Finding affordable dental care can be challenging for
seniors living on a tight budget. Most retirees lose
their dental insurance after leaving the workplace, and
original Medicare does not cover cleaning, fillings or
dentures. While there’s no one solution to affordable
dental care there are a number of options that can help
cut your costs. Here’s where to look.
Q: I had dental insurance through my work for many years
but lost it when I retired. Where can retirees find
affordable dental care?
While original Medicare (Part A and B) and Medicare
supplemental policies do not cover routine dental care,
there are some Medicare Advantage (Part C) plans that
do. Many of these plans, which are sold through private
insurance companies, cover dental care along with eye
care, hearing and prescription drugs, in addition to all
of your hospital and medical insurance. If you’re
eligible for Medicare, see medicare.gov/find-a-plan to
look for Advantage plans in your area that covers dental
Another way you can reduce your dental care expenses is
to join a dental discount network. How this works is you
pay an annual membership fee - around $80 to $200 a year
- in exchange for 10 to 60 percent discounts on service
and treatments from participating dentists. To find a
network, go to DentalPlans.com (or 888-632-5353) where
you can search for plans and participating dentists by
zip code, as well as get a breakdown of the discounts
Another option that’s currently available only in the
southern California area is Brighter.com. They provide
users free access to a network of dentists offering up
to 50 percent discounts on all services.
Dental school clinics offer savings opportunities too.
All 65 accredited dental schools in the U.S. offer
affordable care provided by dental students who are
overseen by their professors. You can expect to pay
about half of what a traditional dentist would charge
and still receive excellent, well-supervised care.
Another option is to check with local colleges that
offer dental hygiene programs. For training purposes,
many programs provide teeth cleanings by their students
for a fraction of what you’d pay at a dentist’s office.
search for nearby dental schools or dental hygiene
programs visit ada.org/dentalschools.
If you’re a veteran enrolled in the VA health care
program, or are a beneficiary of the Civilian Health and
Medical Program (CHAMPVA), the VA is now offering a
dental insurance program that gives you the option to
buy dental insurance through Delta Dental and MetLife at
a reduced cost.
VA also provides free dental care to vets who have
dental problems resulting from service. To learn more
about these options, visit va.gov/dental or call
you’re low income, there are various programs and
clinics that provide dental care at a reduced rate or
for free. To look for options in your area contact your
state dental director (see astdd.org), or your state or
local dental society (ebusiness.ada.org/mystate.aspx).
may also be able to get discounted or free dental care
at one of the federally funded HRSA health centers (findahealthcenter.hrsa.gov,
877-464-4772), or at a privately funded free clinic (nafcclinics.org).
check with the Dental Lifeline Network (dentallifeline.org,
888-471-6334) which provides free dental care for
low-income elderly and disabled; Remote Area Medical (ramusa.org)
which offers free health, eye and dental care to people
in select locations; and Indian Health Service (ihs.gov),
which provides free dental care to American Indians and
Alaska Natives who are members of a federally recognized
see toothwisdom.org, a website created by Oral Health
America that will help you locate low-cost dental care.
How Medicare covers outpatient mental health services
Oct. 21, 2014
Q: Does Medicare cover outpatient counseling or therapy
sessions for seniors? Since retiring, my husband has
really struggled with depression and needs to get some
help. What can you tell us?A: Yes,
Medicare recently upgraded its coverage of outpatient
mental health services to help beneficiaries with
depression and other needs. Here’s how it works.
If you have original Medicare, your Part B coverage will
pay 80 percent (after you’ve met your $147 Part B
deductible) for a variety of counseling and therapy
services that are provided outside a hospital, like
individual and group therapy, family counseling and
more. They also cover services for treatment of
beneficiaries who struggle with inappropriate alcohol
and drug use.
or your supplemental insurance is responsible for the
remaining 20 percent coinsurance.
Medicare also gives your husband the option of getting
treatment through a variety of mental health
professionals such as psychiatrists, psychologists,
clinical social workers and clinical nurse specialists.
also important to understand that if your husband
decides to see a non-medical doctor (such as
psychologists or a clinical social worker), you’ll need
to make sure that he or she is Medicare-certified and
takes assignment, which means they accept Medicare’s
approved amount as full payment. If they don’t, Medicare
will not pay for the services.
