3 Common Mistakes People Make by Waiting to Sign Up for Medicare

I don’t know about you, but I don’t plan to retire at 65. I mean, that’s only 25 years away. And I like my job. Maybe that’s you.

Even still, don’t put off signing up for Medicare when you turn 65. Here’s Why.

Mistake #1: Waiting until after you retire to sign up for Part A. 

Why it’s a mistake: Medicare is basically free money. You paid for it with your taxes for the past forty-some years…but still.

Ultimately here’s the deal–you CAN wait. But since it’s no skin off your back, wouldn’t you rather set it and forget it?  Think about that time you set up automatic payments into your savings account or 401k. You may not have missed the money, but when you got your tax forms, you saw the benefit of making a small change. It’s the same here. Signing up for Part A is easy, and makes the process of signing up for Part B or a Medicare Advantage plan much easier. 

Mistake #2: Staying on private health insurance coverage instead of signing up for Part B, without doing further research.

Why it’s a mistake: The plan you are currently on may not provide enough coverage.

If you plan to stay on your current coverage instead of signing up for Part B as soon as you turn 65, you want to make sure that your health plan provides appropriate coverage. We’re talking about a qualified group health plan (as defined by the IRS). If you’ve ever had to provide proof of “creditable coverage” for plan enrollment, this is similar.  Otherwise, you will pay a penalty when you sign up for Part B coverage.  This penalty is paid with each premium payment and never goes away. The longer you are eligible for Part B without signing up, the more the penalty costs. Do your future self a favor and get HR to confirm (in writing) that your current coverage meets the requirements. 

Mistake #3: Assuming that your current insurance plan will continue to be available after you become eligible for Medicare

Why it’s a mistake:  Believe it or not, some insurance plans and employers will not cover you (or your spouse) if there is other coverage available elsewhere. That includes Medicare.  Medicare enrollment begins three months before you turn 65 and lasts three months after.  Start looking at your options early to make sure you don’t get left without insurance unexpectedly. 

Whatever you decide about retirement, make sure that you have the information you need to make good, informed decisions. 

Next week we’ll be getting into the nitty-gritty of how to actually sign up for Medicare. Make sure to follow us on Facebook or Instagram to see when the blog gets posted! 

My 3 Favorite (Free!) Medicare Resources

Healthcare in America is…..complicated. Medicare ensures that most people 65 and older have access to basic care for hospitalization and doctor’s care. 

But what else does it include?  That’s a great question….because it all depends on what you sign up for.  Some of it will depend on the specific plan you sign up for but all plans include core services. If we talk about Part A or Part B coverage, a Medicare Advantage plan (Part C) automatically includes these same services.  If you didn’t catch our Medicare 101 post last week, go catch up here

I had the good fortune to go through a training hosted by the State Health Insurance Program a few years ago that really opened my eyes to how Medicare coverage works. It was one of my first steps into the realm of elder law.

Since then, I’ve helped clients who are on Medicare and helped my parents navigate the process too when my Dad turned 65.  I wanted to share some of my favorite free resources to find out information about Medicare. Depending on whether you like to keep things old school, or want things as paperless as possible- there’s an option for everyone! 

  1. By mail- When you sign up for Medicare, you will get a Medicare and You handbook that is useful for helping you figure out what is included in Parts A and B. It is easy to read and understand exactly what your coverage includes. 
  2. By phone- As I mentioned above, the State Health Insurance Program (SHIP) is an awesome program that helps Tennesseans find the right health care plans for them. You can reach them at 1-877-801-0044 or, in the before times,  at local health fairs. Just remember that they are staffed by volunteers and might take some time to call you back.  If you’d like to become a volunteer, they would love to have you! 
  3. Online: Yes, I know that government websites don’t have the best reputation for having easily accessible information. But trust me….Medicare.gov is different. Whether you just want to learn about Medicare, compare plan options, or look for a new doctor, this website makes it simple to find what you’re looking for. 
  4. In your pocket- The Medicare “What’s Covered” App is available for Apple and Android user. You can open your phone to find out if a service or treatment your doctor recommends is covered and how much it is likely to cost out of your pocket. I’m pretty jealous that my insurance company doesn’t offer this. 

All of these options now have online availability (check out those lovely blue links). Regardless of how you prefer to absorb information, I hope you’ll find one resource that is your favorite. We will be polling our social media readers on Facebook and Instagram this month to see what their favorite Medicare resources are…..we hope we’ll see you there! 

