Since this is such a politically-charged topic, I try my best to steer clear of the discussion.
However as we get closer to the 2020 election it is important that everyone starts to get educated on the "Medicare For All" proposals that are being discussed.
KFF.org released an article last week that provides a nice summary of each of the options being discussed, which range from a complete Single Payer Plan (everything is free for everyone) to a public option for the ACA Plans, to Medicare Buy-In Option. The KFF article provides a lot of detail, and I have just provided my thoughts below.
Medicare-For-All Single Payer; e.g. Sanders Plan - S. 1129
Public Plan through ACA Marketplace; e.g. Cardin's Plan - S. 3
Medicare Buy-In Options, e.g. Stabenow's Plan S. 470
What Should we Do?
I completely agree that our Health Care system is flawed in this country and we need some significant improvements. Some key areas, I believe we need to address are below:
This is by no means a fully comprehensive Plan. However, I believe these are some of the key areas that we need to focus on to improve our Health Care system.
With any proposal you study, be sure to ask yourself... What impact would this have on the current Medicare beneficiaries (who are generally very satisfied with their coverage)?
Generally speaking, Original Medicare with a Medicare Supplement is the best Medical Coverage most people will ever have. For example, if you have a Plan G Medicare Supplement, the only Medical out-of-pocket Exposure for Medicare covered services is the Part B deductible ($185 in 2019).
However, there are certain services that are not covered by Medicare, which we frequently get questions on.
A few months ago, Medicare released a new FREE app called "What's Covered" which is a great tool to see what is and what is not covered by Medicare.
Let me start this article with a couple of disclaimers:
Over the past several months, we have seen an increased number of Provider billing issues. Medicare Insurance is already quite complex and if Providers are billing incorrectly, this can create additional angst and financial stress for Medicare beneficiaries. Additionally, there are a certain percentage of individuals who just pay these incorrect bills (because they think they really owe them) and never know that they were erroneous bills.
Three recent examples that will be highlighted are summarized below.
The first example is a situation in which one of our clients received a bill and an Explanation of Benefits from their Insurance carrier showing that a Claim was denied and the individual owed the Provider $135 for the doctor's visit.
This client happens to have a Medicare Supplement Plan G, so they are responsible for the Part B deductible ($183 in 2018). So, my first question is always "Did you already meet the Part B deductible?" If the individual didn't reach the Part B deductible yet, than it would be conceivable that they could owe $135 for the doctor's visit. However, the client confirmed they had already reached the Part B deductible for the year.
The next step of Troubleshooting is to get a copy of the bill and/or Explanation of Benefits (EOB). In this case, the client had the EOB handy so they emailed us a copy of the EOB (see image above).
The language on the EOB stated that the claim was "DENIED", which is unusual. If Medicare pays for a service, the Medicare Supplement MUST pay its portion of the service.
However, after reviewing further, we noticed the MEMBER ID that was billed by the Provider's office was the Member's Part D Drug Plan. Therefore the Part D Plan denied the claim because Part D Plans do not cover doctor's visits.
The Provider office incorrectly billed the Part D Drug Plan instead of billing Medicare.
For all patients that have original Medicare with a Medicare Supplement, the Provider should NEVER be billing the Supplemental carrier. The Provider just needs to bill Medicare. Medicare will pay the Provider its portion of the bill, and then Medicare will send the remainder of the Bill to the Secondary/Supplemental carrier to pay its portion of the bill. If there is any remaining charges (e.g. if the Part B deductible has not been met yet), the Provider will send a legitimate bill to the Patient.
After explaining this error to the Provider, the Provider sent the bill to Medicare and they payments were resolved by Medicare and the Supplemental Carrier. Our client owed nothing.
The second example deals with another client who also has a Plan G Medicare Supplement. This client already reached her Part B deductible ($183 in 2018), and still received a bill for $57.15. The bill indicated "CLAIM DENIED" by "AETNA HMO EVICORE".
