Boring But Useful: Medicare/Medicaid – They Sound Alike But Are Very Different

BORING BUT USEFUL:

MEDICARE – MEDICAID — THEY SOUND ALIKE BUT ARE VERY DIFFERENT

Many of us think if we’re eligible for Medicare then we’re also eligible for Medicaid — although very few of us understand the difference.  I am going to attempt to explain that difference without putting you to sleep.

MEDICARE: Medicare is a federally funded insurance program for “seniors.”  It is available to all US citizens and green card holders from the age of 65 and higher.  There are two parts:  Part A (Hospital Coverage) and Part B (Medical Insurance).  If you choose a simple ‘medicare’ then you also have to choose doctors and hospitals that accept medicare.  (Please see my article, “Choosing Good Care Within the Medicare System”).   In 2017 the Part B premium average is $134 but if you have a higher income it can go as high as $600.00/month.   If you live on or close to your social security income it’s $109.00 on average.

For hospital insurance you usually pay a deductible — this can go into the thousands which is why many people choose to have a “supplemental” plan.  These plans are run by insurance companies and often are free — which is an HMO.  As you know, we at Parenting Your Parents, recommend PPO plans which is an out of pocket cost.

MEDICAID:  Medicaid is a state administered program with some funds coming from state taxes and other funds coming from federal Medicaid grants given to needy states.  (In other words, the poorer the state the more federal funds.)  The benefits are intended for low-income patients who cannot otherwise afford medical assistance.  To be eligible for Medicaid, you must meet a mandatory list of standards that are partially enforced by the federal government.

Again you must be a US Citizen or Green Card holder to be eligible.  For the purposes of seniors, they must be in a nursing home facility or receive “home or community-based care.”  Bottom line, a senior cannot have assets or income over the poverty level if they want to qualify for medicaid.

Here is the kicker – qualifying for Medicaid triggers a five year look back to ascertain that you (the senior or the child) have not recently transferred a home, bank account, and/or other assets  to avoid paying for nursing home care.  And this is the tricky part — when do you begin the asset transfer to children, a trust, and/or a power of attorney.  And that is where Parenting Your Parents is a resource.

This is a very tough subject.  In our experience  parents don’t want to give up control and the kids are the prime suspects, i.e. “they want to take our money away and use it for vacations!”  For the kids the hardest part is that one parent is going to go into a nursing home and you have to be prepared (unless you have more that $10 million in assets).

Bottom line — ask yourself — do you want these homes to get your money or do you want the money used for the greater good — whatever that might be.  Once that question is answered, you can move forward in either direction  . . . protecting your assets now or letting fate take her course.

Hospital to Rehab – The Great Medicare Scam

 

 

You have phones in hospitals — don’t be afraid to use them.

This is one of my all time favorites — the “Hospital to Rehab” scam. Here’s how it works:

A medicare, assisted living center client needs to go to the hospital . . . usually dehydration, a urinary tract infection or some “non-death” reason. The person is transported to a hospital ER and the battery of tests begins. (For purposes of this hypothetical it’s the second time the patient has come to the ER because to get paid the hospital MUST admit them.)

The elderly patient becomes totally disoriented (happens 90% of the time in the over 80 crowd — only 80% in the over 75 crowd!). Think about it, strangers come in at all hours of the day and night, sticking needles in your arm, taking blood pressure and sleep is constantly interrupted. Time is indistinguishable. Once again, the elderly have no control and in many cases become combative because they don’t want to be there and no one explains what is going on. Medication is given to calm them down — the heavy sedative. Usually security is in the room to assist. Imagine how it must feel to be held down and given a shot. It gets better — the patient becomes woozier — powerful sedatives plus loss of control . . .

Next step, an alarm is added in case you get out of bed (like to go to the bathroom) so this very loud noise adds to the alarm and loss of control. Bottom line, you end up laying in bed, woozy, scared and not understanding who you are or where you are. Then — boom — the diagnosis, a UTI! OK, one day of treatment (antibiotics) and you can go home! NOT SO FAST! You’re weak, you need physical therapy, the drugs are not through your body . . . a myriad of excuses as to why you must go to rehab.

[An aside here, once the insurance company approves physical therapy they will pay for ALOT of sessions. Hence, these rehab centers love physical therapy patients. Most of them are also medicaid nursing homes.]

Oops — Bad news —- you can be discharged on Saturday but the rehab doesn’t take transfers on the week-end because they don’t pay people to do the paperwork on Saturday and Sunday. Now we offer to pay for a private physical therapist to come to the assisted living center and work with the patient in his/her home. Nope — can’t do that either because the hospital will only discharge you Against Medical Advice (AMA). Medicare doesn’t’ pay AMA claims.

Bottom line, the elderly patient has to stay in the hospital for two extra unnecessary days before rehab will admit him. There is a five day minimum and now a UTI is a 13 day hospital stay! Who wouldn’t be stark raving mad!?!