Saving money on health costs: Medicare’s Extra Help

Have you ever found yourself skipping a day of your medication or cutting your pills in half to make your supply last a little longer? Or, have you put off filling a prescription because you’re having trouble making ends meet? If so, we can help. Medicare has a special program called “Extra Help.” If you have limited income and resources, you can sign up to get help paying things like your monthly premium, annual deductible, and prescription copayments in your Medicare drug plan. In 2015, drug costs for most people who qualify will be no more than $2.65 for each generic drug and $6.60 for each brand-name drug.

Even if you’re not sure you’d qualify, it’s worth filling out an application to see. Many people with Medicare may be eligible for the Extra Help program but don’t even know it. Are you or a family member one of them?

It’s easy and free to apply for Extra Help. Here’s how:

Don’t wait – apply today to see if you qualify for some extra help with your health costs.

Medicare Open Enrollment: the value of convenience

Have you ever bought milk from the convenience store just around the corner even though it’s a bit more expensive than buying it at the grocery store? Most of us have made decisions to do or not do something based on convenience.

The same is true when it comes to choosing a health plan: convenience matters. In addition to cost, coverage, and benefits, here are some other things you may want to consider as you compare Medicare options this year:

Doctor and hospital choice

You want to be comfortable with the people you’re working with, especially when it comes to something as private as your health. Do the doctors you know accept your coverage? Where are the doctors’ offices? What are their hours? Do they often keep you waiting?

Pharmacy access

Is the pharmacy you use included in your drug plan’s network? Do they e-prescribe? Can you get refills by mail? Remember that plan networks can change from year to year. If it’s important to you to stay with the same pharmacy, check to make sure they’ll still be in your plan’s network.

Travel

Do you travel a lot, or spend part of the year in a different state? If so, see if your coverage will travel with you.

Quality

Ask yourself whether you’re truly satisfied with your medical care. Not all health care is created equal, and the doctors, hospitals and facilities you choose can impact your health. Look for plans with a 5‑star performance rating — the right expertise and care may help speed your recovery and improve your outcomes.

Your time is valuable — and so is your health. Only you know what mix of coverage and convenience is most important to you and your family.

We’re working hard to make sure you have choices in the way you get the Medicare benefits you’ve earned – and we want you to be comfortable. Use the Medicare Plan Finder to look at all of the health and drug plan options in your area.

 

Care for the Caregiver?

Family caregivers provide an average of 20 hours of care per week – when you’re the caregiver, that can make it hard for you to care for yourself.

November is National Family Caregiver Month – a perfect opportunity to reach out for help if you’re caring for someone with Medicare. If you’re a caregiver, here are 4 things you can do this month to help you help your loved one:

  1. Check out our caregiver resources.
  2. Make sure your loved one’s Medicare coverage still meets their needs. Medicare Open Enrollment is from now until December 7, and it’s important to take a few minutes to review coverage and pick a plan that works for your loved one.
  3. Find resources near you by visiting the Administration on Aging’s Eldercare Locator.

This month is also a perfect opportunity to make sure you are getting the care you need for yourself. If you or someone you’re caring for is uninsured, learn more about the Health Insurance Marketplace.

Diabetes screenings, supplies, and training – Medicare has you covered

Diabetes affects millions of people – are you one of them? November is American Diabetes Month and a perfect time to find out about the supplies and self-management training that Medicare covers to help you manage your diabetes. Many people with diabetes don’t know that they have it – and Medicare covers screening tests so you can find out if you do.

If you’re at high risk for developing diabetes, Medicare covers up to two fasting blood glucose (blood sugar) tests each year. If your doctor accepts assignment, you pay nothing for these tests. You may be at high risk for diabetes if you’re obese, have high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or a family history of diabetes. Talk to your doctor to find out when you should get your free screening test.

If you have diabetes, Medicare covers many of your supplies, including test strips, monitors, and control solutions. In some cases, Medicare also covers therapeutic shoes if you have diabetic foot problems. You pay 20% of the Medicare-approved amount for these supplies.

Medicare also covers diabetes self-management training to help you learn how to better manage your diabetes. You can learn how to monitor your blood sugar, control your diet, exercise, and manage your prescriptions. Talk to your doctor about how this training can help you stay healthy and avoid serious complications.

Take control of your health – talk to your doctor today about screening tests and what supplies and training you may need for your health.

Focusing on comfort & support: hospice care

Choosing to stop curative treatment is a scary moment for anyone. You worry about your family, the quality of the care you’ll receive, and keeping your dignity.

For over 30 years Medicare has covered hospice care, so that those who are terminally ill can spend the last moments of their lives with dignity and comfort, among their loved ones. The focus is on comfort and support, not on curing an illness.

Deciding you need Hospice care is a difficult choice to make, and it’s important to be informed about what Hospice covers. Here are a few of the services Hospice provides:

  • Care is generally provided in the home.
  • A specially trained team of professionals and caregivers provide care for the “whole person,” including your physical, emotional, social, and spiritual needs.
  • Services typically include physical care, counseling, drugs, equipment, and supplies for the terminal illness and related conditions.
  • Family caregivers can get support.
  • Once you choose hospice care, your hospice benefit should cover everything you need.

For more information about hospice, you can visit Medicare.gov. To find a hospice program, talk to your doctor or call your state hospice organization.

When you need us, we’ll be here.

Medicare Open Enrollment: Extra benefits & peace of mind

Going through the process of buying a car takes a bit of elbow grease, but when the salesman throws in free oil changes and scheduled maintenance, it’s worth it. Not only are you saving money, but there’s a peace of mind knowing that the support you’ll need is free.

Extra benefits and peace of mind can be a big plus in health coverage, too.

If you have Medicare, you get to enjoy extra benefits thanks to the Affordable Care Act like these:

Medicare also covers a yearly wellness exam each year. This is a great chance to sit down with your doctor and take the time to talk about your needs — and address small health concerns before they become big ones. You can keep track of your preventive services and get reminders for them at MyMedicare.gov.

Also, most people with Medicare have access to Medicare Advantage Plans, and many of these plans offer extra benefits that Original Medicare doesn’t cover like vision, hearing, dental coverage, prescription drugs, or extended coverage when you travel.

Just like deciding what car to buy, only you know what extra benefits and services are most important for you and your family. During Medicare Open Enrollment, decide what benefits are most important in helping you meet your unique health care needs. Use the Medicare Plan Finder to look at all of the health and drug plan options in your area.

 

Medicare Open Enrollment: It’s good to shop around

In today’s world, we’re all a little more conscious of costs. Maybe we clip a few more coupons or compare ads to find the best price on something before we buy. With the internet, we also have a wealth of information online to help us shop around. Cost is an important factor in any purchase, and health care is no different.

We know you want to get the best value possible from your health care coverage. But you still need to make smart choices to get good value that meets your own health care needs. There may be dozens of Medicare plans in your area, all with different costs and levels of coverage. With all these choices, you may have questions like: 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?

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 55% on covered brand-name drugs.

Only you can determine what mix of benefits and costs will work best with your needs and budget. Shopping around can make a huge difference, and we want to 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.

Whether it’s groceries, health insurance, or anything else, you want value for your dollar. Make sure you have the most up-to-date information that’s available.