When I was very young, I remember my mother using the phrase, “When it rains, it pours.” I learned at an early age, that meant “Often troubles come in bunches.” The first time I saw the Morton Salt ad it didn’t make sense to me. What did the little girl under her umbrella and walking in the rain have to do with “Troubles coming in bunches?” I figured the worst-case scenario was that she was going to get in trouble when she got home for spilling the salt all over the ground.
At some point, I realized that Morton was just trying to show that moisture won’t affect how smoothly their salt will pour from its container. I had to smile when a friend sent me an e-mail of colorized versions of some old black and white photos. Included was a photo of the Morton salt ad. He suggested that only those of us from a certain age bracket could really appreciate these old photos. I’m not sure what he was inferring, but I still think my mother’s definition comes to mind when most of us hear that phrase.
I began my career in the life insurance business almost 50 years ago. One of the recommendations that my manager made to help me become successful was to seek clients that were within five years of my own age. In this case he recommended that I seek out people 20 to 30 years of age as potential clients for life insurance. Most of the ones I met thought they were going to live forever. For me, it was a tough couple of years in the business.
Fortunately, I incorporated health insurance into my portfolio of insurance products, and ultimately focused on senior health products. Today those 20 to 30-year-old youngsters are 65 to 75 years old and have been facing some serious health insurance decisions. The older we get, the more we realize how important it is to have the right insurance, at the right time, for our specific health needs. But, therein lies the problem. We don’t have a crystal ball and we can’t predict what our future health needs might be. We’ve talked with hundreds of people with diverse health histories and often with multiple health issues. It’s another example of troubles in bunches. Which health insurance program is best? Everyone’s needs are different.
Almost everyone will qualify for Medicare when they turn 65. At this time, there is no premium charge for Medicare Part A (hospitalization). I’ve never met anyone who didn’t take advantage of Medicare Part A, when they qualified for it. Medicare Part B (medical costs outside the hospital) can be purchased for a reasonable fee and depends on your income. Private insurance companies provide supplemental insurance to help cover some of the cost of the deductibles and copayments that Medicare doesn’t cover. Fees vary according to age, health, and amount of coverage. These supplemental policies are guaranteed renewable for life, as long as premiums are paid on time.
Medicare Part D involves private insurance companies working in conjunction with Medicare to provide help with the costs of some prescription drugs. Those fees vary widely, according to types of drugs covered and percentage of costs paid by the plan.
Medicare Part C often may offer a prescription plan (Part D) accompanied by hospital and out-patient benefits. Each year, during Open Enrollment, the Medicare Part C and D plans are reviewed, modified, and either renewed, replaced, or sometimes discontinued. These plans are not guaranteed for more than a calendar year and include an annual list of doctors, hospitals, and pharmacies to choose from for services.
No wonder people get confused! The manual for this information (2017 issue) is 135 pages of what I just tried to condense into a few paragraphs. We need a translator. However, it goes beyond just Medicare. What about all the health-related needs that are not covered by Medicare and most supplemental coverage? Many plans do not include dental coverage. Medicare certainly doesn’t cover dental benefits. Just because we turn 65 doesn’t mean our dental needs and expenses won’t continue.
I’ve written several columns showing how few people benefit from Medicare long term skilled nursing home benefits. Even if we qualify, the most we could expect to receive in benefits would be 100 days. What about custodial or long-term care? What about chiropractic care, hearing tests and hearing aids? What about eyecare and glasses? We learned last month that Medicare does not cover non-medical cancer related costs. Certainly, final expenses are not included. These are the decisions we’re faced with as we try and cover all our bases. What can we pay out of pocket and what do we insure against?
Our job, as I see it, is to help make Medicare and supplemental coverages understandable, affordable, and fit your specific needs. “When it rains, it pours.” Maybe we can help with the umbrella. Give us a call.
Orion Steen is a licensed agent and specializes in Medicare supplemental plans. He has been advising his clients on life and health insurance matters in Arizona for over 45 years. He can be reached for related questions by E-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, call toll-free 888-846-6891 or cell 623-846-6891.