A couple of weeks ago we talked about the basics of Medicare , such as what are the different parts (A-D) and requirements for qualifying and receiving benefits. The reality is most people don’t know much, if anything, about this government benefit, so don’t be ashamed if you’re one them! But it’s not too late to learn about your options. Although waiting is not the best way to plan for government benefits, it’s better late than never.
First, Medicare and Medi-Cal (Medicaid in the rest of the country) are different. Medicare is Federal health insurance for seniors (generally, those over 65). It is available to almost all seniors. Depending on the various parts and programs in which you enroll, Medicare handles the charges for your hospital, physicians, and drugs. Although Medicare does have a skilled nursing component, it only covers that need to a maximum of 100 days under some very limited circumstances.
Medi-Cal is a joint Federal and State program. It has numerous different sub programs. The most well known is Medi-Cal Long Term Care. This program does cover skilled nursing on a much more general basis than Medicare. Long Term Care Medi-Cal is only available to those who qualify based on limited net worth. Of course, if one is not qualified to begin with due to excess net worth there are typically a number of things that can be done to get the person qualified.
As Investment News reported, most people are unaware about the basics of Medicare. What’s the biggest problem with not knowing anything about about this government insurance you say? It could cost you money, possibly a lot of money.
The basic recommendation is that one should apply for Medicare three months before the 65th birthday. And this should be done even if you don’t intend to use the benefit for some time. Why? Because waiting too long can trigger a penalty causing the premium on Medicare Part B to be increased by 10%. For those on Medicare already, few know that the passage of the health care system reform law changed the annual open-enrollment period for those who want to change their coverage options. In previous years, open enrollment was between Nov. 15 and Dec. 31. This year, the dates change: it will open a month earlier this year and but it will also end earlier on Dec. 7. This could cause people to end up waiting beyond the deadline to elect to make a change! After all, changing to a more appropropriate plan can end up saving money. SO it is important to calendar these dates in your diary.
If you have questions about Medicare and want to stay up to date with all the changes going on, I always recommend visiting the government site. Of course, there are a number of health insurance agents who are very knowlegable on this subject, also.