Q. My Medigap policy was cheap when I bought it but it's expensive now that I'm 76. I tried to switch to a cheaper plan but was turned down because of some health conditions. Will health care reform prevent Medigap plans from doing this?
Just in time for Valentine's Day comes this, ahem, uplifting tidbit from our director of health research, who stumbled upon it while looking into the erectile-dysfunction drug sildenafil (Viagra) for entirely work-related purposes. It seems that in addition to its well-known human effects, the popular drug might also give a boost to wilting plant life.
An episode of "Dr. Phil" this week that focused on elder abuse—both financial and physical—struck a chord with a number of people, if the show's comments section is any indication. Numerous commenters reported abuse of their own parents by professionals in nursing-home settings and by relatives in the elderly people's own homes.
This year's flu season is coming on fast and strong, especially in the South and Southeast. The extra bad news: Only about a third of people got vaccinated early this year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The good news: This year's vaccine seems to very effective, there are no reported shortages, and it's still not too late to get it.
Q. I heard that the Medicare Part B premium was going to go up to $120 in 2013 and $247 in 2014 as part of Obamacare, and that this was kept under wraps so as not to influence the outcome of the 2012 election. True or false?
Q. I am 68 and have only Medicare Part A. My sole source of income is $1,062 a month from Social Security. I'm in good health but concerned about future medical needs. Are there any plans for lower-income people?
Medicare beneficiaries whose lives have been upended by Hurricane Sandy will be allowed to sign up for Medicare health and drug plans after the open enrollment deadline of Dec. 7, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has announced.
Q. I retired from a federal government agency and did not enroll in Medicare Part B when I became eligible. Instead I continued my coverage through the Federal Employees Health Benefit Program. I understand that if I ever want to enroll in Part B in the future there will be a 10 percent penalty for every year that I delayed. Did I make a mistake?
Q. I am 82, retired, and on Social Security with a private Medicare Advantage plan. My wife is 52, unemployed, and uninsured, and we have a 20-year-old son in college. Is our son eligible for coverage under my Medicare Advantage Plan as per the Affordable Care Act?
Q. I keep hearing rumors that the federal government will stop reimbursing Medicare Advantage plans in a year or two and people insured under these plans will have to look for new insurance. What do you know about this matter?
Older adults who get the shingles vaccine can cut their risk of this painful condition in half, according to a study out today. Unfortunately, many people who could benefit from the shot haven't had it, in part because the wrongly assume they don't need it.
I recently got a question from a woman who wondered why she should sign up for Medicare Part B, which covers doctor bills and other kinds of outpatient treatments, since she is in great shape and gets most of her care from a doctor who practices natural medicine. And I got another question from a man who said he didn't want to sign up for Medicare Part D, which covers drugs, because he doesn't spend much on medication. My opinion: Both people are courting disaster. Here's why.
Q. No matter where I look, I find an overwhelming amount of data about Medicare Advantage but very little about Medigap. Where can I find ratings on Medigap policies?
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