Tag Archives: Health Alliance Medicare

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.

 

Honoring Our Veterans

Long View: Remember Veterans this Independence Day

Independence Day is almost a month away, but I am already looking forward to it because—you guessed it—the food. Barbecued chicken and ribs, potato salad, and deviled eggs, all in the same meal? It’s almost too good to be true. However, the holiday also moves me beyond just my stomach.

To mark the day, I hang the American flag on the front porch if it’s not raining. This simple act always reminds me of the many service members who have helped defend our nation. Being in the military must be a very challenging experience, so I am thankful there are resources available to military personnel after they serve. One such resource is the U.S. Department of Veterans’ Affairs.

Local veteran service officers can help veterans navigate the many useful programs offered in their area. The resources they offer include help finding employment, starting or continuing an education ,or launching a small business. The U.S. Department of Veterans’ Affairs also helps people who are transitioning from active duty to civilian life, which can be a complicated process.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs website features an easy-to-navigate section on health topics. Some are of general interest (like cataracts), while others are topics of specific interest to service members (like readjustment counseling). One of the department’s more pressing challenges is to provide support for homeless veterans or recently discharged service members. The National Coalition for Homeless Veterans estimates that about 12% of homeless people at any given time in the U.S. are veterans.

One local group that’s fighting homelessness is C-U at Home. Executive Director Melany Jackson and her dedicated volunteers support our most vulnerable homeless citizens. Their annual fundraiser, One Winter Night, encourages public service figures, community leaders, business leaders, academic leaders, and other community members to spend the night outside in a cardboard box.

“The percentage of homeless veterans has not diminished in recent years,” Melany told me. “They typically face complex situations that need to be addressed. We strive to match them with the many services available in our area. The public awareness and donations generated by our event helps us fund this very important work.”

I know many of you have served in the military or have friends and family who have served. Health Alliance Medicare thanks all those who have protected this country and allow us to continue celebrating Independence Day. This year I plan on being more about the flag and less about the food.

Community Care

Vantage Point: North Central Washington Cares

At a North Central Washington event I heard someone say, “Show me a community, a place where people care for their elders, and I will show you a good place to live.” Whether I am going to a senior networking forum in Chelan, Douglas, Grant, or Okanogan counties, conducting Medicare education, visiting one of our provider offices or collaborating on a fun event, I find NCW continues to grow as a place that recognizes, respects, and strives to enhance the quality of life for our seniors.

I recently had an opportunity to listen as Bruce Buckles, Aging and Adult Care of Central Washington’s executive director, presented on federal and state policies that impact seniors and adults with disabilities. Afterwards, I realized that with a rapidly aging population, as well as the daunting costs of diseases, such as Alzheimer’s, it is more important than ever to support programs that care for and benefit the aging.

We can’t always control what happens with laws, but on the local level, it’s a privilege for Health Alliance Medicare to partner with lots of outstanding, proactive agencies in caring for our seniors.

This month, Health Alliance Medicare is honored to join many other Grant County senior networking agencies to hold the inaugural Columbia Basin All-Senior Expo and Picnic. The free event will include a catered lunch, fitness demonstrations, raffles, door prizes, education, and fun entertainment all to celebrate Grant County seniors.

I have a favorite saying, “Regard the small as important and make much of little,” so I was excited when I saw a toddler, just starting out in life, looking up at a stage taller than herself and mirroring the steps of seniors at a Stay Active and Independent for Life geriatric fall prevention class during a recent health fair.

May we always look up to our elders, recognize and respect what they have to teach us and remember we are also aging and have the power today to help strengthen our communities by making sure we have adequate resources, programs, and health care. If we can do that, there is no doubt NCW will continue to thrive as a good place to live and age.

Checking Expiration Dates

Long View: Food Safety – What’s in a Date?

I was hunting for some cookies at my mom’s house, and I noticed a bottle of Tabasco® sauce in the back corner of the pantry. I wondered why she had a new bottle of something she rarely uses, and she told me she just keeps it around and had moved it from her house on Church Street.

“Gee, Mom, that was 12 years ago,” I said, and it got me thinking about expiration dates and what they mean.

I hope during this holiday season and all year long, Health Alliance Medicare members and non-members alike, pay attention to this wise advice from the experts. The U.S. Department of Agriculture defines the most common terms this way.

• A “sell-by” date tells the store how long to display the product for sale. You should buy the product before this date.
• A “best if used by (or before)” date is recommended for best flavor or quality. It is not a purchase or safety date.
• A “use-by” date is the last date recommended for the use of the product while at peak quality. The maker of the product determines this date.
• “Closed or coded dates” are packing numbers for use by the manufacturer.

Who knew?

