Monday, May 10, 2010
Bucket list item: Figure out Medicare
This is my year to go on Medicare. You would think that since I'm the youngest of seven siblings, I might benefit from my older siblings' knowledge of Medicare, but no. Something changes every year, and each of my siblings has had a different set of circumstances going in. Some Federal employees, some veterans, various combinations of health or prescription requirements. I'm having to figure out mine on my own.
The thing that is somewhat distressing is having to make decisions that will impact my health for years to come, at a point in my life when it is increasingly difficult to sort out all the "Parts" of Medicare. Fortunately, North Carolina and many States have agencies whose sole purpose in life is to help Seniors sort through the alphabet soup of Medicare. In NC it's called SHIIP, Seniors' Helath Insurance Information Program. www.ncshiip.com They were the first ones I called. I told them that I retired from the State Government, and they told me Medicare would pay 80% of my health claims, and then the State would kick in. My coverage with the State would be 80% of the remainder. Then they reminded me that I would have to pay the State deductible first....currently $600 per year, plus co-insurance if applicable....HUH?
So I started digging through my handy "Official Government Handbook" on Medicare. They really ought to get some 70-year-olds to review the language in that thing. There's Part A, that many people get "Premium free," unless you're one of the people who has to pay for it. (What?)
"If you choose to buy Part A, you must also have Part B and pay monthly premiums for both." (Didn't I hear a bunch of tea party folks complaining being forced to pay for health insurance under the Obama plan?) I started wondering if you could opt out of Medicare...maybe if you're healthy you could wait until you get older and have more health costs. Nope, Nope, Nope.
"If you don't buy Part A when you're first eligible, your monthly premium may go up 10%. You will have to pay the higher premium for twice the number of years you could have had Part A but didn't join." GEEZ!! Why didn't my hubby tell me all this when he signed up. Well, hubby is a Federal retiree who came along during the Reagan years when Federal employees were not under Social Security. He wasn't even sure if he would be covered by Medicare. He is, and he is also covered by the same health plan he had when he worked. He had to change providers when he moved to North Carolina, but he still has the same coverage. He doesn't have to get into the alphabet soup.
So anyway, I started digging into the handbook to see if I could get some relief from that $600 deductible and co-insurance, and read about Parts A through D. I'm still trying to figure out if the Medicare Advantage Plan (Part C) will help me. The good people at SHIIP told me that my State Insurance would continue to cover my prescription drugs, so I don't need Part D. (The only good thing so far) I tried calling AARP, since they sent me their brochure of Medicare supplement plans. Plans A through D (not to be confused with Parts A through D) and plans E through J. The AARP person said I could not get a supplement since I already have the State plan as a supplement; that would make me over-insured. I could drop the State plan, but then I would lose the prescription drug coverage (no premium) and would have to get a Part D.
OH LAWD!! I'm going to have to call somebody to talk me through Medicare Advantage. Meanwhile the vultures are calling. The list of people turning 65 must be on a hot bulletin board somewhere. I have an appointment with my State Farm guy tomorrow to talk about home and car coverage. He'll probably bring out the Medicare kit.
Getting old sucks!!