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Assess Your Health This Holiday Season

Image Courtesy of Wikipedia Commons

Image Courtesy of Wikipedia Commons

Medicare open enrollment has arrived and so has the holiday season! For those of us who are 65 and older, this means it’s time to examine our current coverage and determine if it still meets our individual needs.

Each year, Medicare users are given the opportunity to review and alter their Medicare Part D plan from October 15th to December 7th. Today, we’re sharing a few tips to make the process of assessing your coverage much easier. Feel free to use these tips over the Thanksgiving holiday period to discuss Medicare options with your family and loved ones. After all, Thanksgiving is National Family History Day.

Check Your Mail

You should have received an “annual notice of change” or “evidence of benefits” letter from your insurer. This letter is important to review, because it highlights the cost and benefit changes in store for 2018.

Know Your Medications

The medications you need may vary each year, so it’s essential to have a detailed list of all your current medications before you assess your Part D coverage. Be sure to check to make sure your current medications are covered, as well as any new medications you might now be prescribed.

Review All Costs

Be sure to calculate other costs associated with health care coverage besides monthly premiums, like out-of-pocket cost sharing such as copays or coinsurance. Study these factors to determine if they fit within your budget.

Check Approved Pharmacies

Make sure your preferred pharmacy is included in your Part D coverage by checking if your pharmacy is preferred under your plan’s network. This can help lower out-of-pocket costs.

Assess Plan Ratings

Did you know Part D plans are assessed by a five-star rating system? This system shows how they are performing on specific features, such as customer service and patient safety. Don’t forget to check how your plan compares to others.

Look for Other Options

After you assess your plan, examine other options to see if there is a better fit for your individual needs. Use this Medicare Plan Finder to explore your options and compare plans here. Additionally, you can always call 1-800-Medicare 24/7, visit www.medicare.gov or call your Area Agency on Aging, which offers appointments with a Medicare information expert (SHIIP). If you need help finding contact information on your Area Agency, or if you need information on any service programs or resources, feel free to call the national Eldercare Information number at 800-677-1116.



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Honoring Those Who Served

November 11th is a historic day throughout the world because it marks the official end of World War I, but in the United States, it takes on even more significance because it is the day we officially honor those who have served our country.

How did Veterans Day come about?

On November 11, 1918, an armistice was declared between the Allied nations and Germany in WWI. Twenty years later, Armistice Day was declared a Federal holiday. After the end of WWII, various communities began celebrating Veterans Day on November 11 and, in 1954, President Dwight D. Eisenhower, signed legislation officially changing the name to Veterans Day and designating it as a time to honor those who have served in our nation’s armed forces.

To those of you who are veterans, we say a heartfelt thanks for the sacrifices you and your family have made and for all that you have done to protect our freedom and safety.

To everyone else, we hope you remember to reach out to mark this holiday by extending thanks to the more than 20 million living veterans in the United States.

It is only when we carry on the traditions in history of our country that we preserve them. This is one that we all have a duty to maintain. I hope you will have a chance to see a parade, hear a concert, watch a patriotic movie, or say thanks to the men and women who have given so much.

We would love to hear about who you are honoring today, so feel free to comment on our most recent Facebook post. As always, we thank you for being a part of our community, and we encourage you take a few moments to celebrate those who have demonstrated immense sacrifice and a love of our country.



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Talk About Your Medicines Month

October is quite an important month for seniors. Not only does this month mark the beginning of open enrollment, but it also serves as an annual observance to call attention to the need to improve communication about medications. In today’s post, we are celebrating Talk About Your Medicines Month!

The National Council on Patient Information and Education (NCPIE) created Talk About Your Medicines Month in 1986 to bring attention to the value that better medicine communication can play in promoting better medicine use AND better health outcomes. Here at Seniors Speak Out, we agree! Here are several tips for how you can improve communication with your doctor and pharmacists about your medications.

At the Doctor’s Office:

Before your doctor writes you a new prescription, be sure to discuss your current medical conditions and what medications you are currently prescribed. In order to ensure there are no adverse reactions with your current medications, your doctor will need to know this critical information. Additionally, be sure to alert your doctor if you have any allergies.

