31128201_wide.jpg

5 questions about applying for disability benefits

(BPT) – Age and chronic illness can take a toll. A June 2017 study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention finds that the most costly health conditions in the U.S. include: heart disease, cancer, arthritis, stroke and type 2 diabetes. An estimated 117 million people have one or more chronic health conditions.

These health issues also place in the top 10 conditions of former workers who receive Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits.

Social Security disability is an important alternative for former workers who can no longer work because of a severe health condition. In fact, the average SSDI recipient worked 22 years before they experienced a life-changing disability.

“More people are living with chronic illness, and many people do OK with treatment and rehabilitation,” said Mike Stein, assistant vice president of Allsup, a disability benefits representation organization. “But other people have to stop working when their health just won’t let them continue.”

About 154 million workers have paid FICA taxes and have disability insurance coverage through the SSDI program. If you know someone who may qualify, check out the Refer a Friend program. Following are answers to the top five common questions about applying for disability benefits.

1) Who applies for disability benefits? People who have experienced a work-disrupting severe health condition that will last for 12 months or longer, or is terminal. They may have a health condition, such as arthritis, a severe spinal condition, cancer, or have experienced a stroke or car accident. On average, former worker recipients are 54 years old. Last year, about 2.3 million former workers with disabilities applied for disability benefits.

2) When should I apply for disability benefits? Generally, you should apply when you cannot work because of your health condition. As soon as you have to stop working, it makes sense to apply for Social Security disability benefits if you have solid medical evidence. If you are uncertain of when to apply, you can find help from a disability representation organization that provides free assessments of your likelihood of qualifying for the program.

3) Why should I apply for disability benefits? Most people apply for disability benefits because they need the monthly income. Plus, there are several additional benefits. You can get extra dependent benefits if you have a child under 18. You can get Medicare after 24 months of receiving cash SSDI benefits. You also protect your retirement benefits, and you can receive incentives to return to work. “It’s important not to give up on the idea of returning to work, eventually, because it’s much better for your finances in the long run,” Stein said.

4) How do I apply for disability benefits? Much like filing taxes, you have different options when applying for disability benefits. You can try it on your own, or enlist the help of a professional representative who understands what the Social Security Administration needs to process your claim. Most people who apply on their own are denied at the application level, and must appeal. Having a representative early in the process can improve your chances of approval and help ensure your application is completed properly. Most people have a representative for their hearing.

5) How much money will I receive? Your monthly benefit will be calculated based on your past work earnings and the amount of FICA taxes you paid on those earnings. You can find online calculators that will help you get an estimate of what you can expect to receive before you apply for SSDI.

Unfortunately, it may take a long time to receive benefits because the Social Security disability program has stringent rules and several steps in the claim review process.

“Many people make the mistake of waiting to apply for disability,” Stein explained. “They deplete their savings, they borrow from their 401(k) plan, and they make other big sacrifices — before they apply for disability benefits. It makes it that much harder when they have to wait months or even years for Social Security to review their claim.”

An important consideration is applying for disability with a representative, Stein said. “If you can receive disability benefits at the very beginning, with your application — you can save yourself many months of time for appeals and possibly avoid a hearing on your disability claim.”

For more information about Social Security disability eligibility and applying for disability benefits, visit FileSSDI.Allsup.com.

Read more
32005654_wide.jpg

Control your diabetes while controlling costs

(BPT) – Controlling the “ABCs of diabetes,” namely A1C, blood pressure and cholesterol levels, is difficult enough, but when you add that second C — costly medications — it’s easy to see how one’s levels can spiral out of control very quickly.

According to the American Diabetes Association, for the 30 million people living with diabetes in the U.S., health care costs are more than double (2.3 times) the costs compared to those without diabetes. This is due to the ever-increasing costs of the medications to treat diabetes and the chronic conditions that often accompany the disease, namely high blood pressure and high cholesterol. In fact, between 2002 and 2013, the cost of insulin has tripled, and newer cholesterol- and blood pressure-lowering medications are also on the rise.

Now consider that in the U.S., more than 2 million children and adults living with diabetes do not have access to health insurance, and millions more are in high-deductible plans that can require high out-of-pocket costs. This has a compounding effect on our healthcare system and society because the lack of access to diabetes medications can lead to avoidable doctor visits, hospitalizations, amputations and even death.

So, what is the cash-paying person struggling to afford these high-cost insulins and other diabetes medications to do? The good news is there are numerous ways to save money on diabetes care without compromising on quality.

