Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Holidays + Health

Holiday Health for Seniors
11 Tips for keeping healthy this holiday season. 

Repost - Brought to you by: Care.Com

While the holidays are a time of gatherings with family and friends, they can also be a source of stress, as exercise schedules might be disrupted for shopping excursions and rich holiday meals make it difficult to adhere to a particular diet. Staying healthy can be a challenge during this time of year, especially for seniors. Get a senior's caregiver involved to help manage expectations at this time of year.
According to Amy Fuchs, a licensed clinical social worker and owner of The Elder Expert, LLC in Saddle River, New Jersey, one of the difficulties of the holiday season is not knowing an elderly relative's limits. "You can anticipate that they might need help, but they might not express to you that they've slowed down," Fuchs says.
Robyn Golden, a licensed clinical social worker and director of the health and aging department at Rush University in Chicago, agrees. "Offer older relatives options and ask them what they want to do, but don't assume their limitations," she advises.
To help seniors stay healthy during the holidays, reduce their stress and avoid the holiday blues, keep the following tips in mind:
  1. Make Healthy Choices
    From rich meals to tempting and tasty homemade snacks, the holidays are a time for many to indulge in food -- or overindulge. Try to plan meals with other events in mind.
    For example, if a big dinner is planned for New Year's Eve, consider serving a lighter lunch of salad or soup. "You don't want to deny anyone of the food they like to eat at this time of year, but you don't want anyone to gorge themselves, either," Fuchs says.
  2. Stay Hydrated
    Drinking water is one way you can stay healthy during the holidays. "Senior citizens, especially, need to drink plenty of fluids, as not drinking enough water could cause hospitalization," Fuchs says. To make it easier to stay hydrated, have water easily accessible at home and keep bottled water in a purse or bag when running errands.
  3. Follow Dietary Restrictions
    Some seniors must follow special diets, such as one that is low in sodium. It can be difficult to adhere to a diet during busy, stressful times, especially if there aren't any healthy options available. "When people get stressed, they tend to overeat and don't stick to their diets," Golden says. To make it easier to follow dietary guidelines, keep healthy options like fresh-cut vegetables and fruit on hand.
  4. Drink in Moderation
    "Drinking too much can impair functions, and for some senior citizens, drinking alcohol with certain medications can have adverse side effects," Golden says. Consider offering fun, alcohol-free drinks so everyone can celebrate the holidays.
  5. Keep Exercising
    In many parts of the country, the holidays are synonymous with cold weather and snow. To stick to an exercise schedule, bundle up and invite your parents for a walk around the block if the sidewalks are dry. If it's snowing or icy outside, drive to an indoor shopping mall and walk a few laps while window-shopping.
    For more information, read our article on Exercise and Fitness for Seniors ?
  6. Shake up Traditions
    Between cleaning the house and cooking for a crowd, hosting a big holiday meal can be a source of stress. If an older relative traditionally hosts a big holiday meal, consider passing the tradition on to the younger generation of family members. If the relative insists on hosting, Fuchs recommends younger family members volunteer to clean or prepare part of the meal.
  7. Decrease Gifts
    For many senior citizens, especially those on a fixed income, the holidays can be a financial challenge due to purchasing gifts for many family members. To reduce stress from paying for gifts, consider having a family grab bag, where everyone contributes one gift.
  8. Rest after Traveling
    For some senior citizens, the holidays are a time to travel long distances to visit family and friends. Whether they travel by car, rail or plane, keep in mind that an older relative might want to rest upon arrival. Golden suggested offering the options of watching television or taking a nap instead of planning a day of shopping and visiting.
  9. Make Homes Accessible
    If older relatives are visiting your home for the holidays, ensure your home is safe and accessible. "Be mindful of hazards in your home. For instance, someone with a cane could trip over area rugs," Fuchs advises. Consider having your relative sleep on the first floor of your home. If that's not possible, let them stay in a room close to the bathroom. In addition, use nightlights in the hallway so they don't stumble in the dark.
  10. Take Breaks
    Between parties and shopping, the holidays often involve busy days and late nights. If you are planning an all-day outing, carve some time for a nap or a way to relax for a bit, even if it is just to sip tea in a cafe. Little kids, seniors and everyone in between will appreciate it.
  11. Stay Involved
    Recognize that senior citizens still want to feel they are part of the holidays. For many, that may include helping out with holiday preparations. "It's fine to reduce senior citizens' stress by offering to hold the holiday event at your home instead of theirs, but still keep them involved by having them cook a favorite dish or maybe help decorate the home," Golden says.
With a few preventative measures and a willingness to change some traditions, senior citizens can stay healthy and follow their diets, while also having fun with their family members this holiday season.
Megan Horst-Hatch is a Chicago-based mother, runner, baker, gardener, knitter and other words that end in "-er." Her work can be found here.

