QUESTION:  In reading some literature on Medicare hospital coverage I came across something called “benefit period” that I didn’t fully understand.  Could you provide a simple explanation?

ANSWER:  A benefit period is a way of measuring use of hospital and skilled nursing facility (also known as a SNF) services.  It is important to know what constitutes a benefit period because there are certain limits to the coverage you can receive during a benefit period.

If you exceed the limits you could be responsible for co-pays or full cost for continuation of those services.

The entire period of time you are treated in the hospital and/or skilled nursing facility for a spell of illness is known as a benefit period.  A  benefit period  begins the first day you are admitted as an impatient in a hospital or skilled nursing facility and ends when you have not received any inpatient hospital care or skilled care in a skilled nursing facility for a period of 60 consecutive days.  The 60 day period begins on the day you are discharged.

If you go back into a hospital or skilled nursing facility after one benefit period has ended a new benefit period begins and your benefits will start over.

There is no limit to the number of benefit periods you can have, however, for each benefit period you will be responsible for the Medicare Part A deductible.

QUESTION:  My home is in need of some repairs but I have heard some horrible stories about contractors taking advantage of seniors and hesitate to hire someone.  How can I avoid becoming a victim?

ANSWER:  We’ve all heard some stories but in most day-to-day dealings the majority of contractors do an honest job.  There are, however, rip-off deals or impossible-to-refuse offers that make you forget the warning “buyer beware.”

Home improvement projects and repairs are expensive and thought and time should go into the selection of a contractor.  Interview several contractors, ask for and check references and if possible inspect a previous job.

You should always pick the contractor—the contractor should not seek you out.  A contractor who goes door-to-door telling you he is working the neighborhood should be a red flag alert as should a marketer on the telephone.

Make sure the contractor is licensed, bonded and insured.  Check with the Contractor’s Licensing Board to see if any complaints have been filed.  More than one recent complaint should put you on notice of possible trouble.

Before deciding on a specific contractor obtain several estimates.  A legitimate contractor will provide a free job estimate that is easy to understand and specific about materials to be used and labor to be performed.

Once you decide on a contractor request a written contract.  It should include the services to be performed, costs, guarantees, warranties and start and completion dates.  Ask to see copies of professional licenses, insurance documents and some form of personal identification.

Prior to starting the project make sure the contractor pulls the proper permits and secures a performance bond.

Never pay up front.  Provide a down payment of no more than 10% and pay the balance in installments.  Final payment should not be made until the job is completed to your satisfaction or if an inspection is required after the inspector has completed his review.

Always request a release of mechanic’s lien from the contractor when the project is completed.

Don’t hesitate to ask questions.  An honest contractor will be willing to provide information. If the contractor you select won’t provide answers look for another one who will.


WEDNESDAY – November 4 – 10:00 am to 4:00 pm – MEMORY SCREENING DAY – at Senior Helpers of Westlake Village, 31255 Cedar Valley Drive, Westlake Village.  For reservations, a must, call (805) 497-8370.

MONDAY – November 9 – 5:30 to 7:00 pm – The Empowered Caregiver Series – Seminar – “Social Security – Think It Doesn’t Matter – Think Again” – at Senior Concerns Day Care Center, 401 Hodencamp Road in Thousand Oaks.  For reservations call (805) 497-0189.

WEDNESDAY – November 11 – 8:00 am – Veterans Day Breakfast and USO Show – at Goebel Adult Community Center, 1385 E. Janss Road in Thousand Oaks.  Free tickets available at Goebel Center beginning October 26 – seating is limited.

WEDNESDAY – November 18 – 1:30 pm – Seminar – “Scammers Enjoy the Holidays Too!” – at Westlake Village Civic Center, 31200 E. Oak Crest Drive in Westlake Village.  For information call the Advocate’s office (805) 495-6250.

MEDICARE ONE-STOP-STOPS – assistance and counseling with making changes in your health care coverage for 2015 – walk-ins welcome.

WEDNESDAY – October 28, THURSDAY – October 29,  MONDAY – November 2 and WEDNESDAY – November 4 – 9:00 am to 3:00 pm at the Area Agency on Aging Offices. 646 County Square Drive in Ventura.

FRIDAY – October 30 – 10:00 am to 1:00 pm – at …

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