Medicare Watch

Your Weekly Medicare Consumer Advocacy Update

Medicare and the Windsor Decision: Where Do We Stand?

June 26, 2014

Q&A Answers Important Questions about Medicare Changes after the Windsor Decision

A year ago today, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a landmark decision in United States v. Windsor, ruling that parts of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) are not legal.

In a recent Q&A with Services and Advocacy for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Elders (SAGE), Casey Schwarz, Client Services and Policy Counsel at the Medicare Rights Center, answered some important Medicare questions in light of last year’s ruling.

The Q&A asks a variety of questions about changes to Medicare and Social Security benefits for same-sex couples, including:

  • What new or increased Medicare benefits are available for a spouse in a same-sex married couple?
  • Are those who live in a state that only provides civil unions (CUs) or registered domestic partnerships (RDPs), like Colorado, Nevada, or Wisconsin eligible for new or increased Medicare benefits by being a part of a CU or RDP?
  • Are those who live in a non-marriage, non-CU or RDP state like Mississippi, but were married to their same-sex spouse in one of the other 18 states and the District of Columbia (as of May 19, 2014) that allow for same-sex marriage, eligible for any of the new/increased Medicare benefits available for individuals living in marriage states? Are there any differences because of where you live?

Read the Q&A.

Read more about how Medicare is affected by the overturn of (DOMA) on Medicare Interactive.

Read a recent Reuters article about how the Windsor decision impacts retirees.

Update to Long-Term Care Scorecard Released

AARP, the Commonwealth Fund and the SCAN Foundation recently released a 2014 update to its Long-Term Care Scorecard report, which rates states’ provision of long-term care supports and services (LTSS). Overall, states’ LTSS delivery has improved since the previous report, released in 2011. The level of LTSS available, however, varies greatly by state and there is still much room for improvement.

Across the U.S., the cost of LTSS—such as home health care and nursing home care—is far greater than what middle-income families can afford. Even though more than half of states improved the LTSS offered through their Medicaid program since 2011, this program is designed to be a safety net once a family cannot afford to pay for the needed care. More than half of states also improved the services offered through their Aging and Disability Resource Centers to help people find the services they need; however, many people are forced to spend down their savings and rely upon Medicaid’s safety net, since Medicare only covers limited long-term care services.

Most other aspects of long-term care—such as access to care, quality of care and assistance for family caregivers—vary widely by state. The improvements that have occurred since 2011 are not enough to handle the increasing need for LTSS as Baby Boomers age. The report recommends a combination of federal and state policy to better position the U.S. to manage the growing demand for LTSS in the coming years. For instance, the federal government should set standards and assist states in creating more effective LTSS systems. Additionally, the wide variation in LTSS systems across states shows that state policies and initiatives are an important factor in determining quality and availability; therefore, states should continue to promote innovation and change in order to improve and expand their LTSS systems.

Click here to read the 2014 Scorecard.

Volume 5, Issue 25

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Medicare Reminder

Incarceration—being in prison, jail or in the custody of correctional authorities—affects your Medicare coverage. Medicare generally will not pay for your health care while you are incarcerated. Instead, your correctional facility will typically provide and pay for your medical care. Once you are released, Medicare will cover your care as long as you remain enrolled in Medicare and follow Medicare’s rules.

It is best to keep Medicare Part A (hospital insurance) and Part B (outpatient insurance) coverage while you are in prison or jail. If you become eligible for Medicare while you are incarcerated, it is best to enroll into Parts A and B when you qualify—even if you are still in prison. Although Medicare won’t cover your care, keeping it will help you to avoid gaps in coverage and penalties once you are released.

Click here to learn more about Medicare and incarceration on Medicare Interactive.



This week, the Kaiser Family Foundation released a new interactive tool showing 2013 data on income and savings for people with Medicare across various demographics, including age, education level, gender, marital status and race/ethnicity. According to the data, half of all people with Medicare had less than $23,500 in annual income and less than $61,400 in savings. For a tutorial on how to use the tool, watch this quick, three-minute video.

Click here to use the tool.


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