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Tuesday, November 15, 2016

2017 Premiums & Deductibles

*Repost* CMS

2017 Medicare Parts A & B Premiums and Deductibles Announced

2017 Medicare Parts A & B Premiums and Deductibles Announced

2017 Medicare Parts A & B Premiums and Deductibles Announced

Today, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced the 2017 premiums for the Medicare inpatient hospital (Part A) and physician and outpatient hospital services (Part B) programs.
Medicare Part B Premiums/Deductibles
Medicare Part B covers physician services, outpatient hospital services, certain home health services, durable medical equipment, and other items.
On October 18, 2016, the Social Security Administration announced that the cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) for Social Security benefits will be 0.3 percent for 2017. Because of the low Social Security COLA, a statutory “hold harmless” provision designed to protect seniors, will largely prevent Part B premiums from increasing for about 70 percent of beneficiaries. Among this group, the average 2017 premium will be about $109.00, compared to $104.90 for the past four years.
For the remaining roughly 30 percent of beneficiaries, the standard monthly premium for Medicare Part B will be $134.00 for 2017, a 10 percent increase from the 2016 premium of $121.80. Because of the “hold harmless” provision covering the other 70 percent of beneficiaries, premiums for the remaining 30 percent must cover most of the increase in Medicare costs for 2017 for all beneficiaries. This year, as in the past, the Secretary has exercised her statutory authority to mitigate projected premium increases for these beneficiaries, while continuing to maintain a prudent level of reserves to protect against unexpected costs. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will work with Congress as it explores budget-neutral solutions to challenges created by the “hold harmless” provision.
“Medicare’s top priority is to ensure that beneficiaries have affordable access to the care they need,” said CMS Acting Administrator Andy Slavitt. “We will continue our efforts to improve affordability, access, and quality in Medicare.”
Medicare Part B beneficiaries not subject to the “hold harmless” provision include beneficiaries who do not receive Social Security benefits, those who enroll in Part B for the first time in 2017, those who are directly billed for their Part B premium, those who are dually eligible for Medicaid and have their premium paid by state Medicaid agencies, and those who pay an income-related premium. These groups represent approximately 30 percent of total Part B beneficiaries.
CMS also announced that the annual deductible for all Medicare Part B beneficiaries will be $183 in 2017 (compared to $166 in 2016). Premiums and deductibles for Medicare Advantage and prescription drug plans are already finalized and are unaffected by this announcement.
Since 2007, beneficiaries with higher incomes have paid higher Medicare Part B monthly premiums. These income-related monthly premium rates affect roughly five percent of people with Medicare. The total Medicare Part B premiums for high income beneficiaries for 2017 are shown in the following table:

Beneficiaries who file an individual tax return with income:Beneficiaries who file a joint tax return with income:Income-related monthly adjustment amountTotal monthly premium amount
Less than or equal to $85,000Less than or equal to $170,000$0.00$134.00
Greater than $85,000 and less than or equal to $107,000Greater than $170,000 and less than or equal to $214,00053.50187.50
Greater than $107,000 and less than or equal to $160,000Greater than $214,000 and less than or equal to $320,000133.90267.90
Greater than   $160,000 and less than or equal to $214,000Greater than $320,000 and less than or equal to $428,000214.30348.30
Greater than $214,000Greater than $428,000294.60428.60

Premiums for beneficiaries who are married and lived with their spouse at any time during the taxable year, but file a separate return, are as follows:

