How to Help Your Parents Obtain Medical Care

Medical care is expensive in the United States. Many people assume that they will have adequate coverage through Medicare once they turn 65 years of age. However, Medicare Part A may not cover as much medical care as you think. As people age and typically require more health care, it is especially important for the elderly and their adult children to understand how to obtain appropriate medical coverage.
Medicare Coverage for the Elderly
Medicare is a federal government health insurance program for people age 65 and older. Medicare Part A is hospital coverage which is provided to most people who are over age 65. Most people do not need to pay premiums to have coverage under Part A. However, in order to obtain the benefits of Medicare Part B (medical insurance), Medicare Part D (prescription drug insurance) or a Medicare Advantage Plan (similar to an HMO or PPO) most people do need to pay premiums in order to receive coverage. The Medicare website has a good description of each Part’s benefits and costs which you can review with your parents. The employees at your local social security office can also help your parents obtain medical care.
It is important to know and to advise your parents that the cost of Medicare Part B may go up significantly if they do not initially enroll in Part B at age 65. The initial enrollment period for Medicare Part B is seven months long. It begins 3 months before one’s 65th birthday and ends 4 months after one’s 65th birthday.  If an individual does not sign up for Part B benefits during this time and the person is retired then the monthly premiums may increase by 10% for every year that the individual was eligible for coverage and chose not to enroll in the Part B program. For example, if your parents did not enroll in Part B at age 65 and instead enrolled at age 75 then their monthly premiums would be double what they would have been had they enrolled in Part B at age 65. Although your parents will pay the monetary penalty, they can enroll in Medicare Part B at their local social security office from January 1 – March 31 of any calendar year. The 10% annual penalty may be waived if your parents are still working at age 65.
Supplemental Care
Individuals may also choose to enroll in a Medicare Advantage Plan. Several plans are available in each state. The plans vary in cost and in the coverage that they provide. Individuals may view a comparison of the plans for their state on the Medicare website.   The comparison includes the monthly premiums, annual deductible, summary rating, telephone number and link to the health plan website.
While Medicare Part A may cover most of a patient’s costs if the patient is admitted to the hospital, it will not cover the majority of outpatient health care expenses. According to an article published on the National Institute of Health’s website, people typically spend more than $300,000 on health care over the course of their life time and nearly half of that amount is incurred after a person turns 65. Therefore, parents and their children should carefully plan for the likelihood of significant medical expenses during an individual’s elderly years and secure the most cost effective health insurance possible to deal with the probable health care costs.

The information on this page is meant to provide a general overview of the law. The laws in your state and/or city may deviate significantly from those described here. If you have specific questions related to your situation you should speak with a local attorney.

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