First, shop around. Medication prices can vary greatly by pharmacy. If you are not using insurance to cover the cost of prescription drugs, there are many ways to obtain prescription assistance. See if you could begin saving money immediately with Inside Rx, a free discount drug card program, which provides deep discounts on certain brand-name diabetes medications, including insulin and drugs that treat co-existing conditions such as high cholesterol and blood pressure. In fact, people who have used the Inside Rx card have saved an average $180 on featured brand insulin medications. See insiderx.com for a listing of these featured medications, as well as important terms and restrictions.

In addition, Rx Assistance provides a comprehensive database of pharmaceutical assistance programs. Most pharmaceutical companies also offer financial assistance programs to persons who have trouble affording their medications and supplies.

By doing some research into these types of discount programs and databases, it may be possible to save thousands of dollars a year, while controlling your diabetes and enhancing your quality of life.

Read more
Pink piggy bank with a dollar bill in the slot

5 steps to prepare for open enrollment

(BPT) – Millions of Americans will select or switch their health benefits plan during open enrollment, so now is the time to prepare for that decision that usually happens once a year.

More than 70 percent of Americans say they are prepared for open enrollment, yet most people struggle to understand basic health insurance terms, according to a recent UnitedHealthcare survey. Only 9 percent of survey respondents could successfully define all four basic health insurance concepts: plan premium, deductible, co-insurance and out-of-pocket maximum.

To help people make the most out of their health benefits, Rebecca Madsen, chief consumer officer of UnitedHealthcare, offers the following five tips.

1. Know your open enrollment dates

Open enrollment isn’t the same for everyone, so there are key dates to keep in mind depending on your situation:

* For the more than 177 million Americans with employer-provided coverage, many companies set aside a two-week period between September and December when employees can select health benefits for the following year.

* For the more than 59 million seniors and other people enrolled in Medicare, their open enrollment runs from Oct. 15 to Dec. 7 each year.

* Health insurance marketplace or individual state exchange open enrollment runs from Nov. 1 to Dec. 15.

For most people, changes made to coverage during open enrollment take effect Jan. 1, 2018.

2. Take time to review your options

Every person or family has unique health and budget needs. Take the time to explore your options, and understand the benefits and costs of each health plan so you can find the coverage that works best for you and your family members.

* Check if your current coverage still meets your needs and if your benefits will change next year.

* Determine if the plan is a good fit for your budget, and pay attention to more than just the monthly premium. You should also understand the other out-of-pocket costs, including deductibles, copays and coinsurance.

* Make sure your medications are covered. Even if you don’t expect to change plans, it’s important to ensure your drugs will still be covered next year.

3. Make sure your doctor is in your plan’s care provider network

Even if you don’t make any changes, it’s a good idea to ensure that any doctor you see regularly — or plan to visit in the coming year — is in your benefit plan’s care provider network. If you plan to visit a doctor or hospital outside of the network, be sure to understand how your costs will differ from a network care provider because those costs will most likely be higher.

Also, check if your plan includes 24/7 telehealth services for consultations on minor health issues. Often, telehealth — online, or virtual, visits with a doctor over a computer, tablet or mobile phone — is available to people enrolled in employer-sponsored health plans and group Medicare Advantage plans, as well as select individual Medicare Advantage plans. Virtual visits may provide convenient and affordable access to care for minor medical issues, including allergies, bronchitis and seasonal flu.

4. Don’t forget about additional benefits

Additional benefits such as dental, vision, accident or critical-illness insurance are often affordable options that can protect you and your family. For people enrolled in Medicare, many are surprised to find that Original Medicare doesn’t cover prescription drugs and most dental, vision and hearing services. But many Medicare Advantage plans do, often at a $0 monthly premium beyond the premium for Original Medicare.

5. Take advantage of wellness programs.

Some health plans offer discounts on gym memberships and provide financial incentives for completing health assessments, signing up for health coaching programs, lowering your cholesterol, losing weight, meeting walking goals or stopping smoking. Programs are designed to reward people for making healthy choices and being more engaged in improving their health.

Visit UHCOpenEnrollment.com for articles and videos with information about health benefits and health insurance terms.

Read more
shutterstock_645695530-1280

Protect yourself from medical identity theft [Video]


