What’s Everything I Need to Know About Wills?
What’s Everything I Need to Know About Wills?

What’s Everything I Need to Know About Wills?

What’s Everything I Need to Know About Wills?

Writing a will is a critical part of estate planning. A will contains your legally binding directions for the distribution of your property and responsibilities, when you pass away.

Like the title says, Money Check’s recent article, “Guide to Writing a Will: Everything You Need to Consider,” sets it all out—from soup to nuts.

Do it myself or hire an experienced estate planning attorney? It’s wiser to hire a qualified estate planning attorney to help you draft your will. There are many heartbreaking stories of people who decided to do it by themselves and missed important steps. If that’s the case, the probate judge will not recognize the will and will take control of the estate. Don’t let this happen to your family. Use a legal professional.

Name Your Heirs. List all of the people you want to include in your will. You can omit or include anyone you want. If you do want to leave out a certain family member, be sure you clearly indicate that in the will. You don’t have to explain why you decided to include or exclude family members from your will.

Name an Executor.  Select your attorney or a close family member as the executor.

Select a Guardian for your Children. Name a responsible and willing guardian for your minor children. You should also be sure to discuss your decision with the potential guardian.

Be Clear on the Assets Beneficiaries are to Receive. Avoid vagueness or questions in your will. Clearly explain who gets what. This will help avoid confusion and disputes among family. A thoroughly crafted will prevents stressful and upsetting situations from happening to your family, after your passing.

Include Your Final Wishes with the Will. You can leave your will and a final letter to your family with your executor. This is also called a letter of last instruction.

Get Your Witnesses. When you’re ready to sign your will, be sure to get two witness (or only one depending on your state’s laws) of legal age, over 18-years old, to sign the documents.

Keep Your Will Somewhere Safe and Accessible. Store your will in a safe place, where your family can get to it when you die.

Reference: Money Check (October 23, 2019) “Guide to Writing a Will: Everything You Need to Consider”

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Tailoring a Caregiving Plan to Your Family
Tailoring a Caregiving Plan to Your Family

Tailoring a Caregiving Plan to Your Family

Tailoring a Caregiving Plan to Your Family.

If you have a family member who needs ongoing assistance because of a disability, severe medical issue, or a chronic illness, you might need to create a schedule within the family for providing care to that loved one. Few of us can afford to hire a private nurse for a family member. Many people who need caregiving need someone available 24 hours a day, even if some of that time is watching over the person rather than providing medical attention.

Public assistance programs provide limited, if any services, so most families have to figure out who can pitch in and help care for the loved one. If you are like most people, you could use some suggestions on tailoring a caregiving plan to your family. Recent legislation could make that task easier.

The Inherent Problems of Caregiving

People who are already working full-time and raising their families, often end up taking shifts, along with other relatives. The situation can go on like this for years. The caregivers become exhausted, physically, emotionally and financially.

Resentment can build, if some of the family caregivers feel they are doing more than their share, while others are not doing their part. Years later, the primary caregivers can get accused of undue influence, if the person who received help gives a larger portion of the estate to the primary caregivers out of gratitude.

Why Congress is Paying Attention to the Challenges of Family Caregiving

Our population is aging. By 2026, the baby boomer generation will start to turn 80 years old. Many people in their eighties need long-term care, either in the home or a facility. The high numbers of baby boomers and the declining birthrates mean there will be more people needing family caregiving and fewer relatives available to provide those services.

Family caregiving takes a massive chunk out of our economy each year. Experts say 40 million people in the United States provide unpaid caregiving services to their adult loved ones, who have limitations in their daily activities. The experts on aging value these services at around $470 billion a year.

Another 3.7 million Americans take care of a disabled child under the age of 18. Some people have to provide caregiving for both an older adult and a child. People in the field estimate that about 6.5 million people in our country fall into this category.

