Medicare Open Enrollment – comparing your options

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October 15 to December 7 is your window to select a Medicare plan. Let us help.

Medicare Open Enrollment for your 2017 plan is from October 15 to December 7, 2016.   Before you make a selection, here are some resources to help you compare your options.

Medicare provides a tool where you can compare options before you make a decision. You can find it at this link.

The information you need is:

  • Your Medicare number
  • If you have a Medigap or Medicare supplement plan, the name and type of the plan
  • Your zip code
  • A list of your medicines prescribed by each of your doctors
  • The name and location of your preferred pharmacy

You can search through options using your specific information or you can do a general search. I highly recommend you perform a search with your specific information at least once before you make final decisions. That will give you the best look at your anticipated likely costs.

The tool will walk you through step by step.

  1. It starts with your zip code and information from your Medicare card.
  2. Enter your current Medicare coverage type. Include whether you get extra help paying for your medication costs.
  3. Enter your prescribed medicines. Include the strength, whether you get your medicine every month or every 3 months, and whether you get your medicines from a local pharmacy or a mail order pharmacy.
    1. Be sure to include all of your medicines
    2. If your doctor has talked about maybe starting new medicine, include these, too. This will make sure the plan you choose will cover all of these medicines.
  4. Select your pharmacy. Note, if your pharmacy doesn’t show up at first, expand the number of miles from your home so that your pharmacy will be on the list.
  5. You can then choose whether you want to compare medication only Medicare D plans, Medicare Health Plans with drug coverage, and Medicare Health Plans without drug coverage.
    1. If you aren’t sure, select all three options
    2. If you know which you want to compare, select just that option
  6. A list of all options will appear on the next page. They appear in order of cost with the lowest annual cost option appearing first after Original Medicare. You have the option to select different sort options.
  7. Select three plans that you want to directly compare.
    1. The three options will be displayed side by side.
    2. You can compare three at a time as many times as you want.
    3. All costs for the year include deductibles, co-pays, gap payments, and other fees will be displayed.
    4. Look at your total annual cost
    5. Look at the deductible which is money you will pay at the first part of the year
    6. Look at the projected money you will pay in the coverage gap

To look at your options with Medigap plans, you can go to this link. This one will let you compare types of Medigap plans and their costs.

NOTE – A friend, and expert in the field, clarified that Medicare Advantage plans can be purchased at any time. Her comment: “Medicare Supplement policies do not have an annual open enrollment, but changes can be made based on your health after your original open enrollment or a special enrollment period.”

If you have any questions about how to use these tools or how to compare your options, please contact us at www.medsmash.com/contact.

BIBLICAL APPLICATION

For Medicare plan decisions, comparisons are good. They are key to making the best decision.

In the rest of your life, comparisons can be hazardous. How often do you compare yourself to someone else? You might not even realize you’re doing it.

Do you ever have negative thoughts about yourself when you see something you admire in someone else?

Do you ever feel extra good about yourself when you can do something that someone else can’t do?

In what sneaky ways can ENVY enter your thoughts?

I’ve read a couple of really good blogs about this from pastors recently. I know I’m guilty of comparison without ever intending for it to happen. I fall into a thought process of envy or comparison then catch myself and feel so ashamed.

Apparently I’m not alone. There are many Bible verses about the problems with envy.

Galatians 5:26 ESV

Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.

1 Peter 2:1 ESV

So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander.

Instructions in the Bible can be very clear. It is clear ENVY is to be avoided. And if it’s mentioned this many times, it must be common.

Titus 3:3 ESV

For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another.

James 3:16 ESV

For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice.

The antidote to envy is to lay it all before the Lord. God has a very special, very specific plan just for you. Your gifts, your strengths, your weaknesses, your opportunities, your looks, your dreams are very UNIQUELY yours.

It doesn’t matter how other people are blessed. There are other blessings that are all for you!

Proverbs 16:9 ESV

The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.

Proverbs 19:21 ESV

Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.

This could be the week to turn your eyes from what everyone else has. Instead, look at what God has in store just for you. Ask, He’d be happy to show you all the good things you have and what is still coming you way!!

Blessings,

Michelle

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Medicare Open Enrollment – Which plan type for you?

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October 15 to December 7 is your window to select a Medicare plan. Let us help.

I find Medicare and Medicare Open Enrollment to be very confusing. Do you? Let’s spend the next two weeks trying to better understand your options and guide you through the Open Enrollment process. I highly encourage you to delay your final decisions until we walk through this process and you compare your options.