Beneficiaries who are married and lived with their spouse at any time during the year, but file a separate tax return from their spouse:Income-related monthly adjustment amountTotal monthly premium amount
Less than or equal to $85,000$0.00$134.00
Greater than $85,000 and less than or equal to $129,000214.30348.30
Greater than $129,000294.60428.60

Medicare Part A Premiums/Deductibles
Medicare Part A covers inpatient hospital, skilled nursing facility, and some home health care services. About 99 percent of Medicare beneficiaries do not have a Part A premium since they have at least 40 quarters of Medicare-covered employment.
The Medicare Part A inpatient hospital deductible that beneficiaries pay when admitted to the hospital will be $1,316 per benefit period in 2017, an increase of $28 from $1,288 in 2016. The Part A deductible covers beneficiaries’ share of costs for the first 60 days of Medicare-covered inpatient hospital care in a benefit period. Beneficiaries must pay a coinsurance amount of $329 per day for the 61st through 90th day of hospitalization ($322 in 2016) in a benefit period and $658 per day for lifetime reserve days ($644 in in 2016). For beneficiaries in skilled nursing facilities, the daily coinsurance for days 21 through 100 of extended care services in a benefit period will be $164.50 in 2017 ($161 in 2016).
Enrollees age 65 and over who have fewer than 40 quarters of coverage and certain persons with disabilities pay a monthly premium in order to receive coverage under Medicare Part A. Individuals who had at least 30 quarters of coverage or were married to someone with at least 30 quarters of coverage may buy into Part A at a reduced monthly premium rate, which will be $227 in 2017, a $1 increase from 2016. Uninsured aged and certain individuals with disabilities who have exhausted other entitlement and who have less than 30 quarters of coverage will pay the full premium, which will be $413 a month, a $2 increase from 2016.

Part A Deductible and Coinsurance Amounts for Calendar Years 2016 and 2017 by Type of Cost Sharing
Inpatient hospital deductible$1,288$1,316
Daily coinsurance for 61st-90th Day322329
Daily coinsurance for lifetime reserve days644658
Skilled Nursing Facility coinsurance161164.50

For more information on the 2017 Medicare Parts A and B premiums and deductibles (CMS-8062-N, CMS-8063-N, CMS-8064-N), please visit https://www.federalregister.gov/public-inspection.
Get CMS news at cms.gov/newsroom, sign up for CMS news via email and follow CMS on Twitter @CMSgovPress

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Be A Smart Shopper during Open Enrollment




*REPOST* Brought to you by The Medicare Blog:

Whether groceries, health insurance, or anything else, everybody wants to get the best value for their money. And health care is no different—that’s why it’s a good idea to shop around for a plan. Cost is an important factor in any purchase, especially when it comes to health care, but it’s not the only thing to consider.
There may be dozens of Medicare plans in your area, all with different costs and levels of coverage. How much are each plan’s premiums and deductibles? How much will you pay for the benefits and services you’re likely to use? Is there a limit on what you’ll have to pay out-of-pocket for the year? If you’re currently in a plan, how does that plan stack up to the other plans that are available? Thinking about these things will help you make a smart choice to get good value that meets your own health care needs.
Prescription drug coverage is another part of the cost puzzle. How much will your prescriptions cost under each plan? Does the plan cover the drugs you take? Remember, thanks to the Affordable Care Act, everyone who reaches the Part D coverage gap (or “donut hole”) will benefit from a discount of 60% on covered brand-name drugs.
Only you can determine what mix of benefits and costs will work best with your needs and budget, but we can help. The Medicare Plan Finder makes it easy to compare plans so you can pick a plan that meets your needs. After you’ve narrowed your options, you can call the plans you’re interested in to get more details about their benefits and services, or check out their websites.
And lastly, protect yourself from Medicare fraud. Medicare fraud wastes a lot of money each year and results in higher health care costs and taxes for everyone. Con artists commit Medicare fraud by getting people’s Medicare number. You can help fight Medicare fraud by never giving your Medicare number to get a free offer or gift. Protect your Medicare by protecting your Medicare number.
If you believe you or someone you know is a victim of Medicare fraud, you can:
  • Call 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227). TTY users should call 1-877-486-2048.
  • Report it online to the Office of the Inspector General.
  • Call the Office of the Inspector General at 1-800-HHS-TIPS (1-800-447-8477). TTY users should call 1-800-377-4950.
Brought to you by: Medicare

