Open Enrollment & Medicare Supplements

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Most Medicare beneficiaries are familiar with the annual Medicare open enrollment period. Also known at the Medicare Annual Election Period (AEP), it occurs October 15 through December 07, and is the time when individuals evaluate their current Medicare Part C Plan (Medicare Advantage) and Medicare Part D Plan (Prescription Drug) coverages. Beneficiaries can stay enrolled in their current plan, if still available, change to another insurance carrier, or select another plan. Medicare annual open enrollment does not apply to Medicare Supplement Plans in the State of Kansas, also known as “gap” policies.

Medicare Supplement Plans are available to new Medicare beneficiaries during an initial six-month open enrollment period. This six-month open enrollment period begins the first day of the month when the beneficiary has enrolled into Medicare Part B. Most individuals become eligible when they turn age 65, but those who continue to work may become eligible when they retire and lose coverage under an employer-sponsored group health plan. Disabled Medicare beneficiaries under age 65 have the same open enrollment period upon qualification and a second open enrollment period when they turn age 65.

Once a beneficiary has Medicare Part B coverage, insurance carriers must offer supplement plans to anyone who applies, regardless of current or past health history. After the six-month open enrollment period, insurance carriers generally apply medical underwriting to individuals applying for coverage.

For most individuals, consulting with an insurance agent who specializes in Medicare and Medicare Supplement Plans is the best strategy. The agent can discuss the different insurance carriers and plans available, including customer service experience and history of rate adjustments. It is important to note all insurance carriers must offer the same Medicare Supplemental Plans, but the plan premiums may vary. An experienced agent can help you find the best plan for you.

Century Health Solutions is a subsidiary of Stormont Vail Health, Topeka, and provides free Medicare Educational Seminars. We are your local expert in Medicare planning and can help you find the best option for your personal situation. Call us at 785-270-4593 with questions or to sign up for a free seminar. Our business hours are Monday-Friday, 8:00am-4:30pm.

Go to http://www.centuryinsuranceagencyks.com or email info@century-health.com for more information.

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What Medicare Does NOT Cover

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Many individuals enrolling in Medicare, assume the program will pay for all their insurance claims. Although Medicare does cover most health care services, the following are some of the things NOT covered by original Medicare Parts A and B.

HEARING CARE. Although Medicare does cover ear-related medical conditions, it does NOT cover routine hearing exams, hearing aids or exams to be fitted for hearing aids.

DENTAL CARE. Original Medicare does NOT cover most routine dental services and supplies. This includes dentures, oral exams, cleanings, extractions, fillings, and root canals. Medicare Part A (hospital Insurance) might pay for certain dental services that you get while you may be in the hospital.

EYE EXAMS. Medicare does NOT cover routine eye exams for glasses or contact lenses. Coverage is limited to ophthalmological expenses such as cataract surgery.

FOOT CARE. Medicare generally does NOT cover routine care for feet such as callus removal.

LONG TERM CARE.   Also known as custodial care, Medicare does NOT cover long-term care services performed at home or nursing home care. Medicare may cover limited stays in rehabilitation facilities, following a hip replacement for example.. However, if you become seriously ill or/and need custodial care, Medicare does NOT provide coverage for those services.

INTERNATIONAL COVERAGE. Original Medicare does NOT cover medical costs while living or traveling outside of the United States.

Other non-covered items include cosmetic surgery, acupuncture and other alternative treatments, and most chiropractic services. You can find a complete list at www.medicare.gov.

When Medicare is your primary health insurance plan, you must pay out of pocket for the items above that are not covered services, unless you have additional coverage. For example, many Medicare Advantage (Part C) Plans offer coverage for services that do not come with Original Medicare such as dental or vision care.

Century Health Solutions is a subsidiary of Stormont Vail Health, Topeka and provides free Medicare Educational Seminars. We are your local expert in Medicare insurance planning and will help you find the best option for your personal situation. Call us at 785-270-4593 with questions or to sign up for a free seminar. Our business hours are Monday-Friday, 8:00am-4:30pm.

Go to http://www.centuryinsuranceagencyks.com or email info@century-health.com for more information.

