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  • Lori Cochrane, Principal Fiduciary

By Lori Cochrane, Principal Professional Fiduciary, Cochrane Support Services

When it comes to Medicare plans, long term care plans, and knowing the ins and outs, the information is overwhelming and confusing. Only professionals know what the heck they're talking about. When I need information for my clients, I get first-hand information directly from the pros.


Turning 65 brings about questions about health insurance and what to do about Medicare. As we decline and enter a phase where our long term care insurance may kick-in, we need to know how to maximize benefits.


These two insurance topics are not as straightforward as they should be. The rules are complicated. I asked Katie Fernandez from All Types Insurance to help me understand Medicare. I also asked Susan Feldman from BrightStar Care to help me understand long term care insurance. Read on to learn more...


Medicare


I recently asked Katie Fernandez about the opportunities to change Medicare plans mid-stream. I was surprised at the available options. With Katie’s permission, here are snippets from our conversation along with information obtained directly from Medicare.gov. It always helps to get a better understanding of what might be available.


Meet Katie --


“My name is Katie and I have specialized in the senior health insurance market for 18 years. I’m locally available to help people navigate Medicare and answer any questions they may have. I specialize in services related to Medicare insurance products, such as Medicare Supplements, Medicare Advantage plans, and Part D (prescription drug plans). Regardless of a client’s current plan, it is always a good thing to understand and know all of your Medicare options.”


Q. When are we supposed to enroll in Medicare?

There is an Initial Enrollment Period that lasts seven months for individuals turning 65 to enroll in Medicare.


Katie says, “Anyone turning 65 years old has 3 months before, the month of, and 3 months after their 65th birthday to make their plan choice."


Q. What are our plan choices? There are three types of plans to choose from, each with a variety of enrollment periods. They include:

  • Straight Medicare Part A & Part B (plan D for drugs sold separately)

  • Supplemental, aka “Medi-gap” (plan D for drugs sold separately), and

  • Medicare Advantage (Includes a drug plan)

Q. When can we change plans?


You can change Medicare plans during the Annual Enrollment Period which is each year from October 15th through December 7th. This is an annual opportunity for ALL Medicare recipients to change plans of ANY KIND. This is also the allowed time frame to change prescription drug plans or enroll in one to avoid further penalties.


Supplemental is a Medicare Primary plan with a Supplement “medi-gap” (does not include a drug plan):

Open Enrollment coincides with the Annual Enrollment Period which is October 15th through December 7th, each year.

Birthday Open Enrollment -- This period lasts 30 days before and after your birthday.


Katie says, “I can shop Medicare Supplement Medi-gap plans each year, enrolling you 30 days before and up to 30 days after your birthday, to help you receive identical benefits for a lower monthly premium.”


She goes on to say, “For those who choose a Medicare Supplement, overpaying and constantly increasing costs can get frustrating. I focus on shifting my clients to the same plan for less money with no health questions asked.”


Medicare Advantage plan (includes a drug plan):

Annual Enrollment Period is October 15th through December 7th.

Open Enrollment is January 1st through March 31st, each year.


Katie adds, “I make sure you have the best advantage plan that works with your network of doctors and hospitals. Some Medicare Advantage plans I offer include dental, vision, transportation to and from doctors’ appointments, free gym, and classes as well as a monthly allowance to purchase over-the-counter supplies!”


Q. What is Special Enrollment?


Katie says, “Special enrollment periods are when you can change your plan outside of these open enrollment periods, which you may not be aware of. During this time, you can make changes to your Medicare Advantage and Medicare prescription drug coverage when certain events happen in your life. Some of the qualifying events may include:

  • A move in or out of a service area

  • Moving into or out of a Long-Term Care facility

  • Losing an employer plan

  • Involuntarily losing creditable prescription drug coverage

  • Being affected by a weather-related disaster or a natural disaster

  • A change in “extra help”, for example to Medi-Cal assistance, or loss of a special needs plan

With so much more to know we recommend you ask a professional for advice about Medicare options and enrollment. The more you know, the more you save!


Katie offers a free consultation to help clients choose the right Medicare insurance policy, make policy changes and sort out claims. You can call Katie at 916-408-7665. You can find her at: All Types Insurance Agency, 805 Twelve Bridges Drive, #15, Lincoln, CA 95648.



Long Term Care Insurance: Use it or lose it!

By Guest Contributor, Susan Feldman Community Liaison, BrightStar Care


If you’ve been paying premiums on a long term care insurance policy for years and wondering “What does this policy cover?”, “When do I use it?” and “How do I use it?”, read on.