The first big decision is which TYPE of insurance coverage is best for you.

Main TYPES of insurance coverage options over age 65

Original Medicare – When you turn 65 and meet eligibility criteria (use this link), you can have Medicare Part A, Medicare Part B, and Medicare Part D. Medicare has a list of items they do and do not cover at this link. Medicare covers part of the expenses, and you pay the rest through your copay and deductible.

  • Part A covers hospital, long term care, home care, hospice, lab tests, and surgery.
  • Part B covers doctor visits, other healthcare provider visits, outpatient care, durable medical equipment, some prevention, and home health care.
  • Part D covers medicines.

Medigap – This is a supplemental insurance to go with your Medicare Part A and Medicare Part B. Medigap will cover some of the copayments, coinsurance, and deductible expenses not covered by original Medicare. You purchase a Medigap policy through a private insurance company. You will pay a monthly premium for this co-insurance.

Medicare SELECT – Medicare SELECT is a managed care version of Medigap. It is the health maintenance organization (HMO) of Medigap plans. These plans contract with specific provider groups for a lower fee. So, they are typically less expensive. Be sure your provider or a provider with whom you are comfortable is participating before you select this type of plan.

Medicare Advantage – This is also known as ‘Medicare Part C’. Medicare Advantage plans are private insurance plans that you can select IN PLACE OF Medicare. They have similar coverage to Original Medicare and can have additional benefits as well. These have a wide range of prices.

A Medicare Medical Savings Account Plan is a high deductible Medicare Advantage Plan with a bank account. The plan puts money from Medicare into the account, and you use that money to pay for Medicare-covered expenses. This limits your out-of-pocket expenses to meet your deductible.

NOTE: you cannot have both a Medigap and a Medicare Advantage plan. You can have one or the other.

Other – You might have insurance through your former employer, insurance through special programs, Tricare, Veteran’s benefits, Indian Health Service plans, or other unique plans.

Medicare resources to help you

The Medicare website has a list of eight questions to consider when you are thinking about changing plans. You can find them at this link.

Next week we will talk about the tool(s) available to you to help you compare your plan options. These will let you predict your costs over the next year. You can compare several aspects of the types of plans you want to consider. I encourage you to compare your options before making your final decision. I’ll walk you through it step by step.

For more information about your Medicare options, contact us at www.medsmash.com/contact. If we can’t answer, we have some colleagues who are experts in the field.

BIBLICAL APPLICATION

Medicare is not the only area of life where there can be a lot of confusing messages. I have teens.   I know just a few of their areas of confusing message are:

  • What to wear
  • How to act

Many of my recent pharmacy students are working their way through messages about:

  • What job to choose
  • How much of their income to spend on houses, cars, vacations
  • When to start a family; or whether to start a family

Many of my peers are sorting through messages about:

  • Helping children with college and career decisions
  • How much independence to allow teen children
  • Preparing for empty nest and soon retirement

My patients are working through message about:

  • Living at home vs. a senior living community
  • Options to move in with children when assistance is needed
  • Activities that enhance quality of life and keep them active

And we know there are countless people struggling with even more life-altering decisions surrounded my many confusing messages.

So, where does the truth reside?

John 14:6 NIV

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

Psalm 145:18 ESV

The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth.

Not to sound too pious, God is with you always. Whether you ‘feel’ His presence or not, He’s there…with you…always! When the messages from the many sources are confusing, you can just ask.

Matthew 7:7-8 ESV

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.

When the messages are all confusing, ASK!

Blessings,

Michelle

Emergencies and Medications – Are You Prepared?

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Remember medications and medical equipment in emergencies.

Hurricane Matthew has wreaked havoc on the Caribbean and now part of the southeastern US. Millions of people evacuated while millions more ‘weathered out’ the storm in shelters and secure buildings. In all of those scenarios, daily life was drastically altered.

When you take chronic medications, they are a part of your daily routine. When that routine is upset, medications can be missed. Or, in the excitement, they can be taken more than once.

In emergencies, you might forget to grab them as you evacuate. Or, the emergency can take place right as you are taking your last dose. Then what?

