Healthy, Wealthy and Wiser

This topic came up on my private Facebook group, “The Good Kids Club” and I thought it might have some value for others in this situation.

So many of us face caring for parents as we age. At a time when we feel more able to slow down and put ourselves first, the specter of family caregiving often shows up as an unrequested “gift.” We love our parents (we may not LIKE them, but we LOVE them) and want to do the right thing. This past year drove many independent seniors to seek support from adult children because they were fearful of doing the simple things that never bothered them before. So many found themselves more involved in their parents lives sooner than anticipated (if they even saw it coming at all).

Once we begin to step up, we are too often unprepared for the challenges that arise. One club member posted a story about her mom, who is in her 90s, having a condition causing pain in her mouth. It was not a dental issue, but because of how the condition was charted, Medicare viewed the problem as “dental” and denied the charges. This was an expensive error. The author of the post suspected this would happen, and the upshot was that her intuition was correct, her mom got seriously overcharged for treatment that should have been covered, and the dutiful daughter now has to contest the denial.

Now, this can happen to anyone. Standard operating procedure for most health insurers is to deny first, fend off queries later. They are BUSINESSES. The health of the insured is not their primary concern. Collecting premiums and denying claims have much higher priorities. So it falls on us to watch what they do, ask a lot of questions and make sure they do what they’re paid to do: pay for as much of our healthcare as they promise to.

When we get involved with our parents’ care, we need certain tools:

Number 1: HEALTH CARE PROXY. We need to be officially and legally appointed by our parents to represent them. Without that document, insurers can dodge you. So don’t make it easy for them. Make sure you are appointed and have a valid document that proves it.

Number 2: TEAM UP WITH DOCTORS. In order to make sure your folks are getting their procedures and treatments covered, they need to be seeing doctors who know how to navigate. Get to know the doctors who care for your parents. Talk to them. Ask questions. And if they aren’t going to doctors, seek out appropriate physicians and get your parents to go. Go with them if you can.

Number 3: CHECK THEIR INSURANCE. I highly recommend talking to a Medicare broker to go over the products your parents are using. The types of programs available change annually and vary from state to state. Brokers don’t charge for their advice, and they are product agnostic. Getting their opinion on your parents’ coverage can save a bundle and doesn’t cost anything but your time.

One last thing: while you’re considering these concepts regarding your folks, consider your own situation as well. Time moves merrily along, and in the blink of an eye, we’re in the position our parents were in. Let’s learn from it, protect ourselves and those who love us and sleep better knowing we’ll get the care and support we all need, without spending everything we’ve worked all of our lives to acquire.