Learning the importance of Medicare Part B, the hard way

My mom tripped and fell on Tuesday.

I got the call from the folks at her building and it was panic mode for the rest of the week. It worked out fine this time, but we learned how ill-prepared we are. And we are going to be better prepared if anything like this happens again.
The really, really good news is that her head was not damaged, even though she smacked it hard on a heavy chair. She has some impressive scrapes and bruises, but her wit and sense of humor never left her for a moment. A battery of MRI scans, X-rays, and examinations revealed no serious internal injuries. Whew!
She did, however, get some delicate little fractures. What made them problematic was bilateral symmetry: one fracture on her right elbow, and two on her left wrist. It will be a long time before I get rid of the image of my mom in a hospital bed with both arms bandaged and splinted.
So here is this woman who cannot put her hand to her mouth, grasp a cup, or — and this is the big one for her — turn pages in a book. So, OK, that night I got her a Nook (still trying to get library books to load on it). But there is still all that eating and drinking and other body-related activities.  She obviously couldn’t live by herself. Could I move in with her? Maybe… but I could not be there 24/7, which is what it looked like she would need. They were talking four to six weeks. Ai!
Phone calls ensued. Lots of calls, to sort out what was covered, by who, and what sequence of events had to transpire. For example, we learned that a nursing home would be covered ONLY if my mom was discharged directly from the hospital to the nursing home. If they sent her home for an hour first, it wouldn’t count.
Wednesday the hospital was ready to discharge her.  Her insurance covered three rehabilitative care facilities in the area: One is in the far corner of the county. One nearby, that my dad had been in very briefly, where they packed ’em in  five to a room with the beds an arm’s length apart. One in South Seattle. We researched and found lots of better possibilities, all of them covered by Medicare Part B.

My mom does not have Medicare Part B.

Why not?
My dad was retired military. When he was working in the Army instead of making lots more money in the private sector, part of the deal was military health care, for him and his wife, that would continue after he retired. That has been tinkered with. At one point, I think in the ’90s, they had to choose between government-funded Family Health Plan (FHP) coverage and Medicare. They chose the government-funded plan (the one most like the coverage they’d been expecting to have, back in my dad’s working years), and signed some sort of pledge to not sign up for Medicare. Within the past few years my Mom was told that she must sign up for  Medicare in addition to FHP. So she did, but never signed up for Part B because she still had FHP.
The hospital kept her Wednesday night, because we had no place to put her. Meanwhile they decided not to splint her right arm because the fracture was such that it would heal just as well without it. She started re-building strength in her right hand and arm.
Thursday we were able to check out the place in South Seattle, and found it actually pretty good, much better than the one nearby. We got her settled in, and expect her to be back home within the week. At 87, she is healing like a 20 year old. We tend to live a long time in my family.
I’m reading up on Medicare Part B. If she needs a nursing home in the future, we will be prepared.

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