Prepare Elderly Parents for Their New Medicare Cards

If you are an individual who focuses on personal data security, one of the most surprising things you discover when it’s time to offer support to aging parents is that  Social Security numbers appear right on the front of the Medicare card. Americans are told not to carry their Social Security cards around, but once they begin receiving Medicare benefits, their Social Security numbers are printed on a different card.

medicare card

CMS will be mailing new cards between April 2018 and April 2019.

The good news is that the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) will be sending updated and more secure cards, issuing them between beginning April 2018 and April 2019. Each new Medicare card will have a unique, randomly assigned identification number that has no connection to a Social Security number. A new Medicare number will cut down on fraud and fight identity theft. CMS will begin mailing about 60 million new cards in April 2018 and will take a year to get them all mailed. No beneficiary needs to do or pay anything for a new card — it will arrive in the mail.     Continue reading

Grandfather First Refused Medicare Because of Scare Tactics and Misinformation

Affordable Care

If the system is too busy or too slow, do exactly what you do with online banking or at other online sites — wait a while and try again.

It’s funny how changes in health care policy seem to generate anxiety, anger, and all sorts of misinformation in the United States. Well, actually it’s not so funny.

How is it that so few people can scare so many others when it comes to keeping many more people healthy? But that describes what has happened with the Affordable Care Act. A small number of fear mongers have frightened many others — often citizens who can benefit from better access to health care.

My husband’s grandfather, a small-town merchant, refused Medicare for years, because of the anxiety, anger, and misinformation associated with the passage of the laws. He would have benefitted if he had signed up in a timely manner for the Medicare coverage that he was entitled to receive. In those days he would have needed to get the forms, probably lengthy ones, fill in the information, mail them, and wait around for several weeks — not like today when, once the IT experts tweak the computer systems, people will be able to sign up in a day or two.

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Thoughts on Medicare Changes at the Over 65 Blog

Over65blog

Check out the Over 65 blog.

The Over 65 Blog is a part of The Hastings Centeran independent, nonpartisan, and nonprofit bioethics research institute that focuses on ethical issues in the areas of health, medicine, and the environment. The Center concentrates on and produces research about making decisions at the end of life, public health priorities, and the role of emerging technologies when it comes to medical care and aging.

The Over 65 Blog examines issues and problems that affect members  of the over-65 generation, and I’ve started to follow it after learning about it on Facebook from Jane Gross, who is on the organization’s board.

Those of us who are adult children and also approaching retirement are watching the Medicare debate with a combination of anxiety, frustration, and resignation. A recent post on the over 65 Blog, The Medicare Showdown, by Daniel Callahan, offers some sobering thoughts about what it may take for Medicare to continue to operate effectively.

Interesting Quotes

  • Quite apart from the long-term deficit crisis, Medicare is in deep trouble: unsustainable in the long run and a burden already. Much higher taxes, especially for the rich but even for the middle class, will be necessary to soften the impact of benefit cuts.
  • The president’s proposal contains a gradual increase of benefits after age 76 to offset inadequate retirement income, a far-sighted and welcome idea.

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Medicare Prescription Drug Plans: Basic Info for 2013

It’s that time of year again — the open season when Medicare beneficiaries keep, change, or make modifications to their prescription drug benefit plans (Part D).

A September 25th Associated Press (AP) article, Report: Double-Digit Premium Hikes Seen in 7 of 10 Top Medicare Prescription Drug Plans appeared online in The Washington Post. Adult children with elder parents should treat this article as an excellent primer that can help them understand more about their parents’ prescription benefits.

The AP article discusses a report by Avalere Health. This report finds that “seniors enrolled in seven of the 10 most popular Medicare prescription drug plans will be hit with double-digit premium hikes next year if beneficiaries don’t shop for a better deal.” The report/press release is about three pages and includes three easy-to-read tables (see linked image at right).

A Few Highlights and Salient Points from the AP Article Continue reading

Out-of-Pocket Medical Expenses Loom Large Despite Medicare

Adult children who help aging parents should check out the Washington Post article At End of Life, Medicare Beneficiaries Spend Thousands Out-of-Pocket. Reporter Sarah Kliff explains that a recent study, Out of Pocket Spending in the Last Five Years of Life (abstract), published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine, examined the amount of money that aging Medicare recipients spend on health care during the last five years of life. The abstract leads to the first two pages of the study, freely available.

According to the Post article, “The average Medicare beneficiary spent $38,688 out-of-pocket during the last five years of life.” This is in addition to the portion that Medicare covers. The Post article also features two excellent charts.

Click here to learn more about the study.

Researchers studied people who died between 2002 and 2008 using data from the Health and Retirement Study (HRS), based at the University of Michigan. HRS is a large nationally representative study funded launched in 1992 and funded by the National Institute on Aging.

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Avoiding a Return Trip to the Hospital

Dr. Cleary speaks about helping patients stay involved with their medical care.

One out of five hospitalized Medicare patients needs to return to the hospital a second time within 30 days of their first discharge.

A second hospital admission, shortly after the first, is a no-win situation for everyone concerned about an elder parent. Patients are often sicker, they are unnecessarily exposed to other hospital bacteria, and families of the patient have more worries and parent monitoring. Moreover, Medicare spends a lot more money — 17 billion dollars — on these readmissions.

A blog post at The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) website, explains a lot more about preventing Medicare patient hospital readmissions. Written by the agency’s director, Carolyn Clancy, M.D., the post provides links to research, successful hospital readmission prevention programs, and patient guides. Dr. Clancy’s columns are also available at the AARP website.

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