Medicare 101: Mastering the ABCs of Medicare Planning

As if choosing health insurance under an employer’s plan wasn’t difficult enough, figuring out which type of Medicare plan is best for you is even more confusing. I call Medicare an alphabet because there are 4 parts- A, B, C, and D. Oh, and you might want to consider a supplement too!  

Don’t worry. With a little time and some guidance, you can master the Medicare alphabet just like you mastered your ABCs! 

First, let’s go through the four types and what they cover. 

  • Part A only covers emergency care, such as if you need to stay at the hospital. 
  • Part B covers regular care like doctors visits, bloodwork, and any other testing or treatment that your doctor recommends. 
  • Part C is often referred to as an “Advantage Plan”. It is administered by private insurance companies, just like an employer’s plan.  It includes Part A and B coverage and may include other benefits as well, such as dental, vision, and prescription drugs. 
  • Part D covers prescription drugs. That’s it. 

When you approach age 65, ask yourself what your current health needs are, what family history might impact future healthcare needs, and what type of coverage you are used to receiving.  Then look at your budget. 

Part A is free for those who are eligible through their tax contributions. In 2021, most individuals will pay $148.50 per month for Part B, although the amount can be higher depending on your income.  

If you anticipate that you will need something more than just emergency and regular doctor’s visits, there is another alternative. Consider a Part C “Advantage” plan or a Medicare Supplement (or “Medigap” plan), instead. This plan will provide coverage for those things that Parts A and B don’t, like such as prescription medications, dental, or vision care.  Keep in mind that you still pay co-pays and deductibles on Medicare, so you will want to look at those amounts and not just your premium when considering your budget. 

When thinking about the Medicare alphabet, I have a little way to help me remember what each part covers: 

A is for an Accident that lands you in the hospital 

B is for Bloodwork they do at the doctor’s office

C is for Comprehensive coverage you can get with an Advantage plan

D is for Drugs (They made that one easy!)

Now you know your ABCs….next week I hope you’ll join us when I share my favorite FREE resources to learn about Medicare before you sign up. 

How to Add, Change, or Remove Your “Legacy Contact” On Facebook

How to Add, Change, or Remove Your “Legacy Contact” On Facebook

Have you ever thought about what you want to happen to your “digital assets,” including your Facebook page, after you pass away?

This is a question that Big Tech giants have spent the past few years grappling with as more and more of our lives are lived online. As such, companies like Facebook have started developing solutions to help account holders more easily “pass on” their digital real estate to loved ones and friends following their death. “Legacy Contacts” is one such feature that permits this to happen on the platform.

Until the creation of the Legacy Contacts, loved ones of the deceased only had two choices to manage an existing Facebook Account:

  1. Leave it a public wall (that no one had “behind the scenes” access to) where people could continue to post messages; or,
  2. Request that the page be “memorialized,” which rendered the profile invisible and unsearchable to those who were not already connected with the account.

Now with the Legacy Contact feature, Facebook account owners can name who they want to manage their profile in their absence. This “heir” would immediately have access to friend requests, pictures, and the management of content on the profile page.

Or, for those who want their Facebook account to remain private, the Legacy Contact feature also gives users the option to request a full deletion of their account after death.

How to Add, Change, or Remove a Legacy Contact

Facebook offers the following instructions to guide users through the process of naming a Legacy Contact:

  1. Click  in the top right of Facebook.
  2. Select Settings & Privacy, then click Settings.
  3. Click Memorialization Settings.
  4. Type in a friend’s name in Choose a friend and click Add.
  5. To let your friend know they’re now your legacy contact, click Send.

To change or remove a legacy contact, follow steps 1–2 above, then click Remove. From there, you can add a new legacy contact if you’d like.

If your account is memorialized, your legacy contact will be notified. Learn more about what a legacy contact can do. Note: You must be 18 or older to select a legacy contact.

Utilizing Legacy Contacts is an easy and straightforward way to let Facebook know how you want your private social media information to be handled after your passing. If you have any additional questions about how to include your digital assets as part of your estate plan, please contact our office to schedule an appointment.

Nashville Elder Law Attorney: Everything You Need to Know About Reverse Mortgages

Nashville Elder Law Attorney: Everything You Need to Know About Reverse Mortgages

There are many options available to seniors who would like access to liquid assets, and reverse mortgages are one of the most common – and misunderstood. Our Nashville elder law attorney has outlined everything you need to know about reverse mortgages, so you have the information you need to make the best choice possible.

