When Beth Nemec’s father, a former accountant, started showing signs of dementia, she stepped in to help her mother take over the household accounts. In spite of the convenience of having her parents’ monthly Medicare insurance payments and mail-order pharmacy bills paid automatically from their joint account, Beth had some concerns.
As Director of Community Engagement at Lifespark, she knew too well that many Medicare plans weren’t designed to support seniors as they aged. “Most people shop for a Medicare plan before they turn 65, when it’s hard to anticipate the kinds of services you’ll need 20 years from now,” she said.
Does the plan still fit?
When Beth’s parents retired 30 years ago, they chose a Medicare Supplement Insurance policy which might have been a good choice for them when they were both healthy. Now, however, with her father’s declining health and her mother’s growing medical needs, she doubted that that plan still made sense. “I gently suggested to my mom that we might want to look into other options, but she said she couldn’t handle one more change, so we tabled the discussion,” Beth said.
After her father died in 2021, Beth brought it up again, but her mother’s response was, again, no. “Her main objection was that changing plans would be too confusing and complicated,” Beth said. “But when I offered to explore other options, she didn’t push back.”
Asking the right questions
First, Beth took a close look at her mother’s Supplemental Policy which came with a sizable monthly premium and some additional out-of-pocket costs, yet no dental or vision coverage. Next, she reached out to an insurer with a range of Advantage plans. Tapping into her Lifespark knowledge and expertise, she was able to ask questions that were relevant to an 85-year-old, not a 64-year-old, soon-to-be-eligible Medicare member.
Among her questions: coverage for hospitalization and rehabilitation stays, the prescription drugs her mother was currently taking, dental and periodontal work, vision exams, eyeglasses, whether her mother’s physicians were in network, and the ease of signing up.
Beth learned that under the Advantage plan, her mother could get dental, vision, and prescription drug coverage, plus a $100.00 per year allowance over-the-counter medical products, and a ‘healthy eating’ discount worth hundreds of dollars a month.
Numbers in hand, Beth made her pitch, explaining to her mother that she could save her at least $237/month by switching to a Medicare Advantage plan, and that because her mother’s primary care physician, who is a geriatrician, was in-network, she wouldn’t have to change doctors. “My mom said, ‘If you do all the work, I’m fine with that,’” she said.
With Beth taking the lead, the transition went well. “The one thing I wish I’d known is that it was up to us to cancel the Supplemental Policy after we made the switch,” she said. Other than that, it’s been a win-win for mother and daughter.
For tips on accessing more services and support for less money, download our free eBook: Helping Your Parents Win the Independence Game: What to know about their health insurance plan and why it matters