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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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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.



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Protect Seniors’ Access to Medicare: Support Repeal of IPAB

kane-reinholdtsen-145944Attention seniors! If you are like me and depend on Medicare for your health care services, now is an important time to be paying attention to what is happening in Washington, DC. It is expected that the Independent Payment Advisory Board, known as IPAB, could soon become a reality.

If you are a longtime reader, then you may already know about IPAB from our previous post. If not, here are the basics:

IPAB was established by the Affordable Care Act. If Medicare spending exceeds a certain level, then a board of 15 unelected officials are given a broad-range of authority to make decisions about mandatory cuts to Medicare spending.

This is a big problem for Medicare beneficiaries like you and me. These bureaucrats are unelected and in no way accountable to voters. They are required to make spending cuts, but not to maintain quality of care. This means IPAB could soon be determining what will be covered under Medicare – from treatments, to procedures, to medications.

And don’t be fooled by the fact that the president hasn’t appointed members to the board yet. Unfortunately, spending cuts are still mandated by law, so all of IPAB’s power is shifted to the Secretary of Health and Human Services. Proposed changes by IPAB or the HHS secretary can even bypass congressional approval. In this case, the future of health care for millions of seniors could be determined by just one individual.

Across the country, more than 670 organizations made up of patients, doctors, hospitals, employers and veterans are advocating for the repeal of IPAB. Additionally, there is bipartisan support from lawmakers to ensure IPAB never becomes a reality. However, time is running out. As seniors, we must join in and encourage Congress to repeal IPAB today. Our health depends on it.



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Tell Congress to Protect Our Medicare Today!

 

Attention seniors! Last week, an amendment was introduced that would dramatically alter our Medicare benefits. Should this amendment pass, costs for our prescriptions might rise and we could even be denied access to certain medicines prescribed by our doctors.

We know that 9 in 10 seniors nationwide are satisfied with their Part D coverage and that millions of seniors like us rely on Medicare for quality, affordable health care, so we must act NOW! Congress will consider this amendment this week. We need to speak out today to make sure our members of Congress know we won’t stand for this harmful proposal—our health is too important.

Make your voice heard and join me in telling the federal government to stop meddling in my Medicare! Sign the letter here: http://www.seniorsspeakout.org/speak-out/protect-seniors-access-to-medicare/
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Goodbye 2016 – Hello 2017

It’s been a great year at Seniors Speak Out. We kicked off 2016 by speaking out to tell members of Congress why Medicare Part B is so important to us. By working together to write letters to Congress, we protected our essential access to health care.

We celebrated National Immunization Awareness Month, National Sarcoma Awareness Month, and National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and even wished a Happy Birthday to 1951! As always, we also provided many tips for living a healthy and active senior lifestyle.

In the last few weeks we also shared resources to help with open enrollment and to assess your coverage.

As we say goodbye to 2016 and hello to 2017, we want to hear from you! Tell us what you would like to see on the Seniors Speak Out blog in 2017 in the comment section below. As always, thanks for reading!



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One Day Left of Open Enrollment

One day left! As you probably know, Medicare open enrollment ends December 7 so today and tomorrow are your last chances to change your plan for the upcoming year. Seniors Speak Out has some great resources to help you with the open enrollment process, such as the Fast Facts page, or 5 Tips for Open Enrollment, and of course the More Medicare Resources page.

A few more resources were added to the blog throughout open enrollment this year:

  • If you are changing your plan at the last minute this year or helping someone with their coverage, visit the 2017 Guide to Medicare Open Enrollment for questions to consider when assessing plans, such as preferred pharmacies, medication needs, co-payments and co-insurance fees.
  • A special guest post from longtime senior advocate, Bob Blancato, has open enrollment resources from our partner organization Medicare Today, including a helpful image that is being distributed to senior centers across America.

It’s not too late to assess your health care needs and change your plan for next year! There is one day left of open enrollment, so please look over the resources and posts mentioned above to make sure your health care coverage is meeting your needs!



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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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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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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.