Updates on Medigap, state retiree benefits, more

If you are new to Medicare, you need to know that Medicare almost always only pays 80 percent of the cost of most medical procedures. In order to be completely covered, you should buy a Medicare supplemental policy, also known as Medigap. These generally cost $100 to $150 per month, but they are very necessary. There are about 10 different plans and they vary from state to state.

In my experience, the most popular plan for most people in Alaska is plan F. This plan offers payment for the Medicare deductibles for Part A and Part B. The Medicare deductible for Part A (hospitalization) is $1,184, which is what you will pay the first day you are admitted, before Medicare will pay anything. You must be certain that you are actually admitted and are not just being held overnight for observation.

The Medicare Part B deductible (doctor’s visits, etc.) is $147 per year.

Auto deductions can free you from monthly Medicare payments

If you are not receiving Social Security and are on Medicare you will receive a bill from Medicare each month. Medicare Easy Pay allows people to have their Medicare premium payments automatically deducted from a savings or checking account each month. This is a free, electronic payment option. You can sign up for this option by talking to your Social Security office and getting form SF-5510 (Authorization Agreement for Pre-authorized Payment). This is just for people who are not receiving Social Security payments. If you want to stop the process or change your bank, all you need to do is call the Medicare Premium Collection Center.

Remember that each year all Medicare premiums and deductibles are subject to change.

State retirees, take heed

For Alaska State retirees: If you are looking for the latest and most up-to-date news about your AlaskaCare Retiree Health Plan, you can sign up for their newsletter by going to http://www.AlaskaCare.gov or you can follow on social media at Facebook.com/AlaskaDRB or Twitter.com/AlaskaDRB. As you might know, there have been substantial changes made to your health plans:

The dental plan has been changed from a fee-for-service to a PPO (preferred provider organization) plan, which now means that members of this plan are required to use providers in the Delta Dental Premier network or face a penalty of 25 percent if you live in Alaska and use an out-of-network provider. If you live outside of Alaska, there is no penalty for using a provider other than Delta Dental Premier. Dental cleaning frequency was reduced to a maximum of twice a year (unless there are doctor’s orders to clean more often). Coverage for transplants was reduced from 80 percent to 60 percent. There also are more restrictive standards for determining medical necessity for procedures and prescription medications.

The Dept. of Administration changed an amendment to the 2013 Retiree Benefits Book with no notice to retirees, which reduced benefits in the Dental, Vision and Audio plans and resulted in unexpected copays.

Anchorage’s Mabel T. Caverly Senior Services

In my last column regarding the Mabel T. Caverly Senior Services DEAP program, I told you that a major portion, $57,000, of the program budget was defunded by the Anchorage Municipality for the 2014-15 fiscal year. The program still exists, however, with funding by donations from United Way, BP Exploration, 1st National Bank, Totem Ocean Express, the Carr Foundation, ConocoPhillips and Wells Fargo. Anchorage residents who are age 55 and older and are financially eligible may still apply for the DEAP program, which covers dental work, hearing aids, eyeglasses and prescription drugs. There are certain restrictions and one should call 276-1476, or go to the website http://www.mabeltcaverly.org for an application.

Mabel T’s “Patches” program also still exists, though with depleted funding. Patches plays a unique role in the Anchorage community by providing a one-time grant of up to $250 to low-income, qualified seniors to help with home or appliance repairs, gasoline, auto repairs, impending utility shut-off and short-term emergency rent. If you are able to assist by making a donation, please contact the center at 276-1496. There is no gift too small when it comes to helping our elders.

Finding assistance online and at the checkout counter

If you have any questions as to what benefits you might be eligible for, I highly recommend getting on the Internet (any librarian can help you) and going to http://www.benefitscheckup.org. In this program you input all your income, assets and expenses and the program will tell you what benefits you are eligible for and how to apply for them. The program does not save any of your information.

Whenever you go shopping, you should always ask at the checkout if the store gives a senior discount. If they do, wonderful. If they don’t, well maybe they’ll think about it if enough seniors ask. It never hurts to try.

Wanted by me

I’m looking for a caring person who will answer questions from others who need help. I have some books with all (?) the answers and will be glad to teach you all the things that I do. You will not have to write a column, as I do, but if you want to, you may. It is very rewarding to be able to help someone in need and it does not cost you anything.

I welcome any comments about my column, whether good or bad and will answer any questions you have of me.

Rita Hatch volunteers for Older Persons Action Group’s Medicare Assistance program. Call her at 276-1059 in Anchorage or toll-free statewide at 1-800-478-1059. Her email address is ritaopag@gci.net.

Roar Online Publication Software and content management solution. Lions Light offers cutting edge software for newspaper and magazine websites.