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A Medicare Overview for Caregivers

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Caregivers need information and resources when it comes to caring for a parent or loved one receiving Medicare. Here are some quick tips when it comes to helping them make decisions about health care.

Medicare beneficiaries have several options when it comes to how to receive their coverage.

Below is a brief overview of the program’s four parts:

  • Medicare Part A (hospital insurance): Covers inpatient hospital care, skilled nursing facility stays, hospice, and some aspects of home health care.
  • Medicare Part B (doctor’s services): Covers doctor’s appointments, outpatient care in a hospital setting, some home health care, durable medical equipment, and preventive screenings.
  • Medicare Part C (Medicare Advantage plans): Plans sold by private insurance companies. These plans must offer at least the same level of coverage as Medicare Part A and Part B, but may also include prescription drug coverage, routine vision, dental, and/or hearing benefits. When enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan, the beneficiary continues paying their Part B premium, as he or she remains enrolled in Medicare Part A and Part B.
  • Medicare Part D (prescription drug coverage): Prescription drug coverage that can be added to Medicare Part A and Part B, either as a stand-alone Medicare Part D Prescription Drug Plan or as a comprehensive Medicare Advantage Prescription Drug (MAPD) plan that includes drug coverage. These plans are sold by private insurance companies, so costs and coverage details may vary by company.

A beneficiary may also purchase a Medicare Supplement Insurance (Medigap) plan. These provide additional coverage benefits for some of Medicare Part A and Part B’s out-of-pocket costs.

Caregiving tips

Speak with your loved one’s health-care professionals. Understand the condition of the person you’re caring for. Ask clarifying questions about his or her health care, and get information about screenings, prescription medications, and treatment strategies. While the person you’re caring for should make his or her own decisions regarding care, when possible it’s helpful for you to understand as much as possible so that, in the event you must act on his or her behalf, you may comfortably do so.

Seek relief. As a caregiver, you don’t have to shoulder the responsibility of caring for your loved one alone. Some hospitals offer caregiving counseling, if needed. The national service ElderCare can provide you with information on caregiving support groups in your area. You may also consider temporary respite care, in which a surrogate caregiver may be arranged to stand in for you for a limited amount of time.

Keep accurate records. Keep track of your loved one’s bills, appointments, and medications. This will help prevent any unnecessary complications in the event of a clerical error such as double billing. It could also help you stay up-to-date on preventive care, so that your loved one has all the screenings and tests his or her doctor thinks is necessary.

Make a budget. Review your loved one’s health-care costs each month and weigh that against his or her income sources. Determine how your loved one and you can best pay for these health-care expenses. BenefitsCheckup.org, provided by the National Council on Aging, lets you check for programs in your area that can help cover some of your loved one’s health-care costs. You may also wish to contact the IRS about potential savings.

Consider your loved one’s legal needs. If your loved one wishes you to make decisions on his or her behalf, consult your State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP) to begin the process of getting authorized to make Medicare decisions for your loved one.

Be sure to read eHealth’s caregiver guide for more in-depth information. If you have questions about Medicare plan options, you can contact an eHealth licensed insurance agent to learn more.

This article is for informational purposes only. It should never be used as a substitute for professional medical advice. You should always consult with your medical provider regarding diagnosis or treatment for a health condition, including decisions about the correct medication for your condition, as well as prior to undertaking any specific exercise or dietary routine.

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