Given the choice, most people wish to age in their own home, in familiar surroundings with family, neighbors and pets. If you had the foresight to purchase a long term care policy with an “In Home Care” benefit, you’re in luck.


Locate the Policy: If you have your hands on the policy, that’s great. If you can’t find it, call the insurance company and request a copy. Make sure your adult children and/or power of attorney know you have a policy and where it is. Nothing is worse than paying into a policy and not remembering to use it.


Schedule of Benefit: This summary page states the coverage of the policy. For example, how much will the policy pay for in-home care, assisted living or nursing home care? Some even have a benefit for home modifications and fall alert devices.


Elimination or Deductible Period: This is the portion the policy holder is expected to pay before the insurance company pays. It can be 0, 30, 60, 90 or up to 100 days. How those days are defined can vary. Some are individual days of care while others are calendar days. This may be waived in certain situations.


Qualifying Need: The critical “trigger” to use the policy hinges on needing either stand-by or hands-on assistance with at least 2 of these Activities of Daily Living (ADLs); transferring, toileting, incontinence care, bathing, dressing and feeding (not meal prep).


Qualified Caregiver: While some LTCi companies allow family members to be the caregiver, most require a licensed home care agency to provide the care.


Use it or Lose it: Tapping into your LTCi policy when there is adequate need yet not waiting too long (investment wasted) simply takes evaluation. If qualified assistance is needed to help a senior stay home safely, possibly relieving a spouse or adult child of the tasks, why not investigate starting a claim. After all, that’s why you purchased the policy in the first place.


If you’d like assistance in navigating the waters of your LTCi policy, I’d be happy to meet with you, review the policy, discuss care needs and do a home safety assessment. Just email or call to set up this complimentary service.


Susan Feldman has been with BrightStar Care for over 10 years helping those with long term care insurance understand and utilize them well. She can be reached at susan.feldman@brightstarcare.com or 916-919-0063.



We're honored to have author Denise McDonald join us to post this informative article. Denise is a cherished friend, professional writer, researcher, and lover of our planet Earth. Keep your eye on Amazon to purchase her book An Advanced Degree in Murder, coming out soon. This is an interesting article topic considering Denise's book title, don't you think? At our request, she graciously took the time to learn about Green Burial and gave us this article you can draw from while making decisions about the handling of your remains. It's a daunting but necessary subject. Read on to learn what Denise found out, and please do share in your social circles. Knowledge and planning keeps us in control.


Lori Cochrane, Principal Professional Fiduciary Cochrane Support Services

Eco-Friendlier Burial

Driving less, shopping local, and using alternative energy sources in your home are all ways to reduce your carbon footprint and live an eco-friendlier lifestyle. But how do you carry “going green” into your estate planning? You may not realize it, but there are earth-friendly options that will allow you to reduce the use of chemical preservatives, strengthen the environment, or leave a legacy of trees.


Why might you consider green burial options? Besides the environmental impact of avoiding the use of potentially toxic chemicals, emitting less carbon into the atmosphere, and reducing groundwater and soil contamination, green burial often costs less than conventional since fewer resources and energy are required. It also protects and restores habitats for native plants and animals.


As with any service, you’ll want to do your research, ask questions, and make sure you understand all options before making any decisions. Green burial isn’t a new concept. In fact, prior to the Civil War, it was normal practice. After the mourning period, people buried their loved ones without any type of embalming, allowing them to naturally return to the earth. During the war, when so many soldiers lost their lives far from home, embalming was commonly used to preserve the fallen soldiers on their long journey home.


So what does green burial look like today? Following are just a few options to get you started down the path to an eco-friendly future.


Morgan Oaks Eternal Preserve, Lincoln, CA

Morgan Oaks offers a meaningful, simplistic, and sustainable way of interment. Burials may take place on private land or in a cemetery that accommodates green burial practices. The body is not preserved with chemicals and may be placed in a cloth shroud or biodegradable coffin before burial. Morgan Oaks also maintains lands to be restored and preserved as natural habitats in Northern California.


Recompose, Southern WA

Recompose connects the end of life to the natural world using a process called natural organic reduction that gently transfers human remains into soil that can be used to regenerate the earth. Choosing Recompose over conventional burial or cremation uses 1/8 of the energy and prevents one metric ton of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere. The breakdown of organic matter is an essential component in the cycle that allows the death of one organism to nurture the life of another.

Better Place Forests, Point Arena, CA

Better Place Forests offers a natural alternative to cemeteries. Ashes are mixed with soil and placed beneath a private tree in a peaceful forest setting, creating a meaningful resting place. Their first memorial forest, on the Mendocino Coast, is a peaceful sanctuary where families can remember their loved ones.


