Medicare Part B and Counting….

By Larry Teren

“Get to the Point” is usually spoken about a minute or two into a conversation between Ma and me or Ma and my older sister or Ma and my brother or my brother and me or my sister and me…. You get the idea.

As part of our bloodline, we suffer from impatience to listening to the long version of a story as opposed to hearing the bottom line. So, you can imagine what it must have been like as the four of us sat downstairs in a fancy dining room that was turned into a makeshift office for our benefit at the nursing home (excuse me- rehab) facility. Ma was now at the magical twenty day gestation period in which Medicare agrees to pay 100% of the costs for her to recover from the broken hip and aftermath surgery.

Sitting in this round table discussion along with a portion of the family- two sisters were in other cities and could not attend- was a representative from the nursing staff as well as an occupational and a physical therapist at the nursing home. All three ladies agreed that Ma was doing quite well and on the road to recovery.

The next step would be to go into the Medicare Part B phase in which Medicare covers 80% and her supplemental insurer covers the other 20%. At least, we hope so. The nurse representative explained that Medicare allows a patient up to 100 days of resources. This means that Ma can take advantage of an additional 80 days of rehabbing provided they deem it is necessary. It doesn’t need to be done consecutively. She can leave the nursing home (yes, some people actually do not in a body bag) after sixty days and still have forty more days to bargain before a calendar year is up.

In the meantime, with three of her children visiting her for now on an almost daily basis besides a handful of friends, her focus and attitude is positive. Today, I witnessed her walk half the basement hall with the therapist while she put only heel pressure on the ground.

All three ladies agree that Ma should continue with the same level of rehab treatment for another two weeks until she sees the surgeon. He will be the one to approve her to apply full pressure on her left foot down to the ground as she steps. This will make a dramatic improvement to the style of therapy she is going through. It will also most likely mean that she be allowed to stay another two weeks after that until she ‘plateaus’ with what they are able to do for her at the nursing home /rehab facility.

Then comes getting used to living at home again in a house with two floors and a basement. Ma will have to traipse up and down stairs. If she cannot handle it whatsoever, then some serious decisions on the future of living in the townhouse need to be resolved.

With all this pressure on Ma, I did not want to bother her about the letter in the mail she received at her house a day earlier. It was a statement from the hospital indicating that they billed both Medicare and her Medicare Part B supplemental insurance company for the four day stay including the surgery. There was a detailed list of around thirty different services for which they charged. The total came to over 80,000 dollars. Obviously, Medicare will tell the hospital that certain fees are overstated and that they can only expect to receive so much. This is a ridiculous cat and mouse game that goes on between health care providers and insurers. The health care providers inflate the fee knowing full well that it will be reduced. But they feel a need to state what they believe the service provided is truly worth. And I feel that I should charge 200 dollars an hour for my consulting services but then I realize no one will pay it so I charge something much more reasonable.

It will cost Ma out of pocket whatever is left on her deductible that she has not yet paid. What is not clear is what else she is responsible to pay once the deductible is met. For a person receiving very little social security, this is enough aggravation to send him or her back to the hospital or nursing home for a new round of therapy.

My brother would now say, “get to the point.” I would then answer, “okay- check back in two weeks after the doctor examines her and looks at the x-rays.”

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