As your parents age, it's inevitable that they'll begin to suffer from serious health problems and conditions. Due to the costliness of our health care system, this can create a significant financial burden on your parents and your family as a whole. Thankfully, there are government programs available at the state, local, and federal levels that can help cover many, if not all, of the costs associated with elderly health care. In addition, there are private insurance plans that can help pay for some elderly care services. Take the steps necessary to educate yourself and your parents about what's out there to help ease the pain.
This Federal Government health insurance program is funded by worker contributions, and as such it is available to anyone over the age of 65 who has held employment and paid into the system. Medicare generally provides health benefits through one of its three primary subsections – Part A, Part B and Part D.
Part A pays for:
Covers various medical services, which include:
Part D has extended Medicare coverage to prescription drugs. Under Part D, it is possible that up to 90% of the costs of these drugs may be paid for by the government.
Medicare does not cover everything; but it's possible to purchase a private insurance plan called Medigap, which will pay for the deductibles, co-insurance, and co-payments that otherwise would be out-of-pocket expenses for Medicare beneficiaries.
Medicaid is a state administered program that provides further medical coverage for anyone over 65 with a low level of income. Like Medicare, Medicaid does cover some home health services.
But unlike Medicare, Medicaid also covers nursing home care, which can help immensely if you have a parent who is disabled by aging or disease to the point that they're no longer able to take care of themselves. Of course, it's necessary for your parent to have a low enough income level to qualify, so Medicaid may or may not be a solution for your family’s need for financial assistance. In some instances, assisted living programs, which essentially are intermediate options between home care and a nursing home, are also partially covered by Medicaid.
If your parent is a military veteran, and suffering from a health condition that is in some way related to his or her service, veterans’ benefits may be available that will help pay for the costs of elderly care. You'll need to check with the Veterans Administration (VA) to find out for sure if your parent is eligible to receive health care benefits, and what kind of benefits if eligibility can be established. Subsidized home care is offered by the VA through a program called CHAMPVA, which is available not only to retired veterans but to their spouses or widows as well.
Acquiring supplemental social security benefits, above and beyond normal social security payments, may be a possibility if your parent is suffering from some kind of disability. While not directly related to health care needs, if your family finds itself facing high health-related costs, any financial aid you can obtain will help at least somewhat. Assisted living programs will sometimes accept SSI funds for payment of services as well.
Private insurance plans for long-term care are one possible option. However, these plans are expensive, and fewer than 10% of elderly Americans are currently covered by these plans. It's possible that your parents may have some benefits for long-term care in their general insurance plans without even realizing it.
It did not receive much publicity, but the new health care bill passed by Congress and signed into law by President Obama contained a provision that authorizes the creation of a voluntary government-run long-term insurance program that would be available to anyone as a workplace benefit. Enrollees in the program would receive coverage after five years of paying monthly premiums.
One thing that makes this program unique is that seniors covered under the Class Act would be able to use the benefits in any way they choose without restrictions – for nursing homes, home care, or assisted living housing. Obviously, this is something that will take a while to come into effect, thanks to the five-year requirement. But if you're planning ahead, this could be something to take a look at if your parents are not yet retired and plan on working for a few more years.
The topic of our health care system, and the private and public insurance programs that pay for it, is a complex topic. It would be easy for anyone investigating health-related financial aid for their parents to get lost in a labyrinth of rules, regulations, and eligibility requirements. It's essential that you seek expert help when dealing with this subject.
Every state and county has offices that deal with issues of aging, and of course government programs have administrators who can be used as sources of information. There is also the Administration on Aging, which administers many national programs for seniors including health insurance counseling and advice, legal aid, and help in finding affordable and effective long-term care. The best way to make sure you've explored every possible option for financial assistance for elderly health care is to talk with people who deal with these issues on a daily basis.