Another good food safety resource is your local University of Illinois Extension office. Jenna Smith is the nutrition and wellness educator for Livingston, McLean and Woodford counties. She has a safety-first approach.

“Dates on food packaging can be very confusing,” Smith says. “But in general, most dates refer to best quality, not to food safety. When in doubt, throw it out. If the food develops an off odor, flavor or appearance, do not use it.”

As a former holder of a Food Service and Sanitation Certificate, I tend to take a very conservative approach when it comes to food safety. I especially remember some videos on the proper methods for handling raw chicken and the consequences of not maintaining the proper temperature. I didn’t eat poultry for two years.

Paying attention to safe food practices and being well informed are the best ways to be safe. I think my mom’s Tabasco sauce has transformed from a condiment to a treasured family heirloom along the way. I am OK with it for now, as long as I’m not eating it.

Happy Holidays from all of us at Health Alliance!

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.

Shopping Bags

Don’t Forget Your Insurance!

We know you’re all busy with the holidays and getting ready to shop, but don’t forget to splurge a little on yourself! As you gear up for Black Friday shopping, remember to shop for your Medicare plan before time runs out on December 7.

Health Alliance Medicare Advantage plans can give you a lot of options and great benefits like the SilverSneakers® fitness program, help with health services while traveling through Assist America, $0 Tier 1 drugs at Walmart and Sam’s, and our Anytime Nurse Line.

And join us at Marketplace Mall on Black Friday to get a free shopping bag and learn more about plans.

Don’t miss out on a great deal this shopping season with Health Alliance Medicare!

Call 1-888-382-9771 (TTY 711) from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. weekdays. Or visit HealthAllianceMedicare.org for more info.

Health Alliance Medicare is an HMO, PPO, and PDP plan with a Medicare contract. Enrollment depends on contract renewal. You must continue to pay your Part B premium. Low-cost prescriptions are available at other in-network pharmacies. The benefit information here is just a brief summary, not a complete description of benefits. Limitations, copayments, and restrictions may apply. Benefits, formulary, pharmacy network, premium, and/or copayments/coinsurance may change on January 1 of each year.

Active with Medicare Advantage Extras

Everyone Loves Extras

We’ve been mentioning Health Alliance Medicare Advantage’s great extras for weeks, today we’re telling you all about them!

Healthways SilverSneakers® Fitness Program

SilverSneakers helps you get fit the way you want, at your convenience. Reach your fitness goals with access to more than 11,000 fitness locations, where you can:

  • Use all basic amenities, plus take SilverSneakers classes*
  • Get guidance and assistance from a Program AdvisorSM
  • Enjoy fun social activities

You can also choose 1 of 4 fitness kits. They help you maintain good health, and gain balance and muscle strength, without leaving your home.

SilverSneakers also gives members a secure online community with access to:

  • Easy-to-use nutrition, fitness, and health tracking tools
  • Fun exercise videos and demonstrations
  • Expert advice on exercise, nutrition, and life skills

Assist America

No matter where you are in the world, Assist America connects you to the help you need. They link you to quality emergency medical care while traveling. These are just a few of the great features our members get:

  • Medical referrals
  • Emergency medical evacuation
  • Medical repatriation
  • Prescription assistance
  • Compassionate visit
  • Return of mortal remains
  • Lost luggage assistance
  • Interpreter and legal referrals

$0 Tier 1 Drugs at Walmart and Sam’s Club

Sound too good to be true? It’s not. Members with prescription drug coverage get Tier 1 prescription drugs at Walmart and Sam’s Club for $0. Tier 1 drugs feature the most-used drugs on our formulary.

You pay low copayments when you go to other in-network pharmacies.

Be Well

We take care of you, when you’re healthy and when you’re sick.

When you’re healthy, we help connect you to:

  • Yearly physicals
  • Routine screenings, like mammograms or colonoscopies
  • Yearly dental cleanings
  • Timely immunizations
  • Member magazines that share health info and plan details
  • Quit For Life stop-smoking program

When you’re sick, we help connect you to:

  • Case Management to help explain your diagnosis and test results, assist with home care, and discuss treatment options
  • Disease Management Programs
  • Anytime Nurse Line

Call 1-888-382-9771 (TTY 711) from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. weekdays. Or visit HealthAllianceMedicare.org for more info.

Health Alliance Medicare is an HMO, PPO, and PDP plan with a Medicare contract. Enrollment depends on contract renewal. You must continue to pay your Part B premium. Low-cost prescriptions are available at other in-network pharmacies. The benefit information here is just a brief summary, not a complete description of benefits. Limitations, copayments, and restrictions may apply. Benefits, formulary, pharmacy network, premium, and/or copayments/coinsurance may change on January 1 of each year.