Welcome to November, the month when Medicare Madness is at its frenzied peak.
If you are like me, your mailbox has never been so full. Every day I receive a dizzying array of booklets, brochures and return mail cards from a number of Medicare providers competing for a chunk of my Social Security deposit.
The Medicare Open Enrollment period, a.k.a. Open Season on Seniors, began Oct. 15 and will conclude on Dec. 7.
Going through the variables of each plan can be overwhelming for aging minds trying to figure out drugs, doctors and donut holes as well as who’s out-of-network and in-our-pockets. And who can remember all their doctors’ names anyway?
This year, we are faced with even more options with our Medicare Advantage (MA) plans. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has added nearly 600 MA plans with average premiums declining to their lowest levels in six years.
In Medicares Past, we’ve been enticed by things like free gym memberships and dental and vision benefits, but this go around, some MA plans are allowed to dish out an assortment of benefits that stray well beyond the usual medical buffet:
Carpet shampooing to freshen up the home. Food for a service dog. Cooking classes. Rides to a nutritionist.
These are among the new supplemental health benefits that the privately run sector could option to the 73 percent of MA members who have chronic health conditions such as diabetes, asthma and heart disease. The idea is that these perks could help them stay healthy and, live in their homes longer.
Some MA plans may even pay for improvements to a member’s home, such as permanent ramps or broader hallways and doors for wheelchairs.
Fair enough. But carpet shampooing?
Seema Verma, the CMS administrator, explained: “If someone has asthma and if they just shampoo the carpet that might make the difference and keep them out of the hospital.”
(On the other hand, if they slip and fall on that freshened, but damp carpet, that could send them into the ER.)
Hopefully, now that you are aware of these benefits, you’ve not accidentally tossed out these offers with your Publishers Clearinghouse letters or your weekly allotment of credit card pre-approval notifications.
As for 2021, I’m wondering what new options will be on the horizon? Golf club memberships would be nice. I don’t actually play, but the members’ discounts in the pro shops might help to “freshen up” my wardrobe and keepme in my home longer.
After all, I’d need the closet space.
Michael Wright stays busy these days making house of cards pyramids
with all of his Medicare postal advertisements. Reach him at