2002-12-04 / Seniors

Savvy Senior

The Gazette is pleased to bring you a new question/answer information column for seniors called Savvy Senior. This new column has been created as a means to serve the growing senior population and the families who support them by providing useful information and valuable resources. Every week the Savvy Senior column will provide answers to questions on anything and everything you ever wanted to know about senior living in the 21 century.

You Ask The Senior Question—We Find The Savvy Answer

The Savvy Senior will cover such topics as:

• Senior Services and Benefits

• Social Security Issues

• Aging Concerns

• Travel and Leisure

• Health and Wellness

• Health Care

• Senior Nutrition

• Retirement

• Investing

• Taxes

• Wills, Trust and Estates


• Senior Living

• Education

• Senior Activities

• Veterans Benefits

• Volunteerism

• Computers and Technology

• Senior Employment

Send your senior questions to: Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070, or see our Web site at wwwsavy.senior.org.

Dear Savvy Senior,

I am writing because my husband, who took care of all of the family business,

recently passed away from a heart attack. I feel lost and confused because now, at 62, I am having to learn about all our insurance and financial matters. I have recently been reading up about Medicare health insurance, the different Medicare parts, and what Medicare doesn't cover. Could you please pass on the basics about Medicare to other foLks like me who have not paid attention to such matters, but may have to some day.

Thanks for all you do for seniors,

Learning as I go.

Dear Learning,

Thanks for your savvy question and remember to be kind to yourself Most of us feel lost and confused when we take on something new but like anything, the more you learn and the longer you do it, the easier it becomes.

The Medicare program is a federal health insurance program for people 65 years of age and older, and certain disabled people under age 65. You must be a United States citizen or permanent resident of the U.S. who receives benefits from Social Security to be eligible.

Medicare has two parts, Part A and Part B. Medicare Part A (hospital n insurance) helps pay for inpatient hospital care, inpatient care in a skilled nursing facility, home health care, and hospice care. Medicare Part A pays for all but $812 of a hospital stay per benefit period in 2002.

Medicare Part B (medical insurance) helps pay for doctor services, some preventive services, outpatient hospital and emergency room services, medical equipment and supplies, laboratory services, x-rays, physical therapy, ambulance services and a number of other medical services and supplies that are not covered by Medicare Part A. Medicare Part A is free, but Medicare Part B is a voluntary program (which may be refused) and costs $54 a month in 2002. Medicare Part B pays 80 percent of services covered under Part B after a $ 100 deductible. Also note that Medicare does cover some nursing home or long term care expenses, but only to a small degree.

To qualify for Medicare nursing home benefits you must have been an inpatient in a hospital for a least three days and discharged no more than 30 days from entering the nursing home. A physician must also "certify' that you do require skilled nursing care or rehabilitation that can only be provided in a skilled nursing facility. If you qualify, Medicare pays 100 percent of the charges for the first 20 days: from the 21 st to the I 00th day, the patient must pay $101.5 0/day while Medicare picks up the difference. After the I 00th day, Medicare pays nothing.

Other medical services and products not covered by Medicare include outpatient prescription drugs, private hospital room, hospital telephone and TV, routine physicals, most dental care, dentures, routine foot care, hearing aids, routine eye care, acupuncture, health care outside the UNITED STATES and cosmetic surgery.

It is Savvy advice to purchase a Medicare supplemental or Medigap policy at the time you apply for Medicare services. This type policy (regulated by state insurance departments and sold by many companies) is designed to fill in the health care expenses not covered by Medicare. Every new Medicare recipient who is age 65 or older has a guaranteed right to buy a Medicare supplement policy. A company cannot reject you for any policy it sells or it cannot charge you more than anyone else your age. You must however purchase the supplement policy within the six-month window after enrolling in Medicare Part B for the first time. If you apply for a policy after your six month period, some companies may refuse coverage because of health reasons.

For more information about Medicare, contact the Social Security Administration Medicare Department at 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227). Computer savvy seniors can log onto their Web site at wwwmedicaregov. Also see www.ssa.gov. For Medicare health insurance counseling contact your State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP). To find the number in you state call 1-800-833-4227.

Send your senior questions to: Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070, or see our Web site at www.savvysenior.org.

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