When Medicare started, most of us thought it would take care of our medical costs when we got to be 65. Right away, we learned that we have to get supplemental insurance to pay for the 20% of those costs Medicare doesn’t cover. And on top of that, we have to buy a prescription drug plan (Part D). Oh, well. That’s what we do. But here’s the other truth. Even with all that, American seniors are spending an average of another $4000 a year on medical expenses not covered by traditional Medicare.
According to an 11 country study by the Commonwealth Fund published in the journal Health Affairs, American’s are shelling out that amount, which is higher than what any of those in the 10 other countries in the study are spending. For some 19 percent of us, those costs are an obstacle to getting care.
What costs so much? Often, it is treatment for chronic conditions and medications not covered by Medicare, among other things. Medicare doesn’t cover hearing aids, dental care or many kinds of assistive devices, just as a few examples. My mother in law at 92 is paying over $300 a month for one medication she needs right now that is not covered by Medicare. She can handle the expense, but we know a lot of seniors who couldn’t.
According to the survey, 87% of U.S. respondents 65 or oder indicated having one chronic condition and 68 percent had two or more. Those chronic conditions (such as high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, etc.) need treatment and are managed with medications. Some things aren’t covered by Medicare and that is where the gap lies for seniors. The study concluded among other things that older Americans have difficulty finding high quality care and that we could improve Medicare. I agree.
How does this apply to you and your own aging parents? If your elders are on fixed incomes or do not have an extra $4000 a year to spend on medications and treatment for whatever they’ve got, you could be called upon to help. If you don’t like surprises like being asked when you’re not expecting it, try finding out what your aging parents are spending out of pocket for medical care. Ask them if they have been prescribed any medication in the last year that they didn’t get because they couldn’t afford it. Ask them if any diagnostic test or treatment was recommended that they didn’t get because of the out of pocket cost. If you can help out, offer to do so for aging parents with modest means. They may be too embarrassed to ask for help and simply do without what is prescribed.
The limitations of Medicare are a reality with have to live with, as we do with any government sponsored program. There is no question that it does an enormous amount of good for millions of seniors. Be glad about that and be aware that aging parents could also need some extra assistance from you as they age, need more care and face rising costs. We want them to age with dignity and with as much medical support as they deserve.
If you aren’t sure about what to look for in your older clients who may be developing dementia, you can learn fast at AgingInvestor.com. Just click here to sign up for our informative webinar, about what aging clients need and watch it anytime. It’s approved for an hour of CE credit by the CFP Board.
Until next time,
Carolyn Rosenblatt, RN, Attorney