Tag Archives: medicare

Surviving the Sandwich Generation

Vantage Point: The Importance of Support While in the Sandwich Generation

My husband and I are starting to talk about future property purchases, which has led to many conversations about what we would want in a house or property. I want land. He wants something that he doesn’t have to fix up. Our conversations have swung from a giant, ridiculous wish list to then coming back to reality about what’s on that wish list.

One theme that I’ve been consistent with in all of our talks is that I want a place to take care of my parents when they get older in the future. This is so true for my mother, as her family has often lived into their 90s.

This notion of caring for them on my property has been solidified even further with how unsure Medicare is, how expensive the healthcare system is, and the fact that I want them to have the best care while staying close to family. I figure I can achieve this by buying a property that’s big enough to parcel out a place for my parents.

I haven’t really thought of all the logistics, but the plan is stuck in my mind, and it’s framing what kind of property and home I want. This type of thinking has also led to conversations with my father about what he thinks they would like and need, if and when the time comes for them to sell their home and live with us.

When this happens, if not a little before, I’ll officially be smack dab in the classification of the sandwich generation, the people who are responsible for not only caring for their own kids, but also for their aging parents. According to the CDC, as of 2008, there were 34 million unpaid family caregivers in the United States. I’m sure that figure is much higher now.

I saw my mother do this with her mother, so I’m not afraid of the season when it comes; I just want to be prepared. Being prepared means thinking now about what will make life easier for all of us in the future.

It’s also about knowing and looking out for the pitfalls. I’ve heard from many others that this season of life can be so rewarding while you’re in it, but it can also be very taxing, so it’s important to be extra vigilant in taking care of yourself. In order to keep loving others, we have to keep loving ourselves.

This means that sometimes you need a break! This break could be a spa day, a long walk, a furious cardio kickboxing session, or just talking to others who are in similar situations. It takes a village, right?!

I’ve compiled a list of some support groups for those who are in this situation. Some support groups are local, and some are virtual, but they are all there as resources for support. And if you want something more local that fits what you’re going through, you can always start your own support group. There are tons of advice and tips online on how to make a new group successful. I think the best advice I saw when researching this article was to keep it simple and to feel accomplished even if only 1 or 2 people show up.

Local Support Groups

Memorial Hospital’s support groups

Alzheimer’s Association Caregiver Support Groups

Granger – For Spanish-Speaking Caregivers – Starting Soon
Estela Ochoa
Call 206-529-3877 before attending for location, time, and further details.

Yakima – For Caregivers
Location: St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church
4105 Richey Rd.
Yakima, WA 98908
Meeting Time: 2nd Thursday of the month, 1 to 2:30 p.m.
Contact Elaine Krump at 509-969-3615 before attending.

Yakima – For Spanish-Speaking Families
Call Manuel at 509-833-3334 before attending for location, time, and further details.

Online Support Groups

Caring.com has a broad list of caregiving groups for you to choose from. Access to these groups requires a free member account.

AgingCare.com has some groups for you to choose from, and you don’t have to become a member to access these groups.

Caregiving.com has online caregiving support groups, daily caregiving chats, and blogs written by family caregivers.

 

Breck Obermeyer is a community liaison with Health Alliance Northwest, serving Yakima County. She is a homegrown girl from Naches and has a great husband who can fix anything and 2 kids who are her world. When not attending community events or providing Medicare education throughout the Valley, she can be found indulging in her hobbies of homesteading, pioneer cooking, and learning new survival techniques. She also has a strong love for all things Halloween.

Getting Older with Grace

Long View: How Do You Know You’re Getting Older?

When I started working in the Medicare department, I was ignorant about Medicare and insurance of any kind. It seemed like a growth industry, and I was blessed with 7 family members over the age of 75.

15 year later, I have a much more personal interest in the subject. This aging thing is not as easy as I thought it would be. Things change.

I’ve made progress in the meantime. I used to think being online and connected was not that necessary. Now I couldn’t live without it.

Please note, the perception that older people don’t like to use technology is false. According to Nielsen research published in 2009, 89% of people 65+ have personal email and use it regularly. And as of 2015, Pew Research Center reports 59% of those over 65 go online, and 35% of everyone over 65 uses social media, approximately 16 million people.

I used to take extra time getting ready for a big event. When I was done, I would look in the mirror and say, ”You look good.” Now, when I go through all the same steps, I look in in the mirror and say, “You look clean.”

When did I stop hearing, “You look great,” and start hearing, “You look great for your age”? Probably around the same time folks went from saying, “I like your new glasses,” to “Your new glasses take 5 years off your face.” Ugh.

I’ve learned not to ask anyone how old they are unless they are under the age of 12. Even then, I would think twice about it. If anyone forces you to guess how old they are, make a fair guess, and then subtract 15 years. No one ever complains.