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Don't forget to "Fall Back"

Daylight Saving Time (United States) 2016 began at 2:00 AM on
Sunday, March 13
and ends at 2:00 AM on
Sunday, November 6

Tips for Surviving Daylight Savings Time

*REPOST* Brought to you by: ABC News

What's better than sleeping in on a Sunday? How about dodging the days-long consequences of rolling the clocks back this weekend.
Sure, you'll gain an hour when daylight saving time ends at 2 a.m. Sunday. But spending said hour in bed after sunrise will do you few favors in the long run, sleep experts say.
"It will hit you Sunday evening," said Dr. Yosef Krespi, director of the New York Head and Neck Institute's Center for Sleep Disorders. "But if your body clock is tuned to waking up with sunlight, you're going to benefit."
The body clock is a cluster of neurons deep inside the brain that generates the circadian rhythm, also known as the sleep-wake cycle. The cycle spans roughly 24 hours, but it's not precise.
"It needs a signal every day to reset it," said Dr. Alfred Lewy, director of Oregon Health and Science University's Sleep and Mood Disorders Laboratory in Portland.
The signal is sunlight, which shines in through the eyes and "corrects the cycle from approximately 24 hours to precisely 24 hours," said Lewy. But when the sleep-wake and light-dark cycles don't line up, people can feel out-of-sync, tired and grumpy.
With time, the body clock adjusts on its own. But here are a few ways to help it along.

Wake Up at a Normal Time Sunday Morning
Many people see the extra hour as an excuse to stay up later and sleep in longer. But sleeping through the Sunday morning sunlight can leave you feeling out of sorts for the start of the week, according to Krespi.
Instead, try to get up at the same time. Use the extra hour to go for a morning walk or make a hearty breakfast.
Eat Well and Exercise
Speaking of morning walks and breakfast, an active lifestyle and a healthy diet can work wonders for your sleep, according to Krespi. So grab your partner, your dog or your favorite playlist and get outside some fresh air and exercise. And dig into a breakfast packed with whole grains and protein to keep you energized through the 25-hour day.
Get a Good Night's Sleep Sunday Night
Still have extra time to kill Sunday? Use it to turn your bedroom into a full-fledged sleep zone.
"It has to be quiet, it has to be cool and it has to be dark," said Krespi. "Shut down your gadgets and turn away that alarm clock so you don't watch it tick."
Try to hit the sack at your usual bedtime, even though it will be dark one hour earlier.
Try a Low Dose of Melatonin
While light synchronizes the body clock in the morning, the hormone melatonin updates it at night. The exact function of the hormone, produced by the pea-size pineal gland in the middle of the brain, is unclear. But it can activate melatonin receptors on the neurons of the body clock, acting as a "chemical signal for darkness," Lewy said.
Taking a low dose of melatonin in the evening can help sync the sleep-wake and light-dark cycles. But be careful: Although melatonin is sold as a dietary supplement, it can cause drowsiness and interfere with other drugs. Talk to your doctor about the dosage and timing that's right for you.
Know That Your Body Will Adjust
It might take a few days to feel 100 percent normal, but fear not: Your body will adjust to the new light-dark cycle.
"Some people suffer more, some people less, it all depends," said Krespi, adding that falling back in November tends to be easier than springing forward in March. "On Monday morning, we'll appreciate that we're waking up for work or school with sunlight."

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Long Term Care Awareness Month

