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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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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!

new-piktochart_22778752



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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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Men’s Health Month & The End of Prostate Cancer

Guest post by Drew Saelens, Vice President of Government Relations & Patient Advocacy at ZERO – The End of Prostate Cancer

Though June represents the beginning of summer, it is equally important to remember June is Men’s Health Month. This month is naturally a great opportunity for Seniors Speak Out to collaborate with ZERO – The End of Prostate Cancer to provide some helpful suggestions for how seniors can truly make this summer the healthiest one yet.

Get Educated!

Take the time to learn about how preventable some men’s health problems are and how important early detection can be. While diving into a complicated topic like cancer could be overwhelming, there are a few important facts to know.

ZERO is working to end prostate cancer, a disease that impacts 1 in 8 American men during their lifetime. In fact, prostate cancer is the most common cancer among men in the United States after skin cancer. For seniors, it is especially important to be aware of this disease, as about 6 in 10 cases diagnosed are for men aged 65 or older.

 

900x400-EDU-2017-BirthToDeath

Source: zerocancer.org

Prostate cancer begins in the prostate, which is a walnut-shaped gland in the male reproductive system. The prostate surrounds the urethra and makes the fluid to nourish and protect sperm cells. Unfortunately, there are no outward signs or symptoms of early prostate cancer, so it is very important to regularly visit your doctor for a screening test. ZERO recommends that men get an initial baseline Prostate Specific Antigen Test (PSA) at age 45. Once this test is completed, it becomes easier for older men to watch for any irregularities by monitoring PSA levels with a doctor. The good news is, if caught early, prostate cancer has a 99 percent survival rate.

Not at risk for prostate cancer? There’s still important steps you can take as a friend, daughter, mother, or partner. Encourage the men in your life to bring up preventive care and the PSA test with their doctor, especially once they turn 45. It can be a lifesaving conversation.

Take Action!

I’ve worked in health care for 15 years. I’ve been a consultant, a fundraiser, and an advocate. Over the years, I’ve learned the true value of speaking out to create meaningful change. Seniors should not underestimate their ability to make an impact! If there is an issue that you’re passionate about, do not hesitate to contact policymakers both in Washington, D.C., and in your local communities. It is important to make your voice heard, especially on issues that directly impact your health. Here are a few easy ways you can take action in ZERO’s fight to end prostate cancer:

Together, we can affect meaningful policy changes that contribute to our goal for Generation ZERO: the first generation of men free from prostate cancer.

 

Drew Saelens is Vice President of Government Relations & Patient Advocacy at ZERO – The End of Prostate Cancer. ZERO is the leading national nonprofit with the mission to end prostate cancer by advancing research, improving the lives of men and families, and inspiring action.



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Get the Facts About Senior Malnutrition

Good nutrition is essential to maintaining health and well-being, but many seniors in the United States are at risk for malnutrition. In fact, senior malnutrition costs the United States $51.3 billion per year.

Senior malnutrition is caused by a variety of factors, including health, income and socialization levels. For seniors who suffer from depression, dementia, dental issues or various chronic illnesses, appetite loss can contribute to malnutrition. And, living on a limited income might discourage some seniors from buying nutrient-rich groceries. Also, reduced socialization and living alone can make eating wholesome meals harder when you are cooking for only one. To spot senior malnutrition, friends, caregivers and family members should observe eating habits and watch for unusual weight loss.

It is important to remember that we can prevent malnutrition by eating nutrient-rich foods. To help, you can consult your physician on your dietary needs and use senior nutrition programs. Chronic health conditions may be prevented, delayed or managed through these nutrition services and programs. The Administration for Community Living’s Older Americans Act congregate and home-delivered meals programs provide healthy meals in senior centers and deliver meals to homebound older adults. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program and the Nutrition Services Incentive Program are also great resources. You can find local nutrition programs via the Eldercare Locator.

