Sunday, March 20, 2011

Penny-wise Advice About Medicap Policies

Suppose your aging parent decides to save money by dropping his Medicare Supplement. What do you do? Joy Nicholson-Kane has a ready answer: "Just say 'No.'"

Nicholson-Kane is a social worker at Skagit Valley Hospital's Kidney Center in Mount Vernon, Washington. Working with elders and their families daily has convinced her of the value of Medicare Supplement plans. They're also called Medigap plans.

"The biggest mistake people make in dealing with Medicare is not buying a supplement. People are sure Medicare will cover all their medical expenses, but it won't," she says.

If people depend solely on Medicare coverage, they could be paying hundreds--or even thousands of dollars out of pocket for things like hospital, nursing home, and home care costs.

Here's how these plans can help your parent.

In the hospital: Most Medicare supplements pay the $1,132 hospital deductible. Without a Medicap plan, your parent is out $1,132.

In a nursing home: If your parent is sent to rehab after hospitalization, Medicare A pays in full for the first 20 days. For day 21 and thereafter, there's a daily coinsurance of $141.50. Most Medicare supplements cover this; without such a plan, your parent pays out of pocket.

For medical appointments, therapy, and home health care: After a $162 deductible, Medicare pays 80%, leaving your parent with 20% unless he has a supplement.

All Medicare supplement plans are not alike, however. Ten plans are categorized from A through J. They vary in cost and coverage. Nicholson-Kane advises her patients to purchase an F plan, because its coverage is the most comprehensive.

For more information about these kinds of plans, contact State Health Insurance Assistance Programs (SHIPS). This federally funded national program has trained telephone counselors who can give advice on your parent's insurance options.

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