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Open Enrollment is Here!

I know that you have been getting bombarded with emails, television ads, and mail telling you to change your enrollment to a new money saving Medicare plan. While I’m not here to sell you insurance I am here to encourage you to review your Medicare or Medicare Advantage plans and your Medicare Part D plans. It quite possibly could save you money and give you easier access to critical medicines and procedures.

This is the time where you can review and make changes to existing plans. Medicare and Part D Open Enrollment started on October 15th and lasts until December 7th. There is also a separate Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period which lasts from January 1st through March 31st every year. You can alter Medicare Advantage plans during both periods.

As a quick refresher – Medicare Advantage plans are offered by a private company that contracts with Medicare to provide all your Part A and Part B benefits. Medicare Part D plans provide coverage for prescription drugs but unlike Parts A and B you are not automatically enrolled and must opt into a Part D plan.

For those turning 65, now is a great time to take a close look at your options and select a Medicare plan that matches your needs based on the medications you take and the coverage offered. If you’re already a Medicare beneficiary and have a Medicare Advantage or Part D plan, this time of year is still important to take a look at how your care needs have changed and make sure your plans still work best for you.

It’s especially important to review your plans if you have had some changes, like some new health issues, retirement, added some prescription medicines or were able to go off some medicines you had been taking. Another change that could impact the type and cost of your insurance is if you moved.

I just moved to a different state and I’ve started the process of reviewing all aspects of my health insurance to make sure myself and my wife have the right coverage at the right price.

There are a number of tools and resources available. We have some of those resources under are Medicare tab at the top of the page. We also have information on our sister website Medicare Today to help you find information on Medicare, your eligibility and how to enroll. There is also a very helpful and newly upgraded plan finder tool that can help you find plans based on where you live. To access this easy-to-use plan finder click here. You can also use this graphic that contains helpful tips for reviewing plans during the open enrollment period.

For seniors, taking these little steps to review and renew plans will make all the difference to your health. We all know time flies when you are having fun, so take a quick look at your coverage during the next few days and ensure your plans are fitting your future health needs.



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Greetings, my name is Thair Phillips and I’ll be your new host on “Seniors Speak Out”

I’m a former CEO of two Senior Advocacy groups and have been involved in public policy for older Americans for over twenty years. I’m looking forward to talking with you about the issues that you face as you try to navigate the always complicated and often changing Medicare program.

As we honor veterans this week, I will join everyone in thanking those who served in our countries armed forces. As a former B-52 bombardier, who lost a crewmember and friend last week, I understand the challenges our veterans face.

My approach to communicating with you is to simplify the policy issues that affect your healthcare, ask those in the know common sense questions about the issue and then translating all the information into language we all can understand. The common denominator in all my communication will be to relay the affect every policy will have on YOU, the most important part of Medicare. I’ll focus on how a certain policy will affect the amount of money you will spend or how your access to a certain medicine or procedure will be affected. My goal will not be to judge any specific entity in the supply line of players who supply our healthcare. I will endeavor to focus solely on the impact that a specific policy will have on you, the patient . . . the consumer.

It will then be your turn to speak out, to tell everyone how you will be impacted, how you see a specific solution working, to present your ideas on a solution that you think will work better. Our law makers in Washington often lose touch with the realities that older Americans face each day. This will be your chance to speak out, to tell those in Washington how you feel. We will always be open to your comments, which you can leave by clicking here or on this button anywhere you see it on our web page.

Check the web page periodically to see what new issue has sprung or to see some helpful advice we might have as you navigate through the Medicare labyrinth.

I look forward to this exciting journey,

Best, Thair



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National Immunization Month is Here!

Can you believe how fast summer has flown by? Although the summer festivities may be starting to wind down, the exciting news is that fall is right around the corner—along with cool weather, changing leaves, and the beginning of the holiday season!

This time of year is when children go back to school and people wind down their vacations. This means that many people will be in close proximity, which unfortunately increases the chances of being exposed to individuals who may be harboring contagious illnesses. The good news, however, is that there is an easy way for us to protect ourselves as seniors—making sure our vaccinations are up to date!