Medicare will, however, pay for the services of
Medicare-certified medical doctors (such as
psychiatrists) who do not take assignment, but these
doctors can charge you up to 15 percent above Medicare’s
approved amount in addition to the 20 percent
coinsurance, which you will be responsible for.
locate a mental health care professional in your area
that accepts Medicare assignment, use Medicare’s online
Physician Compare tool. Just go to medicare.gov/physiciancompare
and type in your zip code, or city and state, then type
in the type of profession you want locate, like
“psychiatry” or “clinical psychologist” in the “What are
you searching for?” box. You can also get this
information by calling Medicare at 800-633-4227.
If you and your husband get your Medicare benefits
through a private Medicare Advantage plan, they too must
cover the same services as original Medicare but they
will likely require him to see an in-network provider.
You’ll need to contact your plan directly for the
In addition to the outpatient mental health services,
you should also know that Medicare covers yearly
depression screenings that must be done in a primary
care doctor’s office or primary care clinic that can
assure appropriate diagnosis, treatment and follow-up.
Annual depression screenings are covered 100 percent.
Medicare will also cover almost all medications used to
treat mental health conditions under the Part D
prescription drug benefit. If your husband is prescribed
an antidepressant or some other medication for his
condition, and he has a Part D plan, you should call his
plan to confirm coverage or you can search the plans
formulary (the list of medications they cover) on their
For more detailed information, call Medicare at
800-633-4227 and request a copy of publication #10184
“Medicare & Your Mental Health Benefits,” or you can
read it online at medicare.gov/publications/pubs/pdf/10184.pdf.
What to consider when choosing a walk-in bathtub
Oct. 14, 2014
Q: I’m interested in getting a walk-in bathtub for my
wife that’s easy for her to get into and out of, but
could use some assistance. Can you offer any consumer
walk-in bathtub is a great option for seniors with
mobility problems who have trouble getting in and out of
a traditional tub. But with so many options available
today, choosing one can be challenging. Here are a few
tips that can help.
Walk-in bathtubs are specialty products that have a
watertight, hinged door built into the side of the tub
that provides a much lower threshold to step over
(usually 3 to 7 inches) versus a standard tub that’s
around 15 inches.
addition to the low threshold, most walk-in tubs also
have a built-in seat, grab bars, anti-slip floors and a
handheld showerhead. And many higher-end models offer
therapeutic spa-like features that are great for seniors
with arthritis and other ailments.
kind of walk-in tub you choose will depend on the size
and layout of your bathroom, your wife’s needs and
preferences, and your budget. Prices for a good walk-in
tub typically run between $3,000 and $10,000 installed.
Here are some other things you should know.
Quality check: The best walk-in bathtubs on the market
today are made in the USA. Also, make sure the company
you choose has a lifetime “leak-proof” door seal
warranty and lengthy warranties on both the tub and the
size: While walk-in bathtubs vary in shape and size,
most models have high-walls (three feet or higher), are
26 to 32 inches wide, and will fit into the same 60-inch
long space as your standard tub without having to
reconfigure the room. If the walk-in tub doesn’t quite
fit your old bathtub space, extension kits are available
to ensure a good fit.
options: Most walk-in tubs have an inward opening door,
but if your wife uses a wheelchair or is a large person,
an outward opening door may be a better option because
they’re easier to enter and exit. But, be aware that
because these doors swing out, they require more
One other style to consider is the “rising-wall” bathtub
made by Kohler, which sits about two feet off the ground
and has a side panel that slides up and down. These tubs
can be entered from a seated position, which makes it a
nice option for wheelchair users.
type: Most companies offer several different types of
walk-in tubs. The most basic type is a soaker tub, or
you can get a therapeutic tub that offers either
whirlpool water jets or bubble massage air jets, or a
combination of the two.
fill and drain: One drawback to using a walk-in bathtub
is that the bather must sit in the tub as it fills and
drains, which can make for a chilly experience. To help
with this, choose a tub that has fast-filling faucets
and pump-assisted drainage systems, which significantly
speeds up the process.
Where to shop: While there are many companies that make,
sell and install walk-in bathtubs, some of the best in
the industry are Safe Step (www.safesteptub.com,
800-346-6616), Premier (www.premiercarebathing.com,
800-934-7614), American Standard (www.americanstandard.com,
866-423-0800) and Jacuzzi (www.jacuzzi.com,
800-288-4002). Many big box retailers like Lowes, Home
Depot and Sears sell walk-in bathtubs too.
Unfortunately, Medicare does not cover walk-in bathtubs,
but many companies offer financing with monthly payment
get started, contact a few companies who will send a
local dealer to your home to assess your bathroom, and
give you product options and estimates for free.
How to check up on your hospital
Oct. 7, 2014
Q: What resources can you recommend for researching
hospitals? I need to get a knee replacement next year,
and want to find a good, safe hospital to have it done
Most people don’t give much thought when it comes to
choosing a hospital, but selecting the right one can be
as important as the doctor you choose. Here are some
tips and resources to help you research and check up on
your area hospitals.
While you may not always have the opportunity to choose
your hospital, especially in the case of an emergency,
having a planned procedure can offer you a variety of
shopping for a hospital, the most important criterion is
to find one that has a strong department in your area of
need. A facility that excels in coronary bypass surgery,
for example, may not be the best choice for a knee
replacement. Research shows that patients tend to have
better results when they’re treated in hospitals that
have extensive experience with their specific condition.
order to choose a hospital that’s best for you, it is
important to discuss your concerns and alternatives with
the doctor who is treating you. Some doctors may be
affiliated with several hospitals from which you can
choose. Or, if you’ve yet to select a doctor, finding a
top hospital that has expertise with your condition can
help you determine which physician to actually choose.
Another important reason to do some research is the all
too frequent occurrence of hospital infections, which
kill around 75,000 people in the U.S. each year. So
checking your hospital’s infection rates and cleanliness
procedures is also a wise move.
Today, there are a number of online resources that
provide hospital safety and performance data to help you
research and compare facilities. Because hospitals are
such complex places, it’s wise to get information from a
variety of sources. Here is a summary of some top
Hospital Compare (medicare.gov/hospitalcompare):
Operated by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid
Services, this free tool lets you compare general
quality of care, as well as care for many medical
conditions and surgical procedures in more than 4,000
Consumer Reports Hospital Rankings (consumerreports.org/hospitalratings):
If you don’t mind spending a few dollars ($7 for one
month or $30 per year), Consumer Reports ranks 4,500
hospitals in all 50 states plus Washington D.C. and
Puerto Rico. The reliable resource provides information
on up to 34 performance and safety measures.
News & World Report (usnews.com/best-hospitals): This
online publishing resource identifies the best hospitals
for 16 specialties, and provides rankings by metro area
and by specialty for free.
Healthgrades (healthgrades.com): A private, for-profit
organization, they provide free hospital ratings on
patient safety and medical procedures, and scores
hospitals using a 5-star scale.
Commonwealth Fund (whynotthebest.org): This is a private
foundation that provides free performance data on all
Joint Commission (qualitycheck.org): This is a
not-for-profit organization that accredits and certifies
more than 20,500 health care organizations and programs
in the U.S. Hospitals receive a checkmark for each set
of measures they have met. But there’s no way to tell
whether a hospital is stronger in one area over another.
Hospital Inspections (hospitalinspections.org):
Established by the Association of Health Care
Journalist, this focuses on violations and inspection
Leapfrog Group (hospitalsafetyscore.org): This national,
not-for-profit organization grades hospitals on their
overall performance in keeping patients safe. Use your
city, state or ZIP code to search more than 2,500
Hospital Compare (www.hospitalcompare.va.gov): If you’re
a veteran, you can research and compare VA medical
Burial and Memorial Benefits Available to Veterans
Sept. 30, 2014
Does the Veterans
Administration provide any special funeral services or
benefits to old veterans? My father is a 90-year-old
World War II veteran with late stage Alzheimer’s, so I’m
looking into funeral options and would like to know what
the VA may provide.
Yes, the Veterans
Administration offers a number of burial and memorial
benefits to veterans if their discharge from the
military was under conditions other than dishonorable –
which will need to be verified. To do this, you’ll need
a copy of your dad’s DD Form 214 “Certificate of Release
or Discharge from Active Duty,” which you can request
online at archives.gov/veterans.
Here’s a rundown of
some of the different benefits that are available to
veterans that die a non-service related death.
