The Life Transition Blog
Does Your Aging Parent Need Help With Medicare?
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Have you ever walked into your aging parent's home and seen a stack of Medicare papers on the kitchen table? Has the thought crossed your mind that maybe you should have these papers come directly to you since they seem so confusing to your Mom? Is your Dad asking you which Part D drug plan he should select, or whether he should consider a Medicare Advantage program? Have claims been denied that your parents thought were for covered services? If so, you're not alone. Many seniors find dealing with their medical paperwork to be overwhelming.
Dealing with the sheer volume of medical paperwork can be intimidating for many beneficiaries. It is important that the explanations of benefits that are received from both Medicare and any supplemental insurance policy be reviewed promptly and if errors are detected, those should be reported immediately. Similarly, if claims are denied, they must be reviewed and possibly resubmitted if you believe they were denied in error. Time is of the essence for these matters, since there is a time limit for appealing the carrier's decision. If you decide that handling these tasks are too much for your parent, you might consider handling it for them or enlisting the help of a medical billing advocate who will review all of the paperwork on a monthly basis, ensuring that your parent is getting the benefits for which she has paid. In either case, you should be aware that Medicare will only send the paperwork to the beneficiary's address on file with the Social Security Administration or to a properly documented Representative Payee. (Further information is available at http://www.ssa.gov/.)
What about if your parent simply needs help selecting the right plans? Each year, Medicare-eligible people are allowed to switch their plan during "open enrollment". This process begins on November 15th and ends on December 31st. The best place to start is the Medicare website at http://www.medicare.gov/. There you can learn about "original Medicare", as well as about "Medicare health plans", "Medigap policies", and "Medicare prescription drug plans." Which offering is right for your parent will be determined based on a number of factors, including their overall health, finances, and the degree of choice they desire. You may find that while one approach works well for Mom, Dad is better off on a different plan due to the maintenance medications he takes. It is perfectly fine for your parents to each select the coverage that works best for him or her as an individual. Again, if you find that this selection process is overwhelming, a medical billing advocate may be a helpful resource.