In 2006, I moved my grandmother from Fort Worth, Texas to Hays, so that I could care for her more directly. In Texas, she was under a health management organization. Without getting into the specifics, it was a terrible system.
I was so thrilled to move my grandmother to Kansas where she would be on traditional Medicare A and B plans, but I had to enroll her in Medicare D and obtain a supplemental insurance policy for her as well.
At the point of the move, my grandmother was 92-years-old. Little did I know that she would be with me for another four years, but that is another story.
At 92 years of age, my grandmother was hard of hearing and her eyesight was very poor. When she would try to write out a check, it was hard to figure out what she had written, and typically she used the wrong line on the check. That is when I started taking care of her affairs.
She had asked that I make arrangements to get her enrolled in the Medicare programs. Medicare D was new. It was the first time that I had to enroll for anyone. I got on the phone with someone from Medicare.gov. Being a lawyer, of course I waited until the last minute (Dec. 31). I spent the next almost two hours on the phone going through my grandmother’s medications and what would be the best plan for her. I cannot imagine that my grandmother could have ever done that. I pushed multiple buttons and had to make more option choices along the way. It simply would have been way too complicated for her.
I wish I could relate to you that life has been streamlined for seniors. It has not. I suppose that is why I do what I do.
At the time I am writing this article, I just read an editorial piece. As you may or may not be aware, a few years ago Kansas adopted something called KanCare. KanCare basically turned over management of Medicaid to a private agency. The company is called Maximus. Local Medicaid offices were closed and they were centralized in Topeka.
Guess what the result has been? Not only is service more frustrating, and time-consuming, there are fewer people on going on Medicaid. According to the article in the Kansas City Star, the number of seniors that KanCare covers for in-home nursing home health has actually declined. So has the number of Kansans covered for nursing home beds.
According to the Johnson County Area Agency on Aging as reported by the Star, seniors are getting frustrated, as are the poor or declining in health, becoming defeated by the process and just giving up.
I remember years ago there was a law passed called the Deficit Reduction Act. It changed a lot of laws dealing with Medicaid. Part of the “savings” was a line item built in for the number of people who would just give up or die before they could get qualified. What a way to save money.
If I sound frustrated, it is because I am. The system needs to be fixed.
At the very least, I would urge that the local offices be reopened so that the poor and infirm can deal directly with a person, and not deal with a computer or a telephone operating system.
Let me go back to my grandmother for a moment. I spent almost two hours on the phone with somebody from Medicare.gov. The woman, on New Years’ Eve, was incredibly helpful. She did help my grandmother get on a good plan, and I am still grateful for her guidance.
I know navigating the system can be complicated. Do not be afraid to seek help. You will be glad you did.
Randy Clinkscales founded Clinkscales Elder Law Practice in 1985.