If you don't have a fixed income... you don't need to read any further...you still have options.
If you don't have Medicare...skip this.
For those of us elders who have a small amount tucked away, but depend upon our Social Security checks (another kind of savings account which represents our earnings before we retired) then this might be your kind of headache.
I looked on line at the options for Medicare this coming year. In my county, in my state (North Carolina) I will have to pay a new monthly premium. Can't find a single private company which will honor the previous policy of taking the amount set aside for Medicare from my monthly Social Security check ($104.90/month). For the past seven years since I retired, Medicare has been covered completely by my SS. Now all the policies will cost more than that figure.
So I called in a panic to the SHIP people, a state agency which helps elders for their insurance needs. They had a cancellation for an appointment that very day, if I could drive the 30 miles to it. I agreed.
But the woman wasn't able to answer my needs.
I don't have any increase in income. But now I have an increase in expenses.
It's not much. But when you count pennies it does represent several thousand.
The woman from SHIP was sorry she couldn't help. She even called me at home later to say she had some other ideas, to call the Social Security people and ask for help.
So last night I did. And waited for a live person for 20 minutes after the first 5 minutes of menu choices pre-recorded. Then I hung up and again went through the menu until I got to the option of "we'll call you in 15 minutes." I left my name and number, and someone did call.
Incidentally, the first thing the recording says is that Social Security has been increased for COLA (some cost of living formula) by 1.7% in 2015. Thanks to our government.
And the SS woman was nice, but had no answers for my dilemma, and gave me back the SHIP phone number, and said there is an application which I can fill out if I already am purchasing a Supplement through Medicare. But I won't find out if I'm approved for this until
1.) after the deadline date to sign up for Medicare
2.) 2 weeks to 30 days
So I didn't go to bed thinking things had been solved.
I have talked (before retiring 7 years ago) to a Social Worker about some of these problems. That person had gone to college, passed a licensing test, and kept current on the issues of elders who lived on fixed incomes, had chronic medical conditions needing frequent treatment by doctors, and needed ongoing daily medications.
I am not so knowledgeable. I don't have access to a Social Worker, but that is the person I most need at this moment. From having gone to college many years ago, I was able to wade through the Medicare DOT gov site and learned more than I probably needed to know about things I didn't need to know at all.
I have called my primary doctor as well as asked about specialist coverage if I don't have an Advantage Plan, or Supplement Plan...which are donkeys and horses in Medicare-speak. There are so many choices of each it's blinding...but none without monthly premiums.
I have a current plan that doesn't cover my physical therapy treatment for a torn rotator cuff for less than the cost of a specialist, so I haven't received the course of treatment I needed. I thought I might be able to look at several plans and find the one that offers lessor cost of physical therapy. Nah. That's not available. There's no list of costs of services, just a generic list of "what an average elder person would need to spend" for everything. What?
What kind of sales system do these private insurance companies offer? You can't purchase things blind. But that's exactly what this system seems to me.
I'm assuming Social Workers know that company "Humana" for instance has offered $25 physical therapy under such and such a plan, and company "United Healthcare" offers the same for $50 per visit. Why can't they tell me that?
In the meantime, I refuse to sign up for any of them. On Sunday night, when the deadline looms, I'll sign up for something I'm sure. Today is the last business day to contact all those 800 numbers, so I'll try to get some answers on "assistance programs." Not holding my breath however.