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Why you’ll want more than traditional Medicare in retirement

Why you'll want more than traditional Medicare in retirement
Why you’ll want more than traditional Medicare in retirement

When you turn, you qualify for Medicare, the federal health insurance program for older Americans. Medicare open enrollment runs from Oct. 15 through Dec. 7.

While many seniors expect Medicare to be a one-stop health insurance solution, it often isn’t enough.

The program offers coverage for hospital stays, doctor appointments, medical tests and more. But there’s a lot that Medicare doesn’t pay for, and the out-of-pocket costs can drain your savings.

“Medicare covers only 80% of outpatient expenses, which comes as a surprise to many who are new to Medicare,” says Danielle Roberts, co-founder of Boomer Benefits in Fort Worth, Texas. “Many beneficiaries purchase supplemental coverage to help fill in the gaps.”

It’s very possible you’ll find you need more than basic Medicare.

Costs and coverage from ‘original’ Medicare

Medicare Card for a Fictitious John Doe
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Traditional Medicare means Part A plus Part B.

The basic form of Medicare is known as “original” or “traditional” Medicare. Both names refer to Medicare Parts A and B.

Part A, Medicare’s “hospital insurance,” covers hospital care and some home health services. Most people don’t pay premiums for Part A, but you do face a $1,408 deductible in 2020 when you’re admitted to a hospital.

Once a hospital stay stretches past 60 days, patients also must pay coinsurance of $352 per day.

Part B, Medicare’s “medical insurance,” covers doctor visits, tests, preventive screenings, outpatient surgical care, some medical equipment, physical therapy and mental health services.

But you have to meet a $198 deductible, and then Part B picks up only 80% of those costs. “Beneficiaries are responsible for the other 20%, with no limit,” says Roberts.

Part B also comes with premiums, starting at $144.60 per month in 2020. You can be required to pay more if your income surpasses some thresholds. Medicare has five higher premium levels for seniors at higher incomes, going all the way up to $491.60 per month.

Why most seniors will want more than original Medicare

Missing puzzle pieces.Concept image of unfinished task.
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Traditional Medicare has many coverage gaps.

There are two big problems with trying to make it on Medicare Parts A and B alone:

First, original Medicare doesn’t cover many of the essentials, including prescriptions, dentures, eyeglasses or hearing aids.

And second, original Medicare’s out-of-pocket costs have no cap. Many common health conditions require a significant amount of care – and your 20% share of the outpatient costs under Part B can be colossal.

So, most seniors will want to look into some other options, which include going deeper into the Medicare alphabet. You may want to turn to a certified financial planner for help navigating your choices.

The alternatives to original Medicare

Medicare Part C papers, glasses and stethoscope.
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Medicare Part C is also known as Medicare advantage.

Medicare Part C, also known as Medicare Advantage, is a private insurance alternative to traditional Medicare that often includes additional benefits, such as vision, dental or drug coverage.

Medicare Advantage plans do have

China still allowing use of pangolin scales in traditional medicine

The Chinese government continues to allow the use of pangolin scales for traditional medicine despite promises to crack down on a trade that has made them the most illegally trafficked mammals in the world.



Photograph: Manan Vatsyayana/AFP/Getty Images


© Provided by The Guardian
Photograph: Manan Vatsyayana/AFP/Getty Images

A report by the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) reveals online sales platforms such as eBay and Taobao continue to advertise pangolin products, while major pharmaceutical companies, including the leading China Beijing Tong Ren Tang Group, offer similar items directly on their websites.

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The researchers behind the Smoke and Mirrors report found 221 companies had been licensed to sell items containing pangolin scales, which appeared as an ingredient in 64 different products.

The watchdog group said this revealed major loopholes in China’s regulations that needed to be closed if the government is serious about protecting endangered wildlife.

Pangolin have almost disappeared in China because of a medically unproven belief that a broth containing the scales has medicinal qualities, including helping women who have problems lactating. Over recent decades the circle of slaughter and smuggling has steadily widened to neighbouring nations, then south-east Asia, and now Africa.

An estimated 200,000 pangolins are consumed each year in Asia, of which Chinese traditional medicine is the main driver. The latest world wildlife crime report by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime says 71% of pangolin scale seizures were destined for China. Vietnam is another major market.

Hopes for change were raised this summer when the Chinese government, which is due to host a global biodiversity summit, announced that pangolin scales had been removed from the official listing of approved ingredients in the traditional pharmacopoeia.

This won international kudos and, along with President Xi Jinping’s announcement of more ambitious cuts to carbon emission, prompted optimism that China was ready to take on an environmental leadership role, in contrast to the negligence of the US under Donald Trump.

But the EIA report reveals huge gaps in Chinese enforcement. The government continues to allow pharmaceutical companies to use pangolin scales from the national stockpile, which is “shrouded in secrecy and never seems to run out”. A related report earlier this year found China’s medical insurance system was still reimbursing users for traditional remedies containing pangolin, which undermined the broader goal of reducing the illegal trade.

“China has taken some half measures but not gone the full way in banning the use of pangolin scales in medicine,” said Chris Hamley, a senior pangolin campaigner at the EIA. “Given the massive illegal trade and weak regulation internally, it is very likely that pharmaceutical companies are using illegal scales. Our report found a whole bunch of those.”

He called on the National People’s Congress to close the loopholes when it reviews China’s wildlife protection law. Companies and their European investors could also make declarations not to use pangolin scales, which can be replaced by other herbal products. The international community could also use the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild