Welcome back to our third and final blog about the Medicare enrollment period which is beginning on October 15. In our first blog, we discussed Medicare and some of the issues and misunderstanding associated with it. In our second, we looked at Medigap and Medicare Advantage Plans and hopefully provided our readers with some information to assist them with making a choice.
In our previous blogs, we ended with a section and a link to state SHIP offices and because this information is so important, we will do the same here. SHIP offices are an invaluable resource for those choosing a Medicare plan. But before we get to that part of this week’s blog, let’s talk about what we will cover this week – the dual eligibles – those who qualify for both Medicare and Medicaid coverage.
Here’s a quick review of these programs separately.
Medicare is health insurance for people 65 or older, certain people under 65 with disabilities, and people of any age with End-Stage Renal Disease.
Medicare consists of four different parts:
Part A – Hospital insurance (inpatient hospital care, inpatient care in a Skilled Nursing Facility, hospice care, and some home health services);
Part B – Medical insurance (physician services, outpatient care, durable medical equipment, home health services, and many preventive services);
Part C – Medicare Advantage (MA) (Medicare-approved private insurance companies provide all Part A and Part B services and may provide prescription drug coverage and other supplemental benefits); and
Part D – The Prescription Drug Benefit (Medicare-approved private companies provide outpatient prescription drug coverage).
Medicare beneficiaries who meet certain income and resource limits may qualify for the Extra Help Program, which helps pay for monthly premiums, annual deductibles, and co-payments (click on the photo below to see if a senior you know may qualify).
Medicare beneficiaries can obtain their Medicare coverage in the following ways:
Receive Part A and Part B services through the Original Medicare Program. To obtain Part D coverage, they must join a stand-alone Prescription Drug Plan; or
Receive Part A and Part B services from a MA Plan if they reside in its service area. Most MA plans include Part D coverage;
Qualify for a Medigap plan.
The Medicaid Program is a joint venture funded at the Federal and State levels that pays for medical care for families and certain individuals with low incomes and/or limited resources. The Federal Government established guidelines which allows each state to:
Establish its own eligibility standards;
Determine the type, amount, length and scope of services;
Establish rates of payment for services; and
Oversee its own program.
Dual Eligible Beneficiaries
“Dual eligible beneficiaries” is the term that describes individuals who are enrolled in both Medicare and Medicaid. Individuals must separately qualify for both Medicare and Medicaid coverage to become dual-eligible beneficiaries. Roughly half of dual eligibles first qualify for Medicare based on disability (compared with 17 percent of Medicare beneficiaries who are not dual eligibles) and roughly half qualify when they turn 65.
Medicaid’s eligibility rules vary somewhat across states, but most dual eligibles qualify because they receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits, need nursing home care or have other high medical expenses, or meet the eligibility criteria for the Medicare Savings Programs (MSP) categories. These categories are as follows:
Qualified Medicare Beneficiary Program (QMB) – This helps pay for Part A and/or Part B premiums, deductibles, co-insurance and co-payments;
Specified Low-Income Medicare Beneficiary Program (SLMB) – This program helps pay for Part B premiums;
Qualifying Individual Program (QI) – Also helps pay for Part B premiums; and
Qualified Disabled Working Individual Program (QDWI) – This pays the Part A premium for some people who qualify that have disabilities and are still working.
Now, this alphabet soup of programs comes with a number of qualifiers and disqualifiers. Rather than get into this, we are providing a link to the federal government site which can explain each one of these much better than we could in a blog format. Here it is:
There is also a Dual Eligible Special Needs Plan. This plan is a type of Medicare Advantage plan that is individually designed to provide specialized benefits, provider networks and medications/pharmacies to meet the unique needs of the individual.
To be eligible for the Special Needs plan, the individual must:
Be eligible for both Medicare and Medicaid;
Live in a service area of a Dual eligibility Special Needs plan;
Not have end stage renal disease (unless a waiver is granted).
Unlike others on Medicare, dual eligible have much more flexibility to make changes to their Medicare coverage throughout the year. If someone is a dual eligible, there is a Special Election Period available during an ongoing basis which can be used to:
Switch from Original Medicare to a Medicaid Advantage plan
Switch Medicare Advantage plans;
Disenroll from a Medicare Advantage plan and return back to original Medicare.
For an individual who is dual eligible, they can use this Special election Period to enroll in, switch, or disenroll from a Dual Eligible Special Needs plan at any time.