As your doctor writes you a prescription, get your pen and paper ready! You might need to take notes as he answers some of your questions, which might include:

  • What time of day should I take this medication?
  • Is there a generic version of this medication? (This might help keep the out-of-pocket costs down, as generic medication is often cheaper than brand name medications)
  • Are there any foods or drinks I should avoid while taking this medication?
  • When will the medication begin working?
  • Are there any side effects I should be aware of?

At the Pharmacist:

Did you know a survey of 5,200 licensed pharmacists in the U.S. found that less than half their working time was spent filling prescriptions? Six out of 10 pharmacists provide medication therapy management to help patients like us understand our medicines.

  • Does this medication require refills? If so, how often do I need to do so?
  • How should I store this medication?
  • What happens if I miss a dose?

Of course, feel free to ask your doctor or pharmacist any additional questions you might have. By communicating with these providers frequently, you can ensure every medication fits your individual needs. Also, remember that these medicines were prescribed just for you, and it is dangerous to share prescription medicines with others.

It is also important after finishing a medication to ensure it is disposed of properly. The U.S. Food & Drug Administration recommends utilizing medicine take-back programs to ensure others don’t accidentally take or misuse the unneeded medicine. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration regularly hosts National Prescription Drug Take-Back events where collection sites are set up in communities nationwide for safe disposal. Seniors and caregivers can also contact their local waste management authorities to learn about other disposal options.



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The Different Parts of Medicare

Are you turning 65 this year? If you were born in 1952, this is an important year for you. Why? Because at age 65, you can now enroll in Medicare!

As I’m sure you already know, Medicare is the federal health insurance program for people age 65 and older. Medicare provides plenty of benefits, so you should be sure to enroll as soon as you are eligible. Don’t forget open enrollment is just around the corner and begins on October 15.

Before then, you might want to learn more about Medicare and what it can offer. For starters, there are four different parts of Medicare: Parts A, B, C and D. Check out our new infographic for information on these health care coverage options!

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Seniors and Oral Hygiene: What You Need to Know

peter-kasprzyk-110926We rely on our pearly whites every day, but did you know one of the top health challenges seniors face is maintaining our oral hygiene? As we age, our teeth and gums become more susceptible to problems that might not have previously surfaced. Luckily, there are steps we can take to protect our teeth for years to come.

Some common oral hygiene problems among seniors are darkened teeth, difficulty chewing, root decay, dry mouth, and gum disease. To prevent these issues and keep teeth and gums healthy, experts recommend brushing teeth twice a day, plus flossing once a day.

If holding a toothbrush is difficult or painful, ask your dentist for options that cater to your specific needs. Solutions like extending your toothbrush with a tongue depressor, or using a soft washcloth or gauze in place of a traditional tooth brush can make frequent brushing a more manageable task.

Dry mouth, one common oral hygiene problem, is best managed through preventative measures. Since it is often caused by medications, be sure to drink extra water or use sugar-free mints or gum to increase saliva production and moisten your mouth.

And did you know that one of the most important things you can do to protect your teeth is to avoid tobacco products? These products will only increase the likelihood of developing tooth decay and gum disease.

If you have dentures, oral hygiene is just as important. Be sure to clean them regularly, as these appliances can be a breeding ground for harmful bacteria.

It’s essential to visit your dentist as often as he or she recommends – typically, this will be every six months, unless you have a specific issue that needs to be addressed with more frequent care.

According to the American Dental Association’s Mouth Healthy recommendations, when you visit your dentist, make sure to mention what medications you are on, as well any dental issues you’ve been dealing with lately.

During the exam itself, your dentist will likely perform a physical check of your face, neck, bite and jaw, along with your gums and teeth, to comprehensively check for any issues. If you have any questions about your treatment options or your dental insurance plan, don’t be afraid to ask your dentist. There are many different options for senior dental coverage that may cater to your needs. Often times, Medicare Advantage covers regular dental visits, but be sure to check your coverage for more information about your plan.

 



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Happy National Grandparents Day!

 

This Sunday is National Grandparents Day! Contrary to popular belief, this holiday was not invented by the greeting card industry. Grandparents Day was created thanks to the work of one tireless advocate named Marian McQuade. In 1970, Marian launched an effort to recognize grandparents in her home state of West Virginia, and later across the entire United States. Eventually, in 1978, President Jimmy Carter signed an official proclamation declaring the first Sunday after Labor Day as National Grandparents Day. As a mother of 15 children and grandmother to 43 grandchildren, Marian certainly qualifies as an expert in grandparenting.

