More than one-third of people with traditional Medicare spent at least 20 percent of their total income on health care in 2013
BY CHRIS LEE: Health care costs are a substantial and growing burden for many people on Medicare and are projected to consume a larger share of total income over time, according to a new analysis from the Kaiser Family Foundation.
The study, Medicare Beneficiaries’ Out-of-Pocket Health Care Spending as a Share of Income Now and Projections for the Future, finds that more one-third of people with traditional Medicare spent at least 20 percent of their total income on out-of-pocket health care costs in 2013. That included premiums, deductibles and cost sharing for Medicare-covered services, as well as spending on services not covered by Medicare, such as dental and long-term care. The analysis of spending as a share of total income does not include enrollees in Medicare Advantage plans, who account for 19 million of the 59 million people with Medicare. Income is measured on a per person basis, which for married couples is income for the couple divided in half. (read more)
BY WENDY CONNICK: Medicare is a fantastic resource for retirees, offering healthcare coverage that would be prohibitively expensive if purchased through a regular health insurance policy. However, Medicare isn’t actually free… and it may not even be cheap if you pick the wrong plan. If you select your Medicare plans using the following criteria, you’ll be able to minimize your monthly premiums — and can end up saving significant moola as a result.
1. Choose Medicare Advantage over Medigap
Medigap plans are a sort of aftermarket add-on for original Medicare. They pay for many of the original Medicare deductibles (the amount you’re required to pay out-of-pocket before your insurance kicks in), and also provide coverage for services that aren’t included in Medicare Part A or Part B. Medicare Advantage plans, on the other hand, work more like the health insurance policy you likely had before you retired. (read more)
BY RONNIE COHEN: Medicare Advantage plans might prove to be a disadvantage for U.S. enrollees in need of skilled nursing care, a new study suggests.
Traditional Medicare enrollees were more likely to enter higher-quality skilled nursing facilities than Medicare Advantage enrollees, the study found. The differences were small but significant and persisted even after researchers adjusted for distance and other factors.
“If you enroll in Medicare Advantage, then you might not have as good an option in a nursing home,” said lead author David J. Meyers, a doctoral student in health services research at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island. (read more)
BY THEO ANDERSON: … The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services is offering special relief for persons affected by the recent hurricanes in the southern United States, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. CMS is allowing a special enrollment period to select a new Medicare Advantage plan or Medicare Part D drug plan. This period lasts until March 31.
In your grandmother’s case, you state that she is changing her permanent residence to Maryland. Due to her change of residence, she would also have additional special enrollment rights: She would be able to purchase a Medicare Supplement plan in Maryland without any medical conditions precluding her from coverage. Under the change of address rules, she would have a two-month window from the time she makes her residence change to make insurance changes. (read more)
BY KIMBERLY LANKFORD: I have an HSA-eligible health insurance policy now, but I’ll be turning 65 later this year and will be signing up for Medicare then. How much can I contribute to an HSA for the year? You can’t contribute to an HSA after you enroll in Medicare, so your contributions for the year will be prorated based on the number of months you had eligible health insurance coverage before you signed up for Medicare. If you had an HSA-eligible policy for, say, the first six months of the year before enrolling in Medicare, you could contribute half of the annual HSA limit. If you had family coverage, that would work out to $3,450 (half of the $6,900 limit for the year); if you had single coverage, it would be $1,725 (half of the $3,450 limit). You’d also be able to make half of the $1,000 annual catch-up contribution available to those age 55 and older. (read more)