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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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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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The Survey Says… Seniors are Satisfied with Medicare Part D Coverage

And the results are in…Our friends at Medicare Today have just released the annual Senior Satisfaction Survey and just as we expected to hear, we seniors are happy with our Medicare Part D coverage. Each year, Medicare Today conducts the Senior Satisfaction Survey, a national survey of nearly 2,000 seniors with prescription drug coverage. The results show seniors love Medicare with nearly 9 out of 10 seniors reporting that they are satisfied with their Medicare Part D coverage.

In case you didn’t know, Seniors Speak Out was started by Medicare Today, a coalition of national and local organizations representing seniors, patients, consumer groups, health care providers and employers. They are focused on providing beneficiaries with reliable information on the Medicare program and its benefits. Read more about their findings and the important work they do for seniors on their website and check out their blog post on the Senior Satisfaction Survey below.

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

Ten years after its initial launch, the Medicare Part D prescription drug program remains overwhelmingly popular with American seniors, according to Medicare Today’s annualSenior Satisfaction Survey.  The nationwide survey of approximately 2,000 seniors conducted by Morning Consult found that 88 percent are satisfied with their Part D coverage and eight of every 10 believe their drug plan is a good value.

“The program continues to deliver on its promise of providing affordable access to prescription medications for seniors and individuals with disabilities,” 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. “As a result, once again beneficiaries are reporting high levels of satisfaction and demonstrating that Part D truly enriches the lives of those that rely on it.”

Key findings in the survey include:

  • 92 percent of seniors reported that their plan is convenient to use
  • 88 percent of seniors are satisfied with their prescription drug coverage
  • 86 percent said their plan works well and without hassle
  • 84 percent reported it was important to them to have a variety of plans to compare and choose from
  • 80 percent of seniors also reported their plan is a good value

 

Noting that some political figures have proposed significant changes to the Part D structure, Ms. Grealy stressed the importance of not disrupting a program of such high value to seniors.

“Now more than ever, it is critical that this program be safeguarded against unnecessary and potentially harmful changes that would undercut not only the longevity of the program but also the promise that we have made to our seniors,” said Ms. Grealy.

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



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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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Medicare News: 2016 Part D and Medicare Advantage Premiums Remain Stable

In case you were too busy barbecuing and chasing grandkids this summer to monitor the latest on Medicare (and who could blame you?), the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) recently made announcements about Medicare premiums for the Part D prescription drug program and Medicare Advantage (if you choose that option).

Image courtesy of CMS.gov

CMS projects average monthly premiums for Medicare Part D will remain stable in 2016 at around $32.50 a month. They also project Medicare Advantage premiums will remain stable around $32.60 per month in 2016. CMS credits a transparent and competitive marketplace for helping to keep premiums low.

What does that mean for you? You can breathe easy knowing that your monthly premium costs to cover medications or a Medicare Advantage plan may be about the same as it was last year, and you will have a variety of plans to choose from with different coverage options and premium costs to fit your needs.  Another reason to be thankful for a competitive structure within Medicare.

As you already know, fall is an important time for seniors to think about their health. During open enrollment, we will be providing all the information you need to make critical decisions about your needs and coverage. Premiums are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to cost factors you need to consider when choosing a plan, but don’t worry – we’re here to help.

Be sure to check back here often for great tools and resources, and engage with us on Facebook and Twitter to ask questions and suggest topics for us to cover.



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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.



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Results Are In! Seniors Like Part D’s Coverage, Choice, & Value

9 in 10 seniors satisfied with Part D

9 in 10 seniors satisfied with Part D

Maintaining good health is of critical importance to everyone, but especially seniors. However, the steps you take to maintain your health is as unique and individualized as each and every one of us. That’s why having a choice of easy and affordable prescription drug coverage is critical to maintaining an active and happy life.  According to new survey results, seniors agree that our Medicare Part D coverage does just that.

This year’s Medicare Today Senior Satisfaction Survey found that nearly 9 in 10 seniors are satisfied with Part D. Not only that but 94 percent of seniors think that their plan is convenient to use, 91 percent report that they understand how to use their plans, and 90 percent agree that their plan works well. Further, 7 in 10 seniors also reported it is important to them to have a variety of Part D drug plans from which to choose.