The caregivers face immediate and long-term financial crises, because of the time they devote to the needs of their vulnerable loved ones. In the moment, the caregiver might have to cut back on work hours or leave a paying job to be there for the family member in need. Losing a paycheck and benefits, can put a caregiver into economic hardship. Many caregivers live in poverty in the future, because it was impossible to contribute to retirement savings or the Social Security system during the long years of caregiving.

Congress is working on measures to provide more public resources for family caregivers. The “Recognize, Assist, Include, Support, and Engage (RAISE) Family Caregivers Act” contains strategies for state and communities to support caregiving families. Increased assessments and service planning dovetailed with education, supports and respite options can impact financial security and workplace issues of caregivers. The new law centers on both caregivers and people receiving the care.

References:

AARP. “Building a Family Caregiving Strategy to Align with the Real Needs of Families.” (accessed October 31, 2019) https://blog.aarp.org/thinking-policy/building-a-family-caregiving-strategy-to-align-with-the-real-needs-of-families

 

Making Inheritance Talks Easier
Making Inheritance Talks Easier

Making Inheritance Talks Easier

Making Inheritance Talks Easier.

Conversations about money and finances can be problematic for many families. Those very same people you grew up with, aren’t always on the same page, especially when the inheritance is the topic, says The New York Times in a recent article “Tips to Ease Family Inheritance Tensions.”

Find a common interest. You may be very different, but you also have a lot in common. The sibling relationship is a long-running one, so focus on preserving or repairing that relationship.

Bring in help to facilitate discussions. If family history makes it too difficult to manage, bring in an estate planning attorney or financial advisor to mediate the conversation. Having an unbiased person to run the show can keep things on track, make sure all viewpoints are recognized and help the group get to a productive conclusion.

Listen to each other. The simplest task may also be the hardest. It’s so easy to fall into old behavior patterns (i.e., the bossy older sister, the brother who goes along to get along). Don’t interrupt each other and check in to make sure everyone is feeling okay about how the conversation is going.

Advice to parents. Even if you don’t have a mega-wealthy family, you may all benefit from having an outside person, like an estate planning attorney or corporate trustee, to be named as a trustee. The more financially competent sibling could be the trust advisor, who can give advice but does not make the final decision. This keeps everyone a little more arm’s length from the decision making.

Talk with your family about money. Inheritances are frequent sources of friction among siblings. Not knowing how they are going to share in the family assets, how it is going to be structured and what expectations are, can create considerable tension within the family. Many families do not talk with their children about money, but that’s a big mistake. Not comfortable with the idea of a conversation? Then write down your motivation for your decisions about how the family wealth is going to be distributed and ask your estate planning attorney to make it part of your documents. It won’t be legally binding, but it may provide your children with some further insights.

Reference: The New York Times (Nov. 6, 2019) “Tips to Ease Family Inheritance Tensions.”

Making Inheritance Talks Easier.

Strategies for the “Sandwich” Generation
Strategies for the “Sandwich” Generation

Strategies for the “Sandwich” Generation

Strategies for the “Sandwich” Generation.

If you are taking care of your aging parents and still helping your own children, you are part of the “sandwich” generation. If you feel as if you will never be able to go off duty because of all the people who make demands on your time and money, here are some strategies for the “sandwich” generation.

Quite a few people start having children when they are in their forties. Your parents could already be in their sixties and seventies, when you have toddlers. By the time your children are in high school, you will be in your fifties with parents in their seventies or eighties. You should be focused on plowing lots of money into your retirement account. However, instead you find yourself pulled in many different directions, without the energy or resources you need for yourself.

How People with Adult Children Can Get Pulled at Both Ends: Strategies for the “Sandwich” Generation

You do not have to be raising young children to be in the sandwich generation. Your children might be adults but need financial help because of student loans or other financial pressures. Additional reasons you might need to assist your adult children include things like:

  • You have a child with a disability.
  • One of your children struggles with substance abuse.
  • You might have a child who does not manage his money well.
  • You have a twenty-something or older child, who is in graduate school.
  • You provide much of the childcare for or you raise one of your grandchildren.