Preparing for Emergencies

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has a program called Ready. You can find it at www.ready.gov. One of the many valuable resources is a list of items to include in an Emergency Supply Kit. You can get the full list here. The items that I want to emphasize are:

  • Prescription medications – at least 3 days; more depending on the emergency
    • Include inhalers, eye drops, and patches
    • Include the medications you only take when you need them
    • Include any ‘just in case’ medications such as an epinephrine injectable or migraine therapy injectable if one has been prescribed for you
    • Supplies such as syringes for insulin
  • Glasses
    • Take your glasses even if you usually wear contacts
    • Take the supplies for your contacts
    • Take your reading glasses if you just wear those as needed
  • Feminine supplies
  • Urinary incontinence supplies
  • Ambulation devices – such as a cane
  • Sturdy shoes – you might be in a situation where you are not walking on an even surface
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Warm, dry change of clothes and a blanket (in a water proof bag if in wet conditions)
  • Written list of:
    • medications
    • allergies, including what happens if you take that medication or eat that food
    • medical conditions

The available lists provide step-by-step guidance on what and how to prepare for emergencies. There is another good one available through the Centers for Disease Control found here. Note, if you live in an area where natural events such as hurricanes, tornadoes, blizzards, or wildfires are not uncommon, it will help to pack these emergency kits before the danger season. You will save yourself tremendous time and stress.

Prescription Medications

I have one more important fact about your prescriptions and associated medical supplies to share. When the threat of the emergency is known ahead of time, and you are nearly out of medication, make getting your refills a priority. You will not be alone trying to get more medication. Your pharmacist and their staff will appreciate the advanced notice. You will save yourself a lot of time and frustration waiting in long lines to get medication when you need to be doing so many other things to prepare. In the high-risk seasons, be extra vigilant about dwindling medication supplies.

I do want to share that I hear heroic stories of pharmacists, physicians, nurses, and others assuring their patients have what they need in the worst of circumstances. I am grateful for such dedication!

For more information about emergency preparedness, contact us at www.medsmash.com/contact.

BIBLICAL APPLICATION

I have had two songs going through my head this week as I’ve prayed for the people in the path of Hurricane Matthew. One is ‘Eye of the Storm’ by Ryan Stevenson. You can find a link here. The other is a song that is frequently sung by the Maryland State Boychoir, ‘The Storm is Crossing Over’. One of the moms posted this recording.

It’s interesting how often STORMS are found in the Bible. In nature they can be ferocious and devastating. And wow, isn’t the same true of the storms that brew up inside of us?

Remember in Matthew (and in Mark 4) when Jesus was taking a nap in the boat?

Matthew 8:23-27 ESV

And when he got into the boat, his disciples followed him. And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being swamped by the waves; but he was asleep. And they went and woke him, saying, “Save us, Lord; we are perishing.” And he said to them, “Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?” Then he rose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm. And the men marveled, saying, “What sort of man is this, that even winds and sea obey him?”

Do you often feel weak and helpless in these storms? There’s no doubt we will face them. Again, you find reference to them all through the Bible. So, how do we prepare for them, survive them, and move on from them?

2 Corinthians 12:9 ESV

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

Besides Hurricane Matthew, one of the ‘storms’ weighing heavy on my mind right now is all of the war, turmoil, and conflict in the world. A dear friend is active duty as of this weekend and will be deployed this week. He has a loving wife and young children. And we all know he is not alone in this situation. I am holding in prayer those deployed, those in all layers of leadership, and those on the ‘other side’ who don’t want to be doing this and are caught in an ugly situation.

Psalm 46:10 ESV

“Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!”

Nahum 1:7 ESV

The Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; he knows those who take refuge in him.

Deuteronomy 31:6 ESV

Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.”

Praise be to God, our strength in the storm.

Blessings,

Michelle

Image source: http://www.ready.gov    

 

 

 

 

Quality of Life – your attitude and health

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Your quality of life is shaped by your attitude, and that also impact your health.

Your quality of life is different than just living. If you are breathing and your heart is beating, then you are alive. Within that life there can be a HUGE range in your quality of life. Quality of life is your overall well-being or satisfaction. How is yours?

Being satisfied with your life encompasses many different factors. There is no one ‘right recipe’ for gloriously high quality of life. Your quality of life will likely change throughout your life with your changing circumstances. But, some people maintain a relatively good quality of life in spite of their circumstances. It is interesting that the factors some people would rate as important don’t actually lead to high quality of life scores.

  • For instance, many people would propose more money would increase their quality of life. Yet there are many miserable people who have a lot of money.
  • Many people would propose that better health is the key to quality of life. Yet there are sick/disabled/injured people with a wonderful quality of life and super healthy people who are miserable.
  • Some would list having many friends around as the key to quality of life. But there are some people who are at parties all of the time surrounded by friends who are miserable. There are others who lead very quiet lives with few friends who are very happy and content.