It is no secret that Part D has changed the lives of millions of older and disabled Americans. Access to care gives us peace of mind, enables us to remain active, and helps us restore and maintain our health. And most importantly, Part D does so without breaking the bank. The survey found that 85 percent of seniors think their prescription coverage is a good value and over 80 percent of seniors polled in the survey also agreed that Part D related costs – copays, monthly premiums, and total out-of-pocket costs –  are both affordable and reasonable. That’s pretty groundbreaking for a government-run health program.

Interestingly though, despite the program’s evident success, some still want to make harmful changes to Part D. My question to that is: why change a program that consistently merits high satisfaction from seniors?

Changes could limit choices and raise costs, which would ultimately undermine the success of the program. Attempts to weaken or disrupt Part D’s competitive structure would not serve the best interests of seniors and disabled Americans, so if necessary, we must stand ready to defend our benefits by speaking out to our leaders and by voting in elections. Who better than seniors like us that benefit from Part D to vouch for its success?

If you’re like me, you’ve long known that Part D truly works and keeps seniors happy. If you needed a bit more convincing, it’s hard to argue with the opinions of nearly 9 in 10 seniors who are satisfied with the program. Be sure to join us on Facebook to let us know that you agree and share stories about the difference Part D has made in your life.



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Advocates Speak Out: Randy Munoz of Latino Diabetes Association

Randy Munoz is vice chair of the Latino Diabetes Association. He spoke with Seniors Speak Out’s Nona Bear about issues seniors in his area face, particularly those with diabetes. Below is an abridged version of the interview.

Nona Bear (NB): What community do you serve and how long have you been advocating for patients/seniors? How did you start?

Randy Munoz (RM): I have been a part of the Latino Coalition for ten years. A previous coworker told me about this association and started it on paper, but asked me to get it off the ground. At the time, even though diabetes was in my family, I did not know much about it. He suggested we learn about it together. I secured our very first funding of $5,000 from Kaiser and I got our office space donated. It was a long struggle and it continues to be so. I’ve been with the organization since the very beginning and am the Vice Chair. I’m looking to add a couple more members to the board.

logo (1)NB: Does the coalition serve people with diabetes of all ages?

RM: We serve people of all ages but are especially focused on adults and seniors – our parents, the mothers, and the grandmothers. They are the caretakers and caregivers of the family. You have to care for the caregiver. You have to educate them and give them resources because they are treating the children, the spouse, and the parents. It goes on for generations.

NB: You have been involved with senior advocacy for over 10 years, through Part D’s existence – what changes have you seen the Part D program make in the lives of seniors?

RM: It is a tremendous program. It’s one of the few programs that actually works and that seniors, historically, have been very happy with. But with dwindling resources and cuts unfortunately here in California with the governor moving medications over to HMOs, changes to the Part D program would have a negative effect for seniors, who are already struggling with out-of-pocket expenses. They have to make tough choices to pay for rent or for other relevant health costs. This is a real cause for concern for seniors.

NB: With regards to potential threats to the program, what are some issues that seniors still struggle with regarding the Part D program?

RM: It really goes back to their medication coverage and protecting and securing current benefit. It’s a real fear that seniors have. It’s really tough when you’re living on $700/$800 a month and even $1000. These seniors are living in poverty and these are the seniors that secured our future through wars and trials and tribulations, and now is our time to give back to them. The promise that we made to them is dwindling and that’s a shame. They shouldn’t live in fear, they should feel secure. They should have more, not less.

NB: What are some key questions seniors should discuss with their doctors and pharmacists in relation to their Part D coverage?

RM: Well, they should ask – What is my current coverage and how will the proposed changes to Part D affect us?

I don’t know if the doctors will know all the time, but they need to know the differences between the coverage of generic and brand name medications and their care. They really need to engage and need to bring a witness to their doctor so there are two sets of eyes and ears. They should try to take notes.

In our organization, we hand out a form for seniors to fill out with all their medications, dosages, and who their primary doctor and medical information is. They update it but they go so often it’s difficult to keep it updated. I wish they had a more high-tech tool to track it.

NB:  What impact would altering the Part D LIS program, that provides extra help to Medicare beneficiaries in need, to increase co-pays on brand name drugs have on your community?

RM: Not to sound over the top, but it will be detrimental to seniors, to their health, to their quality of life, and to their wellness leading to more disability and death. If it’s not broken, don’t try to fix it, especially when these elected officials don’t have to worry about their healthcare. These seniors are living beyond paycheck-to-paycheck. They have to save for everything and they have to make more and more tough choices.