DEAR SUN SPOTS: Since I will soon be age 65, I am wondering where I can get correct information on Medicare and what the requirements are for private insurances. Do we have to take Medicare? Many companies have been contacting me to get supplemental insurance? Is it required to we take Medicare? It’s difficult to tell what is required and what is just a sales pitch to get my money. And is it legal for out-of-state companies to sell insurance in Maine? — No Name, Farmington
ANSWER: The Web site www.medicare.gov is an excellent resource for discovering everything you need to know about Medicare. The site is easy to use, but if you have difficulty with it, you can call 1-800-MEDICARE.
There are several parts to Medicare. Part A covers major medical, such as hospitalization, and most people who are eligible for Medicare do not pay a premium for those services (there are exceptions, but they are too complicated to go into here).
Part B expands those basic services to include doctors’ services, outpatient care, home health services and other medical services. Part B also covers some preventive services. There is a monthly premium for Part B, currently $96.40 for many people (again, there are exceptions).
Medicare Advantage Plans, sometimes called “Part C” or “MA Plans,” are health plans offered by private companies approved by Medicare. If you join a Medicare Advantage Plan, the plan provides all your Part A (Hospital Insurance) and Part B (Medical Insurance) coverage (it may also provide Part D). (You have probably seen advertisements for Martin’s Point, which is one of the companies that provides Medicare Advantage in Maine.)
Part D is the prescription drug coverage that was added to Medicare beginning in 2006. You probably have seen reference on the news to the infamous “doughnut hole,” a gap in that coverage the new health care legislation will begin to address by giving recipients $250 this year; it continues to close the gap as the years go by.
There can be penalties for not signing up for parts of Medicare when you first become eligible, so you want to consider your options carefully.
Each state determines a set of rules for insurance companies offering coverage for its residents, which leads some companies to choose not to offer coverage in that state. For example, according to http://healthinsurance.about.com, in Maine insurers cannot deny you coverage based on the status of your health. Companies that want to be able to exclude those people would choose not to operate in Maine.
Questions and complaints about insurance in general can be addressed to the Bureau of Insurance at the Maine Department of Professional & Financial Regulation, 34 State House Station, Augusta, ME 04333-0034, 800-300-5000 or 624-8475, www.maine.gov/pfr/insurance/index.shtml
DEAR SUN SPOTS: I just found my old baby knitting patterns after not knowing where they were for a very long time! The package includes infant through children’s items, afghans, teddy bears, slippers, etc. Knitting patterns are hard to find these days, and if anyone wants these, please contact me. I’m happy to give them away to someone who can use them. Jan Barrett, 783-8171, firstname.lastname@example.org
DEAR SUN SPOTS: First I want to thank all of you who responded to my request for crochet books. It was wonderful. This next request is even more important to me.
Several years ago (maybe close to 10) they had a cheerleading competition at the Lewiston Armory. My granddaughter was in the Auburn group that danced to Shania Twain’s “Honey I’m Home.” They were so good and not one out of step. I am trying to find someone who might have videotaped it. I would be happy to pay to make me a copy. Maybe the ladies who coached the team or some of the other mothers may have made one. I hope someone did. Thanks. —Wilma Turcotte, 782-8783, email@example.com
This column is for you, our readers. It is for your questions and comments. There are only two rules: You must write to the column and sign your name (we won’t use it if you ask us not to). Please include your phone number. Letters will not be returned or answered by mail, and telephone calls will not be accepted. Your letters will appear as quickly as space allows. Address them to Sun Spots, P.O. Box 4400, Lewiston, ME 04243-4400. Inquiries can also be e-mailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.