Friday, January 31, 2014

Medicare for Young Folks: A Case Study (Part 2)

In Part 1, we met a young lady who suffered a tragic medical setback, and is now unable to live on her own, and whose medical care is paid for by Medicare. We also began to learn about what alternatives or supplements might be available to her and her family to help fund her care.

The Medicare Advantage plan seemed promising. One immediate challenge is that the most recent regular Open Enrollment period ended last month, and the next one doesn't start until the Fall. The good news, according to my personal Medicare Advantage guru Roger D, is that folks on the Extra Help program are pretty much always in Open Enrollment, so she may be able to hop on to an Advantage Plan.

So we'd now identified 3 potential avenues: an Exchange plan, her father's retirement medical plan, or a Medicare Advantage plan. It was now time to do a little more digging, and then to meet to review the results:

As it turns out, folks on Medicare can not (easily) buy an ACA Exchange policy. As the folks at CMS explain:

"It’s against the law for someone who knows that you have Medicare to sell you a Marketplace plan."

But what if you really, really want one?


"[T]here are some situations where you can choose Marketplace coverage instead of Medicare ... if you’re eligible for Medicare but haven’t enrolled in it ... If you’re paying a premium for Part A, you can drop your Part A and Part B coverage and get a Marketplace plan"

Oh. Well, our young lady is already enrolled, so the first "out" won't work. And the second alternative didn't seem very promising, since she wouldn't be eligible for a subsidy.

So much for that.

Adding her to my friend's plan has some attraction: it's a known quantity (and is itself a Medicare Advantage plan with some great benefits) and offers the convenience of having one plan (and carrier) for both.

I had, however, a concern: what happens if/when my friend passes away - can his daughter stay on the plan? After poring over the written materials he had brought with him, and several frustrating phone calls to the carrier, we still don't have a definitive answer. This is troubling, but not necessarily a deal-killer.

So we called Roger (my guru) and had a very frank and helpful discussion about a separate Medicare Advantage plan for the daughter. First, we confirmed that she is, in fact, an Extra Help participant, so the Open Enrollment issue is moot. Second, we learned that there are several $0-premium Advantage plans available here, saving my friend several thousands of dollars in extra premiums. These plans also cap her out-of-pocket exposure to about $4,000 a year, which is well within my friend's means to cover.

One thing that still needs to be done before a final decision is made is to confirm that her doctors and other providers are in-network, and to check her meds against the carriers' formulary lists.

My friend was delighted that a good plan is available at a very affordable cost ("free"), and was very impressed with Roger's depth of knowledge about not just the Advantage plans but also the Extra Help and other programs. He even suggested some other places for my friend and his daughter to look for additional resources and help.

It's such a blessing to have access to folks on whom I can call to ask for help and advice, and who I know will take care of my clients. It makes me look good (no mean feat in itself), and they get quality advice and service.

And there's this: I try to learn from every interaction I have, whether or not I make a sale. There is no doubt that I'll have the opportunity to use what I've learned on this case down the road. And that, too, is no small thing.
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