Play Video

var bptVideoPlayer = document.getElementById(“bptVideoPlayer”);
if (bptVideoPlayer) {
var cssText = “width: 100%;”;
cssText += ” background: url(‘” + bptVideoPlayer.getAttribute(“poster”) + “‘);”;
cssText += ” -webkit-background-size: cover;”;
cssText += ” -moz-background-size: cover;”;
cssText += ” -o-background-size: cover;”;
cssText += ” background-size: cover;”;
bptVideoPlayer.style.cssText = cssText;
bptVideoPlayer.setAttribute(“poster”, “http://www.brandpointcontent.com/printsite/images/spacer.gif”);
var bptVideoPlayerContainer = document.getElementById(“bptVideoPlayerContainer”);
if (bptVideoPlayerContainer) {
setTimeout(function () {
bptVideoPlayerContainer.style.cssText = “display: block; position: relative; margin-bottom: 10px;”;
var isIE = navigator.userAgent.match(/ MSIE(([0 – 9] +)(.[0 – 9] +) ?) /);
var isEdge = navigator.userAgent.indexOf(“Edge”) > -1 || navigator.userAgent.indexOf(“Trident”) > -1;
if (isIE || isEdge) {
fixVideoPoster();
}
}, 1000);
}
var bptVideoPlayButton = document.getElementById(“bptVideoPlayButton”);
if (bptVideoPlayButton) {
bptVideoPlayButton.addEventListener(“click”, function () {
bptVideoPlayer.play();
}, false);
bptVideoPlayer.addEventListener(“play”, function () {
bptVideoPlayButton.style.cssText = “display: none;”;
}, false);
}
var mainImage = document.getElementById(“mainImageImgContainer_sm”);
if (mainImage) {
mainImage.style.cssText = “display: none;”;
}
var mainImage = document.getElementById(“photo-noresize”);
if (mainImage) {
mainImage.style.cssText = “display: none;”;
}
var assetGallery = document.getElementsByClassName(“asset_gallery”)[0];
if (assetGallery) {
assetGallery.style.cssText = “display: none;”;
}
var assetGallery = document.getElementsByClassName(“trb_article_leadart”)[0];
if (assetGallery) {
assetGallery.style.cssText = “display: none;”;
}
var assetGallery = document.querySelectorAll(“[src=’http://images.brandpointcontent.s3.amazonaws.com/31696410_web.jpg’]”)[0]; if (assetGallery) {
assetGallery.style.cssText = “display: none;”;
}
}
function fixVideoPoster() {
var videoPlayer = document.getElementById(“bptVideoPlayer”);
var videoPoster = document.getElementById(“bptVideoPoster”);
fixVideoPosterPosition(videoPlayer, videoPoster, true);
window.onresize = function() {
fixVideoPosterPosition(videoPlayer, videoPoster);
};
videoPoster.onclick = function() {
videoPlayer.play();
videoPoster.style.display = “none”;
};
videoPlayer.onplay = function() {
videoPoster.style.display = “none”;
};
}
function fixVideoPosterPosition(videoPlayer, videoPoster, display) {
setTimeout(function () {
var videoPosition = videoPlayer.getBoundingClientRect();
videoPoster.style.position = “absolute”;
videoPoster.style.top = “0”;
videoPoster.style.left = “0”;
videoPoster.style.width = videoPlayer.offsetWidth + “px”;
videoPoster.style.height = (videoPlayer.offsetHeight + 20) + “px”;
if (display) {
videoPoster.style.display = “inline”;
}
}, 1010);
}

(BPT) – Medical identity theft is when someone steals or uses your personal information to submit fraudulent claims to Medicare, and other health insurers, without your authorization. Medical identity theft can disrupt your medical care and wastes taxpayer dollars. Protect your personal information, check medical bills and statements, and report questionable charges or fraud. Learn more at https://oig.hhs.gov/fraud/medical-id-theft/.

Read more
Family cooking together

A New Kind of Life Insurance for Those Living with Diabetes

(BPT) – For people living with diabetes, the condition is a part of their everyday life and one that impacts many of their decisions, from balancing what they eat to taking care of their health. One area that might not be top of mind for people living with diabetes is life insurance. That’s because many people with diabetes believe they won’t be able to get life insurance if they have the condition.

Research shows that nearly 50 percent of people with diabetes are worried they will not qualify for a life insurance policy and another 45 percent assume it’s too expensive, according to a recent survey commissioned by John Hancock.1 And it’s even higher among younger people, with 68 percent of people ages 25-34 worried they won’t qualify.

Dispelling the common myth

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 9.4 percent of the U.S. population has diabetes.2 This equates to roughly 30 million people. In addition, another 33.9 percent (84 million) has pre-diabetes. While people with diabetes recognize the many benefits life insurance can offer — like providing for your family, covering final expenses, and offering peace of mind — there’s a lot of confusion about the topic and a concern that having diabetes will bar them from getting life insurance.

In reality, more than 90 percent of all the people with diabetes who sought life insurance in the past 18 months qualified with John Hancock. In addition, 88 percent of those applicants received a standard or better premium quote.