The Pain of Arthritis

Renea Dennison, Contributor

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Arthritis is a big subject. According to www.mediinenet.com, 350 million people worldwide suffer from this disease. 40 million are in the US, with more than 250,000 being children. The numbers are staggering at first, but when you consider the term covers more than 100 types of joint (bone or attached tissue) problems, the numbers makes more sense. Arthritis is common, and the term is well known. Unfortunately, the disease is not clearly understood, which makes it harder to diagnose properly and treat appropriately.

Osteoarthritis arthritis, the most common type, is degenerative. Osteoarthritis happens when the cartilage between bones wears away causing bone on bone friction. This rubbing causes pain, swelling and stiffness. Over time joints can lose strength and pain can become chronic. Risk factors include age, family history, being overweight and some injuries. The best way to avoid this kind of arthritis is to maintain your weight, stay active, and avoid injury. Mild to moderate symptoms can be managed by regular physical activity, strengthening the muscles around the joint for added support, using hot and cold compresses, over the counter anti-inflammatory medicines and/or pain relievers. Finally, balance activity with rest and avoid excessive repetitive movements to help manage your symptoms.

Inflammatory arthritis, such as rheumatoid or psoriatic, is when your immune system goes awry and attacks joints with inflammation in an attempt to get rid of perceived infection. This type of arthritis not only erodes the joints, but can also attack internal organs, the eyes and other parts of the body. Risk factors include environment (such as smoking) and genetics. With this type of arthritis, early diagnosis is critical. Early treatment with DMARDs (a class of drugs) will help put the disease into remission and reduce pain, improve function, and prevent further damage.

Infectious arthritis can be caused by bacteria, fungus or a virus which enters the joint. Sources include food poisoning such as salmonella, contamination such as shigella, hepatitis C, and certain sexually transmitted diseases. Again, early diagnosis is critical. Antibiotics may clear the infection, but in some cases the arthritis can still become chronic.

Metabolic arthritis, also known as gout, is when excess uric acid builds up in the joints. The uric acid crystalizes in the joint and causes sudden pain, or a gout attack that can come and go. This arthritis can be treated by reducing the uric acid in your system, but it may become chronic causing continued pain and disability.

The most critical aspect of arthritis is early diagnosis. Treatment with medications, appropriate activities, and other treatments up to and including surgery for joint replacement, always start with a diagnosis with your primary care physician. Advanced arthritis may eventually result in consulting specialists such as ophthalmologists.

The second biggest factor is activity. There are many, many types of exercise you can do to reduce joint pain, improve flexibility, and prevent joint damage. Here is an article with 16 exercises for people who suffer from arthritis. You can choose one, or several, and change your life.

If you suspect you have arthritis consult your physician. Some joint damage cannot be reversed so early treatment is vital. In the meantime, remember to live a healthy, active lifestyle with lots of love and fun built in. There is no better prescription for a healthy, happy life.

Century Health Solutions is a subsidiary of Stormont Vail Health, Topeka and provides free Medicare Educational Seminars. We are your local expert in Medicare insurance planning and will help you find the best option for your personal situation. Call us at 785-270-4593 with questions or to sign up for a free seminar. Our business hours are Monday-Friday, 8:00am-4:30pm.

Go to: http://www.centuryinsuranceagencyks.com or email info@century-health.com for more information.

Tips for a Safe and Happy 4th

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By Renea Dennison, Contributor

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One of the highlights of summer is our annual celebration of Independence Day every July 4th. The holiday is good old-fashioned family fun, with food, parades, games and for the finale, beautiful and exciting fireworks.

When you are young and energetic, you hardly notice the heat and half-expect to get sunburned. Swimming in the lake or running through the sprinklers to keep cool is part of the fun. Adults expertly work at keeping the young safe from burns, etc. because we all know their limitations and work to avoid problems.

To no one’s surprise, seniors are not as energetic so will most likely skip the sprinklers. You might think since they are not running around heat is not a problem. This is not true. Seniors have more trouble regulating body temperatures and are therefore much more likely to succumb to heat stroke.

If you have a senior at your celebration, or if you are the senior, please make sure to keep the following practices in mind:

  • Stay out of direct sun as much as possible. Sit somewhere cool and shady. Use sunscreen liberally and a wear hat.
  • Drink plenty of fluids. The longer you are out, the more you should drink.
  • Stay near a restroom for frequent bathroom breaks.
  • Make sure chairs are cushioned and comfortable.
  • Have a light jacket and/or blanket for after dark activities.
  • If possible, have a cool and quiet place to retreat for brief periods of time such as indoors or inside a running air conditioned car.