National and State Cemetery
If your dad is
eligible, and wants to be buried in one of the 131
national or 93 state VA cemeteries (see
www.cem.va.gov/cem/cems/listcem.asp for a list) the
VA benefits provided at no cost to the family include a
gravesite; opening and closing of the grave; perpetual
gravesite care; a government headstone or marker; a
United States burial flag that can be used to drape the
casket or accompany the urn (after the funeral service,
the flag is given to the next-of-kin as a keepsake); and
a Presidential memorial certificate, which is an
engraved paper certificate signed by the current
President expressing the country’s grateful recognition
of the veteran’s service.
burial benefits are also available to spouses and
dependents of veterans.
If your dad is
cremated, his remains will be buried or inurned in the
same manner as casketed remains.
Funeral or cremation
arrangements and costs are not, however, taken care of
by the VA. They are the responsibility of the veteran’s
Private Cemetery Benefits
If your dad is going
to be buried in a private cemetery, the benefits
available include a free government headstone or marker,
or a medallion that can be affixed to an existing
privately purchased headstone or marker; a burial flag;
and a Presidential memorial certificate.
Funeral or cremation
arrangements and costs are again the responsibility of
the family, and there are no benefits offered to spouses
and dependents that are buried in private cemeteries.
Military Funeral Honors
benefit available to all eligible veterans buried in
either a national or private cemetery is a military
funeral honors ceremony. This includes folding and
presenting the U.S. burial flag to the veteran’s
survivors and the playing of Taps, performed by two or
more uniformed military members.
The funeral provider
you choose will be able to assist you with all VA burial
requests. Depending on what you want, certain forms may
need to be completed which are always better to be done
in advance. For a complete rundown of burial and
memorial benefits, eligibility details and required
forms, visit www.cem.va.gov or call 800-827-1000.
In addition to the
many burial benefits, some veterans may also qualify for
a $734 burial and funeral expense allowance (if
hospitalized by VA at time of death), or $300 (if not
hospitalized by VA at time of death), and a $734
plot-interment allowance to those who choose to be
buried in a private cemetery. To find out if your dad is
eligible, see benefits.va.gov/benefits/factsheets/burials/burial.pdf.
To apply for burial
allowances, you’ll need to fill out VA Form 21-530
“Application for Burial Benefits.” You need to attach a
copy of your dad’s discharge document (DD 214 or
equivalent), death certificate, funeral and burial
bills. They should show that you have paid them in full.
You may download the form at va.gov/vaforms.
Vaccination Options Available to Seniors this Flu Season
Sept. 23, 2014
I understand that
there are several types of flu vaccines being offered to
seniors this flu season. What can you tell me about
Depending on your
health, age and personal preference, there’s a buffet of
flu shots available to seniors this flu season, along
with two vaccinations for pneumonia that you should
consider getting too.
Flu Shots Options
Just as they do
every year, the Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention (CDC) recommends a seasonal flu shot to
almost everyone, but it’s especially important for
seniors who are at higher risk of developing serious
flu-related complications. The flu puts more than
200,000 people in the hospital each year and kills
around 24,000 – 90 percent of whom are seniors. Here’s
the rundown of the different options:
(trivalent) flu shot: This
tried-and-true shot that’s been around for more than 30
years protects against three strains of influenza. This
year’s version protects against the two common A strains
(H1N1 and H3N2), and one influenza B virus.
shot: This vaccine, which was
introduced last year, protects against four types of
influenza – the same three strains as the standard flu
shot, plus an additional B-strain virus.
shot: Designed specifically
for seniors, age 65 and older, this vaccine, called the
Fluzone High-Dose, has four times the amount of antigen
as a regular flu shot does, which creates a stronger
immune response for better protection. But, be aware
that the high-dose option may also be more likely to
cause side effects, including headache, muscle aches and
shot: If you don’t like
needles, the intradermal shot is a nice option because
it uses a tiny 1/16-inch long micro-needle to inject the
vaccine just under the skin, rather than deeper in the
muscle like standard flu shots. This trivalent vaccine
is recommended only to those ages 18 to 64.
To locate a
vaccination site that offers these flu shots, visit
vaccines.gov and type in your ZIP code. You’ll also
be happy to know that if you’re a Medicare beneficiary,
Part B will cover 100 percent of the costs of any flu
shot, as long as your doctor, health clinic or pharmacy
agrees not to charge you more than Medicare pays.
