5 Medicare Tips to Remember Before Moving Your Parents

The decision to move a loved one cross-country can happen quickly. As I learned when moving my father from Missouri to Massachusetts, understanding the possible Medicare implications of an interstate relocation should be at the top of your to-do list.

Dad wanted to maintain his Medicare Advantage coverage. These private plans are an alternative to the combination of standard Medicare and Medigap coverage, and include Part D drug plans. Many operate as HMOs, so all care is coordinated through a primary care physician (PCP), so you need to have a PCP in place before any follow-up specialist visits can be authorized.

As I learned, getting new coverage without a lapse in care can be challenging. Even national providers may have different subsidiaries (and coverage options) from state to state – this can be true with standard Medigap policies, too. I didn’t understand just how complicated – and potentially health-threatening – this problem could be. If I had, I might have added the following five tasks to my to-do list, between all the packing.

  1. Get a current prescription list. Don’t depend on what’s in the home, or on your loved one’s possibly-failing memory – check with the PCP, specialists and the hospital or rehab-center doctor, if one is involved. You may want to run this list past a pharmacist to guard against dangerous combinations.
  2. Get a two- or three-month supply of prescriptions – or at least signed prescription slips. Current doctors might not refill prescriptions for someone who won’t be their patient once they move. Having adequate prescription supplies on hand can buy you some time to find the right doctors in the new location.
  3. Reach out to your local senior center’s insurance counselors. All senior centers have Medicare counselors and they can be an invaluable resource. Set up an appointment in advance so you can meet with a counselor as soon as you return. (You can find yours here.)
  4. Make an appointment with an elder-law attorney for you and your loved one in advance, for as soon as possible on your return. At a minimum, you’ll want the attorney to draw up a health care proxy enabling you to speak to doctors and insurers in case your loved one is incapacitated.
  5. Before you finalize a policy – especially if you’re opting for a Medicare Advantage product – ensure that any doctor you’re considering as a PCP (and any desired specialists) accepts that insurance plan. The availability (or unavailability) of physicians could play a role in your coverage decisions.

Photo courtesy Robert S. Donovan via Creative Commons