The Senior Insider

Does Medicare Open Enrollment apply to Medicare Supplements?

The Open Enrollment Period does not apply to Medicare Supplements. You are permitted to purchase this type of insurance or make changes to your Medicare Supplement at any time throughout the year.

To be clear, a Medicare Supplement, sometimes referred to as Medigap Insurance, is not the same as a Medicare Advantage plan. Advantage plans are plans that provide Medicare benefits while a Medigap policy only supplements your Original Medicare benefits. It helps pay some of the health care costs not covered by Original Medicare such as copayments, coinsurance and deductibles. Medicare Supplements generally do not cover long-term care, vision or dental care, hearing aids, eyeglasses, or private-duty nursing.

You will pay a separate premium in addition to your Medicare premiums and you will also need to purchase a separate Prescription Part D plan as this coverage is not usually included with these plans.

The best time to buy a Supplement policy is during your 6-month Medicare Supplement open enrollment period. During that time you can buy any policy sold in your state, even if you have health problems. This period automatically starts the month you turn 65 and are enrolled in Medicare Part B (Medical Insurance). After this enrollment period, if you are able to buy one, it may cost more.

You cannot have a Medicare Advantage Plan and a Medicare Supplement. In fact, it is  illegal for anyone to sell you a Medicare Supplement policy unless you’re switching back to Original Medicare.

If you are interested in learning more about Medicare Supplements, please contact me after January 1 when information on new rates should be available.

 

Are Grandparents Responsible for Health Insurance?

My wife and I recently took in our eight year old grandson. What should we do about health insurance for him?

An increasing number of grandparents are taking on the responsibility of the care and upbringing of their grandchildren. In fact, more than 100,000 grandparents in Ohio are raising their grandchildren today. How to provide for their health care is a pressing concern for many.Your options for health insurance for your grandson will depend on a number of factors, including your legal status and whether you have employer provided health insurance.

What is your legal relationship?  Is your arrangement to care for your grandchild informal or have you been established as his legal guardian or custodian? If you lack legal guardianship or custody of your grandchild, it is likely to be more difficult for you to seek medical insurance for him.

Will you claim your grandchild as a dependent on our federal income tax return?             You need to be aware that a grandparent who claims a grandchild as a dependent on his or her federal income tax return is responsible for obtaining health insurance for that child. The penalty for not insuring your grandchild can be costly.

Do you have employer provided health insurance?  If you are working and have insurance through your employer, contact your human resource department and health insurance company to find out whether your grandchild can be covered under your policy. There is no clear cut rule concerning insuring grandchildren. You will likely have to prove that you have legal guardianship of your grandchild in order for your insurance provider to accept him/her as a dependent child.

Other insurance options.  Relative caregivers may apply for free or low-cost health and dental insurance for the children they are raising through the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). This program provides health coverage to eligible children through both Medicaid and separate CHIP programs. Check with your state insurance department to find out if your grandchild qualifies.

You can also look into purchasing a “child-only” policy on the Affordable Care Marketplace. Open Enrollment for Affordable Care is going on now through December 15 for coverage beginning January 1, 2018.

Dental Coverage is available as Affordable Care Option

In the Health Insurance Marketplace, you can get dental coverage 2 ways: 
 
1.  as part of a health plan, or 
2.  by itself through a separate, stand-alone dental plan
You can buy a dental plan through the Federal Marketplace only when you enroll in a health plan.
As part of a Health Plan
In the Marketplace, dental coverage is included in some health plans. You can see which plans include dental coverage when you compare them. If a health plan includes dental coverage, you’ll pay one monthly premium for everything. The premium shown for the plan includes both health and dental coverage.
As a separate, stand-alone dental plan                                                                
In some cases separate, stand-alone plans are offered. You may want this if the health coverage you choose doesn’t include dental coverage, or if you want different dental coverage. If you choose a separate dental plan, you’ll pay a separate, additional premium.

An Agent or an 800 Number?