A new kind of life insurance

If you are living with diabetes and you haven’t thought about life insurance recently, it’s worth taking a look. John Hancock life insurance with Vitality rewards customers for the smarter choices they make every day to improve their health — exercising regularly, eating well and visiting the doctor — things many people, including those with diabetes, are already encouraged to do. Policyholders can earn valuable rewards, including an Apple Watch® Series 3 for $25, plus tax, by exercising regularly,3 $600 in annual savings on healthy food purchases,4 and savings of up to 15 percent on their annual life insurance premiums. It doesn’t require completely changing your habits overnight — small, healthy choices can make a big difference over time.

Getting your questions answered

If you have diabetes and you are without a life insurance policy, you probably have questions. The good news is you’re not alone. Only one third of those with diabetes report they consider themselves knowledgeable about life insurance. The most common questions among those who don’t include:

* How much life insurance will I need?

* Will I need a medical exam to get life insurance?

* Can I afford a life insurance policy?

To help you find the answers to these questions, you can speak with one of John Hancock’s Coverage Coaches at 844-235-3002, or visit www.JohnHancockInsurance.com/ADA. Life insurance is an important way to help protect your loved ones, and now your policy can do more by rewarding you for healthy living.

1. This nationwide survey was conducted online by Qualtrics on behalf of John Hancock.

2. CDC. National Diabetes Statistical Report, 2107. CDC. National Diabetes Statistical Report, 2107.https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/pdfs/data/statistics/national-diabetes-statistics-report.pdf

3. You can order Apple Watch Series 3 (GPS) for an initial payment of $25 plus tax and over the next two years, monthly payments are based on the number of workouts completed. Upgrade fees apply if you choose Apple Watch Series 3 (GPS + Cellular), certain bands and case materials. A Retail Installment Agreement with the Vitality Group will need to be signed electronically at checkout. Apple Watch Series 3 (GPS) requires an iPhone 5s or later with iOS 11 or later. Apple Watch Series 3 (GPS + Cellular) requires an iPhone 6 or later with iOS 11 or later.

Apple Watch Series 3 (GPS + Cellular) and iPhone service provider must be the same. Cellular is not available with all service providers. Roaming is not available outside your carrier network coverage area. Wireless service plan required for cellular service. Contact your service provider for more details. Check www.apple.com/watch/cellular for participating wireless carriers and eligibility.

Apple is not a participant in or sponsor of this promotion. Apple Watch program is not available in New York.

4. HealthyFood savings are based on qualifying purchases and may vary based on the terms of the John Hancock Vitality program.

Insurance policies and/or associated riders and features may not be available in all states.

Vitality is the provider of the John Hancock Vitality Program in connection with policies issued by John Hancock. John Hancock Vitality Program rewards and discounts are only available to the person insured under the eligible life insurance policy. Rewards and discounts are subject to change and are not guaranteed to remain the same for the life of the policy.

Premium savings are in comparison to the same John Hancock policy without the Vitality program. Annual premium savings will vary based upon policy type, the terms of the policy, and the level of the insured’s participation in the John Hancock Vitality Program.

Insurance products are issued by John Hancock Life Insurance Company (U.S.A.), Boston, MA 02210 (not licensed in New York) and John Hancock Life Insurance Company of New York, Valhalla, NY MLINY101717101

Read more
31525125_wide.jpg

Picking a health insurance plan? Prepare for the unexpected

(BPT) – As many Americans know, fall is the season when we must select our health benefits for the upcoming year. Choosing a health plan can be a daunting task, but selecting the right coverage protects you and your family’s general health needs and can prepare you for an unexpected medical crisis. While no one plans on receiving a blood cancer diagnosis, for example, an estimated 173,000 Americans were diagnosed with leukemia, lymphoma or myeloma in 2017. As there are no means of preventing or early screening for most blood cancers, a diagnosis can often appear without warning. Well-planned health insurance coverage can make an important difference in how patients can fare in fighting the disease.

This year’s open enrollment season, which runs approximately from October to December, is your opportunity to consider your health benefits and plan ahead. With the cost of care for major health events and severe illnesses increasing every year, you will want to select a health plan that ensures you and your family are prepared in the case of a health emergency. The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS) offers three tips to consider when selecting your 2018 health plan.

Compare physician and hospital networks: Be diligent when choosing a plan. While it is important to compare plan prices, including co-payments, deductibles and premiums, it is equally important that your primary care doctor and any specialists you visit are part of the plan’s network. Not all plans cover every doctor, hospital or comprehensive cancer center near you, so review the plan’s network list carefully. You also can call your doctors and hospitals to ask if they are in the plan’s network. If your spouse or children are on your plan, you will need to consider their physicians as well.

