Tag Archives: doctor’s office

Happy Medicare New Year

Steps to a Happy “Medicare” New Year

Winter preparations are done. Winter festivals have ended, and end-of-year holiday celebrations are over. 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 Medicare changes during the past Annual Enrollment Period (October 15 to December 7), there are some actions you can take that may help you have a happy Medicare new year.

If you enrolled in a new plan or your plan had changes during the Annual Enrollment Period, you should make sure you’ve received your new member ID card. This card contains the newest info for your 2019 care. Be sure to show your new ID card to the doctor’s office and pharmacist on your first visit of the new year so that they have your newest information on file. It’s also worth mentioning that with the new cards for the new year can come new deductibles (depending on the plan you choose), which start over at the beginning of the year.

If you decided to stay with Original Medicare, you’ll still use your Medicare card for hospital and doctor services. If you have not received the new Medicare card that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services began issuing in April 2018, be on the lookout because they are all scheduled to be mailed by April 2019.

If you joined a Medicare prescription drug plan that works with Original Medicare, then the plan will mail you a card so you can fill your prescriptions. If you joined a Medicare Advantage plan (like an HMO, PPO, or POS), you’ll also get a new card to use for both healthcare visits (doctor and hospital) and for picking up your prescriptions.

If you need medical care or need to fill a prescription before you receive the ID card but after the effective coverage date, you may be able to use other proof of plan membership. Some examples are the welcome letter you got from the plan or even your enrollment confirmation number and the plan name and phone number.

If you elected 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 may take up to 3 months from the time you made the premium withhold request before you start seeing your premium withheld from your Social Security payment.

The 2019 year is a great time to take advantage of your one-time “Welcome to Medicare” or annual wellness visit your plan offers to you. This benefit is usually no cost to you! It is designed as a preventive measure to help you take charge of your health, be advised of future needed preventive services, and establish a baseline for personalized care. And speaking of preventive measures, many Medicare Advantage plans come with a fitness benefit or provide access to physical fitness activities at no cost to you.

I wish you all a happy and healthy 2019!

Morgan Gunder is a community and broker liaison for Reid Health Alliance. Born in the South and raised in the Midwest, she is a wife and mother with a passion for traveling, learning, and technology.

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.

Good Health at Any Age

Vantage Point: May Good Health Bless You this Holiday Season

Some of us were lucky to be born with good health, but keeping that health is a challenge, especially as we age. My coworkers recently invited me to do a “Maintain, Don’t Gain” holiday challenge. At first I thought I didn’t want to limit myself during the holidays—when good food, drinks, and sweets are everywhere—but as the days got shorter and I started making excuses to skip my workouts (too dark, too cold, too tired, etc.), the scale and my health started moving in the wrong direction.

Health Alliance Medicare is more than a health plan that covers our members when they get hurt or sick. It offers programs to manage chronic diseases and wellness benefits to help our members stay healthy all winter long—no matter how cold and dark the days get.

One of our most popular benefits is the SilverSneakers® fitness program that gives members free gym access at participating gyms or sends workout equipment right to their home. I have watched a SilverSneakers class at the Wenatchee YMCA. The participants there not only get a great workout that improves strength, balance, and flexibility, but they also have fun, laugh, smile, and socialize.

Health Alliance Medicare works to prevent illness, too. We offer our members flu and other vaccines. At the Ephrata Community Resource Forum, Jeff Ketchel, administrator of Grant County Public Health, highlighted the importance of the flu shot now that flu season is here. The flu shot is key to keeping you and your loved ones healthy through the holidays and beyond. Members can get the flu vaccine at in-network providers or pharmacies.*

Recently, one of our employees was sitting next to a gentleman making small talk, and he learned she worked for Health Alliance. He took her by the arm and said, “Thank you, we absolutely love your plan.”

In that same spirit, I thank all of you for allowing Health Alliance to partner with you to improve the health of the communities we serve, and I wish you and your families a healthy and happy holiday season.

*If a member gets the flu vaccine at a doctor’s office, an office visit copay may apply.