These are only a few examples of the reasons you might find yourself having to lend a helping hand to your parents and your adult children.

The Financial Impact of Taking Care of Two Generations: Strategies for the “Sandwich” Generation

Any of these situations can put demands on your time, energy and finances. People who take care of their older parents and their own children often suffer as a result. For example, these caregivers drive everyone else to their medical appointments but do not have to time to go for routine checkups. There are not enough hours in the day to go for a walk to de-stress or get physical exercise. Sleep deprivation is common among “sandwichers.”

The financial impact of dual caregiving can be both short-term and long-term. If you are constantly picking up medications and groceries for your elderly parents and helping your children financially, you might find yourself having a cash flow strain. The time the double caregiving takes from your schedule can also make it impossible for you to engage in the amount of gainful employment you would like, so you can increase your retirement savings.

How to Handle the Stress and Exhaustion of Dual Caregiving: Strategies for the “Sandwich” Generation

You are not alone. Many people have walked this path before you. They offer these suggestions:

  • Contact your local government agencies, community groups, senior organizations and charitable entities to find as many resources as possible to take some of the weight off of your shoulders. Adult day programs, respite care and other services can be a godsend.
  • Find sources of funding to ease your financial strain. Your aging parents might qualify for more benefits than they currently receive. You can use the website Benefit Finder to locate additional financial help, like Medicare, Medicaid, veterans benefits and many other programs.
  • Change your expectations. Your house does not have to be perfect. Your teens can get rides with friends, or you can set up a carpool.
  • Set a daily sleep goal of at least seven hours and stick to it. You cannot help anyone, if you get so exhausted that your health deteriorates.
  • Try to find the humor in daily situations.

Remember, this stage and every stage is temporary. You are creating memories that you will treasure.

References:

HuffPost. “This Is What No One Told Me About Suddenly Joining The Sandwich Generation.” (accessed November 8, 2019) https://www.huffpost.com/entry/sandwich-generation-caring-for-kids-parents_n_5d24c00ee4b07e698c418fc9

Benefits.gov. “Benefit Finder.” (accessed November 14, 2019) https://www.benefits.gov/benefit-finder

 

What Is an Ethical Will and Do You Need One?
What Is an Ethical Will and Do You Need One?

What Is an Ethical Will and Do You Need One?

What Is an Ethical Will and Do You Need One?

When an estate planning attorney suggests that clients create ethical wills, they aren’t asking the clients to create another last will and testament. Instead, it is to create something that can explain their intentions to their loved ones. According to the article “How to create an ethical will” from Herald Net, a ethical will is also known as a legacy letter.

An Ethical will is a document that passes ethical values from one generation to the next. Rabbis and Jewish laypeople have continued to write ethical wills during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. In recent years, the practice has been more widely used by the general public. Wikipedia

This can be a kind and loving gift to your family, since it allows you to express your feelings and thoughts. If you’re not accustomed to sharing your feelings, that will make it even more special to your loved ones. It’s an opportunity to say all the things you never felt comfortable saying. You may want to express your wishes, regrets and gratitude. You may also want to pass long the life lessons that have been valuable for you.

It is a way to share your ethical culture. Your values, life lessons, hopes and dreams for the future. You can share your blessings, love, and forgiveness with your family and friends. An ethical will is not a legal document.

An ethical will does not distribute your material wealth. It also provides an opportunity for you to explain how you came to the decisions you did about your will and the money and possessions you are passing along. You might want to explain why a certain child is being given a piece of artwork or why another is being left assets in a trust and not an outright gift.

If you are more comfortable with making a video, you can also do that. An audio or video recording often becomes a treasured piece of family history, since it allows generations who may have never met you to see and hear you.

Start by writing down some notes about what matters to you and what you think you might want to share with the family. Take your time. Remember you aren’t writing the Great American Novel but creating a gift of love; a heartfelt expression of what truly matters most in your life.