Prepare for the unexpected: No one expects to receive a serious diagnosis like blood cancer, but it helps to be prepared. The cost of cancer care is rising at an alarming rate and these costs include more than drugs and doctor visits. From diagnostic tests to hospitalizations to special home health equipment, there are many hidden costs to having a serious illness. In fact, a recent survey conducted by Russell Research on behalf of The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society found that 84 percent of adults are not sure how they would cover all medical costs if they were diagnosed with cancer. That’s why it’s important to ensure that you have the coverage you’ll need at an affordable cost.

Pay close attention to the numbers: As you evaluate your coverage options — whether through an employer, Medicare, spouse or your parents — it’s important to estimate your health care costs for the following year carefully. Understand what your deductible and co-pays will be and take stock of where coinsurance will be required; review your health bills from the previous year to guide your choice, but make sure you are covered for unexpected health issues as well.

If you purchase health insurance from the federal or state marketplace, the plans you are offered will depend on your location and income. It is very important to make sure your personal information is accurate and up-to-date on the federal website, HealthCare.gov, or on your state’s website. Depending on your income, you could qualify to save on your insurance through advance premium tax credits. In fact, 8 out of 10 people who purchase insurance through the marketplace are eligible for lower premiums. Open enrollment in the marketplace will run this year from Nov. 1 through Dec. 15.

If you or a family member had or has cancer, or are at risk for cancer, there is a checklist available at www.cancerinsurancechecklist.org that can help you choose the right plan when shopping on the health insurance marketplace. The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society also provides free information and resources about health insurance coverage for people living with cancer at www.lls.org.

Read more
Capture36-8126790101JPG-1676

Open talk about open enrollment


Play Video

var bptVideoPlayer = document.getElementById(“bptVideoPlayer”);
if (bptVideoPlayer) {
var cssText = “width: 100%;”;
cssText += ” background: url(‘” + bptVideoPlayer.getAttribute(“poster”) + “‘);”;
cssText += ” -webkit-background-size: cover;”;
cssText += ” -moz-background-size: cover;”;
cssText += ” -o-background-size: cover;”;
cssText += ” background-size: cover;”;
bptVideoPlayer.style.cssText = cssText;
bptVideoPlayer.setAttribute(“poster”, “http://www.brandpointcontent.com/printsite/images/spacer.gif”);
var bptVideoPlayerContainer = document.getElementById(“bptVideoPlayerContainer”);
if (bptVideoPlayerContainer) {
setTimeout(function () {
bptVideoPlayerContainer.style.cssText = “display: block; position: relative; margin-bottom: 10px;”;
var isIE = navigator.userAgent.match(/ MSIE(([0 – 9] +)(.[0 – 9] +) ?) /);
var isEdge = navigator.userAgent.indexOf(“Edge”) > -1 || navigator.userAgent.indexOf(“Trident”) > -1;
if (isIE || isEdge) {
fixVideoPoster();
}
}, 1000);
}
var bptVideoPlayButton = document.getElementById(“bptVideoPlayButton”);
if (bptVideoPlayButton) {
bptVideoPlayButton.addEventListener(“click”, function () {
bptVideoPlayer.play();
}, false);
bptVideoPlayer.addEventListener(“play”, function () {
bptVideoPlayButton.style.cssText = “display: none;”;
}, false);
}
var mainImage = document.getElementById(“mainImageImgContainer_sm”);
if (mainImage) {
mainImage.style.cssText = “display: none;”;
}
var mainImage = document.getElementById(“photo-noresize”);
if (mainImage) {
mainImage.style.cssText = “display: none;”;
}
var assetGallery = document.getElementsByClassName(“asset_gallery”)[0];
if (assetGallery) {
assetGallery.style.cssText = “display: none;”;
}
var assetGallery = document.getElementsByClassName(“trb_article_leadart”)[0];
if (assetGallery) {
assetGallery.style.cssText = “display: none;”;
}
var assetGallery = document.querySelectorAll(“[src=’http://images.brandpointcontent.s3.amazonaws.com/31640271_web.jpg’]”)[0]; if (assetGallery) {
assetGallery.style.cssText = “display: none;”;
}
}
function fixVideoPoster() {
var videoPlayer = document.getElementById(“bptVideoPlayer”);
var videoPoster = document.getElementById(“bptVideoPoster”);
fixVideoPosterPosition(videoPlayer, videoPoster, true);
window.onresize = function() {
fixVideoPosterPosition(videoPlayer, videoPoster);
};
videoPoster.onclick = function() {
videoPlayer.play();
videoPoster.style.display = “none”;
};
videoPlayer.onplay = function() {
videoPoster.style.display = “none”;
};
}
function fixVideoPosterPosition(videoPlayer, videoPoster, display) {
setTimeout(function () {
var videoPosition = videoPlayer.getBoundingClientRect();
videoPoster.style.position = “absolute”;
videoPoster.style.top = “0”;
videoPoster.style.left = “0”;
videoPoster.style.width = videoPlayer.offsetWidth + “px”;
videoPoster.style.height = (videoPlayer.offsetHeight + 20) + “px”;
if (display) {
videoPoster.style.display = “inline”;
}
}, 1010);
}

(BPT) – Where does open enrollment — the yearly act of enrolling in employer-provided insurance benefits — fall among other annual must-dos? And how do people feel about the process overall?

