The Herald Bulletin

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Columns

February 1, 2014

Dennis Lanane: Do your research when comparing Medicare plans

Triad has been doing quite a bit of research on the future of Medicare Advantage plans. We had a report in October at our monthly Triad meeting by one of our presenters that the plans will be losing some of their federal subsidies, which could cause some policy holders to lose or see reductions in some of their benefits.

There is evidence that Medicare Advantage plans are designed to make benefits unattractive to people with costly conditions or high risks of needing expensive treatments, and they are steered into the traditional Medicare. The intention of the federal government subsidizing these plans was to lower the costs of Medicare by having private insurance companies offering the same or better benefits than Medicare. Because of the way the insurance companies have designed these Medicare Advantage plans, this is not working. So the subsidies will be reduced.

Those who have Medicare Advantage plans — and their families — will be especially interested in attending this month’s Triad meeting at Mounds Mall, scheduled for Thursday, Feb. 20 at 10:30 a.m. John W. Williams from the Indiana Senior Health Insurance Information Program (SHIIP) will speak about Medicare Advantage plans and other healthcare policies. SHIIP is a free and unbiased counseling program provided by the Indiana Department of Insurance.

One of the most serious problems is the expense of rehabilitation after patients leave hospitals following a surgery or other serious illness. Many people end up in a nursing home for rehabilitation. The problem is that the Medicare Advantage plans do not always pay what Medicare pays.

For instance, in one Medicare Advantage plan, the patient pays $25 for the first 20 days and with Medicare the patient pays zero. If the nursing home’s cost per day is $200, the patient pays $125 a day for days 21 to 56. Under Medicare the patient would pay $40 a day. The Advantage plan costs for 56 days would be $4,875, compared to Medicare’s $1,400. Because of the expense, some nursing homes are requesting your financial information to make sure you have the money to pay the bills, or you cannot get admitted.

A hundred people braved the cold, snowy weather to participate in our January Triad meeting. Our topic was about how people with chronic pain can use different strategies to relieve those symptoms. Dr. Howe from St. Vincent Regional Hospital in Anderson was our speaker. Dr. Howe is a pain management specialist.

Dr. Howe continually mentioned a patient’s mindset in regard to acting responsibly to follow the instructions that could help them. A few things Dr. Howe talked about was the need to keep exercising in order to maintain some range of motion for everyday living activities. Also, we should try to reduce stress in our life. Eat a healthy diet. Join a support group. Learn deep breathing exercises to help your body relax.

At this month’s meeting, we will have informational handouts available on pain management.

Dennis Lanane is chairman of Madison County Triad. His column appears the first Sunday of each month. He can be reached at qparadigm1@gmail.com.

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