Once you’ve gathered your thoughts, move on to the next draft. Once it’s complete, to keep this document safe and in a secure location. If you have a waterproof and fireproof safe where you keep important papers in the home, the ethical will should also go in there. Remember that safe deposit boxes are sealed at death, so if you want your loved ones to read this, it should not go in the safe deposit box.

One last thought—some people like to share their ethical will with family and friends, while they are still living. This allows them to enjoy their reactions and have a discussion about whatever they have shared in the document. Others prefer to wait until after they have passed. It’s a very personal decision.

Talk with your estate planning attorney about how the ethical will works with your estate plan.  Make sure there’s nothing in the ethical will that contradicts your last will and testament. That could create problems for the family.

Reference: Herald Net (Nov. 6, 2029) “How to create an ethical will”

 

What Does Medicare Plan G Cover?
What Does Medicare Plan G Cover?

What Does Medicare Plan G Cover?

What Does Medicare Plan G Cover?  Today is the fifth part of a multi-part series on Medicare. Plan G is medigap coverage. It is important to anyone looking to obtain Medigap coverage after January 1, 2020 because that is a plan available to new enrollees since Part F has now been closed for new initial enrollees.

Medicare Plan G is a Medigap supplement plan that has lower premiums than Medigap (Plan F), in exchange for a small annual deductible. Plan F has no deductible. With Plan G, you get the same benefits as you would with the “Cadillac” version of Medicare, Plan F, but at a more affordable price. Let’s take a closer look to answer the question What does Medicare Plan G cover?

Let’s say you do not want to get hit with a mountain of healthcare bills after a medical crisis. Millions of Americans have lost their life savings and declared “medical bankruptcy” because of astronomical out-of-pocket costs, even though they have Medicare Parts A and B, also called “original Medicare.” A stroke, heart attack, or car crash could cause devastating consequences.

In response to this problem, private insurance companies created Medigap coverage (Plan F), which pays your out-of-pocket costs, like copays and deductibles, when you receive healthcare services that Medicare covers. The problem with Plan F is the premiums are quite expensive, such that many people cannot afford this excellent coverage.

The Difference Between Plan F and Plan G

The only thing that Plan G does not cover that Plan F (Medigap) pays, is the Medicare Part B (outpatient services) deductible. Since that deductible is only $198 in 2020, many people choose Plan G coverage. Because the premiums for Plan G policies tend to be much less expensive than with Plan F, people tend to save hundreds of dollars with Plan G, even if they have to pay a deductible.

The Part B deductible can change from one year to the next, but so do the premiums for Plans F and G. Premiums tend to keep pace with the risk of loss for the insurance company. You will likely continue to save money on premiums by choosing Plan G instead of Plan F, even factoring in the deductible, but you should do the math every year to make sure.

What Plan G Covers

Other than the Plan B deductible, Plan G pays everything that Plan F covers, including:

  • Coinsurance and hospital bills for Medicare Part A (inpatient services and hospitalization), at 20 percent of the total expense
  • Up to 365 more days of Part A coverage than “original” Medical provides
  • Coinsurance for Medicare Part B, at 20 percent
  • Blood transfusions, up to three units
  • Part A coinsurance or copay for hospice care
  • Coinsurance for skilled nursing facility
  • Deductible for Part A
  • Part B “excess charges.” Some doctors charge their patients 15 percent over what Medicare pays. If you choose one of these physicians, you will have to pay this expense out of pocket, unless you have Plan F or G.
  • The cost of travel from a foreign country to the United States, if you have a medical emergency.

Please note that, like Plan F, Plan G only covers Medicare-approved expenses. If you incur bills for services or items that original Medicare does not help to pay, you will have to shoulder these costs yourself.

