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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.

 

medicaretoday_placemat



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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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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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Seniors Speak Out Has Resources to Help During Open Enrollment

Open enrollment for Medicare is underway until December 7th and with it comes the opportunity to enroll in benefits for the first time, or review your existing coverage to ensure its meeting your current needs. Medicare plans can change from year to year, and sometimes these changes can hit your wallet December 2015and subsequently your health. Open enrollment is the perfect time to do some additional research and make sure you’re getting the right coverage at the best price.

Comparing plans and navigating the process of enrolling in a new plan can seem a bit daunting at first, but it’s imperative to take the time to review them, since selecting the wrong plan might make the medications you require unaffordable or inaccessible. To help, we have updated our resources to give you specifics on plans in each state and tips to make the process as simple and efficient as possible.

If you’re enrolling in Part D for the first time, use these tips to identify the best plan for you. After you’ve familiarized yourself with the general program, Seniors Speak Out also offers state specific resources and information on our “Part D State by State” map. Each state will link you to the number of plans available, the number of beneficiaries enrolled, lowest available monthly premiums, and more. This information will allow you to compare your Part D plan to the others offered in your state and help you make an informed choice.

If you have any additional questions regarding open enrollment, contact your local Area Agency on Aging and schedule a time to talk to someone who’s been trained to help you make the most of your Medicare. Seniors Speak Out offers a map with each state’s contact information here.

Make sure to take advantage of the many benefits offered by Medicare during this open enrollment period so you can stay healthy and active for years to come.



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Giving Thanks for Good Health

 

Each year, the holiday season offers us time to reconnect with family, slow down and give thanks for all of the things we are grateful for in our lives. One thing I never take for granted as I get older is my health, and I know having access to affordable prescription drug coverage that keeps me healthy is key. That’s why this season I’m particularly grateful for my good health.

The comprehensive and affordable drug coverage provided by Medicare Part D is one way I am able to stay healthy, and that is something we can all be thankful for. Here are three things for you and your family to consider this Thanksgiving when it comes to your Part D plan.

  • Any time beginning three months before the month of your 65th birthday, you can apply for Part D prescription drug benefits without any penalty.
  • From now until December 7, you are able to join or renew your Medicare plan. If you’re looking for help in comparing options, Medicare.gov gives you the option to complete a general or personalized plan search.
  • For Veterans, Medicare Part D can be used as a supplement to your Veterans Affairs (VA) benefits. Whether it be for medication pick up or filling a prescription from a provider outside of the VA system, Part D can make up for the areas where other benefits may lack.

With all of the hassles the year has brought, don’t forget to give thanks for the things that are here to make life easier. Visit Medicare.gov for additional tips, advice and resources.



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Shopping for Medicare Part D

I recently saw a news feature about the growing number of people who complete their holiday shopping by Halloween. Wow! One shopper explained that shopping early gave her time to enjoy the holiday season with her family and avoid the frustration and exhaustion that comes with last minute shopping.

As impressive as this story is, shopping season can have an even bigger impact for those of us on Medicare — big savings on our medicines!

Every year we have the opportunity to keep or change the Part D plan that provides coverage for prescription drugs. Honestly, this may be the most important purchase of the year and far too few of us take time to shop around.

Does it matter?  ABSOLUTELY!  Here’s why:  Each year plans are allowed to make changes in the coverage they will offer for the next year. Additionally, you may have had changes or additions to the medicines you take. Why not take a few minutes to review the plan you have now and compare it to what else is available in your area?

Some key questions to ask: Are all your medicines still covered by your current plan?  What are your total costs, both premiums and cost-sharing?  Can another plan offer you a better deal? You may find that your current plan is still working well for you, or you may discover that you can save real money by making a change. Either way, checking your coverage is the best way to make sure you are getting the most from your Medicare Part D plan.

Medicare open enrollment is happening now and continues through December 7.  To compare Part D plans offered in your state, you can use the Medicare Plan Finder. If you have any questions, you can always visit your local Area Agency on Aging or call Medicare all day, any day (except federal holidays) at 1-800-633-4227.

Don’t miss out on this important shopping season!



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Preparing for Open Enrollment

When was the last time you passed up an opportunity to save money on appliances or groceries?  If you’re anything like me, you’re always shopping around for the best deals and looking for ways to save.  When it comes to your Medicare coverage, you should be doing the same.

Open enrollment for Medicare begins on October 15th. One of the things you can do during Open Enrollment is choose your Medicare Part D Prescription Drug Plan. Between October 15 and December 7 you’ll be able to update, change, or switch your Part D plan to make sure it best fits your medical needs.  Each year your health plan can affect the costs associated with your treatments, so it’s critical to take the time to review your benefits. 

To help make the process easier, I’ve listed out a few things you should consider during this year’s open enrollment.

  • Preferred Pharmacies: Is your pharmacy still listed as preferred in your Part D plan? If not, your costs could increase.
  • Medications: If you’ve been prescribed new medications, check that they are covered. Part D plans also change their formulary lists each year, so you should check your existing prescriptions as well.
  • Co-payments and Co-insurance: These amounts vary, so take time to comparison shop between plans and make an informed decision based on the medications you need.

Medicare also has resources available to help – be sure to check out the Medicare Plan Finder. Write down a list of the medicines you’re taking and log-on to find plans that work for you.

Open Enrollment is a great opportunity to review your plan, update it if necessary and save money each year. Take advantage of the chance to save your money and improve your health!

For more information visit Medicare’s website, make an appointment at your local SHIP office, or visit your local Area Agency on Aging. You can also call Medicare all day, any day (except federal holidays) at 1-800-633-4227.

Additionally, make sure to keep checking Seniors Speak Out, Facebook, and Twitter for helpful advice and resources.