It's complicating your life, haunting your dreams. In short, Medicare paperwork is driving you crazy.
Whether the stack of statements belongs to you or a relative, you can get help - most of it for free. Here's what to do:- CALL A COUNSELOR. Under a federal program administered by the Health Care Financing Administration, which oversees Medicare, every state offers free assistance to beneficiaries. Volunteer counselors will advise you over the phone, at a local office or even in your home on ways to work through Medicare problems.
To find out about counseling programs, call the agency on aging for your area or state, your state insurance department or the U.S. Administration on Aging's Eldercare Locator (800-677-1116).
- GET HELP FROM THE HOSPITAL. Many health facilities employ a consumer representative to help patients with billing or insurance problems, says Richard Koepke of the National Society for Patient Representation and Consumer Affairs at the American Hospital Association. If you have paperwork hassles relating to a hospital stay, call the hospital and ask for the patient rep, or call the society at (312) 422-3770.
- ENLIST AN ADVOCATE. The Medicare Beneficiaries Defense Fund in New York City troubleshoots for people who are having problems getting Medicare claims paid.
But before calling in the big guns, check out the fund's publications, such as the eight-page brochure, "Your Doctor Bills: A Medicare Road Map. For a copy, write to MBDF, Box KP, 1460 Broadway, 8th Floor, New York, N.Y. 10036 (include $2 for shipping and handling).