Austin Groups for the Elderly held a Medicare workshop Saturday, the first day of the annual Medicare enrollment period. This year the annual enrollment period is earlier than usual. It also ends earlier, December 7th.
"The open enrollment period for new Medicare beneficiaries is three months before your 65th birthday up to three months after your 65th birthday." explained Annette Juba, Deputy Director of Programs for AGE.
Juba said there are insurance options for people who are not 65 but don't have insurance coverage through the CHAP program, the Consumer Health Assistance Program offered by the State of Texas.
Elderly advocates were disappointed by news out Friday that the Obama Administration will pull its long-term care insurance option from the new healthcare law. That would have given Americans 50 dollars a day for nursing homes or assisted living care expenses.
The Washington Post reported Friday that the President decided the program was "simply unworkable."
The program was to be entirely self-financed with the premiums participants paid. Obama officials said that presented them with a problem: If they designed a benefits package generous enough to meet the law’s requirements, they would have had to set premiums so high that few healthy people would enroll. And without a large share of healthy people in the pool, the CLASS plan would have become even more expensive, forcing the government to raise premiums even higher, to the point of the program’s collapse.
Juba with AGE said long-term care is very expensive and many people need help finding ways to pay for it.
"For people who might need nursing home care in the future, their options to pay for it are either privately out of their own funds, through Medicaid if their finances fall to a level that they are eligible for Medicaid, or through Medicare - but only for limited amounts," she said.
Juba says Medicare only covers nursing homes after a hospitalization of three days and then only up to a hundred days after that hospitalization.