What You Can Do To Cut Them
Over the past decade three common senior costs have grown far faster than all the rest. Here are the top three and a few strategies for reining them in:
1. Medicare Part B Premiums - Growth from 2000–2012: 120%. You can help control Medicare costs by doing your part to fight fraud and waste. The Part B premium is calculated on the average cost per beneficiary. With enough seniors scrutinizing the bills, costs can be kept in line for everyone. The Senior Medicare Patrol (SMP), a group of trained volunteers who help seniors prevent fraud, say these three things are the key: Protect, Detect, and Report.
Protect your Social Security and Medicare numbers like you would a credit card, as well as personal information like your phone number and address. Never give this information to strangers, someone who calls on the phone, or sends you an email. Avoid offers of “free” medical tests or supplies and any request to see or get your Medicare or Medicaid number. Beware of offers that sound too good to be true for equipment or services, like wheel chairs, nebulizers (breathing machines) and promises of services like “stroke prevention.”
Learn to detect fraud, errors, and abuse. Keep records of your healthcare visits, services, equipment provided, and significant lab work. Ask your doctor or provider for a print-out of your visit. File copies of any bills or notices from insurance companies, doctors, hospitals, pharmacies, and labs, as well as cancelled checks. Always review your Medicare Summary Notice or Part D Explanation of Benefits and compare these notices to your own records and receipts. Look for charges for something you didn’t get, billing for the same thing twice, and services that were not ordered by you or your doctor.
Report suspicious or erroneous charges that you find on your Medicare Summary Notice or Part D Explanation of benefits. Contact your healthcare provider or health plan. If you aren’t comfortable calling your provider or plan, or not satisfied with the response you get, call your local Senior Medicare Patrol (SMP). To find a local SMP, click on “Locate an SMP in your area” at 2www.smpresource.org, or call: 1-877-808-2468.
2. Gasoline - Growth from 2000–2012: 120%. To cut gasoline costs, you need to cut back on the use of your car. That can mean carpooling with friends and family, or using senior or public transportation, if available. But many seniors are learning they can get along without the car by using a computer. Here are three key ways to use the internet for immediate savings.
Pharmacies: If you’re making a monthly trip to the pharmacy, start ordering prescriptions online. You’ll not only save on gas, you’ll probably save a bundle on drug costs. First, check your drug plan to learn if it offers mail-order prescription services and the preferred pharmacies you must use. Mail-order services generally require a 90-day prescription, but in most cases it will be considerably less expensive per dose than what you were spending on a 30-day supply. Find out what the shipping will be and ask if free shipping is offered. If your drug plan doesn’t offer mail-order, you may still be able to order online directly through preferred pharmacies. Get a list of preferred pharmacies from your drug plan. Then carefully compare co-pays and costs, first by checking each pharmacy web site.
Superstores: All the stores you already know and shop at are online. The big difference? The items you want are more likely to be in stock. You have far better chances of finding the brand, model, size, and color online. If you give the retailer your email address, you’ll have your pick of sales and special offers. The Internet has its own versions of superstores like Amazon.com, that offer goods at the same cost or even lower prices than major brick and mortar superstores. Virtually ALL online retailers offer free shipping with a purchase of a certain amount of product. Some, like L.L. Bean, offer free shipping all the time. If you’re trying a new website you can simply send an email asking customer service if there’s a special discount for new customers or senior customers, and ask about free shipping. You’ll be surprised by the offers.
Wild Goose Chases and The Real Thing: If you’ve ever spent hours burning the rubber on a wild goose chase for an item that you later discover has been discontinued, the internet is your best bet of finding it again. My brother, aged 61, longed for a copy of The New Seekers’ 1971 song, “I’d Like to Teach The World To Sing,” better known as the “Buy the World a Coke” song. Yup, we found it online (Amazon.com)— "It's The Real Thing."
3. Home Heating Oil - Growth from 2000–2012: 236%. Get your home as energy efficient as you can make it! Here are some tips to save on heating oil:
Compare prices. Call the heating oil providers in your area. Go after the best deal. Give your current provider a change to match their competitor’s price.
Fill up in the summer after comparing prices.
Ask about discounts, including any for senior citizens.
Choose the best pricing plan. Under a “market” pricing plan, you pay whatever the going rate is on the day of delivery. You schedule deliveries when you need them. Fixed price plans allow you to lock in a price for the year. It doesn’t go up or down even if the current rate does. Capped price plans protect you from large increases and your price can still go down. Watch for hidden fees like delivery charges, fuel surcharges and premiums charged for deliveries made after hours.