Alkaline Hydrolysis

Also known as water cremation, Alkaline Hydrolysis is an alternative to traditional cremation that has a lower environmental impact, including no release of mercury. The process uses far less energy than the standard procedure, which burns enough fuel to fill the tanks of two SUVs, according to The Atlantic. The law allowing alkaline hydrolysis in California went into effect in 2020, after the bill was signed by Governor Jerry Brown in 2017. Googling this process will take you to more information.


The Infinity Burial Suit

The Infinity Burial Suit returns bodies to the earth naturally and respectfully. The suits and shrouds are made of mushrooms and other all-natural biodegradable material, using no chemicals or preservatives. This environmentally-friendly design helps the body naturally return to the earth, clean toxins in both the body and soil and delivers nutrients to surrounding plants. Mushrooms emit enzymes to break down organic material and are thus able to consume a large variety of nutrient sources. Traditional cemeteries may not be aware of it.


Kinkaraco Products

Kinkaraco specializes in environmentally-friendly funeral products including burial and cremation shrouds. Founder Esmerelda Kent was inspired to become a green burial pioneer and worked at California’s first green cemetery, Fernwood. After discovering that only religious shrouds were available and that secular green burial was not an option at standard funeral homes, Esmerelda was inspired to create her own shrouds to help families lay their loved ones to rest in a way that is gentle to the Earth.


You can read A Brief History of Shrouds and Such here: https://kinkaraco.com/pages/history


You can learn more about green burial while visiting the Green Burial Council's website by clicking on this link: https://www.greenburialcouncil.org/.


Estate Planning and End of Life Wishes

Most of us don’t think about making burial arrangements until it’s time to lay a loved one to rest. However, thinking about your own arrangements is an important part of estate planning. It takes the burden off your family and ensures your wishes will be carried out. And if you chose a green option, you’ll know your green legacy will be preserved.





By Lori Cochrane, CLPF


Though it’s a work of fiction, the movie, I Care a Lot, has raised questions about conservatorships, how they work, and the role of Professional Conservators, also known as Professional Fiduciaries. The movie depicts a con artist who makes her living convincing various courts to grant her conservatorship over elders who she pretends cannot care for themselves. She then sells their assets and pockets the money. Could this really happen? Could it happen to you?


There are so many questions about the movie’s portrayal of conservatorship that I have decided to speak up and set the record straight. Don’t forget, movies are entertainment. It is far more entertaining to look for all the bad things in one industry and splice them together as though they all happened at one time by one person, compared to simply stating reality.


What is a conservatorship and what is its purpose?

A conservatorship is the legal appointment of a protector by a judge to manage the personal, medical, and/or financial affairs of an adult due to incapacity. Conservatorship is serious. It is not taken lightly. To be conserved is to lose independence. Our society deems that conservatorship is necessary in order to protect someone for two reasons: if you become incapacitated, and if you have not already assigned someone to serve with your authority as your agent with powers of attorney.

Basically, if you don’t declare who will speak for you if you are not able, then a judge has to assign somebody for you. Personally, I’d rather have control of who that person is. Read on to learn how to do that.


The laws concerning the establishment and continuing administration of a Conservatorship in the State of California can be found in California Probate Code Section 1400-3925. Google “California Probate Code” for access to a catalog of information.


What is a Licensed Professional Fiduciary (LPF)? We are individuals who have been licensed by the State of California’s Department of Consumer Affairs under the Professional Fiduciary Bureau. There are rigorous testing and educational requirements to be met to obtain a license, and constant monitoring and educational requirements to maintain a license. LPFs often serve as agents with powers of attorney, guardians, conservators, administrators, or executors in probate proceedings, and as trustees of trusts. Regardless of which role an LPF is serving in, and despite what you may see depicted in a movie, we are always overseen by either a court or by family members or individuals who have an interest in the person and assets being managed.


Is a conservatorship necessary if I have a power of attorney? A power of attorney often eliminates the need for a conservatorship altogether. However, to sign a power of attorney, a person must have the capacity to sign a legal document with a full understanding of intent.


How do I get a power of attorney? You may find that an attorney who specializes in Estate Planning will serve as the best consultant for you. An attorney may help you determine whether a Trust is necessary, and can draft documents for you to sign which give authority to people you wish to serve as your agent with power of attorney if you are not able.


Arming yourself with the facts about California Conservatorship will help you make the right decisions for your loved ones and bring you peace of mind. See more facts and frequently asked questions at https://californiaconservatorshipfacts.com/.


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Cochrane Support Services provides specialized fiduciary services in the Placer County area and throughout the region. We are Professional Fiduciaries with specialized skill sets.

You can reach us at (916) 705-7309, or email us at info@cochranecss.com