The third annual “Open Talk about Open Enrollment” poll took a pulse of the nation’s feelings about just that, with surprising results. Read on for the findings:

* Completing open enrollment beats attending a karaoke birthday party. Respondents were asked about a list of activities they would choose to never do again. In this case, most preferred the yearly ritual to activities such as karaoke birthday parties and watching the same cartoon over and over to appease a toddler.

Similarly, when asked to rank (in order of preference) a list of annual to-dos, including open enrollment, the majority said they’d much rather complete the annual ritual over budgeting for the holidays, spring cleaning and raking fall leaves.

* Many would spend 30 spare minutes completing open enrollment. When asked about their preferences on how they would prioritize 30 minutes during their day, the majority of respondents said that they’d spend that time completing open enrollment above all other options, including getting an oil change or a manicure, waiting in line at a coffee house and fitting in a cycling class.

* Age might actually matter. When asked about how they react when receiving open enrollment announcements, those over the age of 45 are more likely to download or set information aside to review with their spouse, compared to their younger counterparts. Ten percent of those under 45 are more likely to talk about benefit selections with their coworkers, compared to only 5 percent of those over age 45.

* Not all are aware of what vision insurance benefits are available when they retire. Just 21 percent of respondents are aware that their employer offers post-retirement vision insurance benefits. However, of those, 82 percent are likely to enroll. On the contrary, if an employer does not offer post-retirement vision insurance, nearly two-thirds either don’t plan or don’t yet know if they will obtain these benefits elsewhere, through VSP or otherwise.

As the only national not-for-profit vision care and coverage company, VSP strongly advocates access to eye care and eyewear for everyone. Vision insurance is typically one of the easiest, quickest and least expensive benefit options to review and select.

Your eye health and overall wellness are too important to dismiss, so check the vision care box. If you have the benefit option, take it. Learn more at www.SeeMuchMore.com.

Read more
shutterstock_497552077-4300

Tips for choosing the Medicare plan that’s right for you


Play Video

var bptVideoPlayer = document.getElementById(“bptVideoPlayer”);
if (bptVideoPlayer) {
var cssText = “width: 100%;”;
cssText += ” background: url(‘” + bptVideoPlayer.getAttribute(“poster”) + “‘);”;
cssText += ” -webkit-background-size: cover;”;
cssText += ” -moz-background-size: cover;”;
cssText += ” -o-background-size: cover;”;
cssText += ” background-size: cover;”;
bptVideoPlayer.style.cssText = cssText;
bptVideoPlayer.setAttribute(“poster”, “http://www.brandpointcontent.com/printsite/images/spacer.gif”);
var bptVideoPlayerContainer = document.getElementById(“bptVideoPlayerContainer”);
if (bptVideoPlayerContainer) {
setTimeout(function () {
bptVideoPlayerContainer.style.cssText = “display: block; position: relative; margin-bottom: 10px;”;
}, 1000);
}
var bptVideoPlayButton = document.getElementById(“bptVideoPlayButton”);
if (bptVideoPlayButton) {
bptVideoPlayButton.addEventListener(“click”, function () {
bptVideoPlayer.play();
}, false);
bptVideoPlayer.addEventListener(“play”, function () {
bptVideoPlayButton.style.cssText = “display: none;”;
}, false);
}
var mainImage = document.getElementById(“mainImageImgContainer_sm”);
if (mainImage) {
mainImage.style.cssText = “display: none;”;
}
var mainImage = document.getElementById(“photo-noresize”);
if (mainImage) {
mainImage.style.cssText = “display: none;”;
}
var assetGallery = document.getElementsByClassName(“asset_gallery”)[0];
if (assetGallery) {
assetGallery.style.cssText = “display: none;”;
}
var assetGallery = document.getElementsByClassName(“trb_article_leadart”)[0];
if (assetGallery) {
assetGallery.style.cssText = “display: none;”;
}
var assetGallery = document.querySelectorAll(“[src=’http://images.brandpointcontent.s3.amazonaws.com/31590948_web.jpg’]”)[0]; if (assetGallery) {
assetGallery.style.cssText = “display: none;”;
}
}

(BPT) – Fall and winter don’t just bring cooler temperatures and the holidays — the final seasons of the year also mean open enrollment for Medicare. For most seniors in the United States, the period between Oct. 15 and Dec. 7 is the only time they can switch or make changes to their Medicare insurance plan.