August is National Immunization Awareness Month, and a great time to revisit our overall health and ensure that we are utilizing the most effective tools possible to protect ourselves from potentially deadly diseases. Often, seniors may incorrectly assume that vaccination is only important for children and young adults, but this could not be further from the truth. In fact, some diseases, like Pneumococcal disease, are common and fairly benign in kids but present much more danger to older adults.

The CDC even recommends specific vaccinations for seniors, including pertussis, tetanus, shingles, and the seasonal flu shot. There is a special tool, which you can find here, that allows you to take a quiz and see which vaccinations are recommended for you. It is also critical to speak with your doctor about your vaccination history to make sure you are being properly protected. Most necessary vaccines are covered under Medicare Part B and Part D, enabling us all to have access to these potentially life-saving treatments.

As seniors, one of the easiest ways for us to protect the health of our friends, families, and ourselves is through vaccination. Not only will making sure our vaccines are up to date help give us peace of mind as we enter the new season, but could also potentially save our lives. Getting your vaccines is a critical component of maintaining our health and wellbeing, so make sure you are educating yourself and taking the proper steps this August!



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Check Out the Results of the Latest Senior Satisfaction Survey!

It’s that time of year—the results of the Senior Satisfaction Survey from our partners over at Medicare Today are in! Since 2007, researchers have surveyed seniors to measure our level of satisfaction with our Medicare Part D plans in order to take a critical look at the program and ensure that our needs are being addressed.

The purpose of the Senior Satisfaction Survey is to gauge the success of Medicare Part D, examine what aspects of the program are working, and take a look at what the program can be doing differently to achieve maximum success for American seniors. Each year, the survey has demonstrated that seniors are pleased with their Medicare Part D plans, including their coverage options and the prices they pay for their medications.

This year, nearly nine in 10 seniors report being satisfied with their Medicare Part D coverage. Some other key findings include:

  • 93 percent of seniors say their prescription drug plans are convenient to use
  • 86 percent of seniors report that their Part D plans work well
  • 85 percent of seniors view their prescription drug plans as a good value that provide coverage at a fair price
  • 81 percent of seniors are happy with their ability to compare prescription drugs covered under Part D and choose what best works for them
  • 88 percent of seniors say that their Medicare Part D plans are delivering on their promises

 

These results are exceptional and demonstrate just how happy seniors are with the current state of their Medicare Part D coverage. Although some changes are being proposed to the program by the Administration and Congressional leadership, it is critical that seniors continue to advocate for ourselves by urging lawmakers to protect the integrity of Medicare Part D. We must also continue to push policymakers to support improvements that will strengthen affordable access to medications.

For more information and past survey results, please visit Medicare Today’s website at: www.medicaretoday.org, and share your thoughts with us on Twitter and Facebook today!



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Tell Congress to Reject Cuts to Medicare Part D!

There is a rumored proposal in the works that could harm Medicare Part D and the seniors that rely on this critical program. This proposal would harm Medicare by applying a government-imposed inflation rebate on Part D medications that could negatively affect the program’s successful market-based structure.

By unnecessarily inserting government-imposed inflation rebates, this policy would violate the spirit of the non-interference clause, which has allowed competition between Part D plans to hold down costs and has been key to Part D’s success since its inception. This penalty could also raise premiums for beneficiaries, as this type of change has the potential to eliminate the privately negotiated price protection rebates that are currently used to subsidize premiums.

Not only would this type of proposal undermine the success of the Part D program, but it could also reduce the incentive for future innovation in health care. Inflicting such a policy on Part D medications could have the harmful consequence of discouraging future investment in medical research, harming beneficiaries, especially those with chronic or complex conditions who rely on the program to access new break-through cures.

There are numerous proposals that, if enacted, would serve to meet the needs of seniors. This is not one of them. It is critical that you act NOW to tell your Member of Congress that these cuts to Medicare through government-imposed inflation rebates are the wrong way to lower Part D costs. Join us TODAY in making our voices heard by clicking here!



