Brenner answers questions about all aspects of family finance.
My husband is 80 and I am 79 years old. Our income is $33,000. Our managed Medicare program through his former employer costs us $955 a month. It's extremely difficult to make ends meet. Between rent and medical insurance, we've used up our savings. Is there a cheaper way to go? He is eligible for veterans benefits.
Call the Health Insurance Information Counseling and Assistance program (HIICAP) at 800-701-0501 for help assessing your options.
Even if you don't qualify for a 2012 Medicare subsidy, you may in 2013. The eligibility ceiling changes annually. Couples with monthly income not above $1,723 (and individuals with income not above $1,277) after subtracting the cost of health insurance qualify for free Medicare Part B, and pay $1 to $6 for prescription drugs.
Consider switching to Medicare Advantage Emblem Health PPO High Option, says Diana Graham, the HIICAP coordinator at the Nassau County Family and Children's Association. It costs $180 a month per person and includes prescription drugs, although in some cases they may cost more than you currently pay. "Ask your doctors if they take it, price your prescriptions, and find out what hospital is covered," advises Graham. "The plan may not be right for you if you have a chronic illness, but it's a good option if you're relatively healthy."
Veterans' benefits usually don't include coverage for a spouse, but even if your husband stays in your current plan, he could get his medications through the VA. "VA care is usually at no cost or very little cost," says Graham. "But you must see their doctors and use their facilities, which can be inconvenient if you don't drive."
The bottom line: HIICAP can refer you to a local counselor for free help finding and comparing your health insurance options.
Websites with more information bit.ly/RhiNP2 and bit.ly/Q1xhs1