Private health insurers are also required to cover
standard flu shots, however, you’ll need to check with
your provider to see if they cover the other vaccination
The other important
vaccinations the CDC recommends to seniors, especially
this time of year, are the pneumococcal vaccines for
pneumonia. An estimated 900,000 people in the U.S. get
pneumococcal pneumonia each year, and it kills around
This year, the CDC
is recommending that all seniors 65 or older get two
separate vaccines, which is a change of decades-old
advice. The vaccines are Prevnar 13 and Pneumovax 23.
Previously, only Pneumovax 23 was recommended for
Both vaccines, which
are administered just once, work in different ways to
provide maximum protection.
If you haven’t yet
received any pneumococcal vaccine you should get the
Prevnar 13 first, followed by Pneumovax 23 six to 12
months later. But, if you’ve already been vaccinated
with Pneumovax 23 you should get Prevnar 13 at least one
covers only one pneumococcal vaccine per older adult. If
you’re paying out of pocket, you can expect to pay
around $50 to $85 for Pneumovax 23, and around $120 to
$150 for the Prevnar 13.
Wandering solutions for Alzheimer’s caregivers
Sept. 16, 2014
Q: My mother, who lives with me, has Alzheimer’s disease
and I worry about her wandering away. What tips can you
recommend to help me protect her?
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, about 60
percent of people who suffer from dementia wander at
some point. For caregivers, this can be frightening
because many of those who wander off end up confused and
lost, even in their own neighborhood, and are unable to
communicate who they are or where they live. But there
are things you can do to guard against this and protect
your loved one.
starters, to help reduce your mom’s tendency to wander,
keep her occupied and involved in familiar daily
activities such as preparing dinner or folding the
laundry. It’s also important to encourage daily exercise
and limit daytime napping to reduce nighttime
There are also a number of simple home modifications you
can make to keep her from wandering away. Some possible
solutions include: adding an extra lock on the top or
bottom of the exterior doors out of the line of sight;
install child-proof door knobs or levers; place a
full-length mirror, or put a “STOP” or “Do Not Enter”
sign on the doors you don’t want her going through; or
get a signal device or motion sensor that lets you know
when the door is opened. See alzstore.com for a variety
of product solutions. And, be sure you hide the car keys
to keep her from driving.
also a good idea to alert your neighbors that your mom
may wander so they can keep an eye out, and have on hand
a recent picture to show around the neighborhood or to
the police if she does get lost.
If you want some added protection in case she does
wander off, there are a number services you can turn to
for help, like the MedicAlert + Safe Return program (medicalert.org/safereturn).
service comes with a personalized ID bracelet that will
have your mom’s medical information engraved on it,
along with her membership number and the toll-free
MedicAlert emergency phone number.
she goes missing, you would call 911 and report it to
the local police department who would begin a search,
and then report it to MedicAlert. Or, a Good Samaritan
or police officer may find her, call the MedicAlert
number, to get her back home safely.
Another option that could help, depending on where you
live, is a radio frequency locater service like
SafetyNet and Project Lifesaver, which are offered by
some local law enforcement agencies.
these services, your mother would wear a wristband that
contains a radio transmitter that emits tracking
signals. If she goes missing, you would contact the
local authorities who would send out rescue personnel
who will use their tracking equipment to locate her.
Visit safetynetbylojack.com and projectlifesaver.org to
see if these services are available in your community.
There are also a number of GPS tracking devices that can
help you keep tabs on your mom. With these products, she
would carry or wear a small GPS tracker that would
notify you or other caregivers via text message or email
if she were to wander beyond a pre-established area, and
would let you know exactly where to find her if she did.
find GPS trackers, consider the PocketFinder (pocketfinder.com)
or the Alzheimer’s Association Comfort Zone (alz.org/comfortzone).
Or, if you have concerns that your mother wouldn’t wear
a GPS device or would take it off, there’s the GPS
SmartSole (gpssmartsole.com), which is an insole with an
embedded GPS device.
more wandering prevention tips and solutions, visit the
Alzheimer’s Association Safety Center at alz.org/safety
and This Caring Home at thiscaringhome.org.
