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Help for retirees who need it

By Jennie L. Phipps ·
Thursday, October 17, 2013
Posted: 4 pm ET

We took my sister-in-law out for dinner last night to celebrate her 65th birthday. She has serious mental handicaps and has had a rough time for many years affording even the most basic necessities of daily living. Reaching eligibility for Medicare is an important step. We hope access to affordable health care will improve her life in retirement.

My husband and I live too far away from his sister to be much help with the ordinary problems she encounters, but we try to be available to assist when she faces overwhelming challenges like those associated with signing up for Medicare.

Medicare has been advertising for several years about how easy it is to fill out the paperwork and begin receiving benefits, but it doesn't say much about the ease of establishing eligibility for both Medicare and Medicaid -- dual eligibility as it is known in government-ese. Navigating that path is no walk in the park, especially for people like my sister-in-law who are most likely to require these dual benefits.

My husband decided we needed to fly down after his sister mentioned that an insurance agent was helping her get health care. We questioned her, and she said she had purchased cancer insurance. Cancer insurance! A woman who can't afford the basics has no use for narrow specialty insurance, and the person who sold it to her undoubtedly took advantage of her gullibility. It took us two days to cancel it and get her money back.

Now we're using a terrific website,, sponsored by the National Council on Aging, to help her figure out how to qualify for retirement planning programs to which she is entitled at no charge, including assistance paying Medicare parts B and D as well as the deductibles associated with them. We also discovered that she's likely to qualify for some help repairing her mobile home.

Anyone who lives on a tight budget or knows someone who does should visit this website and see what kind of help is available. We think that what we're learning there is a huge blessing.

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October 19, 2013 at 11:11 pm

Wait to make that kind of statement Thomas. I live in MO and my roommate has both Medicare and Medicaid. She pays a spend down amount on Medicaid, but thank the good Lord she has it. She would have been in a nursing home (OMG) by now without it.

arjay crouse
October 19, 2013 at 3:16 pm

is there affordable life insurance for a 59 year old woman who has had open heart surgery? one was an aortic valve replacement.

October 19, 2013 at 1:49 pm

My wife Is 67 years of age and is on medicare. Should she be on medicare also. She has a heart condition. It is so confusing

October 18, 2013 at 1:21 pm

Actually, you can have both--Medicare does not pay for many things and for other things it only pays a fraction of the true cost. Medicaid can generally (for low income seniors and disabled folks) cover what Medicare does not. There is also a program that will pay for a low-income senior's Medicare premiums so that their Social Security payment is bigger. But, as the previous commenter wrote, check with Social Services to see what your loved one might be eligible for, as it is a confusing system even for the workers!

October 18, 2013 at 1:41 am

You cannot have eligibility for both Medicare and Medicaid !!!
Is either one or the other.
Medicaid provides Free Health insurance in case your relative has very low income [less than $15,000 /year], and you also have no money saved [more than $3000] in a bank, etc.