Original Medicare (Medicare Parts A and B) does not pay for things like routine eye exams, eyeglasses, routine dental care, dentures, routine hearing exams, hearing aids, prescription drugs (Medicare Part D can cover these), homeopathic treatments like acupuncture and acupressure and several other types of health-related goods and services. Read a policy carefully to know exactly what it covers, before you get locked into the plan for a year.

Every state makes its own regulations. Be sure to talk with an elder law attorney near you to find out how your state might differ from the general law of this article.

References:

Boomer Benefits. “Medicare Plan G – Part G” (accessed October 24, 2019) https://boomerbenefits.com/medicare-supplemental-insurance/medicare-supplement-plans/medicare-plan-g/

 

What Does Medicare Plan F Cover?
What Does Medicare Plan F Cover?

What Does Medicare Plan F Cover?

What Does Medicare Plan F Cover?

Today is the fourth part in my Medicare series. Previously we covered Medicare A & B, C and D in three different blog posts. We will not cover Part E because new enrollment has closed. Plan E is not open to new enrollees but if you had the plan prior to 2010 you may keep it. Therefore, to start today’s post What Does Medicare Plan F Cover?

Although you might not have heard about it by this name, there is a Medicare Plan F. “Original” Medicare, also called Parts A and B, covers hospitalization and many outpatient healthcare costs. Part C is the official term for Medicare Advantage, which is the services of Parts A and B, but through an HMO or PPO-type of private health insurance.

Medicare Part D helps to pay some of the costs of prescription drugs. There is no longer a Part E of Medicare. With so many options already with Parts A, B, C, and D, some people might wonder why we need a Plan F. What does Medicare Plan F cover?  Part F in simple terms covers co-pays for doctor’s visits.

Many people in the insurance industry call Plan F the “Cadillac” coverage of Medicare supplement options. Another term for Plan F is “Medigap” coverage. As long as Medicare would cover the item, Medigap Part F will pay for it.

How Medigap Coverage Works

Medigap coverage means you pay nothing for healthcare services that original Medicare covers. You will have two cards – your Medicare card and your Medigap supplemental policy card. When you receive medical services, you present both cards to the service provider. Medicare will pay its portion, and Medigap will pay the rest.

What Medigap Does Not Cover

Medigap does not pay for things that original Medicare does not cover, unless your plan contains specific terms to the contrary. Neither original Medicare (Parts A and B) nor Medigap cover these things:

  • Vision care and eyeglasses
  • Routine dental services and dentures
  • Routine hearing examinations and hearing aids
  • Homeopathic treatments, like acupuncture and acupressure
  • Surgery that is not medically necessary
  • Prescription drugs (Part D is a separate plan)
  • Foot care, unless the treatment is for a medical condition
  • Help with daily living tasks, like grooming and eating

When Medicare denies a claim, Medigap will not pay any portion of the cost of the item or service. Medigap only kicks in after Medicare pays its part.

Things That Medigap Covers

Here are some examples of things that Medigap covers:

  • Your annual deductible for Medicare Parts A and B
  • Your copays (usually 20 percent of the hospital, doctor, or another medical bill)
  • An extra 365 days of hospital coverage after you use up your Medicare hospitalization benefits
  • Blood transfusions, up to three pints
  • Coinsurance for Part A hospice care
  • Coinsurance for a skilled nursing facility
  • Some doctors charge the patient 15 percent more than the Medicare reimbursement rate. If you go to one of these doctors, you have to pay this “excess charge,” unless you have Medigap coverage. Medigap pays the 15 percent excess charge for you.
  • Emergency foreign travel for medical reasons, up to $50,000. Medicare does not cover any of this expense because Medicare only pays for healthcare services inside the United States, but a Medigap policy will pay 100 percent of this cost.
  • A portion of some of the expenses of emergency healthcare services in a foreign country, up to the individual policy’s limits.

Medigap policy premiums and benefits can vary widely from one company to another. You should read the details carefully and compare multiple policies.