Ergonomic tools that can ease gardening pains
Sept. 9, 2014
Are brand-name medications better than generic, and if
not, why is there such a price difference? Also, how can
I find out which medicines are available in generic
Brand-name medications are not better, safer or more
effective than their generic alternative because they’re
virtually the same.
gain approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration
(FDA), generic drugs are required to the same active
ingredient, strength, dosage form and route of
administration as their brand-name counterpart. The
generic manufacturer must also demonstrate that people
absorb the drug at the same rate.
only difference between a brand-name drug and its
generic is the name (generics are usually called by
their chemical name), shape and color of the drug (U.S.
trademark laws don’t allow generics to look exactly like
the their brand-name counterparts) and price. Generic
drugs are often 10 to 30 percent cheaper when they first
become available, but by the end of the first year the
price can drop in half. And by the second and third year
it can drop 70 to 90 percent.
The reason generic drugs are so much cheaper is because
their manufacturers don’t have the hefty start-up costs
that the original creators of the drug do. When a
pharmaceutical company creates a new drug, it spends
millions of dollars on the research, development and
clinical testing phase. Then, if it gets FDA approval,
it has to turn around and spend even more money to
market the drug to the health care industry and the
total cost can rise into the hundreds of millions by the
time the drug is in the hands of consumers.
In an effort to recoup their investment, the brand-name
drug makers charge a premium price, and are given a
20-year patent protection, which means that no other
company can make or sell the drug during that period of
After those 20 years are up, however, other companies
can apply to the FDA to sell generic versions. But
because generic manufacturers don’t have the same
research, development and marketing costs, they can sell
their product much cheaper.
Also, once generic drugs are approved, there’s greater
competition, which drives the price down. Today, nearly
8 in 10 prescriptions filled in the United States are
for generic, which saves U.S. consumers around $3
billion every week.
You should also know that in 2014 and 2015, patents on a
wide variety of popular brand-name drugs will expire and
become available in generic, including Celebrex,
Copaxone, Actonel, Nexium, Exforge, Cymbalta, Lunesta,
Avodart, Abilify, Evista, Maxalt, Maxalt MPT, Micardis,
Micardis HCT, Reneagel, Twynata and Xeloda.
more information, Community Catalyst, a national,
nonprofit consumer advocacy organization provides a list
on their website of the top 50 brand-name drugs and the
dates they should become available as generics. Go to
communitycatalyst.org, and type “Drugs Going Generic
2014 - 2015” in their search bar to find it.
You can also find out if a brand-name drug has a generic
alternative by simply asking your doctor or pharmacist.
Or, visit GoodRX.com, a Web tool that provides prices on
brand-name drugs and their generic alternatives (if
available) at virtually every pharmacy in the U.S. so
you can find the best deals in your area.
How to recognize and handle senior gambling problems
Sept. 2, 2014
How can you know when someone has a gambling problem?
Since my father passed away a couple years ago, my
76-year-old mother spends a lot of time at an Indian
casino near her house playing slot machines.
It's a great question. Problem gambling among seniors is
definitely on the rise. Seniors have time and money on
their hands, and the influx of casinos across the
country have made access to gambling much more
convenient. Here’s what you should know, along with some
tips and resources that can help your mom if she does
indeed have a problem.
For most older adults, gambling is simply a fun
recreational activity, but for those who become addicted
to it, it can be a devastating disease that can
financially wipe them out.
There are a number of reasons why seniors can be
vulnerable to gambling problems. For starters, seniors
are often catered to by casinos with free bus
transportation, free or discounted meals, special
rewards and other prizes as a way to entice them.
addition, many seniors use gambling as a way to distract
or escape feelings of loneliness, depression, sadness,
or even a chronic health condition. Some may have
financial problems they are seeking to overcome. And
some may have cognitive impairment that interferes with
their ability to make sound decisions.
Adding to the problem is that many seniors may not
understand addiction, making them less likely to
identify a gambling problem. Or they may be confused or
embarrassed that they can’t control their urges to
gamble and reluctant to seek help because they think
that at their age, they should know better. And even if
they recognize that they have a problem, they may not
know that help is available or where to get it.
should also know that while there are many gambling
options for people to get hooked on today, casino slot
machines are far and away the most popular among
seniors. Slot machines are much more addictive then the
old machines of yesteryear with spinning lemons,
cherries and melons. Many of today’s slot machines offer
intense sensory stimulation with large video screens,
music and vibrating, ergonomic chairs.