It is as predictable as the season’s changing. Your mailbox will soon be overflowing with letters and brochures on all the different Medicare Advantage Plans. You will see television ad after ad, each claiming their Advantage plan provides the most comprehensive coverage. Most will ask you to go online or call an 800 phone number to sign up. The question is, how do you know which plan to choose?
There is a better way. Before you decide, talk to an independent insurance representative who can sit down face-to-face with you and help you find the right plan for you. Independent brokers represent a number of companies and can explain how coverage differs. They will look for a plan that suits your needs and budget.
Best of all, you will not pay any more for your insurance if you purchase your Advantage Plan or Part D Prescription Drug Plan through an independent broker instead of an 800 number. Brokers and agents are compensated by the insurance company, not the customer.
As an independent agent and broker, I provide my clients with many other services as well, including:
Unbiased Advice: I help my clients choose a plan covering their preferred doctors, hospitals and prescription drugs. I also have a good idea of which companies have the best track record when it comes to pleasing their customers.
Help with questions: My customers have me to turn to when they have questions. That’s a lot better than an 800 number where you may reach a different customer service representative every time you call.
Help with claims: I help my clients navigate the rules and regulations and provide assistance if they need help filing a claim or an appeal. It is personal service that sets the independent representative apart from an 800 number.
No charge for service: There is never a charge for any of these services. They are all a part of the ‘package’ you get when you choose Mutsko Insurance Services. Call me, Laura Mutsko at Mutsko Insurance Services at 440-255-5700 before you decide on a Medicare Advantage Plan for 2017. Information on new plans will be available after October 15 when Open Enrollment begins.

Look who’s eligible for Medicare this year

What do Bob Costas, Liam Neeson and Roseanne Barr have in common?  They will all be celebrating their 65th birthday in 2017, making them eligible for Medicare.  Here are some others who will turn 65 before the end of the year.

March 22 – Bob Costas, journalist

April 10 – Steven Seagal, actor

May 2 – Christine Baranski, actress

May 15 – Chazz Palminteri, actor

May 18 – George Strait, country music singer

May 21 – Mr. T, actor and professional wrestler

June 7 – Liam Neeson, actor

June 18 – Isabella Rossellini, actress, and Carol Kane, actress and comedian

June 20 – John Goodman, actor

July 1 – Dan Aykroyd, comedian and actor

July 17 – David Hasselhoff, Baywatch actor

Sept. 9 – Angela Cartwright, The Sound of Music actress

Sept. 25 – Mark Hamill. actor

Oct. 22 – Jeff Goldblum, actor

Nov. 3 – Roseanne Barr, comedian and actress

Nov. 8 – Alfre Woodard, actress

Nov. 30 – Mandy Patinkin, actor, Homeland star

Look who’s turning 65 in 2017

April 10 – Steven Seagal, actor

May 2 – Christine Baranski, actress

May 15 – Chazz Palminteri, actor

May 18 – George Strait, country music singer

May 21 – Mr. T, actor and professional wrestler

June 7 – Liam Neeson, actor

June 18 – Isabella Rossellini, actress, and Carol Kane, actress and comedian

June 20 – John Goodman, actor

July 1 – Dan Aykroyd, comedian and actor

July 17 – David Hasselhoff, Baywatch actor

Sept. 9 – Angela Cartwright, The Sound of Music actress

Oct. 22 – Jeff Goldblum, actor

Nov. 3 – Roseanne Barr, comedian and actress

Nov. 8 – Alfre Woodard, actress

Nov. 30 – Mandy Patinkin, actor, Homeland star

Are you insured through a Union or Former Employer?

If you are insured through a former employer or union please read all mail concerning your insurance coverage as soon as you receive it. Your dates for making changes may not be the same as Medicare’s open enrollment. Always talk to your benefits administrator before making changes because it can be difficult to get this type of coverage back once it is dropped.

Please explain more about the Medicare Current Beneficiary Survey (MCBS).