From 2014 to 2060, the older population, people age 65 and older, in the United States will more than double from 46 million to over 98 million. More surprising, the oldest of the older population, people over age 85, are the fastest growing segment, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Aging is tough. Often we have to forgo many of the activities of our youth such as:

  • Driving a car
  • Living independently
  • Eating anything you want
  • Staying up all night
  • Getting a haircut
  • Worrying about the small stuff (Oh wait, that’s a good thing.)

Personally, as I navigate this process of maturing, I try to remember we are all getting older. It’s not always an easy process, so I hope my friends and family help me do it with grace and dignity.

Patrick Harness is a community liaison with a long history of experience in health insurance. If you ask him to pick a color, he always chooses orange, and he is known for his inability to parallel park.

Making a Difference on Every Call

Vantage Point: Making a Difference

As our Annual Enrollment Period (AEP) came to an end, I sat back and thought of all of the work our team had done. Each year, prospective members call in to get information to determine if Health Alliance is the right fit for their needs.

Of course we go over the basics, like monthly premiums, copays, and out-of-pocket maximums, but that is all very black and white, and not every situation is the same or so simple.

At Health Alliance, the expectation is to go the extra mile for our members and prospects. Our potential members rely on our expertise to guide them in the right direction.

This past AEP, I had someone call in asking if our plan covers a certain medication that’s given at the doctor’s office. My immediate response to the caller was, “I don’t know, but let me research that for you.”

I wanted to make sure they were making the right choice by switching to our plan. After doing some research and calling our pharmacy department, I called them back and shared the details I’d gathered.

Later, I got the chance to meet the potential member to go over our plans in person. They could not thank me enough for gathering the information and told me my phone call back was a nice surprise. We gained credibility and their trust by taking the extra step to respond to their particular situation.

I was actually surprised because I didn’t feel like I had done that much, but after thinking about it for a while, I realized it really is the little things that count the most to our members. This is a perfect example of why our role as liaisons is so important for our community and what sets Health Alliance apart.

As liaisons, we go out of our way to give our members the most accurate information we can and to take away the pressure of those difficult and complex questions. Our job is to simplify and educate. We’re making a difference every day, no matter how big or small.

Jessica Arroyo, born and raised in Wenatchee Valley, is a Medicare community liaison for Health Alliance, serving Chelan, Douglas, Grant, and Okanogan counties in Washington. During her time off, she enjoys spending time with her husband and infant son.

HappyHappy, Healthy, Medicare New Year!

Long View & Vantage Point: Steps to a Happy Medicare New Year

Winter preparations are all done, and winter festivals and end-of-the-year holiday celebrations have ended. Just when you think you can sit back and relax, there is still one last item you may need to consider.

If you made any changes to your Medicare plan during the Annual Enrollment Period, here are some actions you can take to help you have a happy Medicare New Year:

  1. Make sure you’ve received your new plan’s member ID card.

If you joined a Medicare prescription drug plan (PDP) that works with Original Medicare, you’ll get a separate card to use when you fill your prescriptions, but you’ll still use your Medicare card for hospital and doctor services.

If you joined a Medicare Advantage plan, like a Health Alliance plan, you’ll get a new card to use when filling your prescriptions and for hospital and doctor visits.

If you need medical care or need to fill a prescription before you receive your ID card and your new coverage has already started, you may be able to use other documents as proof of coverage, like the welcome letter you got from the plan, or even your enrollment confirmation number and the plan’s name and phone number.

  1. Show your new member ID card to your doctor’s office and pharmacist on your first visit of the new year.

If you have stayed with the same insurance company, be sure to replace last year’s card with your new card. If you changed companies, be sure you’re always using your new card.

  1. If you chose to have your plan premium withheld from your Social Security check, don’t be alarmed if you don’t see it deducted right away. It can take up to 3 months from when you made this request to start seeing it withheld from your Social Security payment.
  1. Remember that your deductibles start over at the beginning of the year, so normal copayments won’t start until all applicable deductibles have been met for the year.
  1. Take advantage of your annual wellness visit. This free preventive benefit is designed to help you take charge of your health, learn about preventive services you might need in the future, and establish a baseline for personalized care.
  1. Take advantage of any gym membership benefits from your plan. Many plans offer gym memberships or access to fitness activities, at no cost to you. Our Be Fit benefit helps pay you back for your gym membership or fitness classes, so you can get fit at the gym of your choice.

Wishing you all a happy and healthy 2017!

Sherry Gordon-Harris is a community liaison at Health Alliance. She is a wife and mother of 2 boys and enjoys traveling, collecting dolls, and hosting princess parties and princess pageants.

Breck Obermeyer is a community liaison with Health Alliance, serving Yakima County. She is a homegrown girl from Naches and has a great husband who can fix anything and 2 kids who are her world. When not attending community events or providing Medicare education throughout the Valley, she can be found indulging in her hobbies of homesteading, pioneer cooking, and learning new survival techniques. She also has a strong love for all things Halloween.

