Do a Benefits Checkup

Get ready for Medicare Open Enrollment

“Dad, what is this regular charge deducted from your checking account?”

Dad: “I don’t know what that is for.”

“Well you are paying for it every month and if you don’t know what it is, I’m going to cancel it.” (Two hours of phone calls later, it’s canceled.)

The next week….

Dad (calling confused and panicked): “I’m at the pharmacy and they told me my medication isn’t covered! They said the insurance plan for my medicine was canceled!? I have to have that coverage!” 

Do you speak “Benefits”?

It’s a true story! If the daughter had known that his Medicare Part D was charged on his credit card monthly, it would have saved a lot of headache.

But making sense of benefits and coverage is not easy. However, when you look at what it costs not to have the right benefit coverage it’s definitely worth getting it sorted out. With Medicare open enrollment from October 15th to December 7th, now is the ideal time for a “benefits check-up”. 

You can’t do your own mammogram, but you can do your own benefits check.

Three steps to do a benefits self-check:

  1. If you want help figuring out which Medicare program is best for the older adult’s situation, you can call your State Health Insurance Program (SHIP) for free counseling and assistance. This is a great option to get one-on-one guidance regarding Medicare.
  1. Most people on Medicare have a supplemental insurance plan, but not all of them know or use all of the benefits available to them under their supplemental insurance plan. For example, some plans offer things like meal delivery, some have a “store” and give an allowance for things such as medical equipment and coverage for over the counter medicines. If you aren’t sure what the supplemental insurance covers, call the company with a list of the older adult’s needs in mind and see what benefits are offered to address those needs. 
  1. If there is any chance the older adult qualifies for Medicaid, you can take this preliminary test through the American Council on Aging’s website. Once you have a sense of the likelihood of them qualifying you can move forward with that application. Once someone is covered by Medicaid the benefits include inpatient and outpatient hospital services, physician services, laboratory and x-ray services, and home health services, among others.

Two more helpful tips:

  1. To see a list of surprising things covered by Medicare and a graphic that outlines the differences in Parts A, B, C and D, you can read our recent post titled, “Medicare Surprises”.
  2. Make sure you remember the difference between the terms Medicare and Medicaid since they are very easy to confuse. Try the following trick to help.
    Medicaid: Think of how it ends in “aid”. That will help you remember that it has to do with “financial AID”.
    Medicare: Think of how it ends in “care”. That will help you remember that it has to do with on-going “health CARE”

Here’s the best news! If you want to make sure you have the best benefit plan and coverage for your older adult and you don’t want to figure it out yourself, we have the perfect solution for you. A Ways & Wane Certified Care Advisor can do it all for you. (They can even complete a Medicaid application.) They will take the time to understand your particular needs and situation and have the expertise to make sure the best coverage is in place.

May you find joy in loving one another well.

Elizabeth Dameron-Drew is the Co-founder and President of Ways & Wane. She walked closely with her own father through his years of waning. She lives near Seattle with her two teenage sons, husband and two rescue dogs.