By Betty Berry, Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2011

Q: My friends range in age from the early 50s to the mid-70s. When we talk about retirement, we have many conflicting beliefs. Is there somewhere we could go as a group to hear facts about Social Security and Medicare? Hearing the same thing together would help.

A: I understand exactly what you are saying. People have different ideas about the benefits available, the time to apply for those benefits and what happens if you do or don’t take advantage of those benefits when you should.

Probably the best way to start learning about the hows and whens of these programs is to attend an unbiased presentation — and I know one that will take place next month.

“Is Retirement in Your Near Future?” is scheduled for 7 to 8:30 p.m. Oct. 5 at Emmanuel Presbyterian Church, 588 Camino Manzannas (at Lynn Road) in Thousand Oaks.

The presentation will cover Social Security and Medicare for retirees. Subjects to be addressed will include early retirement and working beyond full retirement age.

Learn about when to apply for specific benefits, available resources and issues such as taxes, caps and penalties that may apply to your benefits.

Survivor benefits and collecting on a former spouse’s benefits will also be addressed.

The seminar will be facilitated by the senior advocate, and audience questions are welcome.

Reservations are strongly recommended. For questions or reservations, call the church at 498-4502.

Q: My mother has been in and out of hospitals for the past two years. She used her 100 days in a skilled nursing facility, and now my father is paying the bill. My mother went back into the hospital for four days, and I thought that if you were hospitalized and returned to a skilled nursing facility, the 100 days started over. The financial person at the facility told me there were more stipulations than that. Is this true?

A: This area of coverage is easily misunderstood and creates problems for many families. The financial person at your mother’s facility was correct. The noncoverage at the facility has to do with the “benefit period,” not the return to the hospital.

A benefit period begins the day you enter the hospital or skilled nursing facility and ends 60 days after you have not received any inpatient care at the hospital or skilled nursing facility.

Your mother has never ended her initial “benefit period” as she has not had 60 days of no inpatient care. Therefore, she has used up her 100 days for the benefit period she is in and not entitled to another 100 days in this same benefit period.

If she were to go to a hospital or skilled nursing facility after one period, the coverage for that benefit period would start again when the new benefit period began.

Q: I hear that this year’s open enrollment period to change your Medicare choices is earlier than it has been before. Is this true?

A: Yes. In years past, the open enrollment period for changing Medicare coverage and Medicare Part D prescription drug coverage was Nov. 15 to Dec. 31. This year, that period is Oct. 15 through Dec. 7. Just before and during the first few weeks of that period, there will be seminars throughout the county to explain what you need to know for 2012. There also will be “one-stop shops” throughout the country to assist with selecting Part D plans. This column will list the time and place of these seminars and one-stop shops, so stay tuned.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email