If you ask any grandparent about their grandchildren, you will see their face light up and their voices fill with excitement. Though many describe the experience as being twice the fun and half the work, it is important to remember that in addition to being fun, being a grandparent is vitally important to all the generations of the family.

In the United States, almost 3 million grandparents are raising grandchildren, and many more contribute significantly with finances and time to raising younger generations. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

A grandparent is a living embodiment of family history – both good and bad, and funny and sad. What was mom like in second grade? Did dad get into trouble when he was a little boy? What were you doing when Neil Armstrong landed on the Moon? Only a grandparent can fully answer those questions, and what a great gift that is.

If you haven’t already done so, this National Grandparents Day, I encourage you to take the time to jot down a few stories you want to pass on to future generations.

To all my fellow grandparents, I hope you take the time today to appreciate and be appreciated for the unique gift of being a grandparent.



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National Immunization Month

Fall is right around the corner, which means many kids are headed back to school. For me, the end of summer invokes memories of fresh school supplies, a new sweater or two, and sometimes a trip to the doctor for dreaded shots. Though I’ve long-since graduated from school, this is a good time of year to remember that getting the appropriate vaccinations is important and not limited to children.

This August, in honor of National Immunization Awareness Month, we’re sharing how important it is for seniors to take control of our own health by staying up to date on our vaccines. For those of us who have grandchildren, it is even more critical, as we don’t want to put our young loved ones at risk for an illness that could’ve been prevented by immunization.

By remaining diligent about necessary vaccinations, we can work together to help prevent infectious diseases. Doing so should be easy since some of the most commonly needed vaccines are covered under Medicare Part B and Part D. As always, remember to consult your doctor if you have any questions about what is included in your coverage or what vaccine is appropriate for your needs. As a starting point, be sure to read on and check out our list of the CDC’s recommended vaccinations for seniors who are 65 years old and up.

sso-immunizatio_23843580_c638d6fc132504df02bd97145f8e54dba8cc0f03



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The Results Are In: Seniors Are Satisfied with Medicare Part D Coverage!

If you feel fortunate to have reliable access to medications through Medicare, you’re not alone! Our partners at Medicare Today have released the results of their annual national survey. According to the latest Senior Satisfaction Survey, nearly 9 in 10 seniors are satisfied with their prescription drug coverage. In addition to overall satisfaction, the survey showed that 93 percent of seniors find their plan convenient to use, 84 percent think it’s a good value and 86 percent said their plan works well.

Medicare Today’s newest video provides an overview of the survey results and explains how Part D’s structure helps preserve the benefits that matter most to beneficiaries like you and me:

For more information on the survey results, read more from Medicare Today below. Also, make sure to visit their website and follow @MedicareToday on Twitter to stay updated.

 

New National Survey: Nearly 9 in 10 Seniors Satisfied with Medicare Part D

 Policymakers Weighing Changes to Prescription Drug Program Must Keep in Mind Seniors’ Approval of Part D’s Choices, Value & Convenience, Medicare Today Chair Said

 WASHINGTON – More than a decade after its initial launch, the Medicare Part D prescription drug program remains overwhelmingly popular with American seniors, according to Medicare Today’s annual Senior Satisfaction Survey.  The nationwide survey of approximately 2,000 seniors conducted by Morning Consult found that 87 percent are satisfied with their Part D coverage and 90 percent believe their prescription drug costs would be much higher if they didn’t have prescription drug coverage through Part D.

“This survey shows the program continues to work extremely well,” said Mary R. Grealy, chair of Medicare Today and president of the Healthcare Leadership Council, a coalition of chief executives from all sectors of American health care. “Part D provides affordable access to prescription medications for seniors and individuals with disabilities, and beneficiaries are satisfied with the choices the program offers. They understand the great value it adds to their lives.”

Additional key findings in the survey include:

  • 84 percent of seniors believe their plan is a good value
  • 93 percent of seniors reported that their plan is convenient to use
  • 86 percent said their plan works well and without hassle
  • 83 percent reported it is important to them to have a variety of plans from which to compare and choose

At a time of uncertainty around healthcare issues, with some politicians proposing significant changes to the Part D structure, Ms. Grealy stressed the importance of not disrupting a program that works well and provides such high value to seniors.