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It’s Alzheimer’s & Brain Awareness Month

Each June, seniors and advocates celebrate Alzheimer’s & Brain Awareness Month all over the country. As the month concludes, we thought it would be helpful to discuss the importance of preserving brain health a “check up from the neck up”—a critical aspect of maintaining a healthy lifestyle as we get older. The brain is such an important and complex organ, and injuries and diseases affecting its performance can affect the way we think, act, feel, and behave.

Alzheimer’s disease is a type of dementia that causes problems with memory, thinking, and behavior. Dementia is a general term for memory loss and other issues with cognitive ability that are impactful enough to seriously disrupt a person’s day-to-day life. Alzheimer’s disease accounts for the majority of dementia cases in the United States—estimated to be between 60 and 80 percent.

More than 5.8 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s disease, and this number is projected to grow to 14 million individuals by 2050. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, early diagnosis initiatives can help with managing symptoms, however, only 16 percent of American seniors say that they receive regular cognitive assessments from their healthcare providers. You can watch a quick video here with some important statistics about the disease and ways to get involved with finding a cure.

Similarly, brain injury is thought to increase the likelihood of developing Alzheimer’s, other types of dementia, and overall cognitive decline. Fortunately, Medicare programs cover many testing and treatment options for older Americans who suffer from brain injury, and although Alzheimer’s disease specifically doesn’t currently have a cure, there are a number of treatment options available that can help manage symptoms.

As always, it is critical that we as seniors make sure we know exactly what our specific Medicare plan covers, including inpatient treatments and prescription medications that can help treat brain injuries and related illnesses.  You can learn more about coverage options here to ensure that you are informed about how to take care of your brains!



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Call on Congress to Reconsider Binding Arbitration Proposals!

Calling all seniors! Did you know that Congress is considering a health care policy that would utilize binding arbitration to set prescription drug prices? This practice, which some policymakers incorrectly assume will be more effective than free market negotiations, could authorize third party arbitrators to set legally binding prices using standards set by the government.

This harmful proposal could affect Medicare Part D beneficiaries by fundamentally altering the competitive structure of the Part D program that allows for increased choice and lower costs for seniors. In fact, binding arbitration could even reduce incentives for cost-saving features like rebates, which helped seniors save up to 70 percent on some medicines.

Binding arbitration is a dangerous proposal that would likely undervalue individualized care for seniors. Inserting government bureaucrats in the middle of the doctor-patient relationship not only allows biased, controversial third parties to dictate the price of care for vulnerable patients but it could also disrupt already effective treatment plans. Further, these government middlemen could also reduce incentives needed for progress in drug innovation and stifle progress in the pharmaceutical space.

It is critical that we call on Members of Congress to abandon this harmful proposal for the sake of seniors nationwide. Threatening access for life-saving medications, disruptions in the doctor-patient relationship, and a decreased focus on medical innovation is simply wrong.

Join us TODAY in telling your Member of Congress to reject this dangerous proposal for the health and wellbeing of seniors and people with disabilities nationwide. You can help send this message by signing on to this letter here!



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Back to Basics: Medicare Part D

It’s summer already, and the year seems to be flying by! Before we know it, the fall open enrollment period will be here for the Medicare Part D prescription drug benefit as well as Medicare Part C, better known as Medicare Advantage. It’s important that beneficiaries know about the Medicare program and how we can utilize its resources, particularly access to prescription drug coverage that comes through Medicare Part D as well as most Medicare Advantage plans. A great way to get an easy refresher on the Medicare program overall is by watching this short clip here, which provides a brief overview of these important benefits. Arming yourself with the most comprehensive knowledge about Medicare is critical, especially for those of you who are turning 65 this year, or have friends or relatives that are becoming eligible.

Today, let’s go back to basics with an easy primer on one of the parts of Medicare—Medicare Part D!

