Health services in Arizona and the rest of the U.S. are expensive and most people cannot afford to pay the full costs out-of-pocket. Health insurance allows people to receive medical care without incurring huge expenses. Medicare is the federal health insurance program which primarily serves the needs of elderly and disabled people, as well as adults with certain medical conditions. The program has limited coverage, so make sure to check out the medicare supplements in phoenix az before deciding how to cover healthcare costs outside the Medicare coverage scope.
How are medicare supplements in Phoenix AZ structured?
The Medicare program has 4 parts (A to D), each providing different benefits. Parts A (hospital insurance) and B (medical insurance) are also known as Original Medicare (check out this 2015 guide before choosing the right plan).
Part C (Medicare Advantage) is an enhanced alternative to Original Medicare supplied by private insurance companies. Part D (prescription drug insurance) covers prescription drug costs through private insurance companies contracted by the government.
On average, Original Medicare covers about half of your healthcare costs. The rest is covered by supplemental insurance or other forms of personal (out of pocket) payment.
What is Medicare Part A?
Medicare Part A is automatically available (premium-free) to people aged 65 and over who have been employed for at least 10 years and have paid social security taxes during that period. Adults aged 18 to 65 with work-preventing disabilities, dialysis and kidney transplant patients, people with an end-stage renal disease or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis are also eligible for Medicare.
Individuals who aren’t eligible for premium-free Medicare Part A can still enroll by paying a certain premium. Beneficiaries who postpone enrollment beyond the eligibility window may be subject to a late enrollment penalty after sign-up.
What does Medicare Part A cover?
- Hospital services – covers inpatient care (semi-private accommodation, meals, intensive and coronary care, nursing services, medications and supplies) in hospitals, rehabilitation facilities, long-term care and mental care facilities. The first 60 days of your hospital stay are fully covered, after which you are charged a considerable copayment, unless you have supplemental insurance.
- Home healthcare – Medicare covers skilled healthcare services, such as occasional nursing care, physiotherapy, and occupational or speech-language therapy, when provided by a Medicare-certified agency. If your needs include durable medical equipment, you have to pay 20% of the Medicare-approved amount.
- Skilled nursing facility – covers inpatient care in a Medicare-certified facility for a minimum of 3-day inpatient stay. Medicare Part A covers up to 100 days of your inpatient stay. Days 1-20 are covered 100%. For days 21-100, you will be charged a daily copayment of $157, unless you have a supplemental insurance plan.
- Hospice care – includes palliative care and pain relief for terminally ill patients with life expectancy of six months or less, delivered at home or in a hospice facility. To qualify for hospice care, patients must waive curative treatment, but they reserve the right to terminate hospice care and resume curative treatment.
What Is Medicare Part B?
Medicare Part B is available to Medicare Part A policyholders, at a monthly premium. Higher-income seniors may be required to pay more. If you delay enrollment in Part B for 12 months, you are required to pay a 10-percent premium penalty.
Once you turn 65 and join Medicare Part B, you have a six-month window (open enrollment period) during which insurance companies are obligated to sell you any Medicare Supplement Plan that you choose (Medigap), irrespective of your current health condition or past issues. These companies are not allowed to charge you anything extra. Keep in mind that this is a one-time opportunity.
If you have employment-based coverage, you can delay Part B enrollment. In this case, you can sign up later, during a special enrollment period, without paying a late enrollment penalty.
To receive Part B benefits, you must first pay the Part B annual deductible ($147). When you receive healthcare services, Medicare covers 80% of the approved amount and you pay the remaining 20%.
Part B covers outpatient care, preventive services (flu and Hepatitis B shots, cardiovascular, cancer and diabetes screenings), ambulance services, durable medical equipment, as well as occasional home-based health and rehab services that are deemed necessary by your doctor.
Medicare at the doctor’s office
Don’t forget to use the services of healthcare providers that always accept assignment (the Medicare-approved amount). These providers are referred to as participating providers and their contract with Medicare obligates them to accept the amount paid by Medicare for healthcare services as “full payment”. In this case, you only pay the deductible and the coinsurance amount. The doctor directly submits the claim (request for payment) to Medicare without charging you in the process.
Providers that haven’t signed a contract to accept assignment (non-participating providers) are not obligated to see you, but can choose to do so. In this case, you pay the entire cost of the service immediately and get reimbursed by Medicare later. These doctors cannot charge you more than 15% above the Medicare-approved amount (limiting charge). The limiting charge doesn’t apply to durable medical equipment and medical supplies.
Some providers choose to opt out of Medicare and not accept any Medicare payments. Consequently, they are free to charge you whatever they want, they don’t submit a claim to Medicare and you pay the entire cost of the service out-of-pocket. As an exception, Medicare will cover treatment expenses if you have been admitted as an emergency patient.
What is not covered by Original Medicare?
Original Medicare doesn’t cover prescription drugs (except immunosuppressive drugs and oral anticancer drugs), cosmetic surgery (except for reconstructive purposes), routine checkups, most immunizations, healthcare outside of the United States, hearing aids and exams, eyeglasses and contacts, dental care and dentures, etc. Some of these services are covered by supplemental insurance plans, such as Medicare Advantage and Medigap.
It is up to you to do your research, and decide which supplement suits your needs best. The main thing to remember here (again) is that your “optimal plan” will change with time. As you get older, you might have to change to a more expensive supplement, in order to (ironically enough) save money.