As individuals retire or age into Medicare, their insurance situation can change dramatically. There are a multitude of options open to those with Medicare. The terms are different, the prices are different, the products offered are dramatically different each year.
The purpose of this column is to give those who are eligible for Medicare, or soon to be eligible for Medicare, some understanding of their insurance options and how it could impact their health and finances.
These questions and answers are meant as a guide to help you understand the complex questions you are now thinking about. Each individual's specific situation may create a different solution. You shouldn't necessarily do what your friends, family and neighbors do.
Q: Money is so tight right now. What can I do to save money?
A: I have to agree with you here. It seems we are all trying to do more (or the same) with less money. That is true at work, but even more so at home. I have a couple ideas right away.
One is applying for HEAP, Home Energy Assistance Program. This is a program for lower income individuals and families. The program provides help with high energy costs. The benefit is a one-time payment to your heating utility company. The HEAP season runs from November to usually March but sometimes later in the year. To receive this benefit, you must complete an application, and you can get that application from the local county department of Social Services (DSS).
You apply using the application that they send to you. Some seniors may remember applying for this benefit through Office For the Aging, but the application process has changed. You now apply at DSS.
The criteria for being eligible includes an income limit, which is currently $2,146 per month for an individual, $2,806 per month for a couple. If you have more than two in your family, the income limit continues to go up per person. I have found many working families and seniors are eligible for this benefit, so it is definitely worth looking into.
If you feel your income is above the monthly income limit, it is still worth looking into. The monthly household income is reduced by some expenses, like health insurance premiums and other household expenses. So some households that have a higher monthly income could be eligible for this benefit as well.
The second idea I have for saving money is an upcoming program on Wednesday. Easy Couponing, Shop Smart and Save Money. This program is being held on the Lutheran Campus in Christ Chapel at 715 Falconer St. at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday. The program will cover couponing and other smart shopping techniques. This program is free and open to the public. Reservations are required at 720-9122.
I am a coupon clipper and find that I usually save at least 10 percent off my grocery bill.
I also use coupons for other stores as well, like restaurants, clothing and specialty stores.
You just need to be careful that you are buying things that you use or want; otherwise you aren't saving any money, but simply spending more. Hope to see you on the 27th. I think we will all learn something useful.
Janell Sluga is a geriatric care manager certified and works for Senior Life Matters, a program of Lutheran Senior Housing, and has worked in Chautauqua County with seniors for more than 18 years. She is HIICAP (Health Insurance Information, Counseling & Assistance Program) counselor-trained by Office for the Aging. She does not sell insurance or represent any insurance company. She is an unbiased source of insurance and education to help seniors choose the best option for them.