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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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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.



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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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Keeping Medicare Strong

As many of you already know, Medicare is the federal health insurance program for Americans over the age of 65 and those with disabilities. Medicare is fundamental to helping seniors like you and me across the United States access needed health care.

The program provides participants with all important access to hospital insurance, medical insurance and prescription drug coverage. Without Medicare, many older Americans would not be able to receive the health care they need including visits to the doctor, medicines and the other services needed to remain healthy.

It is important that we as seniors do what we can to keep Medicare strong. Start by learning about your Medicare coverage options at your local Area Agencies on Aging location. Next, make sure your friends know the benefits of Medicare and are enrolled as soon as they turn 65.

The most effective way to keep Medicare strong—for this generation and the next—is to share your support with your member of Congress. Call your representatives to tell them why this program is essential to your health.

As Medicare open enrollment approaches this fall, we’ll be posting helpful resources to make the most of your coverage. Check back often and visit our Facebook or Twitter to stay informed about your health coverage.



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Seniors Spoke Out…and we were heard!

Earlier this year, I wrote to seniors about a harmful proposal that threatened our Medicare coverage. The proposal sought to change one part of Medicare – Part B – by allowing the government to interfere with decisions that should be left between us and our doctors. But seniors spoke out…and we were heard!

The Seniors Speak Out community sent letters urging members of Congress to protect a program that works for us. I’m proud to report that Congress listened!

Many representatives from both sides of the aisle told the Administration they were concerned about the size and scope of the proposal and its potential to impact our access to care.

Despite our letters and efforts from our members of Congress, this harmful proposal is still on the table. These harmful changes to Medicare must be stopped. Please join me on Twitter to thank our supporters in Congress. Together our voice is strong and the fight to protect Medicare is ongoing.



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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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Tell Congress to Protect Our Medicare Today!

Attention seniors! Recently, the government proposed a dramatic change to Medicare coverage that would limit our access to the care and treatments we rely on. This proposed change to Medicare Part B would come between us and our doctors by allowing the government to make our health care decisions. As you know, millions of seniors like us rely on Medicare for quality, affordable health care. That’s why we need to speak out today to make sure our elected officials know we won’t stand for harmful proposals like this one!

I think health care decisions should be left to patients and their doctors, and I know I’m not alone. That’s why Seniors Speak Out has created an easy-to-use platform to contact your members of Congress about this important issue. Make your voice heard and join me in speaking out so millions of seniors around the country can continue to access quality health care.

Thanks for continuing to protect a program that works for seniors!

http://www.seniorsspeakout.org/speak-out/dont-experiment-with-seniors-part-b-plans/



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The ABC(D)s of Medicare

cmsWhether you’ve just become eligible for Medicare or have been enrolled for years, sometimes keeping the different parts of the program straight and navigating all of your options can be a confusing task. When enrolling or changing your plan, it’s important to take the time to consider your health care needs and compare options to ensure you’re getting the best possible coverage at the best price.

Medicare Parts A, B, C and D each represent different health coverage options. To help you understand what each plan covers and figure out what may work best for you, we’ve put together a summary of each below.

The ABCDs of Medicare

Medicare Part A: Part A (hospital insurance) is federally administered coverage for a variety of patient care oriented health services. Part A is what covers your hospital care, nursing facilities, some home health services and hospice care. You’ll automatically be enrolled in Medicare Part A when you turn 65, and unlike other elements of the program, you cannot opt out.

Medicare Part B: Part B (medical insurance) is also federally administered and offers sen
iors two types of medical services: necessary and preventative. Necessary medical services include doctor visits and supplies that are required to treat or diagnose medical conditions such wheelchairs, inhalers or x-rays. Health care services to prevent illness, such as vaccinations, are also covered through Part B. Unlike Part A, you can opt out of Medicare Part B but you should consider it carefully because if you choose to sign up for Part B coverage at a later date, you’ll have to pay a penalty.

Medicare Part C: More commonly known as Medicare Advantage, these are private health plans that provide combined coverage for both Part A and B benefits. These plans include Preferred Provider Organizations (PPOs) or Health Maintenance Organizations (HMOs). They can also cover prescription drugs and additional services like eye and dental benefits.

Medicare Part D: Part D plans cover outpatient prescription drugs and are administered by private insurance plans. Each state has a wide variety of Part D plans to choose from including different co-payments, premiums and formularies.  No matter where you live in the United States you can choose a plan that works best for you.

Open enrollment for Medicare runs from October 15 to December 7. During this time period, be sure to research and compare plans to find the best coverage for your individual needs at a price that won’t break the bank. To learn more about the different components of the Medicare program, visit Medicare.gov.



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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.