Medicare and all its different parts can be extremely confusing. Almost every time I am at an informational event in the community, several people approach me and ask "I'm turning 65 soon what do I need to do?" or other questions about their or their loved ones Medicare coverage.
For someone who has affordable retiree coverage that includes a prescription drug benefit and will continue past age 65, the answer is usually simple. Sign up for Medicare A & B and let your insurer/former employer know. For other folks the answer is anything but simple and dependant on his or her individual circumstances.
While Otsego County Office for the Aging staff are available by appointment to assist county residents, there are other options for those who like to do the research themselves or for their loved ones. Medicare.gov has a wealth of information for those who have the time and interest to explore.
Like many websites, there are multiple ways to access the same information. For example you can search for health plans and drug coverage by clicking the link under find a plan, by clicking on the green "Resource Locator" button across the top or by clicking on the link under Top 7 Services. There is also a whole section on new to Medicare and explanations about the different parts of Medicare under the green "Medicare Basics" button as well as on the right side under "Medicare Benefits."
There is important information, especially for individuals who are covered by both employer-based health insurance and Medicare in the Top 7 Services' "Find Out How Medicare Works With Your Other Insurance." If you are having trouble paying for medical or drug costs, you can find information about available help under the center green button, Medicare Basics and can even apply for Medicare on line.
A relatively new addition is MyMedicare.gov. This is a secure site accessed by a user ID and password that allows you to track your Medicare-covered services. It can be a good tool to see when you had what procedure or test and can also be used to make sure that only services you received are billed to your account.
When you click on the green button across the top for "Manage Your Health" and then click on "Preventative Services" you will see a whole listing of preventative services. In the center of the page is a listing of the preventative services with a short explanation and if you click on any of the light blue links on the left hand side you will find more in-depth information about that particular screening, including how often it is covered, who is eligible and what the cost may be. At the bottom of each page are links to other resources about that particular topic.
The Preventative Services section also contains a check list for you to keep track of your preventative services and a suggestion that you track these services on MyMedicare.gov. The check list may be printed by clicking on the print link under the search box on the top of the page.
The Resource Locator has links to many resources including quality data on hospitals, nursing homes, home health agencies and doctors. You can also connect to searches for Medigap, Medicare or Drug plans. There are actually so many resources that my computer monitor isn't large enough to see them all! I've recently learned that with Internet Explorer, if you hit the F11 key on the top of your keyboard the view of Web page will be enlarged and the tool bars will be hidden. To return to the former view you just hit F11 again. If this still doesn't work for you there is a listing with links for all the topics at the bottom of the page.
Caregivers too, can access caregiver support on Medicare.gov. Under the green "Help and Support" is a section for Caregivers Support.
There are many links to helpful information including preparing for discharge from the hospital, an opportunity to sign up for Ask Medicare, an electronic newsletter, caregiver tips and topics, care options and many more.
Medicare.gov has information for just about everyone. I suggest you take a few minutes (or hours) to explore it soon. Otsego County residents are welcome to call the Office for the Aging at 547-4232 or 432-9041 for assistance with Medicare related or other issues.
Frances A. Wright is director of the Otsego County Office for the Aging. 'Senior Scene' columns can be found at www.thedailystar.com/seniorscene.