LTC Awareness Month >>>
Eight Things People Should Know

*REPOST* Brought to you by: Mutual of Omaha

November is LTC Awareness Month – time again to devote your efforts to helping people understand the importance of planning for their future long-term care needs.
This can be challenging...especially for those who find it hard to see themselves needing help with the most basic daily activities, like bathing or dressing. Yet, taking accountability for their future care and planning for that day is something everyone should do.
Here are eight things they should consider when developing a plan for long-term care:
  1. Planning for long-term care is important. Most people will tell you they plan to live a long life. But with age comes the need for help with some of the things they always did for themselves. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 70 percent of people who reach age 65 will need LTC services at some point in their lives
  2. LTC services are expensive. Mutual of Omaha’s cost-of-care survey revealed that just one year in a nursing home can cost nearly $80,000 (based on national averages). Home health care is less expensive, but people still can expect to pay over $36,000 per year on average for care they receive at home.
  3. You can’t rely on Medicare. Many people mistakenly believe their LTC needs are already covered. In reality, Medicare only covers services for a short time – typically just long enough to help people get back on their feet after an illness or injury.
  4. Medicaid isn’t for everyone. It’s true. Medicaid does cover LTC services. But it’s important to remember that Medicaid is a program for people with low incomes and limited resources. That may mean your clients would have to spend down their assets just to qualify. Not an attractive option for people who want to protect the assets they worked a lifetime to accumulate and leave a legacy for their children.
  5. There’s a hidden cost to family caregivers. It’s easy to say, "My family will take care of me." But a spouse may not be physically able to provide all the care that’s needed. And children have their own family and career obligations. The fact is family caregivers frequently suffer from stress and illness themselves. Not to mention lost wages if they have to give up a job or reduce work hours.
  6. The best time to start planning is now. How will you pay for the care you need? Where will you live? Who will take care of you? These are questions people need to ask themselves now while they’re young and in good health. The need for LTC services can arise at any time. Having a plan in place when that day comes can help alleviate the emotional strain many families face. It also can help ensure your clients get to make the important decisions about the care they receive and the setting they prefer.
  7. The cost of waiting can be high. The ability to obtain an LTCi policy is based on age and good health. So it’s important for people to understand that if something happens to cause a change in their health status, they may not be able to purchase LTCi at any price.
  8. Some coverage is better than none. Many people who think they can’t afford an LTCi policy neglect to consider what would happen if they didn’t have one. Without a policy to help pay the bills for LTC services, they may have to liquidate assets, sell stocks, dip into savings or retirement accounts or sell property to come up with the cash they need. Even a modest LTCi policy offers some protection for their important assets.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Open Enrollment

It’s your choice: Take advantage of open enrollment

*REPOST* Brought to you by UHC:

If your employer offers health benefits, you may start hearing soon that it’s time for open enrollment. This is the time of year when you can make choices about your coverage for the next year. Open enrollment is sometimes called annual enrollment or benefits enrollment.
Before you know it, it will be time to choose your coverage. So take a moment to review these tips and tools that may help you prepare.

Seven questions to ask

Your employer may offer one health plan or multiple options for health coverage. When deciding what’s right for you and your family, keep these questions in mind:

1. Is my doctor in the network?

If you have doctors or specialists you like, be sure they’re in the network of the plan you choose. Why? Your costs are usually lower when you use a network doctor.
Visit myuhc.com® to find out if your doctor is in the plan’s network. You can also find a doctor with theUnitedHealthcare Health4Me® mobile app.

2. Is my medicine covered?

Most plans have a list that shows which prescription medicines are covered. It’s called a formulary or Prescription Drug List (PDL).
To see which medicines are on your plan’s list, go to myuhc.com — and click on “Pharmacies & Prescriptions.”

3. Who else needs to be on my plan?

Some plans offer coverage for your spouse, partner or children. These are your dependents. If the plan offers dependent coverage, children under age 26 without their own health coverage can be on your plan.

4. What type of health coverage is right for me?

You may be offered a choice between a “traditional” copay health plan and a high-deductible health plan. With a traditional copay plan, your monthly premium will be higher — and you will pay a fixed copay amount, such as $25, for each doctor visit. With a high-deductible plan, your monthly premium may be lower. But you may have a higher share of out-of-pocket costs.
How do you decide what’s right for you? Think about what health care services you and each family member might need in the coming year. For example:
  • Are there medications you take routinely?
  • Are you planning to have surgery?
  • Do you see a doctor regularly for a health condition?
  • Are you planning to have a baby?

5. What other costs should I plan for?

In addition to the premium and deductible, you may also have copays or coinsurance. To learn more about the difference, see this infographic.
Then try this worksheet to help you plan for your potential costs.

