On the last Tuesday of July, Tres Biggs stepped into the courthouse in Coffeyville, Kansas, for medical debt collection day, a monthly ritual in this quiet city of 9,000, just over the Oklahoma border. He was one of 90 people who had been summoned, sued by the local hospital, or doctors, or an ambulance service over unpaid bills. Some wore eye patches and bandages; others limped to their seats by the wood-paneled walls. Biggs, who is 41, had to take a day off from work to be there. He knew from experience that if he didn’t show up, he could be put in jail.
Before the morning’s hearing, he listened as defendants traded stories. One woman recalled how, at four months pregnant, she had reported a money order scam to her local sheriff’s office only to discover that she had a warrant; she was arrested on the spot. A radiologist had sued her over a $230 bill, and she’d missed one hearing too many. Another woman said she watched, a decade ago, as a deputy came to the door for her diabetic aunt and took her to jail in her final years of life. Now here she was, dealing with her own debt, trying to head off the same fate.
Biggs, who is tall and broad-shouldered, with sun-scorched skin and bright hazel eyes, looked up as defendants talked, but he was embarrassed to say much. His court dates had begun after his son developed lymphoma, and they’d picked up when his wife started having seizures. He, too, had been arrested because of medical debt. It had happened more than once.
Read more at ProPublica....
UnitedHealth Group said it will expand its Medicare Advantage health plan offerings to seniors in 100 new counties next year in what has become the most competitive business for health insurance giants.
UnitedHealth said its UnitedHealthcare insurance business will “offer more than 100 new plans as it expands its offerings to reach an additional 1.2 million people in 100
new counties.” The insurer currently sells individual Medicare Advantage plans in more than 1,700 counties but that will grow to more than 1,800, the insurer said.
“In 2020, 90% of people eligible for Medicare will have a choice of UnitedHealthcare Medicare Advantage plans, nationwide,” the company, which is the nation’s largest health insurer, disclosed in an announcement Tuesday morning.
Read more at Forbes....
Medicare's Open Enrollment Period (OEP) is almost upon us. October 15 until December 7 is that time of year when those already on Medicare can change to, or change between, Medicare Advantage plans.
Those who are turning 65 can choose to join a Medicare Advantage plan during the three months before their birth month, the month of their birthday, and for three months past their birth month. This is called the Initial Coverage Election Period (ICEP). If you miss this time frame, you cannot join an MA plan until the next OEP.
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Medicare covers the majority of older Americans’ health needs -- from hospital care to doctor visits to lab tests and prescription drugs. Here are some needs that aren't a part of the program — and how you might pay for them.
Opticians and eye exams
While Original Medicare does cover ophthalmological expenses such as cataract surgery, it doesn’t cover routine eye exams, glasses or contact lenses. Nor do any Medigap plans, the supplemental insurance that is available from private insurers to augment Medicare coverage. Some Medicare Advantage plans cover routine vision care and glasses.
Solution: For some people, it makes sense to buy a vision insurance policy for a few hundred dollars a year to defray the costs of glasses or contact lenses.
Medicare covers ear-related medical conditions, but Original Medicare and Medigap plans don’t pay for routine hearing tests or aids.
Solution: If you are in a Medicare Advantage plan, check your policy to see if it covers hearing-related needs. If it doesn’t, or if you have Original Medicare, consider buying insurance or a membership in a discount plan that helps cover the cost of such devices. Also, some programs help people with lower incomes get needed hearing support. Or you can pay as you go. Congress has passed legislation allowing some hearing aids to be sold without a prescription. The devices could be available in a few years.
Dental workOriginal Medicare and Medigap policies do not cover dental care such as routine checkups or big-ticket items, including dentures and root canals.
Solution: Some Medicare Advantage plans offer dental coverage. If yours does not, or if you opt for Original Medicare, consider buying an individual dental insurance plan or a dental discount plan.
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