Medicare Part D is the part of Medicare that covers prescription medications. One thing that differentiates Part D from other parts of Medicare is that the program is optional. Beneficiaries are automatically enrolled in parts A and B of Medicare when they reach age 65, however, beneficiaries must choose to opt-in to the Medicare Part D program and are not automatically enrolled.

Unlike other parts of Medicare, which are administered by the federal government, Medicare Part D coverage is provided through private insurers. Under the program drug manufacturers and private plans negotiate drug prices directly, allowing for a wider variety of treatment options and medication choices for beneficiaries.

This unique structure allows for and encourages increased competition among insurers, which aids beneficiaries by allowing individuals to shop around for the best-tailored plan for their unique health care needs. You can watch a quick video about how this competitive structure drives down the overall cost of Medicare Part D plans here.

There are a variety of Medicare Part D plans to choose from, each with different prescription drug formularies, coverage options, and costs. An easy way to find a plan that works for you is to use this interactive tool, which can help provide easy access to information about uniquely-tailored plans that could work for you.

Open enrollment will be here before we know it, and it is imperative that beneficiaries are equipped with the information we need to make smart decisions for our health. Opting in to Medicare Part D is an important part of maintaining a healthy lifestyle, so make sure you utilize these resources to keep up-to-speed on all things Part D!



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May is Arthritis Awareness Month!

Each May, we celebrate National Arthritis Awareness Month in honor of the more than 50 million Americans that are impacted by this disease. As seniors, is critical to be informed about the risk factors, causes, and treatment options available for those with arthritis. In fact, 1 in every 5 adults are impacted by arthritis in the U.S.—making it the number one cause of disability in the country.

Arthritis is not actually a single disease, but rather an umbrella term for the more than 100 different types of joint pain or joint disease. Arthritis affects individuals of all ages, races, and sexes, but is more common in women and occurs more frequently as people age. Common arthritis symptoms are swelling, pain, stiffness, and decreased range of motion in joints, which can progress, stay the same, or feel better with time.

Although there are more than 100 types of arthritis and related joint conditions, the most common form is osteoarthritis—which occurs when cartilage wears away and causes bones to rub together. This often causes pain, swelling, and stiffness, and risk factors for developing the condition include family history, being overweight, previous injury, and aging.

Fortunately, mild or moderate symptoms of osteoarthritis and other common forms of arthritis can be alleviated by simple actions, such as regular physical activity, maintaining a healthy weight, strengthening affected areas, and taking anti-inflammatory medications, which are often covered by Medicare Part D.

According to the CDC, walking is one of the easiest ways to improve arthritis symptoms while also keeping up with your overall fitness. That’s why it is important that this May, you take some time to get outside, take a walk, and keep yourself healthy! There are numerous opportunities to get involved with arthritis awareness and prevention efforts, including community walks, volunteering events, and fundraising efforts. There are constant scientific discoveries that help those living with arthritis, so this May, get involved with efforts to help expedite the process of finding a cure!



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Have You Checked Your Plan Recently?

We have recently discussed a number of different proposals that could alter seniors’ access to the medicines through the Medicare programs we rely on to stay healthy. It is critical that we, as seniors, are our own best advocates and that includes making sure we are up-to-speed on the provisions of our personal Medicare plans.

Health insurance can be complicated, which is why we are here to provide guidance for seniors so we can make the best decisions for our personalized needs. As we have discussed, Medicare Parts A and B, the parts that cover hospital and medical insurance, are included in your Medicare coverage as soon as you turn 65 years old. However, Medicare Part D, which is an optional add-on service, covers many of the prescription medications that we rely on every day.

Although Medicare Part D is optional, an overwhelming majority of seniors choose to add this important part of health coverage to their plans. In fact, out of the 60 million American Medicare beneficiaries, 43 million were also enrolled in Part D coverage as of May 2018—showing just how important this part of the program is to seniors’ overall quality of life.

It is critical that we keep on top of our Medicare plans to make sure they are working for us and our needs. The fall open enrollment season may seem far away now, but it is right around the corner! Make sure you are checking your coverage options, and stay informed, empowered, and independent!