What is a reverse mortgage?
A reverse mortgage is a financial tool available to older adults aged 62 and older who own their homes. It allows them to use their home equity as collateral to receive a lump sum, line of credit, or annuity to receive money. This makes the homeowner the borrower and the bank the lender, which means that interest will need to be paid on the monthly repayments to the lender.

When is the reverse mortgage loan due?
Typically, the borrower is responsible to make monthly payments to the lender until the amount that is borrowed is paid back. However, there are certain circumstances where the entire amount of the loan could be called for immediate repayment:

  • The borrower lives in a different primary residence. You must live in the home if you have a reverse mortgage, even if you still own the home. The lender will call the loan due if you rent out the home or move out for any other reason.
  • The borrower does not live in the home for 12 consecutive months due to health reasons. A senior suffering from health conditions who moves into a nursing home must move back to the home within 12 months, otherwise, the loan will be due.
  • The home is sold. The loan will be called due if the borrower either sells the home or transfers the title of the home to another person who is not also a borrower of the reverse mortgage.
  • The borrower passes away. There are cases where a non-borrowing spouse may be able to remain in the home after their spouse passes away, but certain conditions must be met. It’s best to speak with an experienced elder law attorney to find out how to avoid leaving the house if the loan is called due upon the passing of a spouse.
  • The loan agreement is breached. Reasons for a loan breach included non-payment of property taxes, a lapse in homeowner’s insurance, or if the house falls into disrepair.

Obtaining a reverse mortgage could be beneficial in certain circumstances, but there are a lot of different issues you should be aware of before you take out this type of loan. It’s best to consult with an elder law attorney who has experience with reverse mortgages to find out if it is the best solution for you.

If you’d like to learn more about reverse mortgages and how they can impact estate planning, or if you have a reverse mortgage and want to have your existing estate plan reviewed, please contact us at (615) 846-6201 to set up a consultation with our Nashville elder law attorney.

Make Your Medical Wishes Known for National Healthcare Decisions Day

Make Your Medical Wishes Known for National Healthcare Decisions Day

National Healthcare Decisions Day is on April 16th, and it’s an important reminder for every adult to begin having conversations with loved ones about their most private wishes for medical and end-of-life care.

Far too many people assume that their families would make the choices they would want in an emergency. Yet every day we hear stories of adult children, siblings, or other relatives battling during a healthcare crisis over “what their loved one would have wanted” in that situation.

Incapacity Can Happen at Any Age

The coronavirus pandemic has been a reminder to all of us that illness and even incapacity can happen at any age. Over the past year, many adults, for the first time ever, expressed their thoughts about being placed on a ventilator and/or receiving experimental medication should they become seriously ill with COVID-19.

But planning must go beyond an initial discussion. You must also clearly and legally document your preferences, as well as choose an “Agent” whom you trust to make such decisions if you are unable to speak for yourself.

Documenting Your Wishes Takes Pressure Off of Loved Ones

Remember, emotions can run high during a healthcare crisis, and it might be hard for your loved ones to stop life support, for example, when they desperately want you around. Having your wishes spelled out in writing helps provide guidance during a stressful time and makes these types of decisions easier for your loved ones, especially in cases when other family members don’t agree.

How to Start “Tough Conversations” About Medical Care

In honor of National Healthcare Decisions Day, set aside time this month to have conversations with loved ones about your personal preferences for medical or long-term care. Here are some important issues to consider:

  • Whom do you trust to make medical decisions on your behalf?
  • How do you feel about feeding tubes, life support, and other artificial life-saving devices?
  • Is there any type of medical care you would NEVER want?
  • If you were permanently disabled or incapacitated, what would contribute or take away from your quality of life?
  • What are your thoughts on nursing home vs. in-home healthcare?
  • How would you like your family to pay for the care you may need if co-pays become excessive or insurance does not cover your treatment?

We love The Conversation Project for guides to help families have these hard, but important,  conversations.

A Final Consideration About Your Choice of Healthcare Agent

One final point to consider when documenting your wishes and choosing a healthcare agent that will ultimately carry them out is that the person you nominate should want to have this responsibility. There are people who do not want or cannot handle making medical decisions– even for their own spouse.

Remember, if the time comes that the healthcare directive needs to be used, it is going to be a very stressful and emotional time for this person. Are they up for the job?  Do they want the job?  Take the time to have an additional conversation with whomever you are considering ensuring that they can, and are willing to, make the decisions that you would want in a crisis situation.