Seniors, especially those with dementia issues, are not always aware of the danger they are in. If you have a senior with you, watch over them carefully. Do not push them past their limits. Remember, admitting you cannot keep up is a difficult thing to do.

You might also consider changing up some of your activities. For instance, during the hottest part of the day you might watch a patriotic themed movie. How about patriotic themed karaoke or sing-alongs? Many seniors also love to play board and card games. Go to a cemetery and place small flags on the graves of veterans. Seniors have many stories to tell about past glories and the history of the country. They’ve lived it! You might even film them talking about past celebrations or the moments in history that really impacted them.

There are many ways to safely enjoy the 4th of July this year. You do not have to let go of all the old ones, but safety involves keeping in mind the limitations of seniors as well as little ones. Follow the above guidelines for the safety of all concerned. Start some new traditions this year to add to your old ones to keep your seniors safe. After all, everyone, regardless of age, should be able to enjoy Independence Day. Be creative! Be safe! Happy 4th to you and yours!

Century Health Solutions is a subsidiary of Stormont Vail Health, Topeka and provides free Medicare Educational Seminars. We are your local expert in Medicare insurance planning and will help you find the best option for your personal situation. Call us at 785-270-4593 with questions or to sign up for a free seminar. Our business hours are Monday-Friday, 8:00am-4:30pm.

Go to: http://www.centuryinsuranceagencyks.com or email info@century-health.com for more information.

MACRA

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By Bob Evenson, Contributor

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MACRA (Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act) changes the availability of certain Medicare supplement plans beginning January 1, 2020. Specifically, MACRA prohibits Medicare supplement plans to cover the Part B deductible of Medicare after that date.

The goal of MACRA is to reduce overall Medicare spending by requiring beneficiaries to pay a small portion of the costs (the deductible) each year. However, only individuals who become Medicare eligible on or after January 01, 2020 will be affected. Those entitled to Medicare prior to this date can keep their current Medicare supplement plan. The Part B deductible is $183.00 in 2018.

If you are Medicare eligible prior to January 01, 2020, all Medicare supplement plans will still be available to you. If you are already enrolled in a Supplement Plan C or F, you can keep your plan. You may even change to another carrier that offers a Supplement Plan C or F after January 1, 2020, although medical underwriting may be required.

If you become Medicare eligible January 01, 2020 or later, Supplement Plans C and F will no longer be available. Plans C and F are being replaced by Plans D and G. Under the new plans, you will be responsible to pay the Medicare Part B deductible.

In summary, if you are a Medicare beneficiary prior to January 1, 2020, the new law will not affect you. If you become eligible on or after that date, you will choose from different plans requiring you to pay the annual Medicare deductible. The new law pertains to supplement plans only, and will not affect Medicare Part A or Part B, Part C Medicare Advantage Plans, or Part D prescription drug plans.

Finally, remember all Medicare supplement plans have exactly the same benefits as required by CMS. Those identified by the same letter have the same benefits. In other words, Plan G benefits are the same regardless of which insurance company you use. The only difference is the insurance company and the price you pay for the plan. Shop before you buy, or talk with a licensed expert to help you make the right selection of Medicare coverage for your circumstances.

Century Health Solutions is a subsidiary of Stormont Vail Health, Topeka and provides free Medicare Educational Seminars. We are your local expert in Medicare insurance planning and will help you find the best option for your personal situation. Call us at 785-270-4593 with questions or to sign up for a free seminar. Our business hours are Monday-Friday, 8:00am-4:30pm.

Go to: http://www.centuryinsuranceagencyks.com or email info@century-health.com for more information.

Medicare vs. Medicaid

By Renea Dennison, Contributor

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Do you ever find yourself confused about Medicare vs. Medicaid? Many people think they are the same thing, but they are not. This was brought to my attention with a recent article by our own Bob Evenson.

One can see why many might believe they are the same thing. First, the names are very similar. They are both federal programs created in 1965, and they are both designed to help pay for health care. Still, they are not the same.

Medicare is a federal health insurance program designed for eligible adults age 65 and older, and anyone under 65 who has a severe disability. Medicare has 4 parts. Part A covers hospitalization, except for long term care, and is paid through payroll deduction by everyone who works or has their own business. It is free to the participant. Part B covers doctor and outpatient visits. Participants pay premiums through Social Security deduction. Part C works through private carriers in a PPO or HMO type arrangement. Part D covers medications. Part C and Part D premiums are paid directly to the private carrier by the participant.