How can you know if your mom has a gambling problem?
Gamblers Anonymous offers a 20 question online test at
gamblersanonymous.org that your mom can take to help
determine if she has a problem. In the meantime, here
are some questions you can ask to help evaluate her
she preoccupied with gambling, constantly talking about
it, or planning to gamble versus doing her normal
she gambling more and more money to get the same level
she using her retirement funds or other savings to
gamble, or is she pawning or selling personal items to
get money to gamble with?
she lost control to the point that she can’t she set a
limit of time and money to spend in the casino, and
stick to it?
she become uncomfortable, angry or lie when you ask her
about her gambling activities?
If your mom answers yes to any of these questions, she
may have a problem. To find help contact the National
Council on Problem Gambling (www.ncpgambling.org), a
non-profit organization that operates a 24-hour national
hotline at 800-522-4700. They can direct you to
resources in your area, including counselors who have
been trained through the National Certified Gambler
How to get a Medicare covered power scooter or
August 19, 2014
Q: What’s the process for getting Medicare to pay for an
electric mobility scooter or power wheelchair? My
76-year-old mother has arthritis in her knees and hips,
and has a difficult time getting around anymore.A: Getting
an electric-powered mobility scooter or wheelchair for
your mom that’s covered by original Medicare starts with
a visit to her doctor’s office. If eligible, Medicare
will pay 80 percent of the cost, after she meets her
$147 Part B deductible. She will be responsible for the
remaining 20 percent. Here’s a breakdown of how it
Make an appointment
first step is to call your mom’s doctor and schedule a
Medicare required, face-to-face mobility evaluation, to
determine her need for a power wheelchair or scooter.
For your mom to be eligible, she’ll need to meet all of
the following conditions:
Her health condition makes moving around her home very
difficult, even with the help of a cane, walker or
She has significant problems performing activities of
daily living like bathing, dressing, getting in or out
of a bed or chair, or using the bathroom.
She is able to safely operate, and get on and off the
scooter or wheelchair, or have someone with her who is
always available to help her safely use the device.
eligible, your mom’s doctor will determine what kind of
mobility equipment she’ll need based on her condition,
usability in her home, and ability to operate it.
also important to know that Medicare coverage is
dependent on your mom needing a scooter or wheelchair in
her home. If her claim is based on needing it outside
her home, it will be denied as not medically necessary,
because the wheelchair or scooter will be considered as
a leisure item.
the doctor determines your mom needs a power scooter or
wheelchair, he or she will fill out a written order or
certificate of medical necessity (CMN) form for her.
Once she gets that, she’ll need to take it to a Medicare
approved supplier within 45 days. If your mother happens
to live in one of Medicare’s competitive bidding areas,
you’ll need to get her device from specific suppliers
approved by Medicare. To find approved suppliers and
competitive bidding suppliers in your area, visit
medicare.gov/supplier or call 800-633-4227.
you choose an approved supplier, they will send a
representative to assess your mom’s home measuring her
doorways, thresholds and overall space to ensure she
gets the appropriate mobility device.
your mom has a Medicare supplemental policy, it may pick
up some, or all of the 20 percent cost of the scooter or
wheelchair that’s not covered by Medicare. If, however,
she doesn’t have supplemental insurance, and can’t
afford the 20 percent, she may be able to get help
through Medicare Savings Programs. Call your local
Medicaid office for eligibility information.
if you find that your mom is not eligible for a Medicare
covered scooter or wheelchair, and she can’t afford to
purchase one, renting can be a much cheaper short-term
solution. Talk to a supplier about this option.
more information, call Medicare at 800-633-4227 and
request a copy of publication #11046 “Medicare’s
Wheelchair and Scooter Benefit,” or you can read it
online at medicare.gov/publications/pubs/pdf/11046.pdf.
If your mom happens to have a Medicare Advantage plan
(like an HMO or PPO), she’ll need to call her plan to
find out the specific steps she needs to take to get a
wheelchair or scooter. Many Advantage plans may have
specific suppliers within the plan’s network they’ll
require her to use.