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Health Insurance 101 for Senior Citizens 

Long term care insurance: What is it really?

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Personal Safety for Grandma and Grandpa

Prescription Medication: You have to get it right

Social Security: Can I get it now?

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Medicare Supplement Plans: 10 Important Shopping Tips

Medicare supplement plans have standard policies that are pretty much the same although the prices can vary widely, so you need to shop around.  You should consider how much your parent needs to spend on health care each year (premiums, deductibles, co-payments, excess charges, prescription drugs, etc.), how a Medicare supplement policy may affect these costs, and other factors as to what your elderís future healthcare might involve.  Other shopping tips for Medicare supplement plans include: 

(1) Don't buy more coverage than needed. Duplicate coverage is expensive, unnecessary and is also usually prohibited. 

(2) Always be careful when replacing an existing Medicare supplement policy. A parent must be given credit for the time spent under the old Medicare supplement in determining if any restrictions or pre-existing conditions apply under a new policy.  However, your parent will need to verify that they intend to terminate the old Medicare supplement and make sure that they are set up with the new policy before they cancel. 

(3) Don't be pressured into purchasing a new policy.  You need to take your time and make sure that you purchase the best Medicare supplemental policy available.  Never allow yourself or your parent to be forced or frightened into purchasing a policy or switching from one policy to another.  (Pressuring prospective buyers of these policies is actually illegal.) 

(4) Make sure to know the company that you're dealing with. You should always check with your state insurance department to make sure the company and agent are licensed.  Also, you should always beware of any claims that a specific policy is sponsored by a state agency or an insurance agent is working for the state or federal governments. 

(5) Always make sure that you can renew your new Medicare supplement policy. States require that these Medicare supplement policies be renewable. What this means is that the company must renew these policies unless an individual fails to pay the premiums or lies about their health on the application. You need to beware of older policies that may allow the company to cancel on an individual basis. 

(6) You should check for preexisting condition exclusions. Don't be misled by phrases such as "no medical examination require". If your parent has had a recent health condition, the new policy may not cover that condition for a period of six months. 

(7) You need to decide on a date for the policy to become effective. Your parent may not need the new policy until the previous policy has expired or some other condition has occurred to determine the effective date of your parentís new Medicare supplement policy. This is usually not a problem, but, you need to get this in writing. 

(8) Always complete your new application very carefully. Never believe it if an agent says your previous medical history is not important.  If you or your parent leaves out pertinent medical information, coverage could be refused for a period of time for any medical condition that you or your parent neglected to mention. This omission may also allow the company to cancel the policy. 

(9) Use the "free look" provision. Insurance companies must provide at least 30 days for you to review a new Medicare supplement policy.  If your parent then changes their mind during this time, they may cancel the policy and receive a free refund of monies already spent. 

(10) Never pay cash for your Medicare supplement policy. You should always pay with a check, money order or bank draft payable to the insurance company rather than the agent.  Always be sure to get a receipt that includes the insurance companyís name, address and telephone number.

Some information from How to Care for Aging Parents by Virginia Morris 

Additional information and web page by Paul Susic M.A. Licensed Psychologist Ph.D. Candidate  Clinical Director- Senior Care Psychological Consulting

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