Tips for Navigating Health Care Systems

Are you a family caregiver — taking care of your parents and also your own keiki? Understanding health care can be a challenge, whether you live with that family member or provide long-distance assistance. In the 2014 AARP Caregiver Survey of Hawaii Registered Voters, more than 62 percent of respondents 45 years and older said they will likely provide unpaid care to an adult loved one in the future.

Tips for you from other caregivers:

  • Keep all health insurance information, letters received from the plan or Medicare and your explanation of benefits in one handy binder.
  • Take a list of your family members’ current prescription medicationsand nonprescription supplements to every medical visit.
  • Become an authorized representative so that you may ask questions on behalf of your family member. (Note: This authorization is needed from spouse-to-spouse and one individual may have multiple authorized representatives.)
  • Take time to understand the benefits of the health plan: What providers are available? Can I go to any hospital in a nonemergency situation? What happens if I am traveling on the Mainland? What are the co-pays? Is my primary doctor considered a specialist under the plan?
  • Attend informational sessions (like the Generations “Aging in Place Workshop” in August — click here or see pages 10–11 of the magazine) to learn about availavle services and talk to other caregivers. You are not alone.
  • Keep a diary or log of all your family member’s medical appointments; compare them to visits listed on your Medicare Summary Notice (if you have original Medicare) or your Report to Member (for Medicare Advantage enrollees).
  • Always ask for an estimate of out-of-pocket costs when your family member needs to have a procedure (like cataract surgery).
  • Your neighbor or auntie may be the best person for a lilikoi jelly recipe, but if you have questions about health care coverage, better call your plan.
  • If you are waiting for more information before paying a bill, call the provider and tell them you are checking the charges. Unfortunately, we see individuals with bills in collection because they didn’t communicate with the provider.

Taking care of another person is the most difficult and rewarding job a person can experience. If you need help navigating the murky waters, just call SHIP (State Health Insurance Assistance Program). There is a SHIP in all 50 states and four U.S. Territories. Hawaii SHIP is a volunteer-based Medicare counseling program.


Hawaii SHIP (State Health Insurance Assistance Program)
1-808-875-9229 | Hawaii SHIP-Sage PLUS Program


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