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The Holidays Are a Great Time to Think About Your Health

Medicare open enrollment is here again until December 7.

It is an important opportunity to make sure that your Medicare Part D prescription drug coverage or Medicare Advantage Plan still meets your needs, as well as a chance to explore other options. But, as you go through this process, be sure to take a few extra minutes to review and update your health information, as well.

Do you have an up-to-date list of all the medicines you take? Are the dosages written down also? What about a list of the vitamins or other supplements you take? Do you regularly use any over-the-counter (OTC) medicines like low dose aspirin? They need to be noted, too. So often, people forget to include supplements or OTCs when asked about medicines. Make sure your list is complete.

Next, you should have the names and contact information for all the doctors or other providers you see. Be sure to include why you see them or what they are treating you for.

Yes, it takes a little bit of time to get all of these facts and numbers up-to-date, but having them ready is a real convenience when you visit a new doctor and have to fill out forms, or if you are faced with an emergency and need information quickly. And you will need that list of medicines and dosages in order to review your prescription plan.

When Medicare Part D was first passed more than a decade ago, beneficiaries were encouraged to use the Thanksgiving holiday period—when families were likely to be together—to review their Medicare options and discuss them with their loved ones. And that idea is still an excellent one. But you don’t have to stop there!

Every person in your family, regardless of their age, should have a list of their doctors, any conditions they have, and any medicines. Everyone! So Thanksgiving is also a perfect time to urge your family to follow your good example!

Finally, don’t forget that the Seniors Speak Out website has many useful tools to help you with open enrollment! Be sure to check them out and share with your friends.



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Open Enrollment Essentials from Medicare Today

As you likely know, Medicare open enrollment is currently underway. Open enrollment is your chance to shop around the Medicare marketplace, comparing the features of different Part D plans and deciding whether to switch policies based on your needs. These plans provide seniors with affordable access to prescription drugs, which help keep them healthy.

Surveys have shown that nine out of ten beneficiaries are consistently happy with their coverage. This is due largely in part to reliably affordable plans. Monthly premiums for Part D have been stable for years—around $34. Seniors with prescription needs may want to take advantage of these plans by participating in open enrollment before the deadline on December 7, 2016.

When participating, seniors should seek out resources to help them navigate the process. In addition to the many helpful pages on this website, Seniors Speak Out’s partner organization, Medicare Today, has useful information for older adults and caregivers. They created the image below to help guide your open enrollment process. The steps provided will help you evaluate your Part D prescription drug plan. You can visit www.medicare.gov or call 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227) when you are ready to change your plan. Don’t forget to visit the Seniors Speak Out Fast Facts page for more information.

Look for this image at a local senior center to help you with open enrollment this year and remember: this is the only time of year to make changes to your Medicare Part D prescription drug plan. Make sure you’re covered today for the care you may need tomorrow.

 

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Thank you to our Veterans!

Today, we at Seniors Speak Out join with the rest of our country to honor our nation’s veterans. Veterans Day is a special time to recognize the men and women who have served our nation bravely in the armed forces. We would also like to extend a special greeting to those veterans who are also seniors! We hope that you find Seniors Speak Out a useful resource for you and your family and we are honored that you visit our website.

According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, almost 50 percent of our nation’s 21.8 million veterans are over age 65.  Seniors Speak Out’s website is filled with useful information for our senior veterans.  We hope you will use the information on our site and share your thoughts, questions and concerns with us on a regular basis.

Whether you live in a major city or small town, if you are a veteran, we hope that the observance of this day brings you many expressions of the gratitude and respect that is in the hearts of your family, friends and neighbors. Seniors Speak Out would like to encourage all our readers and followers to celebrate this day. Please make sure to reflect on the service of our brave men and women in uniform and thank a veteran for their service.

If you (or someone you know) are a veteran, share your story of service in the comments section below. Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard—we salute you!



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Helping Hand: Tips for Open Enrollment

With Medicare open enrollment upon us, it’s important that those of us 65 and older take the time to look at our current coverage and determine if it still meets our individual needs. Assessing our health plan is especially essential when it comes to our Medicare coverage. Each year, Medicare users are given the opportunity to alter their Medicare Part D plan from October 15th to December 7th. This is the only time we can make changes to our Part D coverage for the upcoming year – given the fact that your medicines may change from year-to-year this is especially important. Use these tips to assess your current prescription drug coverage and determine if it meets your needs!

