Agencies collaborate to explore Medicare basics

April was the month for aging issues in Ellis County Extension programs. We hosted the regional Full Circle Aging Expo last Friday in Hays where more than 90 people learned various aspects of living life to the fullest in their later years. During April we also offered programs on new ways to look at aging, physical activity for older adults and funeral planning and end-of-life issues.

Linda Beech

Linda Beech

In May, the Ellis County Extension Office will team up with the Northwest Kansas Aging and Disability Resource Center to again offer helpful information for those at or nearing retirement age. A joint program on “Medicare Basics” will be held at 4 p.m. Thursday, May 8, in the Extension meeting room, 601 Main.

This free educational program will cover Medicare eligibility, how and when to apply, what is covered by the various parts, and how to fill the gaps. Programs available to assist low income individuals will also be discussed.

Anyone interested in learning more about the Medicare maze would benefit from this program, particularly those who are nearing age 65 or those who help aging parents with insurance and financial matters.

Presenters for the program are Glenna Clingingsmith, from the Northwest Kansas Aging and Disability Resource Center, and Linda Beech, Ellis County Extension FCS Agent.

Medicare is the federal government program that provides health insurance to those who are age 65 or older, or under 65 and have a disability, no matter their income.

Medicare has different parts that cover inpatient services, outpatient services and prescription drugs at the pharmacy. Unless someone makes another choice for how to get benefits when they become eligible for Medicare, they will have Original Medicare, the traditional fee-for-service program offered directly through the federal government. In Original Medicare, you are covered to go to just about any doctor or hospital in the country.

People can also choose to get their Medicare benefits instead through a Medicare Advantage plan (such as an HMO or PPO). These plans, which are also called Medicare private health plans, must offer at least the same benefits as Original Medicare but can have different rules, costs and coverage restrictions.

Medicare is different from Medicaid, which is a state and federal program offering health care coverage to people with low incomes.

Everyone has a choice about how to get Medicare health benefits. Whether making decisions for yourself, or helping parents, grandparents, relatives or friends make health care decisions, it is important to understand Medicare options and to choose Medicare coverage carefully. The decisions you make about Medicare benefits can affect quality of care.

To learn more, plan to attend the free program on “Medicare Basics” at 4 p.m. May 8 at the Ellis County Extension meeting room, 601 Main in Hays. Enter the rear door from the north parking lot. Please pre-register by calling the Extension Office, (785) 628-9430, to ensure adequate materials.

Linda Beech is Ellis County Extension Agent for Family and Consumer Sciences.