Essential Health Benefits: Get More for Your Money

Upgrading to the Meal

That glorious moment when the server at a restaurant clarifies that your meal comes with a drink … not for an extra cost, but with. Wow, what a moment. As of January 1, 2014, your health insurance plan comes with Essential Health Benefits.

If you’ve been a Health Alliance member before, we’ve covered many of these benefits for years, so you won’t see or feel much change. But if you’re new to us, welcome and enjoy!

Essential Health Benefits stretch across 10 categories. By law, no matter your age, gender, or medical history, you’re covered in these 10 areas.

Essential Health Benefits

Details

Ambulatory Patient Services Care you get at a doctor’s office, clinic, or outpatient surgery center, including home health services and hospice care.
Emergency Services Care provided in an emergency situation where you believe your health is in serious danger, like chest pain, a broken bone, or unconsciousness.
Hospitalization Care from doctors, nurses, and hospital staff, room and board, surgeries, and transplants you receive during your hospital stay, or care in a skilled nursing facility.
Laboratory Services Testing to help a doctor diagnose an injury, illness, or condition, or monitor how well a treatment is working.
Maternity and Newborn Care Prenatal care through newborn care.
Mental Health Services and Addiction Treatment Inpatient and outpatient care to treat a mental health condition or substance abuse.
Rehab Services and Devices Services and devices to help you regain mental and physical skills lost because of injury, disability, or a chronic condition.
Pediatric Services Wellness visits and recommended vaccines and immunizations for infants and children, as well as dental and vision care for children under 19 years old.
Prescription Drugs Antibiotics and medicines to treat an ongoing condition, like high cholesterol.
Preventive and Wellness Services and Chronic Disease Treatment Physicals, immunizations, preventive screenings, and care for chronic conditions, like asthma and diabetes.

*Some services do have limits.

Getting Your Blood Pressure Readings

You and Your Blood Pressure Readings

Choosing an At-Home Monitor

One of the best things you can do to manage high blood pressure is to track it regularly. A home monitor will help you keep track of blood pressure readings between visits to the doctor.

There are many different types of at-home blood pressure monitors, and there are always the booth ones at local pharmacies. While the style may be different, monitors come with the same basic parts. They have:

  • An inflatable cuff or strap
  • A gauge for readouts
  • And some use and come with a stethoscope

Things to keep in mind for good blood pressure readings:

  • It is important to get one with a cuff that fits your arm, because a cuff that is too small will give a high reading no matter what.
  • Your doctor can help you find the best option for you and teach you how to use it correctly.
  • If you already have an at-home monitor, bring it with you to the doctor’s office so they can check its accuracy.

Getting Good Blood Pressure Readings at Home

These tips from the Mayo Clinic can help you get good blood pressure readings at home:

  • Measure your blood pressure twice a day.
  • Don’t take a reading immediately after waking up.
  • Avoid food, caffeine, and tobacco for at least 30 minutes before taking a reading.
  • Sit quietly for a few minutes before measuring.
  • Make sure you are seated with both feet on the floor, with your back supported.
  • Support your arm on an arm rest or table top on an even level with your heart.
  • Don’t talk while taking your blood pressure.

Getting Good Blood Pressure Readings at the Doctor’s Office

According to findings from the University of Virginia Health System, how you’re positioned while taking a blood pressure reading can change your reading by up to 15%. Make sure your blood pressure readings are as correct as possible:

Take a breather.

We’ve all been there. You’re running late for your doctor’s appointment, so you’re rushing into the building at the last second. If you’re called back right away, ask the nurse to wait a few minutes to take your blood pressure so your heart rate has time to return to its normal level.

Assume the position.

Just like at home, make sure you’re sitting in a chair with your back supported with both feet flat on the floor. Support your extended arm at heart level.

One size does not fit all.

Let your nurse know if the blood pressure cuff feels too tight or loose. Just like with your at-home monitor, too tight can give you a falsely high reading.

Compare blood pressure readings.

Check to see how a reading at the doctor’s matches your at-home readings.