US Medicare in the PH? Not likely
CALIFORNIA, USA – Filipino Americans will be riding the crest of the “silver tsunami” or the wave of aging population hurtling across the United States by 2020, according to Census Bureau figures.
Five years from now, over 55 million Americans will be over 65 years old and eligible for federal health benefits.
Filipino Americans make up the fastest growing Asian community in this country, and last week, Baby Boomers among them got a jump start at preparing to access a major entitlement.
Current and prospective beneficiaries of Medicare got a comprehensive overview at a community presentation organized by the Pilipino Bayanihan Resource Center, the nonprofit helping newcomers settle in the San Francisco Bay Area.
They got the good news: Everyone who is 65, a citizen or lawful resident who has worked fulltime at least 10 years and contributed to FICA (Federal Insurance Contributions Act), or under 65 with certain disabilities, or any age with end-stage renal disease, can be entitled to Medicare benefits.
Those planning to retire outside the United States got a dose of reality: Medicare is not portable and chances are unlikely for legislation mandating coverage beyond US borders and territories in the foreseeable future, despite clamor from individuals and organizations in the US and the Philippines.
“If I were a betting person I would not bet on it,” cautioned presenter Diane Caradeuc, a counselor and community educator with HICAP or Health Insurance Counseling and Advocacy Program of San Mateo County, “at least in the near future. As you plan your retirement, you should plan that Medicare will not cover you outside the US.”
HICAP is the local nonprofit funded by the state and federal governments to provide free, unbiased and accurate information to Medicare beneficiaries. Every county in all 50 states has its own HICAP program; beyond California, the program is called SHIP, or State Health Insurance Assistance Program.
The program is strongly supported by trained volunteers required to earn registration as Medicare counselors with the State. HICAP does not endorse or sell health insurance.
Caradeuc, one of 31 volunteers on HICAP of San Mateo’s roster, gained expertise on Medicare from 30 years of employment with Social Security Administration and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, a program of the US Deptartment of Health and Social Services (CMS). Since 2010 she has also worked for the Senior Medicare Patrol in California, which includes a team of 5,600 volunteers highly trained to detect, deter, and protect against Medicare fraud.
“There are groups advocating for legislation to make Medicare portable,” Caradeuc said, addressing an issue gaining attention in the Filipino American community as more dual citizens enter eligibility age. “They have the right to lobby for portability."
But many of the reasons raised to support coverage of Medicare in the Philippines could be applied to most other countries. Therefore, legislation for portability of Medicare would have far more impact than just one country.”
She added: “It should be noted that while Medicare cannot be used outside the US or its territories, an individual who travels between countries can access their Medicare when they return to the US.”
Parts of Medicare
While those who plan to retire in the 50 states and US territories said they were grateful for the program signed by President Lyndon Johnson in 1965, they empathized with their contemporaries who hope to spend their winter years with family in the Philippines.
“We’re lucky to have this entitlement,” 50-ish Daly City employee Rebecca Ayson told Rappler. She attended the presentation to assist her soon-to-be-eligible husband Allan Ayson.
Ayson referred to the 4 parts of Medicare, including Parts A and B, that cover a broad spectrum of services from hospitalization, home health, and hospice care to physician’s and outpatient care, diagnostic tests, and mental health services.
She appreciates having the option to enroll in Part C or Medicare Advantage, a plan in conjunction with private insurance plans as an alternative way to receive benefits. And she may decide to sign up for Part D, the plan signed in 2003 to provide drug coverage. She learned that timing is crucial to the amount of premiums for the plans.
“It’s understandable if US citizens want to be covered should they decide to retire in the Philippines or elsewhere, “ Ayson said.
“But those who are counting on Medicare portability should familiarize themselves with the legislative process first. Accessing Medicare is complicated as it is because every individual has unique needs and concerns. With our country having just overcome a recession, the incredible cost of transporting Medicare is just one barrier to making it reality.” – Rappler.com
For more information, visit www.medicare.gov, a Federal government website managed by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. For no-cost Medicare counseling, call HICAP of San Mateo County (650) 627-9350 or 1-800-434-022 elsewhere in California. Or visit https://shipnpr.acl.gov
Images of walker and health insurance papers via shutterstock