If an individual loses their Medicaid eligibility, they get a Special election Period that allows them to switch Medicare Advantage plan or return to Original Medicare. This special period starts the month the individual receives notice that they are no longer eligible for Medicaid services plus an additional two months. If an individual receives notice that they will lose Medicaid eligibility for the upcoming year, they can make these changes from January 1 to March 31.
Got all that? We know, quite confusing but information that those working in senior care facilities need to know and for those with senior family members who may be enrolling in Medicare for the first time or thinking about changing plans.
If you are confused as to whether a senior or someone with a disability qualifies for these services, click on our link below to go to a government site that can tell you what programs you may or may not qualify for.
Who Pays What?
With all these plans under dual eligibility, the question then becomes, who pays for what? Well let’s try to explain this.
Medicare covered services that are also covered by Medicaid are paid first by
Medicare because Medicaid is the payer of last resort. That’s government speak for this – providers will get money from everyone else first and only collect from Medicaid if there is no one else to get money from.
Medicaid may cover the cost of care that Medicare may not cover or may partially cover, such as nursing homes, personal care and community-based services. And because there is income and resource standards for full Medicaid set b the federal government, each state has the right to raise those limits. Thus the importance of long-term care planning to avoid financial problems. Click here to explore Medicaid Planning with our office.
Before we move on to SHIP services, there are three other Medicaid programs that are available to qualifying Medicare beneficiaries in all states. The payments are made as we described previously with Medicare paying first and Medicaid paying second.
And like the other plans we described earlier, if you meet the requirements in your state, you may qualify for one of these programs;
Age, blind and disabled Medicaid (ABD) – those with this plan have coverage for a broad range of services including doctor’s visits, hospital care and medical equipment. However, ABD Medicaid may not provide appropriate coverage if long term care is needed.
Medicaid home and community based service (HCBS) waiver programs: these programs provide general health coverage and coverage for certain services to help you stay at home or in a community-based setting (for example, in an assisted living facility). Covered services may include personal care, homemaker services, case management, adult day care, skilled nursing care, and therapy services. To qualify, you must meet state-specific functional eligibility criteria.
Institutional Medicaid – Includes coverage for nursing home services including room and board, nursing care, personal care and therapy services.
So once again, we want to close out our blog with information about the State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP). SHIP provides Medicare beneficiaries with information, counseling, and enrollment assistance. Its mission is to strengthen the capability of grantees to support a community-based, grassroots network of local SHIP offices that assist beneficiaries with their Medicare-related questions.
SHIPs present and distribute information to groups and individuals to inform them on Medicare benefits, coverage rules, written notices and forms, appeal rights and procedures, and more. They also provide free, in-depth, one-on-one insurance counseling and assistance to Medicare beneficiaries, their families, friends, and caregivers.
SHIPs assist people in obtaining coverage through options that include the Original Medicare program, Medicare Advantage (Part C) Plans, Medicare Prescription Drug (Part D) Plans, and programs designed to help people with limited incomes pay for their health care, such as Medicaid, the Medicare Savings Program, and the Low-Income Subsidy. They can help people compare Medicare Supplemental (Medigap) insurance policies and explain how these and other supplemental insurance options (e.g., insurance plans for retirees) work with Medicare.
SHIPs also provide information on long-term care insurance and, when needed, refer beneficiaries to agencies such as the Social Security Administration and local Medicaid offices for additional assistance. Many SHIP counselors are volunteers who are trained and certified to help navigate systems for older adults and some people with disabilities.
And, by the way, SHIP offices are always looking for volunteers to train and help provide information to seniors.
We at Connelly Law Offices encourage you to contact your local SHIP office and make an appointment if you have insurance questions. You can find the SHIP offices in your state by clicking on the photo below:
We thank you for reading our series of blogs on Medicare and hope we have provided you with information to help you sort through the maze of the upcoming open enrollment period. If you liked this information, let us know with a like or a comment.
Attorney Connelly practices in the area of elder law. This area of law involves Medicaid planning and asset protection advice for those individuals entering nursing homes, planning for the possibility of disability through the use of powers of attorney for the both health care and finances, guardianship, estate planning, probate and estate administration, preparation of wills, living trusts and special or supplemental needs trusts. He represents clients primarily in the states of Rhode Island, Connecticut and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. He was certified as an Elder Law Attorney (CELA) by the National Elder Law Foundation (NELF) in 2008. Attorney Connelly is licensed to practice before the Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Federal Bars.