Medicare and Insurance Advocacy

In a perfect world, I suppose, Medicare would be easy to understand, everyone would understand their coverages, and claims would always be processed so as to benefit the elderly fairly and fully and promptly.

And for many many people covered by Medicare, the system actually does work fairly well.

But Medicare has been getting more complicated. Changes are happening often, and for several years now, between the optional Medicare drug coverage programs, Medicare supplemental programs, the changes in the Blue Cross of Michigan structure, and the so-called Medicare Advantage plans, the landscape has changed. And this is also true for coverage under health insurance and long term coverage plans as well.

People need to spend more time reading and learning about their coverage and their options.  And I think folks might need to start asking more questions about their coverage, and even challenging claims if they are told a service isn’t covered.

Perhaps now, even more so than in the past, Medicare and other insurance advocacy and planning will be the order of the day for seniors and their families and anyone with Medicare coverage of any kind.

Feel free to set up an appointment with me if you’d care to review your options or if you think you are trapped in some sort of Medicare or insurance snafu.  I may be able to help.

And check out some of the “Useful Resources” on our website.  We’ve gathered and then listed a good deal of decent and credible websites as a way to help our clients and readers and potential clients.

Under Useful Resources, in the Federal/Nationwide section we have links to the Medicare website and the Center for Medicare Advocacy websites.

And in the Michigan list under our Useful Resources, we have links to the Michigan Medicare and Medicaid Assistance Program (MMMAP) and the Michigan Peer Review Organization (MPRO).   There is also a link to the Michigan Department of insurance and Financial Services.

Any or all of the above resources and the information found, will help you better use or understand Medicare and sometimes other insurances too.  And with knowledge comes power.

And remember that The Place for Good Counsel, the office of attorney Brad Vauter, can sometimes help too.  Insurance and Medicare advocacy can help assure you are able to obtain services and benefits you need and that ought to be covered.  And good Medicare and insurance planning, can help you put together a plan that best meets your needs and budget.

Sharing Favorite Songs–of Aging or Getting Older

There must be hundreds and hundreds of songs that conjure up the passage of time, and a few handfuls, at least, that speak to aging and growing older. Can you think of any? Have any favorites?

We probably all know some. Songs with lyrics that veer to the saccharine or the sardonic; gloomy or gay; trendy or traditional.

In my legal calling, such songs cross my mind now and then.  They don’t drill into my brain or ears like an Ohrwurm or anything, but they do bubble up to the surface of my consciousness every so often.

At the risk of creating a monster, I’d invite you, my many readers (o.k. o.k., my two very smart dogs, the guy who helped me create this web site and the two other faithful readers, one of whom is a unable to sleep nights and prowls the web reading everything) to nominate a song you think fits in this category.

Consider it a contest of sorts–albeit without a prize.*

Some rules:

Submit your entry by May 3rd.

Submit up to two entries only, with a brief explanation. For instance: why you like it or where did you first hear it, or why does it mean anything to you or why did it make your list?  And it has to be just one song or two–we’re not trying to create an encyclopedic list, after all.

Submit  only a song you really like–one that you might actually share with others you love or like. Or songs you might share or discuss if  you were waxing philosophic, or sentimental or eloquent.

Let me hear from you–all you need do is respond to this post or email us (subject matter should be “my favorite song on aging”) at  theplaceforgoodcounsel@gmail.com.

Without trying to push the nominations in any direction, let me list three examples that come to my mind when thinking of such songs or lyrics:

Hello in There by John Prine (Bette Midler has covered this too)

When I’m 64 by The Beatles

This ‘Ol House  (traditional) covered by many including Stuart Hamblen, Rosemary Clooney, Dolly Parton and others

But I’d really love to read about, and listen to your suggestions!

* heck this is a law office–we like a disclaimer every now and then.

Who Cares About April 16th?

This time of year we often are reminded of taxes, and April 15th as the “due date” for submitting our income tax returns.

But April 16th is a day worth noting too–it is National Healthcare Decisions Day. Sure, it’s not as much fun as the Fourth of July, or as warm and fuzzy as we hope Thanksgiving could  be.

But it is as good a time as any to think about advance directives, or what some might call a medical power of attorney, or selecting in Michigan at least, a patient advocate.

I can draft such documents for you, and help you think through the issues that could be involved.  I’ve blogged on this earlier and you may want to see my previous blog (Designating Someone to Help in Health Emergencies). Feel free to contact me and set up an appointment to get this done.

And as you and friends and family and neighbors and loved ones think about the issue, check out the resources too at the National Health Care Decisions Day website: http://www.nhdd.org/public-resources or at the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys website:  https://www.naela.org/

Oh, and by the way?  If you think you need more time to file your taxes, and can’t meet the April 15th deadline. you can ask for an additional six months to prepare and file a tax return. Individual taxpayers must file IRS Form 4868. The IRS extension can be filed electronically or through the mail. But an extension to file, is not an extension to pay the IRS. Taxpayers are required to pay 90 percent of their prior year tax liability by April 15th tax deadline.

But if you have a medical disaster, and are unable to communicate your health care wishes yourself, there are no extensions.  It is quite likely that without a valid advance directive in place, a trip to the probate court will be needed, and that will be more trouble and expense, usually, than simply drawing up a good designation of patient advocate document with your lawyer.

In Michigan you may note some various public events on the 16th of April, in regards to National Health Care Decisions Day.  But you don’t need to wait for the procrastinators of the world…you can start to think about it now.

Social Security Disability. Compassionate Allowances. Older Applicants. A Break for Some Applicants?

Applying for Social Security Disability can seem daunting.  The general test requires applicants to establish that they cannot do ANY gainful employment in the national economy.

Carefully making your case, and thoughtfully filling out the application and providing supportive medical information from treating health care professionals is important.  Even so, many months, even a year or more, might pass, before you are approved (or denied). The mere fact you can’t do your current or immediate past job, isn’t usually enough to qualify. This is so even if you have some medical conditions or concerns that make life more difficult than before.

But two important provisions — found in Social Security law and regulation — makes the application process easier for  certain applicants who really need Social Security disability.

One provision is the Compassionate Allowances program.  Social Security has recognized some conditions or diseases as so nasty, or debilitating or fast acting, that few would disagree that the applicant’s disease or condition  meets Social Security’s statutory standard for disability.  Almost every year Social Security adds more conditions  to the list. In effect, if you or someone you care for, has one of the conditions listed, their application will be handled on a fast-track basis.

For more, on the Compassionate Allowances program see these Social Security webpages:

http://www.socialsecurity.gov/compassionateallowances/cal_faqs.htm

http://www.ssa.gov/compassionateallowances/conditions.htm

Another provision can make applications a bit easier for older workers.  Right or wrong, one might say that Social Security acts as though old dogs can’t learn new tricks.  Naturally they don’t put it that way. But in fact, older workers applying for Social Security disability will find that Social Security does look at age as a “vocational factor”.  See more here:

http://www.ssa.gov/OP_Home/cfr20/404/404-1563.htm

Social Security provides a general overview of the disability benefits and application process here:

http://www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs/EN-05-10029.pdf

Great Variety Among Older Workers and the Approach to Retirement

Lots of talk about older workers continuing on into the work force beyond age 65–but really only about 20 per cent of those more than 65 years of age continue working.

An article in today’s New York Times, provides a snapshot:

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/13/business/retirementspecial/the-gray-jobs-enigma.html?hpw&rref=business

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