We want our parents eating a healthy diet so they’ll be around for a long, long time. And, we hope they are financially stable enough to make retirement easy. If you are caring for your parents, you should see to it that they choose good health insurance — a Medicare plan that would be able to cover a significant portion of the health care expenses Medicare won’t cover. These plans only cover one person, so each of your parents will need a separate plan to supplement Medicare.
If they rely solely on Medicare, this could put them in a deep financial hole if they develop a chronic illness or have a major medical event. Fortunately, there are Medicare supplement plans called Medigap insurance that basically fill gaps in Medicare coverage to reduce what your parents would have to spend on health care. These plans are being offered by private health insurance companies through a contract with Medicare.
Here are some starting points to help your parents assess Medigap plans because many states offer a choice of 10 different ones:
1. Evaluate your parents’ health care needs by writing down the medical services they have received over the past 12 months.
2. You should also think about likely future health care needs. If, for example, one of your parents has high blood pressure, that increases the risk for heart disease.
3. You can compare benefits of different Medigap policies on our benefits page. The plans are all standardized and the benefits do NOT vary among plans with the same letter.
Medigap plans are available year round, and are completely independent of the Medicare annual enrollment period. That means it’s possible to pick one up shortly before your parents take that cruise they’ve been waiting for, but there is one concern.
Insurance companies, in most states, are only required to accept a Medigap application from someone with a health problem when that person is first eligible to sign up for Medicare. Later on, the insurer can use discretion and make a judgment about whether health care needs are too expensive to insure someone.
Oh, I better explain that Medicare does NOT cover you when you travel the world. In fact, it usually ends when you get about six hours out of port. That’s true even for emergency medical care. Medicare is usually just for domestic medical intervention. Medigap plans will help you see the world safely, though.
Jim McFadden has over 11 years of executive-level experience in the health insurance industry, is a youth baseball, softball and football coach, and has one of the worst fantasy football records in the world.