Thursday, August 5, 2010

Questions About Your Parent's Insurance? National Program Offers Free Help

Good help is hard to find. Especially if it's free.

When it comes to our aging parents' insurance--Medicare, Medicaid, long-term care or life products--we Boomers may need help to understand the benefits and clarify the issues. All the better if the advisor is well trained, doesn't charge a fee and won't try to sell us something we don't need.

Such qualified, impartial advisors are just a call or a visit away, thanks to a nationwide government-funded network called State Health Insurance Assistance Programs (SHIPS). Specially trained in senior health insurance issues, the counselors can answer your questions and help you understand your health care choices.

Besides consulting one-on-one on the phone or in person, they also give group presentations on insurance-related topics.

You might call a SHIPS advisor if you're:

1. Choosing a Medicare policy for your parent and need advice.

2. Considering purchasing a long-term care policy for your parent or yourself, and wonder what questions to ask.

3. Purchasing a Medicare Part D Prescription Drug Plan and need help comparing the various plans.

4. Having trouble making sense of your parent's Medicare statements and medical bills.

SHIPS operate under slightly different names in all 50 states. In Washington State, for example, the program is called Statewide Health Insurance Benefits Advisors (SHIBA). For information on a program in your state, visit the SHIPS page on the Medicare website.


  1. Here is some simple advice when considering long-term care insurance.

    Buy a policy that meets the federal guidelines, that's called a "tax-qualified policy."

    Buy a policy that meets your state's guidelines, that's called a "Partnership-qualified policy.”

    Buy a Daily Benefit that is high enough to cover most of the cost of care in your area.

    If home care is important to you, make sure the policy allows for all of the Daily Benefit to be used for care at home.

    As a general rule, buy a policy that has a "Maximum Lifetime Benefit" that is close to your net worth.

    If you’re healthy, you should probably purchase a policy on your own, rather than through your employer.

    Lastly, shop around. LTC insurance premiums vary a lot from one company to the next. Your age, health history, and choice of benefits have a big impact in determining the premium. Get quotes from at least 6 of the top companies before choosing your policy.

    Scott A. Olson

  2. Scott,

    Thank you for your insightful comments on long-term care insurance. I appreciate your clarity and completeness.

    The readers of this blog (Boomers Guide to Eldercare) are generally consulting it to get help with their parents' affairs and issues, rather than their own. That's why I've emphasized information on Medicare, Medigap and Medicaid, rather than long-term care insurance. Your comment was a good addition.


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