Medigap Part F is going away for new enrollees starting January 1, 2020. If you have it already or are otherwise eligible you can keep your medigap but in an effort to prevent people from going to the doctor for a sniffle Part F is being closed to new enrollees.

Your state’s laws might differ from the general law of this article. You might want to talk to elder law attorney Frank Bruno, Jr. to discuss.

References:

Boomer Benefits. “What Does Part F Cover?” (accessed October 24, 2019) https://boomerbenefits.com/faq/what-does-plan-f-cover/

 

What Does Medicare Part D Cover?
What Does Medicare Part D Cover?

What Does Medicare Part D Cover?

What Does Medicare Part D Cover? D is for drugs (prescription medications).

Part D is an add-on optional coverage you can buy, in addition to original Medicare, also called Medicare Parts A and B. Part D helps people enrolled in Medicare buy their prescribed medications. For more than 40 years, people with Medicare had to pay for their prescription drugs almost entirely out-of-pocket.

In 2006, the federal government launched Medicare Part D. You are not required to obtain Part D coverage, but you could save hundreds or thousands of dollars a year by doing so. That noted, what does Medicare Part D cover?

Part D Coverage. What Does Medicare Part D Cover?

Since you buy Part D coverage from a private insurance company in your state, instead of from Social Security, the coverage will vary from one plan to the next. Each plan gets to decide which prescription drugs they will cover.

Do not automatically go with the cheapest plan available. Paying a low premium is a waste of money, if the medications you need to take are not on the list of covered drugs. Review the details of the plans you are comparing to make sure the one you select will meet your medical and budgetary needs.

The list of covered medications (formulary) can also change every year, effective on January 1. Be sure to read the annual information you receive before the open enrollment period. If your Part D plan is going to stop covering a drug you need, you can switch to a plan that does cover your medications during open enrollment.

How Much Part D Costs

The monthly premium is different, depending on the plan you select. You might buy a free-standing Part D, in addition to having original Medicare (Parts A and B). You will get to choose from several Part D plans in your state. Some states have more than 20 unique options. If you buy Part D ala carte, you could pay as little as $10 or more than $170. The premium cost can change every year. The premiums vary, depending on your income and the state where you live.

People with higher incomes have to pay an extra amount, called the Income Monthly Adjusted Amount (IRMAA). The thresholds that determine what constitutes higher income for people who file their taxes individually or jointly change every year.

Most Medicare Advantage (Part C) plans include Part D coverage. Everyone who enrolls in a Part C plan must be in Parts A and B and continue to pay Part B premiums. Some Medicare Advantage plans have a $0 premium. With these plans, you could get Part D coverage at no cost, other than your existing Plan B coverage.

Part D Copays and Deductibles

You might have to pay a deductible and copay to get your prescription drugs. The annual deductible in 2019 is $419. If you get your Part D coverage through a private insurer, your deductible might be lower than Medicare’s deductible, but it cannot be higher.

There are several stages to Part D coverage. After you satisfy the deductible, your Part D coverage will help to pay a portion of your prescription drug costs. The private insurers must follow Medicare’s guidelines for each stage of coverage, but the private plans can offer terms that are more favorable to the consumer than Medicare’s guidelines.

Medicare Part D has four phases throughout the year. The deductible phase-each year starts with the person having to pay out of pocket until the deductible is reached. The next phase is the coverage period where the person has to pay a co-pay or co-insurance percentage. Then for some there may be a coverage gap or a donut hole period where the person pays 100% out of pocket but at a discounted price.  If payments exceed a certain amount the last phase of each year could be the catastrophic phase. On January 1 all payments are zeroed out and the deductible phase starts anew.

Medicare Part D prescription drug plans (PDP) have an open enrollment period every year from October 15 through December 7.

New York State will have many stand-alone Medicare Part D prescription drug plans and a few of these will be benchmark plans. The benchmark plans can have a low or $0 premium for those who qualify for low income subsidy.

It’s important to review your plan every year, since changes may have occurred. Your current plan may have raised their costs, changed the medications they cover, or no longer be participating as a provider. Your needs may have changed throughout the year. You could be taking different medications or have a different financial situation.

Your state’s laws might differ from the general law of this article. You might want to talk to an elder law attorney in your state.

  • Medicare.gov – Official United States government site for Medicare coverage including drug coverage (Part D)

References:

Boomer Benefits. “Medicare Part D.” (accessed October 24, 2019) https://boomerbenefits.com/new-to-medicare/parts-of-medicare/medicare-part-d/

 

What Does Medicare Part C Cover?
What Does Medicare Part C Cover?

What Does Medicare Part C Cover?

What Does Medicare Part C Cover? Today is the second part of a series on Medicare and what coverage is provided by Medicare Advantage.

Medicare Part C is the official term for what people usually call Medicare Advantage. Instead of using Medicare Parts A and B, also called “original Medicare,” you have the option to purchase a private health insurance plan. Medicare Advantage usually provides benefits that are similar to Parts A, B, and D (drug coverage). You will typically have an HMO or PPO, with an approved network of doctors, if you select a Medicare Advantage plan.

Health maintenance organizations (HMOs) provide health insurance coverage for a monthly premium. An HMO limits member coverage to medical care provided through a network of doctors and other healthcare providers who are under contract to the HMO. These contracts both allow for premiums to be lower than for traditional health insurance because the health providers have the advantage of having patients directed to them but they also add additional restrictions to the HMO’s members.

A preferred provider organization (PPO) is a medical care arrangement in which medical professionals and facilities provide services to subscribed clients at reduced rates. PPO medical and healthcare providers are called preferred providers. PPO plans tend to charge higher premiums because they are costlier to administer and manage. However, they offer more flexibility compared to alternative plans.

What Does Medicare Part C Cover? What Medicare Advantage Plans Cover

Medicare Advantage (MA) plans provide the same services as original Medicare (Parts A and B). Most MA plans include coverage for prescription drugs, similar to Medicare Part D.

There are many different Medicare Advantage plans. Private health insurance companies offer MA plans. You do not buy MA from the government.

The terms of the coverage will depend on the individual MA plan. For example, some Medicare Advantage plans have a higher annual deductible than original Medicare.

Terms of Medicare Advantage Plans

Original Medicare has a 20 percent copay, after you satisfy the annual deductible. Some MA plans charge a different amount of copay. Your copay might depend on the type of service you receive, like a primary care physician or a specialist. With some MA plans, you have to pay a set amount for each day you are an inpatient in the hospital. With other MA plans, you might have to pay a traditional copay, which is a portion of the total hospital bill.

Your MA HMO or PPO will have a list of approved service providers (doctors and hospitals). If you go to a doctor or hospital that is not in your plan’s network, you might have to pay a much higher portion of the bill. In some situations, the MA plan might not cover the expense at all.

What to Do When Your MA Plan Changes

Your Medicare Advantage plan can change every year, effective on January 1. Annually there is an open enrollment period.  You will get information about upcoming changes every September. Be sure to read the terms of your coverage every year during the open enrollment period to make sure you still have the coverage you want. You can switch your coverage during open enrollment for a plan that meets your budget and other needs.

Most people find that Medicare Advantage plans are closer to the group health insurance coverage they had through their employer. You will select a primary care physician in your area. Depending on your plan, you might need a referral from your primary care doctor before you go to a specialist.

How to Enroll in a Medicare Advantage Plan

Here are the steps for getting coverage through Medicare Advantage:

  • You enroll in Medicare Parts A and B in your service area.
  • You pay your Medicare Part B premium while in a Medicare Advantage plan. (Most people do not have a Part A premium. Some MA plans have a $0 monthly premium.)
  • Medicare pays a flat amount to your Medicare Advantage plan to provide your medical care. You receive all of your Part A and B healthcare through your Medicare Advantage plan.