National Hospice and Palliative Care Month

National Hospice and Palliative Care Month

November is National Hospice and Palliative Care Month. Palliative care is specialized medical care for people with serious illnesses.

National Hospice & Palliative Care Month

 

Hospice care is special care for people who are terminally ill. It includes medical and physical care and help with social, emotional, and spiritual needs.

Hospice and palliative care empower people to live as fully as possible, surrounded and supported by family and loved ones, despite serious illnesses.

Know Your Options

 

Each year, more than 1.65 million Americans living with serious illnesses get care from the nation’s hospice programs.

 

Each year, hospice saves Medicare more than $2 billion through care and comfort for patients and families.

Protecting Yourself for the Future

 

Hospice care provides support for family and caregivers and can help take some of the stress of care off of them.

Preparing for the Future

 

It’s important to know about your options and prepare to share your wishes before a healthcare crisis with advance care planning.

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AEP Medicare Shopping

Vantage Point: Let’s Shop

I’d seen all the cell phone carrier TV ads and billboards. I’d received offers to change in the mail and had friends and family share better coverage experiences, but I was stubborn. I convinced myself I was just being loyal, but the truth was, after 20 years with the same carrier, I was resisting change.

Entering the ultra-busy cell carrier’s store, I was approached right away by a super professional greeter. “How may I help you?” he asked, keeping eye contact while also using a hand-held tablet to address my needs.

As I waited for a sales agent, the greeter invited me to look around and told me I would be helped shortly. Not even 2 minutes later, while browsing phone choices and tapping along to the upbeat music, Marco introduced himself with an outstretched hand. I told him I had moved to a remote canyon, where my old cell carrier didn’t have good enough service. He offered me a solution and set my new plan up, right on the spot.

My new carrier’s bills are easy to read, and the website to manage my account is so user-friendly that I can now better understand my usage. Because of that, I’ve changed my plan 3 more times, saving me tons of money. Best yet, I never miss a call. I am now a big fan of comparison shopping.

October 15 to December 7 is the Annual Enrollment Period (AEP), when Medicare beneficiaries also get a seasonal opportunity to comparison shop. During the AEP, Medicare-eligible people can change from supplement plans, also called Medigap, to a Medicare Advantage plan, can change prescription drug plans, and can compare all the Medicare plans available in their county. They can and should check their current plan to see if anything new was added or, if due to health changes, it’s still the right fit.

Medicare beneficiaries get bombarded with ads. Some of it’s confusing, and some of it’s scary. Insurance is a very serious and important choice. We can’t compare all plans against each other, but at our customer service office at 316 5th St. in Wenatchee, we can sit down with someone in person and give them all the time and help they need to better understand. Whether they choose us or not, it’s a good feeling to know the personalized value we gave helped them to pick the right Medicare plan to fit their health needs.

Shannon Sims was a Medicare community liaison for Health Alliance, serving Chelan, Douglas, Grant, and Okanogan counties in Washington. During her time off she enjoys spending time with her family and riding horses.

October, and Its Chores, Return

Long View: It’s That Time Again

There are a lot of reminders for folks to check their smoke detector batteries when daylight saving time is over. It does make sense to tie that chore to something that occurs on a regular basis. (Why not Valentine’s Day?) But, I almost always forget to do it.

It seems there are always other, more pressing things on the to-do list, like finishing up in the yard, switching out those summer clothes, or putting up the storm windows, if you’re unlucky enough to still have storm windows.

Just like these yearly chores, Medicare-eligible people need to review their healthcare coverage every year to see if their current plan still meets their needs. The days of one-size fits all are over thanks to the options-obsessed baby boomers. (I am including myself, so you know.)

If you’re a caregiver, a change in your loved one’s situation may show the need for different coverage. Have they started traveling more or less? Did their medication needs change because of things like new prescriptions or treatments for a chronic illness? Did their primary care provider retire or move? Did their current plan change? Does it still meet their needs? It’s time to explore your options.

We know you’re busy, so let’s look at a few resources:

Medicare.gov

A great one is Medicare’s website. This site is relatively easy to navigate and packed with information. You can check your plan’s Star Rating while you’re at it.

Department on Aging

Another good resource is your state’s Department on Aging. They have independent counseling services for people who are Medicare-eligible.

Area Agency on Aging

Your local Area Agency on Aging is a gold mine. Find one near you.

HealthAllianceMedicare.org

Our website is easy to navigate and gives you a nice overview of the options we have in your county.

The Annual Enrollment Period for Medicare is once again from October 15 until December 7. Sign up then for a plan that starts on January 1, 2017. The sooner you review your needs and gather information, the better you’ll be able to make an informed choice. When you’re done, you can move onto something really important, like cleaning out the junk drawer in the kitchen. Like that’s ever going to happen.

Patrick Harness is a community liaison with a long history of experience in health insurance. If you ask him to pick a color, he always chooses orange, and he is known for his inability to parallel park.