Medicare Responsibilities for Seniors Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired

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When Was Medicare Created?
Who Are You Calling “Aging”?
What Are My Medicare Responsibilities?
Why Do I Have Medicare Responsibilities?
Why Should Businesses Be Proactive in Providing Alternative Formats?

When Was Medicare Created?

1965 was a powerful year for the aging population (considered persons 65 and older). It was also a strong year for Americans with disabilities. President Johnson enacted the first Medicare/Medicaid National Programs.  This was a slightly watered down version of President Truman’s attempts of universal healthcare.

Medicare and Medicaid provided healthcare to the aging population and to people with disabilities. This was created as part of the Office of Social Security. It was also in 1965 that people with disabilities earned the right to have assistance in the voting booth. This new law strongly affected people who were blind or visually impaired.

A diagram of five circles with medicare-associated words displayed in each circle.

Who Are You Calling “Aging”?

Persons who are 65 are hardly looking at themselves as the ‘aging.’  However, as father-time marches on, aging creeps into areas that most baby-boomer never had a problem with before, their eyesight.  Likely, it isn’t immediately recognized or shared if known.  A persons’ eyesight is their window to the world.  As sight fades, adjusts or becomes generally impaired it is important to self-identify the problem, seek medical advice and begin making modifications and accommodations to the environment, routines, and the way information is received and shared.

Now that you are 65 or over you have responsibilities when it comes to Medicare.  Requesting accessible documents is the best way to be a responsible Medicare recipient.  It is your right to receive all of your healthcare documents in an accessible format so you can make the best decisions regarding your healthcare needs.

What Are My Medicare Responsibilities?

  • Reading and understanding all materials you receive from Medicare and Medicare Advantage.  If you’re blind or visually impaired, it’s your right to request alternative formats.
  • Knowing the mandated time periods for signing up or changing plans.  This year it is October 15, 2015 – December 7, 2015.
  • Asking questions when you’re unsure or don’t understand something.
  • Protecting your Medicare card.
  • Knowing and keeping your Medicare number private.
  • Before accepting care or services, always reference the approved service providers and contact the doctor’s office and other health care providers to find out if they accept Medicare.
  • Reporting to Medicare if you feel a doctor, provider, insurance agent, or plan has misguided/abused the Medicare Program.
  • If you are receiving Social Security or Railroad Retirement Benefits (RRB) your Medicare package part A and B will arrive about three months before you turn 65-years old.  If you are not getting Social Security or RRB it is your responsibility to call Social Security or RRB at least three months before your 65th birthday, to avoid penalties.  Once you are enrolled, your Medicare card will arrive.  You can contact Social Security at 1-800-772-1213.

Why Do I Have Medicare Responsibilities?

It hardly seems fair that a Medicare eligible consumer should be responsible for items that are not provided in an accessible format.  Despite the many laws that have been created and modified, accessible alternative formats to print material are still not always being used.  Often it is up to the consumer to request an alternative format.  Alternative formats would be considered: Braille, Large Print, Accessible PDF, and Audio.

Examples of medical documents in braille on a desk.

Why Should Businesses Be Proactive in Providing Alternative Formats?

It is as simple as curb cuts.  Curb cuts were part of another 1965 law, the National Commission on Architectural Barriers list of accessibility for buildings.  Curb cuts benefit more than just people with wheelchairs.  They are excellent ramps for shopping carts, strollers and for those who are suffering from an injury and more.  Curb cuts benefit everyone.

As people reach age 65, and often sooner, reading standard print becomes taxing.  Often, people are too proud to admit their eyesight is failing or they are unaware that their eyesight is compromised.  Offering a large print or audio version of documents can assist all persons in making the right decisions when it comes to their healthcare needs.

Remember it’s your right to have these documents in a format you can actually read, all you have to do is ask your insurance company for them. Downloading this request for accessible healthcare insurance materials will help too.  If your provider doesn’t know where to turn, be sure to send them our way- we’ll help them out.  Braille Works – the accessible document specialists.

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This post was written by Braille Works

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