This client does not have an HMO Plan. The client has Original Medicare and a Medicare Supplement.
The bill looks like the Provider billed Medicare correctly, but then the Provider sent another bill to a carrier "Aetna HMO Evicore", which is not the correct behavior. With a Medicare Supplement, Medicare sends the remainder of the bill to the Secondary/Supplemental carrier to pay its portion of the bill. In this case, the Provider attempted to bill the Insurance company based on an old Plan that the Patient no longer has. The reason the CLAIM was denied is because the Plan that was billed is no longer valid for this Patient.
After following up with the Provider, the client was told the claim would be reprocessed and not to worry about the bill.
The third example is the most concerning. One of my Medicare Supplement Plan G clients recently received a medical bill from 2018 for $487.96.
How could this be??? The Part B deductible is only $183. So even if the individual had not reached the Part B deductible (which they already had), the highest bill they should have received in 2018 was $183.
After further review of the bill and verification with the Medicare Supplement carrier, we can see that Medicare actually only approved about $95 of the $602 billed amount. Additionally, Medicare paid its portion of the bill ($74) and the Supplemental carrier paid its portion of the bill ($19). Thus the Provider has been fully compensated for the services provided based on the Medicare approved rates.
The Provider is not allowed to balance bill a patient that has Original Medicare. If Medicare only approves $95, the Provider cannot bill the patient the additional $487.96!!
Unfortunately, this case is still not resolved. The client tried calling the Provider's office several times with over an hour wait time. The client tried calling their doctor as well and was not able to get the billing issue resolved. The next step is for the client to file a complaint with Medicare which should help drive resolution to this issue.
Medicare is working hard to deliver technology solutions that will provide valuable information to Medicare Beneficiaries.
Just a couple of weeks ago, a new Mobile Application was delivered that provides information about "What's Covered" on Original Medicare.
This article is about a streamlined version of MyMedicare.gov that was released a few months ago. This article is not an entire user guide, rather it just highlights some of the key functions that are available so you can take advantage of the tool.
If you are enrolled in Medicare, myMedicare.gov is a great resource that you can use for a lot of functions. If you have not created an account yet, you will need to register first.
After you register / login, you will see a home page dashboard that looks something like this.
There are a bunch of neat functions and information in this Portal. I will highlight four areas that are important:
2. View, Print or Order a new ID Card
The Portal allows you to view your current Medicare ID card. This is a great tool if you lost your ID card and you need your information to take to a doctor's appointment. You can print the ID directly from the Portal. You can also order a new ID Card to be mailed to your home.
Another nice feature allows you to print a temporary ID card for your Part D Plan too!
3. Claims Data
This is one of my favorite features of the Portal. You can query up to 36 months of prior Claims history which provides incredible amounts of detail about the Medicare services that you used over the last 36 months. You can see every claim that has been filed with Medicare, how much was Charged, how much Medicare approved, etc for each service. You can also see the diagnosis codes for every service that was billed to Medicare on your account.
4. Blue Button
The Portal provides a "Blue Button" function that allows you to download all the information to a PDF or TXT file. If you are looking for a clean version of your Claims report that you can review, the PDF version is pretty nice. If you are looking to upload your Claims data into a third-party tool / application, you can use the .txt version.
In general, myMedicare.gov is a great tool for Medicare beneficiaries to access all the information related to their Medicare usage.
If you haven't registered yet, I recommend you take a look when you get 5-10 minutes.
If you are a Medicare beneficiary, Medicare broker, or just interested in Medicare information to help a loved one, I recommend you download this application.
The "What's Covered" application answers a lot of questions regarding Original Medicare. You have the option of searching for any Service in the Search Bar.
After you search for an item e.g. "Hospital", the application will provide valuable information regarding if the Service is covered, how it is covered, how much out of pocket expense you could have, etc.
There is also a nice feature at the footer of the application that allows you to check on all the Preventative Services that are covered by Original Medicare.
Next time you have a question about whether Medicare covers a particular Service, you can use this great application from Medicare.