All Medicare Advantage plans protect you with an out-of-pocket maximum. The maximum applies to Part A and Part B services. The carriers calculate Part D (drugs) out-of-pocket costs separate from the annual maximum.

Every state has different regulations. You might want to talk with an elder law attorney near you to find out how your state might vary from the information in this article.

References:

Boomer Benefits. “What is Medicare Advantage?” (accessed October 24, 2019) https://boomerbenefits.com/medicare-advantage/what-is-medicare-advantage/

 

How to Help Your Aging Parents Get Financial Benefits
How to Help Your Aging Parents Get Financial Benefits

How to Help Your Aging Parents Get Financial Benefits

How to Help Your Aging Parents Get Financial Benefits. If you notice your aging parent is struggling financially, you probably want to pitch in and help. Of course, doing so will mean that less money is available to pay your bills and save for your retirement. Your loved one’s money troubles could create economic stress for you and your children. It would be wonderful if you could find a pot of gold in the backyard, but we live in the real world. Here are some tips on how to help your aging parents get financial benefits.

The National Council on Aging: How to Help Your Aging Parents Get Financial Benefits

This National Council on Aging created a tool that will search through more than 2,000 federal, state, and private benefits programs across the United States. The search tool can connect your older loved one with assistance that can help pay for housing, medication, food, medical services, utilities, transportation and other necessities.

You can call 888-268-6706 to find a Benefits Enrollment Center in your area. An agency employee can help you at no charge to locate the benefits for which your parent is eligible. After you fill out a questionnaire, you will receive a detailed report listing all those programs and telling you how to apply. You can get application forms and assistance at the Benefits Enrollment Center.

If you prefer, you can do the search yourself online at BenefitsCheckUp.org. This search tool is free and confidential. Once you create the list of programs for which your parent qualifies, you can apply for benefits. Many of the forms are available at the enrollment centers or available online. Some programs require you to contact that entity directly to apply.

How the Benefits Locator Works: How to Help Your Aging Parents Get Financial Benefits

The online questionnaire will ask for information like your parent’s:

  • Date of birth
  • Income
  • Assets
  • Expenses
  • ZIP code
  • Prescription drugs
  • Veteran status

Your parent must be age 55 or older to use the locator tool. Allow about 15 minutes to complete the online intake form.

Types of Programs for Seniors: How to Help Your Aging Parents Get Financial Benefits

There are many government benefits for older Americans, but do not overlook private groups that assist people in need. Some people do not apply for Social Security retirement benefits, because they did not work for enough years to qualify for full retirement benefits.

Your loved one might qualify through a spouse’s work record or be eligible for partial benefits, based on his own limited work history. A few hundred dollars more a month can make enough of a difference that your parent does not need financial help from you.

Depending on several factors like income, age and geographic area, your older parent might qualify for:

  • Housing through HUD
  • Home repairs or weatherization
  • Transportation
  • Reduced real estate taxes
  • Financial management and budget counseling
  • Groceries through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the Emergency Food Assistance Program, the Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program, the Commodity Supplemental Food Program and many regional and local food pantries, meal delivery programs for low-income or elderly people.
  • Prescription drugs through Part D Medicare coverage, Medicaid, the federal Low-Income Subsidy (also called Extra Help), drug manufacturers, and charitable groups.
  • Utility bill help, including discounts on heating and cooling bills
  • Monthly cash benefits through the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) for very low-income seniors with few assets.

These are just some examples of the multitude of benefits programs available for seniors.

Every state makes its own regulations, so your state might vary from the general law of this article. Be sure to talk to the Law Office of Frank Bruno, Jr. an elder law attorney in New York.

References:

HuffPost. “How to Find Financial Assistance for Elderly Parents.” (accessed October 9, 2019) https://www.huffpost.com/entry/how-to-find-financial-ass_b_11388340

Suggested Key Terms: how to find benefits for seniors, how to locate assistance programs for older adults