6. Will I have access to an HSA, HRA or FSA?

Check with your employer to see if a health savings account (HSA), health reimbursement account (HRA) or flexible spending account (FSA) is available to you.
These are all ways to use tax-free money to help pay for medical expenses. But there are differences. Learn more in this infographic.

7. What other benefits does my employer offer?

Carefully read the information your employer sends you. Some health plans include incentives for healthy living. And your employer may offer dental, vision or disability benefits too.

What to do next

Start planning for your health care costs in the coming year:
© 2016 United HealthCare Services, Inc.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Manage your Medical Bills


*Repost* Brought to you by Cigna: http://www.cigna.com/healthwellness/hw/medical-topics/managing-your-medical-bills-abo3249

Topic Overview

Medical bills. They can be confusing and stressful. But with some basic know-how and organization, you can manage them—and avoid overpaying for your health care.
After you receive a health care service, you get:
  • A medical bill from your provider. If you have no health insurance, this is the amount that you pay. If you're insured, you will likely pay less than the provider has billed you for.
  • An Explanation of Benefits (EOB) from your insurer. This insurance statement shows how much of the bill you will need to pay.
This may sound simple. But when you get a bill, then an insurance statement, then a revised bill based on the statement or a payment you've already made, things can get confusing.


Take these simple steps to keep your medical bills in order. You can organize paper bills and statements, or electronic versions on a computer.
  • Keep a calendar of your medical appointments. Jot down each appointment, including the provider and the care you've received. Also record the dates you've paid for prescription medicine.
  • Organize your medical bills by date of service. If you have bills for more than one family member, keep a separate file for each.
  • Pair medical bills with insurance statements. Sometimes an insurance statement will be about more than one medical bill. Keep those papers together. If you can, make a copy of the statement and match it with each separate bill it mentions. Include any payment receipts and updated statements about those bills.
  • Create a list or a spreadsheet—whatever works for you. Across the top, label columns that best fit your health insurance. Include these types of headings:
    • Date, type of service, and provider
    • Billed amount
    • Allowable amount (see your insurance statement)
    • Amount insurance pays (see your insurance statement)
    • Amount I pay (see your insurance statement)
    • My payment/date paid
    • Amount I still owe
    • Amount I've paid toward my deductible (see your insurance statements or website)
    • Notes
Update your list or spreadsheet with each bill and insurance statement you receive and with each payment you make.
Don't be surprised if you get several bills for the same care. For example, for a surgery in a hospital, you might get bills from the surgeon, the anesthesiologist, and the hospital. Or for an X-ray, you'll get bills from the imaging facility and the radiologist who reads the image.

Compare your medical bill and insurance statement

Read carefully through your medical bill and insurance statement. Make sure that:
  • The date, provider, and type of medical care are correct on both.
  • You understand how much of the bill you need to pay. This is the amount that your insurer says you owe.
If you have questions about any part of a bill, call your provider's billing office. And for questions about what's on your insurance statement, call your insurer.

Fix errors

Billing mistakes can happen. Before you pay anything, be sure to read your billing paperwork carefully. Look at your health insurance policy.
  • If you think you have found an error, call your provider's billing office or your insurer. Ask to review the statement on the phone.
  • If your insurer won't cover a service that your policy says should be covered, file an appeal. Ask your insurer about the appeal process. For information about health insurance appeals, see the U.S. government website at www.healthcare.gov/using-insurance/managing/appealing-denials/index.html.

If you have payment problems

Not paying a medical bill can ruin your credit rating. Talk to the provider's medical billing office. This is one key to keeping your account from going to a collections agency.
  • If you realize you've missed a due date for a bill, call the billing office right away. Pay on the phone if you can.
  • If you can't pay a bill in full, ask to arrange a payment plan. Many providers are happy to do this, as long as you stay in touch and agree to make small, regular payments.
Current as of: November 20, 2015
This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise, Incorporated, disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information. Your use of this information means that you agree to the Terms of Use . Learn how we develop our content .

This information is for educational purposes only and is unrelated to health plan benefits or coverage. Services addressed may not be covered under your health plan. If you have questions about your coverage, please refer to your benefit plan document or call the number on the back of your health plan membership ID card.
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