The Medicare Current Beneficiary Survey (MCBS) is a survey of people who currently have Medicare. It is used to provide feedback to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services on how people get their health care, the rising cost of health care, and how satisfied people are with their care. The information is used to help CMS better understand the needs of Americans on Medicare.
You may be selected to be a part of the sample group of 16,000 individuals who are asked to participate in this survey each year. Letters from Medicare go out to potential participants in late summer explaining that someone from NORC at the University of Chicago will be in touch to set up an interview.
A professional interviewer will contact you in person or by phone to setup a visit. If you agree to participate in the study, the interview will take about one hour. Your participation in the survey is strictly voluntary.
Those selected to participate represent thousands of other people similar to them. If you are selected, literally no one else can take your place in the study. All of your information will be strictly confidential as prescribed by The Federal Privacy Act of 1974. Your participation is voluntary and your Medicare benefits cannot be affected in any way by the answers that you provide, or by whether or not you choose to participate.
If you are invited to participate and would like to verify your selection in this study, please contact NORC toll free at 1-877-389-3429. You can also visit the respondent website at www.mcbs.norc.org for more detailed information.
The Medicare Current Beneficiary Survey is important to the future of Medicare. Please consider helping in this national effort to improve your Medicare program.

New Medicare Cards to be Issued

Medicare will mail new Medicare cards to all Medicare beneficiaries between April 2018 and April 2019. Your new card will have a new number that’s unique to you using a combination of eleven letters and numbers, replacing your Social Security number. The new card will not change your coverage or benefits.
This change in ID numbers is required by a law enacted two years ago and will help to reduce identity theft. You do not need to take any action to get your new Medicare card. Until you receive a new card in the mail, you should take steps to protect your current card. Do not carry your Medicare card unless you are on your way to a health care appointment. Instead, make a copy and black out all but the last four digits.
Be wary that scammers may devise ways to take advantage of you during the transition to the new cards. Do not be fooled if someone calls or visits you demanding you allow them to switch out your card. Medicare will not send someone to your home or phone you asking for personal information such as your Medicare number. Other points to remember:
• Medicare does not email or visit homes unannounced to “update’ or “verify” data that it already has.
• Medicare will never threaten you with a loss of your benefits for not making an immediate change.
• If you receive a phone call about this, ignore that your caller-id may show that the call is from Medicare or CMS. This is likely a phony caller-id that helps the scammers look more believable.
• When in doubt, contact the Medicare helpline, available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 1-800-633-4227.

If you would like to learn more about Medicare, please join me for my class, Getting Started with Medicare. You will find a list of upcoming classes at www.mutskoinsurance.com/seminars. For all other questions on insurance, including life, health, dental, vision and Medicare Advantage plans, contact me at 440-255-5700. I look forward to helping you.

Can I have a Health Savings Account if I’m on Medicare?

An HSA (Health Savings Account) is a practical way to save for medical expenses and reduce your taxable income. It’s like an IRA for your health care costs. To be eligible for an HSA, you must have a qualifying HDHP (High Deductible Health Plan).
The 2016 annual HSA contribution limit for individuals with HDHP coverage is $3,350 (no change from 2015), and the limit for individuals with family HDHP coverage is $6,750 (a $100 increase from 2015). If you are 55 or older, you can make “catch-up” contributions, meaning you can deposit an additional $1,000 per year. If your spouse is also 55 or older, he or she may establish a separate HSA and make a “catch-up” contribution to that account. You have until the tax-filing deadline (generally April 15) of the following year to make allowable contributions.
Once you are on Medicare, you no longer can contribute to an HSA, however you can use funds already in your account to cover some Medicare costs, including deductibles, copays, vision and dental care. Those on Medicare can also use HSA funds to reimburse themselves for money that’s deducted from Social Security to pay Medicare Part B premiums. Although HSA funds cannot be used for Medicare Supplement insurance plan premiums, they can be used to pay Medicare Part D premiums, Medicare Advantage plan premiums and a portion of long-term-care insurance premiums.
Unlike other Flexible Spending Accounts, money you do not spend each year stays in your account providing you with a tax-advantage. Your money goes in tax-free, grows tax-free and comes out tax-free when you use it for qualified medical expenses.
Once an HSA reaches a certain threshold, the funds can be invested in mutual funds. The earnings from these funds are tax free as long as they are eventually used for qualified medical expenses.
If you have a High Deductible Health Plan (HDHP) and are interested in setting up an HSA, talk to your employer or contact a local bank for details.

 

For answers to your other questions on Life, Health, Dental, Vision, Annuities or Medicare Advantage Plans, please contact me at 440-255-5700 or email me at Lmutsko@mutskoinsurance.com. I look forward to serving you.