Many adults find themselves helping their aging parents with Medicare, a complex process with many steps and considerations. There are penalties for delaying enrollment, and not everyone understands their options when they get sick or change plans.
“You can’t go into it thinking it’s really easy,” says Melinda Caughill, co-founder of 65 Incorporated, which offers Medicare advice. “It’s incredibly complicated, and the decisions your parents have made or will make will affect you.”
Being proactive and getting as much information as possible can help. Try these tips to be your parents’ best advocate when and if they need your help.
Get neutral advice
If you have questions, start with someone who isn’t trying to sell you (or your parents) anything. “People shouldn’t make their first stop with an insurance agent or an insurance company,” Caughill says. “Do they have your best interests at heart?” To a point. But at the end of the day, they have to pay their bills like everyone else.
If you can afford it, a Medicare counselor or advocate is a helpful resource. (Try searching online for “paid Medicare counselors.”) Caughill suggests budgeting $500 to $1,000 for this type of counseling.
If this is not an option, consider contacting your National Health Insurance Assistance Program, or SHIP. You can find yours at shiphelp.org.
“In every state, they provide free, local, and unbiased information to people aging in Medicare, people who are already Medicare beneficiaries, their families and caregivers,” says Micki Nozaki, director of California Senior Medicare Patrol for California Health Advocates. “If they don’t have all the information, they can direct you to other resources.”
Buy insurance, not benefits
when people buy Health Insurance or change plans, they may be distracted by the extras. “People focus so much on ‘my free gym membership’ or ‘my $50 gift card at Walgreens’ that they forget what really matters,” Caughill says. “Medicare is health insurance.”
Make sure your parents’ medications are covered. Make sure their doctors are in-network and that these providers will take purchased coverage. “The reason you have health insurance is if you have cancer, if you have a car accident, if you have Parkinson’s [disease] or you are hospitalized,” you are covered, Caghill says.
Watch the calendar
Register for health insurance is time sensitive; this usually occurs around the age of 65. “One of the most essential things that people don’t understand is that if they don’t register within the correct time frame – and that’s rigid – they could face a penalty for the rest of their lives. “, says Nozaki.
Depending on the situation, there may be late enrollment penalties for Medicare Part A, Part B, and Part D. In many cases, you will be charged this penalty for the remainder of your Medicare enrollment time. To verify Medicare.gov for registration deadlines that apply to your parents, as the initial registration is birthday-specific.
Read the fine print
Your parents may be able to delay enrollment in Medicare Part A or Part B, depending on their situation. For example, if one or both are still working at age 65 and are covered by employer-provided health insurance, they can wait to enroll.
That said, the rules are extremely specific, including how long they will need to enroll once they stop working or lose coverage from their employer. Make sure you (and them) understand when they need to register. Visit this health insurance fact sheet for more information.
Beware of scammers
Medicare beneficiaries are a popular target for fraudsters, so help your parents protect themselves by making sure they understand the following:
- Medicare doesn’t call people to sell them things.
- Medicare cannot enroll you in a plan over the phone unless you initiate contact.
- Medicare will never call you and ask for your Medicare number unless you have given them express permission in advance.
- Your health insurance number is important. Tell your parents to protect it like a bank account or credit card number.
“I know it sounds simple and it sounds like common sense, but unfortunately these telemarketers are so smart and conniving that when they pose as Medicare,” Nozaki says, “people believe they’re getting a phone call. of Medicare”.
This article was written by NerdWallet and was originally published by The Associated Press.
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Kate Ashford writes for NerdWallet. Email: [email protected] Twitter: @kateashford.
The article How to Help Your Parents Navigate Healthcare in Retirement originally appeared on NerdWallet.