“As people age, their health care needs evolve,” says Dawn Maroney, chief growth and strategy officer for Alignment Healthcare. “When that happens, they may find the Medicare plan they first chose when they became eligible no longer meets all their needs. This open enrollment period is their yearly opportunity to re-evaluate whether to continue with their plan or switch to another, with changes becoming effective the first of the new year.”

Medicare basics

Most Americans are aware that Medicare is a government program designed to ensure people older than 65 have access to affordable health insurance. The program can also cover people younger than 65 who have certain disabilities.

The Medicare program has four parts, according to Medicare.gov: A, B, C and D.

* Medicare Part A helps pay for in-patient hospital stays, care in a skilled nursing facility and hospice care.

* Medicare Part B helps cover care by doctors or other health care providers, outpatient services, some medical equipment and some preventive services.

* Medicare Part C (also known as Medicare Advantage) covers everything included in parts A and B, and usually includes Medicare prescription drug coverage as part of the plan. Medicare Advantage plans may include extra benefits and services for an extra cost. Medicare-approved private insurance companies, such as Alignment Healthcare’s Alignment Health Plan, run Medicare Advantage plans.

* Medicare Part D helps cover the cost of prescription medications and is run by Medicare-approved private insurance companies.

Original Medicare versus Medicare Advantage

Most people think of Medicare parts A and B as Original Medicare, in which the government pays directly for the health care services received. People with Original Medicare can see any doctor and hospital that accepts Medicare in the country, without prior approval from Medicare or their primary care physician. Most people do not pay a monthly premium for Part A if they paid taxes while working; everyone pays a monthly premium for Part B, based on income. The standard premium for Part B in 2017 was $134 per month, which is deducted from the individual’s Social Security benefits.

Original Medicare pays for about 80 percent of the total costs of health care. The patient is responsible for the remaining 20 percent, which can mean high out-of-pocket costs in the event of a hospitalization or other events requiring significant medical attention. To offset the financial burden of that 20 percent, some people choose to purchase supplemental insurance, called Medigap.

Private insurance companies offer Medigap to cover things Medicare doesn’t, such as deductibles, co-pays and co-insurance — but, keep in mind, Medigap only supplements Original Medicare benefits. Further, if you do not apply for Medigap in the first six months of becoming eligible, there’s no guarantee that an insurance company will sell you a Medigap policy.

With Medicare Advantage, government-approved private companies administer health plans that cover everything Original Medicare does, but can do so with different rules, costs and restrictions that can change every year. For example, a private Medicare plan may require your physician to request permission before performing a procedure in order to be paid by the plan. Medicare Advantage plans, however, usually cover extras that Original Medicare does not, like dental care, vision services, hearing exams and gym memberships.

Most Medicare Advantage plans also include prescription drug coverage (Medicare Part D), which is not included in Original Medicare, at no additional cost. If you elect to enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan, you still have Medicare — this means that you must still pay your monthly premiums for parts A and B, in addition to a monthly premium for Part C, if applicable. Many Medicare Advantage plans are available for no additional monthly premium.

Considerations when choosing

When choosing between Original Medicare and Medicare Advantage, you should consider these questions:

* How likely is it your health needs will change down the road? Since health changes as you age, chances are your treatment needs will, too. If you don’t enroll in the additional insurance and drug coverage when you first sign up for Original Medicare, you may pay a monthly penalty for enrolling later and may not be eligible for additional Medigap coverage.

* Are you still working past age 65? If so, you will probably want to enroll in Part A, because there generally are no monthly premiums, and it may supplement your employer’s insurance plan. You might choose to delay enrolling in Part B, but it depends on your health coverage. Everyone has to pay a monthly premium for Part B.

* Is it more important to you to have lower or no premiums or lower out-of-pocket costs? With Original Medicare, you may pay more out of pocket without supplemental insurance and prescription drug coverage. Medicare Advantage includes supplemental insurance and sometimes prescription drug coverage, too.

* How important is it to keep your doctor? Original Medicare is accepted by any doctor or hospital that accepts Medicare, without referral. Medicare Advantage plans allow you to select a doctor from the plan network, which is usually very large; your current health care providers are likely to be in the network already.

* Do you regularly take prescription medication for chronic conditions? Prescription drug coverage is not included in Original Medicare, and if you fail to sign up for Part D at the time you enroll, you could pay a penalty for adding it later. Most Medicare Advantage plans do cover prescription drugs.

“Medicare Advantage allows patients to receive the care they need to stay well and keeps their budgets in check with set costs and annual maximums,” Maroney says. “It’s an ideal solution for patients who need frequent care or who struggle to meet medical expenses.”