So what is the key to a magnificent quality of life? 

Your attitude

I have been very interested in the large range of responses people give when asked about their life satisfaction. I am not the only one interested in this. I have read many articles from all sorts of authors on the subject of health and attitude. If you are interested, to get started, just search for the terms ‘attitude and health’. I think you will be surprised by all that you find.

Will there be dark days when things are not going right? Will you lose loved ones? Can your life slip out of your control on more than one occasion? YES!

You then make a choice as to how you respond.   Your attitude matters.

Great example

Your physical health, mental health, emotional health, and spiritual health are all wrapped up in how you live your life. There will be many things that happen ‘to you’. But you alone decide how you respond. Here is a story I’ve read in many places that captures this truth:

A 92-year-old, petite, well-poised and proud lady, who is fully dressed each morning by eight o’clock, with her hair fashionably coifed and makeup perfectly applied, even though she is legally blind, moved to a nursing home today. Her husband of 70 years recently passed away, making the move necessary.

After many hours of waiting patiently in the lobby of the nursing home, she smiled sweetly when told her room was ready. As she maneuvered her walker to the elevator, I provided a visual description of her tiny room, including the eyelet sheets that had been hung on her window. “I love it,” she stated with the enthusiasm of an eight-year-old having just been presented with a new puppy.

“Mrs. Jones, you haven’t seen the room …. just wait.”

“That doesn’t have anything to do with it,” she replied. “Happiness is something you decide on ahead of time. Whether I like my room or not doesn’t depend on how the furniture is arranged, it’s how I arrange my mind. I already decided to love it. It’s a decision I make every morning when I wake up. I have a choice; I can spend the day in bed recounting the difficulty I have with the parts of my body that no longer work, or get out of bed and be thankful for the ones that do. Each day is a gift, and as long as my eyes open I’ll focus on the new day and all the happy memories I’ve stored away, just for this time in my life.”

She went on to explain, “Old age is like a bank account, you withdraw from what you’ve put in. So, my advice to you would be to deposit a lot of happiness in the bank account of memories. Thank you for your part in filling my Memory bank. I am still depositing.”

And with a smile, she said: “Remember the five simple rules to be happy:

  1. Free your heart from hatred.
  2. Free your mind from worries.
  3. Live simply.
  4. Give more.
  5. Expect less.

(Copied from this source.)

If you would like to know more about how your attitude impacts your quality of life and your health, please contact us at www.medsmash.com/contact.

BIBLICAL APPLICATION

How is your attitude? How easily do you become bitter, frustrated, angry, and discontented? Wow, doesn’t that happen so easily!!!!

The devotions that come to my e-mail every day from Pastor Rick Warren have been focused on envy for several days. What a nasty, cruel, pervasive worm is ENVY.

Doesn’t that negatively impact your day?

Paul outlines to Timothy many facets of living a God-centered life. And he repeatedly makes reference to the fulfillment, joy, and quality of life that comes with that kind of living.

1 Timothy 6:6-7 ESV

But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world.

Paul tells Timothy about all of the pitfalls in this world. He even talks about how things will get worse the closer we get to the coming of Christ. So, finding contentment in the midst of so much negativity is not easy. It is a choice and an active pursuit. A pursuit that is well worth the effort.

1 Timothy 6:11-12 MSG

But you, Timothy, man of God: Run for your life from all this. Pursue a righteous life—a life of wonder, faith, love, steadiness, courtesy. Run hard and fast in the faith. Seize the eternal life, the life you were called to, the life you so fervently embraced in the presence of so many witnesses.

The following kind of advice from Paul makes me feel more at ease. I like the visual I get and the response from other people when this is put into action.

Ephesians 4:31-32 MSG

Make a clean break with all cutting, backbiting, profane talk. Be gentle with one another, sensitive. Forgive one another as quickly and thoroughly as God in Christ forgave you.

Now that you are on your road to a fabulous quality of life and true contentment no matter what is going on around you, here is some encouragement from Paul.

Ephesians 4:1-3 MSG

In light of all this, here’s what I want you to do. While I’m locked up here, a prisoner for the Master, I want you to get out there and walk—better yet, run!—on the road God called you to travel. I don’t want any of you sitting around on your hands. I don’t want anyone strolling off, down some path that goes nowhere. And mark that you do this with humility and discipline—not in fits and starts, but steadily, pouring yourselves out for each other in acts of love, alert at noticing differences and quick at mending fences.

Blessings,

Michelle