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Health Insurance Basics

Health Insurance and Aging Parents: 5 Things to Know

December 09, 2016

As parents age, it’s fairly common for their children to become more involved in their health care, including knowing more about their health plans and what type of coverage they’re eligible for.

You’ll want to get as much information as possible—and the earlier the better. It will may save lots of time, mistakes and headaches later.

Here are five important things you need to know about your parent’s health care and coverage:

What kind of coverage do they have?

Knowing the details of their coverage makes it easier to make informed decisions for their health and finances. Do they have Medicare? Medicaid? Or a plan through the Affordable Care Act? You’ll also want to see if they have coverage from a company they retired from. They may have a combination of benefits, so you’ll want to find out exactly what each form of coverage provides.

Do they have a Power of Attorney (POA)?

In the event parents become incapacitated, the POA can make medical decisions for them. It’s best to establish POA before it is needed rather than waiting, particularly in cases where a parent has dementia or Alzheimer’s, as they must be able to understand what they’re signing.

Do they have long-term care insurance?

Some people opt for long-term care insurance—it provides for such things as in-home assistance which isn’t covered by standard health plans or Medicare/Medicaid.

Is their coverage enough?

It’s important to understand your parents’ benefits and make sure they have sufficient health coverage. They may have a combination of private care, Medicare, Medigap, Medicaid or other coverage. Review all aspects of their coverage and see if it is enough for the care they require. If you need help understanding your parents’ insurance and how it works with government programs like the Affordable Care Act, Medicare or Medicaid, there are organizations in each state to help you navigate the system. Your parents’ primary care physician should be able to direct you to the correct organization.

Do they have life insurance?

In most cases, your parents will have life insurance, and you’ll need to understand what kind of life insurance they have – term or whole life. It’s a great idea to have a plan in place in case your parents are incapacitated and can’t continue making payments on their whole life policy. Make sure you review all the paperwork for existing policies and contact the insurer if you have any questions.