To learn more about Medicare, visit www.Medicare.gov. For information about Alignment Healthcare and its affiliated Medicare Advantage plans, visit www.alignmenthealthcare.com.

Read more
Senior couple with digital tablet

Medicare Advantage: 20 years, 20 million people and 4 factors

(BPT) – In 1997, the federal government created the Medicare + Choice program — later renamed Medicare Advantage — to enhance consumer choice and more efficiently deliver Medicare benefits to older Americans.

You may have heard of Medicare Advantage, but maybe you don’t know exactly what it is, what it offers and how it can help you.

Today, Medicare Advantage serves almost 20 million people — a nearly 50 percent increase from even five years ago, according to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

Here are four important factors in why people choose Medicare Advantage:

1. Simplicity and convenience. Medicare Advantage plans combine all your Medicare coverage, including Original Medicare (Parts A and B), and often prescription drug coverage, into one plan so you only have one card to carry.

2. Predictable costs. Managing your health care costs can be especially important if you are living on a fixed budget. Many Medicare Advantage plans offer additional benefits for a $0 premium beyond the premium for Original Medicare and have set limits on what you have to pay out of pocket. Brian Thompson, CEO of UnitedHealthcare Medicare & Retirement, explains, “Original Medicare generally covers about 80 percent of a person’s costs for doctor visits and other outpatient care, leaving the individual responsible for the rest, with no limit to what that cost may be. Medicare Advantage, on the other hand, offers peace of mind and helps you plan your health care expenses by capping how much you may have to pay out of your own pocket in a given year.”

3. Care Coordination. Boston Consulting Group (BCG) analyzed 3 million Medicare claims and found that Medicare Advantage members have shorter hospital stays and fewer readmissions within 30 days of leaving. Medicare Advantage plan members are also more likely to receive preventive care to keep chronic illnesses in check, according to researchers.

A possible explanation for the favorable outcomes: care coordination. Thompson says, “The health care system is complex. With Medicare Advantage plans, doctors work as a comprehensive team, led by a primary care doctor, and together with the health plan, they help members receive the care they need. This can create more convenience and value for the member and ultimately lead to better health.”

4. Choice. Thompson also points out that “every day more than 10,000 baby boomers turn 65, and they expect to have choices.” Medicare Advantage plans come in a wide variety of options, so people can choose one that meets their unique health and budget needs. Many offer programs to support people with diabetes and other chronic conditions, and most offer additional benefits not covered by Original Medicare. Perks may include prescription drug, dental, vision and hearing coverage, home visits, 24/7 access to health care professionals and gym memberships.

If you want to learn more about Medicare and options available to you, visit MedicareMadeClear.com. You can also learn more about Medicare Advantage at UHCMedicarePlans.com.

Plans are insured through UnitedHealthcare Insurance Company or one of its affiliated companies, a Medicare Advantage organization with a Medicare contract. Enrollment in the plan depends on the plan’s contract renewal with Medicare.

Read more
31342451_wide.jpg

Turning 65? Choosing the right Medicare Part D plan starts with 4 simple rules

(BPT) – If you’re turning 65 in 2017 or 2018, you’re one of 10,000 people who become Medicare-eligible each day. Choosing Medicare prescription drug coverage can be confusing, especially for the first time. You may have questions about which plan fits your healthcare needs and budget or how to enroll. The good news is, it doesn’t have to be overwhelming if you know these four rules.

Rule #1: Lower premium plans may mean higher costs. Plans with a lower premium may end up costing more in the long run if they have higher drug copays, which can really add up.

Rule #2: Not every plan covers every drug. Drug lists (formularies) can change every year and so can the drugs you take. Be sure to check your plan’s formulary each year to make sure any medications you take are covered.

Rule #3: Check that there are pharmacies close to you. That way, it’s easier to fill your prescriptions. Select a plan with a wide range of “preferred” pharmacies, which typically offer lower co-pays than standard pharmacies in the network. Also, see if using a home delivery pharmacy or a 90-day supply could lower your costs even more.

Rule #4: Look for 24/7 access to pharmacists and Medicare experts who can answer questions about your medicines and offer drug safety tips, money-saving alternatives and expertise in drugs to treat specific conditions.

Also, remember to check the Medicare Part D plan’s Star Rating. This is the overall quality and performance rating (out of 5 stars) based on member satisfaction surveys and other measures by The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS).

For more information, please visit www.Medicare.gov or www.RoadmapForMedicare.com. To talk to an Express Scripts Medicare adviser, call 1.866.544.3794, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., 7 days a week (TTY users: 1.800.716.3231).

Read more
1 2