Know Your Current Medications

Medications change often, and it’s important to have a full list of all of your current medications before you assess your Part D coverage. Making sure your current medications are covered is a great place to start when determining if your plan meets your health care needs.

Review All Costs

Often times when we consider our health care costs, we only consider our monthly premiums. Don’t forget that there are other costs associated with health care coverage, such as out-of-pocket cost sharing like copays or coinsurance. Check these factors to determine if they fit within your budget.

Check Approved Pharmacies

Most of us have a favorite pharmacy—make sure it’s included in your Part D coverage. To do so, check 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? You can see how they are performing on specific features, such as customer service and patient safety. Be sure to check how your plan stacks up.

Look for Other Options

After you assess your plan, look into other options to see if there is a better fit for your personal needs. Use this Medicare Plan Finder to explore your options and compare plans here.

If you have questions, visit your local Area Agency on Aging for assistance or visit our resource page. You’re not alone in your quest to get the best health care coverage!



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Medicare Open Enrollment Essentials

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Advocates Speak Out: National Breast Cancer Awareness Month

October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. To discuss some of the issues facing seniors with breast cancer, Seniors Speak Out’s Nona Bear recently spoke with Geri Barish of 1 in 9: The Long Island Breast Cancer Action Coalition. Below is an abridged version of the interview.

NB: Can you tell us a little about your organization and the work you do for seniors in your area?

GB: In the late 1980s, a group of women fighting breast cancer got together to discuss issues facing those fighting the disease. We decided to hold a rally to see just how many people on Long Island were affected by breast cancer. The rally was a huge success—over 350 people—women, men, children, seniors, everyone came to show their support for those impacted by the disease and to advocate for more outreach and education. Our rally made the front page and was talked about on local radio; breast cancer really was an issue that was important to the Long Island community. 1 in 9 was formed as the first breast cancer organization on Long Island. We are an organization committed to education, outreach and support for those fighting or surviving breast cancer.

NB: What does your group do to advocate for seniors?

GB: We provide specific programming for seniors who have or have had breast cancer. We offer discussion groups focusing on health care education, finances and other issues facing the senior community. We also run a very successful on-site gardening club that allows seniors with breast cancer to join together to support a common cause—a vegetable garden. While gardening, these women spend time talking with each other about the challenges they face.

NB: What are you doing to commemorate National Breast Cancer Awareness Month?

GB: In honor of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, we have a variety of programs aimed to raise awareness and help those currently fighting breast cancer. We are hosting special educational groups and survivor teas where we invite in guest speakers to discuss how to navigate Medicare and other ways to make sure seniors with breast cancer are getting the care they deserve.

NB: This month, what message would you like to share with senior women in particular?

GB: I would like women to remember that no matter what their age, they have a voice and they should use it. Senior women should not be afraid to speak out and demand answers about breast cancer. It doesn’t matter where these women come from, we are all in this fight together, and if we stand as a united front, we will beat breast cancer.

NB: We know detecting breast cancer early is critical. Do you have any tips to help recognize the first signs?

GB: For women of all ages, regular self-breast exams are always important. Senior women should also keep up their regular breast cancer screenings. Breast cancer can come at any time, so keeping a close eye on things is critical. Know your family history and don’t keep it a secret from your family—let your children know if you have shown signs of breast cancer in the past so they know what to look for in the future. The key is really staying healthy, active and alert and making sure you have the right knowledge to recognize the early signs.

NB: What should senior women do if they suspect they might have breast cancer?

GB: See their primary doctor. Your primary doctor is your best resource when you start the fight because they know your history. Once you have consulted with them, visit a breast cancer specialist. Call the American Cancer Society for a recommendation, and make sure to get two—you are entitled to a second opinion with your Medicare coverage. Find a doctor you are comfortable with, and be your own advocate. My best advice is simple, if you suspect something, don’t wait—early detection can save your life.

NB: Are there challenges specific to older women with breast cancer? How might we overcome those challenges?

