose of the payments.
- Your parent develops dementia and forgets why the payments to you were made. Were you taking advantage of them?
- If the payments reach a certain level, there may be tax ramifications; the IRS will need to see receipts or documentation.
Horror stories for sure, yet preventable if one always takes the time to keep the receipts and document any payments that parents make while reimbursing for care-giving purchases. Read Ms. Bursack’s entire article for more details.