If you would like to see a Demo of the app, you can watch it here.
If you are ready to download the application on your Mobile device, you can find the links here.
If so, this is most likely because your income is above the base level amounts for the Part B Premiums ($85,000 / year for single, or $170,000 /year for joint filers).
These Income Related Monthly Adjustment Amounts (IRMAAs) are intended to have higher income earners pay a higher portion of their Part B (and Part D) expenses to the government.
Here is a short video that helps explain the IRMAAs as well.
We also wanted to send out the link to the form SSA-44 that you can use to Appeal the IRMAAs if you had one of the key qualifying events (e.g. retired, windfall, etc.) in a prior year's income that was used to determine your IRMAA.
You must start the appeal process within 60 days of receiving the letter from the government about the IRMAA, so if you received the IRMAA letter in November, you're appeal window may be running out.
You can give us a call if you have any questions and/or if you would like to review your Medicare Supplement Plans to make sure you have the most cost-effective options.
Call now -
908-272-1970 (Cranford Office) or
856-866-8900 (Moorestown Office)
2018 was another amazing year!
While our Annual Enrollment Period (AEP) was not flawless (it was pretty close :-), we are very pleased with the results and we hit a huge milestone of $2 Million + in savings that we were able to find for our clients on their Annual Part D Prescription Plan Review and Recommendations.
We reviewed Part D Plans for over 1,800 of our clients who responded to our reminder notifications in August & September for the Annual Enrollment Period.
We had a higher percentage of "Switch" recommendations this year. For over 50% of the Reviews, we recommended a switch due to the savings available with another Plan. In prior years, we were closer to 25% of recommendations resulting in a different plan.
At Senior Advisors, we take a lot of pride in helping our clients save money on their Medicare Plans and continue to get great coverage. We look forward to breaking $3M in Part D Savings for the Annual Enrollment Period in 2019 (Oct 15 - Dec 7).
In prior years, we didn't hear about changes to Medicare & Social Security until November/December for the following year.
However, on Friday 10/12/18, the Government Announced 2019 Changes to Social Security & Medicare which are summarized below.
For the Part B Premiums, Part B Income Related Monthly Adjustments, and Part D Income Related Monthly Adjustments there were also minimal increases for 2019.
Overall, this is very good news for individuals on Social Security and Medicare. The increase in the Social Security check should far outweigh the increase in Medicare costs for 2019.
With Medicare Annual Enrollment quickly approaching, a government Watchdog group found issues with Denials of Care for Medicare Advantage Plans.
If you are in a Medicare Advantage Plan or considering enrolling in one, we recommend you read the article so you are aware of the potential for Denials of Care with a Medicare Advantage Plan.
In the beginning of October, we will have an opportunity to review your Prescription Drug Plan for 2019. It is very important that you take advantage of this opportunity and provide us with your latest prescriptions so we can complete the Drug Plan analysis for 2019.
There are about 25 different Part D Plans to choose from, Medicare Part D coverage changes every year, and the Prescription plans change every year. Here is a link with some details regarding the specific changes to the drug plans in 2019.
This year, we have a new online form that you can use to submit your RX information.
After you submit the RX information online, you will get an immediate email acknowledgement with an estimated processing time, which should be reduced significantly from prior years. The online form is pretty straightforward, but here is a link to a quick video which explains how to use our online form.
If your drug list hasn't changed, we still need you to complete the online form so we can ensure we have the correct drug information for the Part D Analysis.
If you are not taking any medications, please quickly fill out the online form and check the box “I am not currently taking any medications.”
The deadline to submit your form to us is November 15, but please do not wait until the last minute if you are able to submit sooner.
Our target turn-around times are below.
Do not submit your RX Forms after November 15 - we will not be able to guarantee that we will be able to review the Part D analysis and make a recommendation in time to make the December 7 deadline.
We look forward to enrolling you in the right 2019 Part D Plan for your specific situation.
See bio here