One way to eat nutrient-rich foods inexpensively is to check weekly circulators at the front of the grocery store to see what’s on special and plan meals accordingly. Remember that frozen produce has the same nutrient values as fresh produce and can often be found on sale. You can also use coupons on some items. To help encourage healthy eating, you can also make some meals a social event. This makes dinner a bit more enjoyable, and friends can help cook for one another. Some great ways to do this are to throw a potluck dinner party or invite family over for a picnic.

By using these tips, we can work together to help prevent malnutrition. Read on to view our infographic on senior malnutrition and share it with a friend!

Bob Blancato is the National Coordinator for the Defeat Malnutrition Today Coalition

Senior Malnutrition Infographic



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National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month

SSO Colorectal Cancer ImageMarch is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. Here at Seniors Speak Out it’s important to be aware of diseases like colorectal cancer that affect older Americans. Because colorectal cancer, also known as colon cancer, is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths – and a cancer that can be screened for often – it is so important that we visit the doctor regularly for screenings.

The first step to preventing colorectal cancer is to learn what it is and how it impacts your body. Colon cancer is a malignant growth that begins in the colon or large intestine. It includes both cancers of the colon and those that form in the rectum. Most colon cancers begin with the formation of benign polyps, or non-cancerous growths in the large intestine. Often, these growths produce absolutely no symptoms, which is why it is important to visit your doctor annually for testing.

The U.S. Preventative Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommends adults begin regular screening for colorectal cancer beginning at age 50, though those with a family history of this cancer should begin sooner.

Colonoscopies used to be a dreaded rite of passage for seniors. But there is good news! There are now various options to test for the disease.

Stool tests can be conducted annually, while a colonoscopy is recommended by USPSTF to be done every 10 years in the absence of polyps. According to Medicare.gov, Medicare covers colorectal cancer screening tests to help find pre-cancerous polyps. However, if a polyp or other tissue is found during the colonoscopy, you may have to pay 20 percent of the Medicare-approved amount for the doctor’s services and a copayment in a hospital outpatient setting.

Of course, it is important to discuss your testing options with a physician, who can provide you with more detailed information about each screening test, how often they should occur and what is best for you. Be sure to ask questions about how often Medicare covers each screening test so you know your potential out-of-pocket costs up front.

Again, because the symptoms of colon cancer are often unnoticed, us seniors must take charge of our own health and visit the doctor annually for a regular screening. Contact your doctor today to schedule a test for colorectal cancer in honor of National Colorectal Awareness Month.



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National Senior Independence Month Is Here!

independent seniorWe all think of February as the month to celebrate Valentine’s Day, but what you might not know is that February is also National Senior Independence Month. Living an independent lifestyle is important to many of us as we age, no matter your age, or where you live. Here are a few tips to help you stay comfortable, safe, and healthy this month and throughout the year.

Take advantage of technology

Ensure your living space is equipped with an up-to-date security system. Not only will these systems protect against theft or property damage, they can do a lot more. If your living space includes a yard or even an outdoor entrance, security devices can detect any motion nearby. The motion light sensors can help you see, as well as fend off unwanted guests.

Cell phones and tablets can also contribute to safety. Phones, in addition to allowing you to contact anyone immediately, often have flashlights and emergency contact apps that make calling for help easy and quick. They can also serve as location devices and, of course, provide maps and navigation. AgingCare.com has many other suggestions about the types of technology that benefit seniors living independently. Check out their website here.

Declutter

Cleaning and organizing can have great positive impact on your physical and mental health. I try to declutter every January at the start of the year. It’s energizing and feels freeing. Another added benefit of decluttering is the ability to move freely without fear of tripping and falling. Clearing walkways and rearranging furniture are wonderful ways to ensure safety and comfort.

Make a few upgrades

If you don’t already have grab bars in your bathroom, install them! Whether you need them or not right now, they are always handy and can accommodate any layout or design. Also, check the banisters on your stairs. They can come loose from years of use and pose a risk.

Dark hallways or a dark closet? Motion sensor stick-on lights might solve the problem. Making these upgrades will make a world of difference!

Do you have any other tips for seniors living an active, independent lifestyle? Tell us in the comments below.

 



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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.