How to Help Your Parents Navigate Retirement Health Care

Many adults find themselves helping their aging parents enroll in Medicare, a complex process with many steps and considerations. There are penalties for delaying registration, and not everyone understands their options.

“You can’t go there thinking it’s really easy,” says Melinda Caughill, co-founder of 65 Incorporated, which offers Medicare advice. “It’s incredibly complicated, and the decisions your parents have made or will make will affect you.”

Being proactive and getting as much information as possible can help. Try these tips to be your parents’ best advocate during this life transition.


If you have questions, start with someone who isn’t trying to sell you (or your parents) anything. “People shouldn’t make their first stop with an insurance agent or an insurance company,” Caughill says. “Do they have your best interests at heart? Until a certain point. But at the end of the day, they have to pay their bills like everyone else. “

If you can afford it, a Medicare counselor or advocate is a helpful resource. (Try searching online for “fee-for-service Medicare counselors.”) Caughill suggests budgeting $ 500 to $ 1,000 for this type of counseling.

If that’s not an option, consider contacting your state health insurance assistance program, or SHIP. You can find yours at

“In every state, they provide free, local, and unbiased information to people aging in Medicare, people already on Medicare, their families, and their caregivers,” said Micki Nozaki, California Senior Medicare Patrol director for California Health Advocates. “If they don’t have all the information, they can direct you to other resources.”

There is also a lot of information on You can familiarize yourself with the program by downloading the “Medicare & You” manual. (Be prepared, it’s a long time.)


When people shop for Medicare, they can be distracted by the extras. “People are so focused on ‘my free gym membership’ or ‘my $ 50 gift card to Walgreens’ that they forget what really matters,” Caughill explains. “Medicare is health insurance”.

Make sure your parents’ medications are covered. Make sure their doctors are networked and that these providers will take the purchased coverage. “The reason you have health insurance is because if you have cancer, if you have a car accident, if you have Parkinson’s disease (disease), or if you are hospitalized,” you’re covered, says Caughill.


Enrollment in Medicare is urgent; this usually happens around the age of 65. “One of the most essential things people don’t understand is that if they don’t register by the right deadline – and this is rigid – they could face a penalty for the rest of their lives. “, says Nozaki.

Depending on the situation, there may be late enrollment penalties for Medicare Parts A, B, and D. In many cases, you will be charged this penalty for the remainder of your Medicare enrollment time. See for the enrollment deadlines that apply to your parents, as the initial enrollment is birthday specific.


Your parents may be able to delay enrolling in Medicare Part A or Part B, depending on their circumstances. For example, if one or both of them are still working at age 65 and they are covered by employer-provided health insurance, they may wait to enroll.

That said, the rules are extremely specific, including how long they should register after they stop working or lose their employer’s coverage. Make sure you (and them) fully understand when to register. See this Medicare fact sheet for more information.

Beware of slippers

Medicare beneficiaries are a popular target for scammers, so help your parents protect themselves by making sure they understand the following:

– Medicare does not call people to sell them things.

– Medicare cannot sign up for a plan over the phone unless you initiate contact.

– Medicare will never call you to ask for your Medicare number unless you have given Medicare express permission in advance.

Your health insurance number is important. Tell your parents to protect it like it’s a bank account or credit card number.

“I know it sounds simple and sounds like common sense, but unfortunately these telemarketers are so smart and complicit that when they pose as Medicare,” Nozaki says, “people think they’re getting a call. of Medicare “.


This article was provided to The Associated Press by the NerdWallet personal finance website. Kate Ashford is a writer at NerdWallet. Email: [email protected] Twitter: @kateashford.


NerdWallet: How do I register for Medicare? Medicare and you Factsheet: Deciding Whether to Enroll in Medicare Part A and Part B When You Turn 65 -Type / Employers-and- Unions / FS3-Registration-in-Part-A-and-B.pdf

Comments are closed.