GB: The main challenge is finding a support system among your peers. No general support group will be as beneficial as a senior-specific support group. A generation of laughter and jokes shared between friends is worth more than anything during the fight against breast cancer. I have seen such great things happen when seniors join together to fight this disease.

NB: What worries you most about the health care options available to senior women with breast cancer?

GB: I’m most afraid of losing our Medicare coverage. People—especially policymakers—don’t understand just how important Medicare is for seniors. Medicare is the only way many seniors with breast cancer can get the care they deserve, and my biggest fear is that it could be taken away.

NB: What gives you hope?

GB: I don’t want to die, I want to live. I want to keep fighting breast cancer and not give in. The research has come so far, but we have to keep fighting for advances. We cannot give up hope because that is all we have. We have seen miracles in the last 40 years, but we must keep fighting.



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2017 Guide to Medicare Open Enrollment

With open enrollment for Medicare just around the corner, we created a guide for those who are eligible. Hint: you’re eligible if you’ve reached age 65. Don’t forget to visit our fast facts page for more information and check out five tips to make the most of open enrollment. One of the big things to do during Open Enrollment is review your Part D plan. Here are some tips, specifically for that process.

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Happy Birthday, 1951!

If you were born in 1951, this is a big year for you since you’re turning 65. This birthday is a milestone because 65 means you have a new rite of passage—enrolling in Medicare!

As you probably know, Medicare is the federal health insurance program for people age of 65 and over. There are many benefits to having Medicare, so you should consider enrolling as soon as you are eligible.

You might be thinking: How can I prepare for enrollment? It’s a simple process, and there are some great tools to help guide you. Use this questionnaire to get started. It will help you determine your eligibility. Then, take some time to look over the different coverage options and decide what is best for you. Think about your long-term health needs and the prescription drugs you rely on to stay healthy.

The best part is, you don’t have to do this research alone. Talk to your doctor about your health care needs, ask questions about what coverage your employer or former employer offer and review plans that are available in your area. Visit your local State Health Insurance Assistance Program or your local Area Agency on Aging to get all of your questions answered by professionals.

Your older friends can also be a great resource. Talk with them about their enrollment process and the coverage they selected. Everyone’s health needs are different, but getting some insight from friends can be helpful.

Seniors Speak Out is also here to help! Visit our resource page and be on the lookout for upcoming blogs about open enrollment, which starts on October 15 and goes to December 7.

Happy Birthday, 1951, from all of us at Seniors Speak Out!



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Keeping Medicare Strong

As many of you already know, Medicare is the federal health insurance program for Americans over the age of 65 and those with disabilities. Medicare is fundamental to helping seniors like you and me across the United States access needed health care.

The program provides participants with all important access to hospital insurance, medical insurance and prescription drug coverage. Without Medicare, many older Americans would not be able to receive the health care they need including visits to the doctor, medicines and the other services needed to remain healthy.

It is important that we as seniors do what we can to keep Medicare strong. Start by learning about your Medicare coverage options at your local Area Agencies on Aging location. Next, make sure your friends know the benefits of Medicare and are enrolled as soon as they turn 65.

The most effective way to keep Medicare strong—for this generation and the next—is to share your support with your member of Congress. Call your representatives to tell them why this program is essential to your health.

As Medicare open enrollment approaches this fall, we’ll be posting helpful resources to make the most of your coverage. Check back often and visit our Facebook or Twitter to stay informed about your health coverage.



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Seniors Spoke Out…and we were heard!

Earlier this year, I wrote to seniors about a harmful proposal that threatened our Medicare coverage. The proposal sought to change one part of Medicare – Part B – by allowing the government to interfere with decisions that should be left between us and our doctors. But seniors spoke out…and we were heard!

The Seniors Speak Out community sent letters urging members of Congress to protect a program that works for us. I’m proud to report that Congress listened!

Many representatives from both sides of the aisle told the Administration they were concerned about the size and scope of the proposal and its potential to impact our access to care.

Despite our letters and efforts from our members of Congress, this harmful proposal is still on the table. These harmful changes to Medicare must be stopped. Please join me on Twitter to thank our supporters in Congress. Together our voice is strong and the fight to protect Medicare is ongoing.