“Now more than ever, it is critical that Part D be protected against needless and potentially damaging changes that would lead to uncertainty and threaten to undermine a program on which seniors depend so strongly” said Ms. Grealy.

For more information and full survey results, please visit Medicare Today’s website: www.medicaretoday.org

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About the Survey

Morning Consult conducted a national survey of 1944 adults who are 65 and older and have prescription drug coverage. The interviews were conducted from June 18 – July 6, 2017. Results from the full survey have a margin of error of plus or minus two percentage points.

About Medicare Today

Medicare Today is a coalition of national and local organizations representing seniors, health care providers, employers, patients and consumer groups focused on providing beneficiaries with reliable information on the Medicare program and its benefits. Medicare Today was created by the Healthcare Leadership Council, an alliance of chief executives of the nation’s leading healthcare companies and organizations from all health sectors.



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The Perfect Summer Checklist

sea-nature-sunny-summerIf you are like many people, summer is your favorite time of the year. Gardening, golfing, playing outdoor tennis, swimming at the beach, or just enjoying the extra hours of daylight are what we’ve been waiting to do all winter long.

But even though summer is the perfect season for so many wonderful activities, remember to take a few extra minutes to get yourself ready to enjoy them safely and comfortably.

Summer checklist:

Sunscreen: Of course, we need to wear it all year round but the greater intensity of summer sun and heat means we need to reapply sunscreen frequently while we are out. Even “all day” products don’t always protect you the entire time you are outdoors, especially if you are in the water or working up a healthy sweat.

One great tip is to keep sunscreen in a convenient place in your car where it’s handy and visible. Then it’s at-the-ready when the sun is beaming down through the window or in case you’ve forgotten to apply before you left home.

Remember that some medicines can make your skin more sensitive to light. Check with your pharmacy or provider’s office if you have questions about anything you take.

Hydration: I know, I know… we hear this over and over but it bears repeating. Keep water with you every time you exercise or engage in an outdoor activity, even if it’s only a short walk.

And like the sunscreen, keep a few bottles of water in your car—you never know when summer beach traffic, a car problem, or some other event may intervene.

Insect Repellent: You name it, summer has them whether they are flying, crawling, or dropping down from trees.

Outdoor activities in the late afternoon and evening, of course, make you a prime target for mosquitoes.  But they are by no means the only problem. Gardeners and hikers should especially take note that the tick population in several states is at an all-time high this year. Be sure to check yourself when you come in, especially if you live in a high infestation area.

There are good repellent sprays and surprisingly good (though a bit pricey) repellent clothing—though not all of the garments work for every activity or sport.

Grandkids: One of life’s greatest joys is doing almost any activity with grands and summer gives us so many more opportunities!  Don’t forget to check that your sunscreen and first aid supplies are kid-friendly and that your car has an extra supply of drinks.



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Older Americans Month 2017: Age Out Loud

In April 1963, after meeting with members of the National Council of Senior Citizens, President John F. Kennedy designated May as “Senior Citizens Month” – what would eventually become “Older Americans Month.” The month is used as a time to acknowledge the important role seniors play in the United States and highlight our impact on our nation’s history.

Since the era of Kennedy, every U.S. president has declared May as Older Americans Month. This year, President Donald Trump did the same and called upon all Americans “to honor our elders, acknowledge their contributions, care for those in need, and reaffirm our country’s commitment to older Americans this month and throughout the year.” Leading the celebration of Older Americans Month is the Administration for Community Living (ACL), who designed this year’s theme of Age Out Loud to “give aging a new voice – one that reflects what today’s older adults have to say.”

What better way to celebrate this year’s theme than to get involved and raise important issues surrounding seniors’ access to quality health care services like Medicare! As seniors, we are the most important voice in this fight, so it’s imperative we use our time and resources to speak out.

If you’re a new reader, you might not know that your access to Medicare is currently under threat by the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB). This is a big problem for beneficiaries like you and me, as IPAB could soon be determining what will be covered under Medicare – from treatments, to procedures, to medications. In honor of Older Americans Month and this year’s aptly-designed theme, I encourage all seniors to join together to stand up for Medicare. Our voices are imperative to winning this fight, so don’t be afraid to Age Out Loud!

To learn more about IPAB and Medicare, view our recent blog post here.