Medicare is funded by the premiums mentioned above and by general revenues in the federal budget. Besides age and/or disability, you must have 40 quarters of income reported to Social Security to be eligible for Medicare. Because Medicare is a federal program, the same requirements for coverage stay the same from state to state. The only difference pertains to insurance covered by private carriers which may impact deductibles and co-insurance on Parts C and D.

Medicaid is a health insurance program designed for people with low income. The program is funded by both state and federal governments. The federal government sets up parameters for states to follow, and reimburses states based on those guidelines. States, however, decide how to administer and fund the program. Not all states use all the funding available from the federal government because they do not want to participate in all the requirements. These reasons are why Medicaid varies from state to state.

Eligibility for Medicaid is not based on age or illness, but rather income. Families, children, pregnant women, people with disabilities and the elderly can all qualify for Medicaid if they meet the low income threshold. Medicaid will also pay premiums and other out of pocket expenses Medicare charges to anyone enrolled in both programs. About 15% of Medicare participants are also on Medicaid.

While Medicare and Medicaid are two different programs, they are both social programs designed to help those who might otherwise be unable to get insurance. Please feel free to comment below if you have any questions about Medicare vs. Medicaid.

Century Health Solutions is a subsidiary of Stormont Vail Health, Topeka and provides free Medicare Educational Seminars. We are your local expert in Medicare insurance planning and will help you find the best option for your personal situation. Call us at 785-270-4593 with questions or to sign up for a free seminar. Our business hours are Monday-Friday, 8:00am-4:30pm.

Go to: http://www.centuryinsuranceagencyks.com or email info@century-health.com for more information.

Yoga for Seniors

By Renea Dennison, Contributor

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This blog has promoted yoga as a healthy practice on a number of occasions. Recently, I came across an article specifically directed towards the advantages of yoga for seniors. The columns’s good points made me realize it was time to write about yoga again and share this important information. You can read the item here.

Specifically, the story addressed three major benefits of yoga for senior health. In fact, that was the title, “3 Benefits of Yoga for Senior Health.” How perfect is that?

Here are the 3 major benefits as described in the piece:

  1. Improves sleeping habits – yoga helps relieve tension. After a yoga workout you will probably feel less anxious which leads to more sleep.
  2. Improves mood – it is a genuine mood booster and those who practice it have a lower risk for depression
  3. Reduces aches and pains – the breathing techniques aid in eliminating the stress that makes pain worse. Moreover, the movements will assist to decrease joint swelling, and increase joint and muscle strength. It aids in increasing functionality as well as flexibility. People who do yoga fall less, and are able to move more easily. Incidentally, less pain also promotes more sleep.

Yoga improves flexibility and balance while helping you stay in shape. Not many exercise plans can make the same claims. What is particularly great about yoga for older adults is that it is a Practice. New practitioners do not have to force themselves into awkward twisted shapes or uncomfortable poses. Everyone starts where they are, and by continual practice (at least 3 times per week), they improve muscle tone, flexibility, and strength over time. Each person goes at their own pace.  My favorite yogi is Adriene Mishler whom I follow on YouTube and Twitter.  She says repeatedly that we should, “Do what feels good.”  She means do what you can, but it should feel good and not painful.

Yoga helps regardless of physical limitations. Even those who are wheelchair bound can perform yoga. Just check out the videos by David Procyshyn if you don’t believe me. You can find a great list of David’s videos and the best order to go through them, as well as a long list of yoga benefits here.

If you are very active, workout regularly, and play sports so you keep fit, I salute you. Even you, however, can gain from yoga. If you are one of the millions who have difficulty keeping in shape, or even walking, then check out David’s videos. You will be amazed at what 3 days a week of yoga can do for you.

Century Health Solutions is a subsidiary of Stormont Vail Health, Topeka and provides free Medicare Educational Seminars. We are your local expert in Medicare insurance planning and will help you find the best option for your personal situation. Call us at 785-270-4593 with questions or to sign up for a free seminar. Our business hours are Monday-Friday, 8:00am-4:30pm.

Go to: http://www.centuryinsuranceagencyks.com or email info@century-health.com for more information.