Understanding Your Parent’s Medicare Coverage

Understanding Your Parent’s Medicare Coverage

As our parents age into Medicare and make choices about their health care coverage, they may appreciate our interest and even advice, but it helps if we know a little about their options, the enrollment process, and what Medicare means to their long-term medical and financial well-being. Even though Medicare insurance can seem a bit complicated when you haven’t reached eligibility yourself, it’s important to understand what they are going through and what you can do to help. Discuss Medicare enrollment with them, and listen to their concerns.

Medicare is the federal health insurance program for people who are 65 years of age or older, and individuals of any age with certain disabilities, including those with End-Stage Renal Disease (permanent kidney failure requiring dialysis or a transplant, sometimes called ESRD). Whether your parents are retired or not when they reach eligibility, Medicare coverage can open up an array of options that can affect their health care services and costs, now and in the future.

When your parents reach eligibility, they can choose to receive their Medicare benefits through a Medicare Advantage Plan or through Original Medicare. If your parents are comfortable with online comparison tools, they will find a great deal of information at their fingertips, including plan benefits and costs. They can find a plan based on their own personal criteria, needs, and preferences, including the inclusion of certain medications in a prescription drug plan’s formulary, or list of covered drugs. These sites make researching, comparing and enrolling in Medicare coverage easier than ever before. If your parents are exploring their options and would like to discuss the process with you, these sites are easy for you to navigate as well, and can give you a better understanding of what types of benefits are available to them. For an outline of important dates to remember when enrolling in a Medicare plan, click here.

Costs can vary greatly between plans, so encourage your parents to take time to consider their budgetary needs as they enter this new chapter in their lives. If they currently require prescription medications, individual plans will have a specific formulary (a list of covered drugs) and tiers of pricing to consider before making a final decision. If your parents do not enroll in prescription drug coverage now, they may have to pay a late enrollment penalty when they choose to enroll later.

Once they choose a plan, talk to them about their benefits, physicians, and services, and encourage them to take advantage of the preventive services offered, which can help keep them healthy and active for years to come. Even though Medicare is individual coverage, the health care your parents receive can certainly affect the whole family. You want them to have quality health care services without financial stress from high medical expenses. They deserve to find the right coverage at the right price, and having advice and support from loved ones may make a difference.