Updated 07/12/2011 07:25 AM
Aging America Part 2: Who's footing the bill?
So you've just turned 65...now what? It's a hectic time planning for financial security for the rest of your life. Even if you're still working, there are deadlines to apply for Medicare, plus finding a plan that covers your needs can be confusing. In this segment of Aging America, our Katie Gibas takes us into the financial structures that help aging adults.
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U.S. -- Many people think with the economy and our obligations they're never going to be able to retire.
"We are often in such denial about aging that we keep putting things off. And just like anything you put off, when you do look at it, your options might be limited," said Sharon Brangman, the American Geriatrics Society Board Chair and the Upstate Medical University Geriatrics Division Chief.
The primary goal of Medicare is to provide health services for older Americans. if you miss the seven month window to apply for it around your 65th birthday, you could face a penalty later in life. Depending on your plan, Medicare includes hospital stays, doctors visits and prescription drugs.
"Medicare looking at putting an eye on preventative services is really key, and so for that, I'd say that's something we need to educate people about because for many older adults, people who are 75, 85 are used to Medicare does not cover preventative services or limited preventative services," said Jo Anne Spoto Decker, the Onondaga County Department of Aging and Youth Community Services Director.
But there are limitations to Medicare and what it covers, including the payment structure.
"Those specialties that talk with patients, and help coordinate their care get reimbursed at a lower rate than those that are procedure based. We have medical students who are graduating with significant amounts of debt, and they look and make decisions based on that as well as other things," said Brangman.
Judith Huober, the director of the Institute at Menorah Park For Applied Research on Aging added, "We pay for very expensive procedures and very expensive follow-up care but we're not really making sure what we get out of that is a functional, high quality of life, successful older person."
In addition to the limitations within the system, Medicare has come under close scrutiny because of the cost of the program and many criticize New York for offering more electives for coverage that most other states with taxpayers footing the bill.
"When you talk in terms of the theory of it, it may sound like it’s extra, an elective isn't needed, but when it's a loved one or it's you, it's something you think is very important. You want to be able to use that option," said Brangman.
"It's absolutely critical to maintain strong, ongoing social security protections, especially for people moving into retirement today and over the next 15 years because these are the people who have been most hurt by this deep economic recession," said Eric Kingson, a Syracuse University Professor of Social Work and the Co-director of Social Security Works.
Those in support of Medicare say the toughest part of making the system work to better care for older adults and compensate geriatric care providers isn't a question of whether or not it's possible, but if the attitude of the country will allow it.
If you're in your 60s, The Onondaga County Department of Aging and Youth has free services to help you come up with a timeline and plans that are right for you.