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Seniors need serious help figuring out Medicare coverage

If you are a senior yourself, or have a senior in your life, you've undoubtedly noticed that -- though the benefits are valuable -- more and more details in the program are impacting how Medicare works.

For starters, it's critically important to understand the senior benefits accessible by you or your elder.

"If you are not aware of all the facts of Medicare supplements or Medicare advantages, you may be missing out on certain benefits you need and the priceless peace of mind that comes with them," says the Center for Senior Benefits, a trusted resource helping seniors unravel the ins and outs of numerous programs that can help them.

Medicare began its history as “Health Insurance for the Aged and Disabled.” The program, which became known as "Medicare," evolved into what many consider the ultimate American health insurance “safety net” because of all the important healthcare benefits it offers to nearly all Americans who are 65 or older.

Based on a senior’s medical or mental health needs, certain citizens of any age may qualify for Medicare health insurance coverage (whether they have turned 65 or not). A senior or the caretakers of a senior should investigate these benefits and take advantage of them when they can.

How does Medicare work today? Basically, Medicare for seniors is divided into two parts. The first part covers food and bed while in the hospital, along with coverage for services rendered in a skilled nursing facility. The second part offers medical benefits for surgery and outpatient expenses. This may include everything from doctor visits to special tests and much more.

But what few seniors know is that current data suggests that 23 percent of the average Social Security recipient's check is deducted to pay for premiums for Medicare Part B, which covers doctor and other outpatient services, and Part D, which covers prescription drugs, and co-payments.

Unfortunately, the report predicts that portion will grow to 44 percent by 2088. That will make a huge difference to many seniors already struggling to make ends meet.

Times have changed. In 1967, a mere 6 percent of the average Social Security check was needed to pay for Medicare premiums. Since then Medicare has expanded, largely due to added benefits like prescription drug coverage, which accounts for some of the increased cost to retirees.

"This is an untold story," said Rosemary Gibson, a national expert on patient safety and health care, and a senior adviser at the Hastings Centers, a bioethics research institute in Garrison, N.Y. "While many people on Medicare have other sources of income, older Americans will see Medicare consume a growing share of their Social Security check."

That's why seniors need to get a handle on the real costs associated with Medicare and get help when it's needed.

If you're are not aware of the benefits Medicare may provide, or the costs that may accrue down the line, it is time to get up-to-date details on this program and others which could affect your life.

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