New Rules and Options for Medicare

Supplement Policy Holders

Idaho’s laws and rules for Medicare Supplement policies have changed. The Idaho Legislature approved legislation to provide additional options and consumer protections for Idaho seniors. The Idaho Department of Insurance published a temporary rule on November 3, 2021, related to Medicare Supplement policies in accordance with Senate Bill 1143, signed by Governor Little on April 22, 2021. The temporary rule is the result of negotiated rule making.

The Department of Insurance is providing information, FAQs, and details on an upcoming webinar for the public and industry about the changes on its website: doi.idaho.gov.

The rule, IDAPA 18.04.10, includes two major changes effective after February 28, 2022.

  1. Medicare Supplement policyholders may change their insurance company and/or plan annually regardless of health conditions during a 63-day enrollment period beginning on the policyholder’s birthday.
  2. Premium rates for new Medicare Supplement policies (including when changing insurance companies) will no longer be based on the age of the applicant. This is referred to as “community rating.”

The rule also prohibits charging application fees or higher premium rates based on the method of payment, and other unfair trade practices. 

It is important to know that current Medicare Supplement plans are guaranteed renewable, and current policies will continue unless a change is requested by the policyholder. These rule changes provide flexibility to current Medicare Supplement policyholders who wish to change their policy, but no change is required. After February 28.2022, existing Medicare Supplement policyholders may choose to shop for comparable community-rated coverage starting the day of their birthday. 

“These changes will give Idaho consumers more options for plans that best fit their changing medical needs,” said Director Dean Cameron. “I strongly encourage consumers to seek guidance from our *SHIBA representatives.” 

Idahoans with questions may call toll free (800)247.4422 to speak with a state SHIBA representative, orlocally at 208.847.0949.

*SHIBA is the acronym for State Health Insurance Benefits Advisors.

12 Resolutions for Seniors

12 New Year’s Resolutions for Seniors
Each new year is a gift.  It’s a time to take stock of our lives and decide what we’d like to change. Changes can be large or small. Here are 12 practical resolutions for seniors that will help bring peace of mind. 

1.Review your legal documents. Getting your legal documents in order is really more for your loved ones than yourself, but it can bring peace of mind. Make sure documents are current, legal, and reflective of your desires. 


2.Get up to date on your vaccinations. It’s easy to put these things off, but they are important, especially important for seniors.  Flu, pneumonia, shingles, and Covid are all important. 
3. Inventory Medications. Ask your pharmacist to give you a list of all the medications you take and send a copy to a friend or family member and keep a copy on your cell phone.  


4.Try something new. This year, try something that takes you out of your comfort zone. Make a new friend, learn a new game, or learn a new skill. Adventure does not have to be physical, but it can be adventurous if it’s something new.  

5.Challenge yourself. Mental and physical challenges motivate us to do more. Mental challenges like Sudoku, quizzes, or crossword or jigsaw puzzles improve mental strength and memory. Physical challenges enable you to gradually improve balance, strength, and flexibility.  

6.De-clutter. Most of us hang on to too much stuff.  Holding on to some things reminds you of happier times and great experiences, but there’s likely a lot of stuff you don’t need and that your children probably don’t want. Start slowly to de-clutter and organize.   

7.Understand your fall risk. Falls are the leading cause of injury for Americans over 65. Talk to your doctor about how to minimize your risk of falling. 

8.Forgive people. Grudges, slights, and old scores weigh us down. Enough said. 

9.Embrace technology. This does not have to be daunting.  Start by learning one new thing. 

10. Keep laughing! Find friends, movies, comedians, books, or other things that make you laugh. Laughter really is good medicine.  

11. Share memories. Reliving your memories can lift your spirits and others’. If you have not written them down, try making a journal of your favorite memories. 

12.Revisit your old resolutions. Sometimes holding ourselves to strict standards is counterproductive. Evaluate what is really feasible and realistic. Don’t give up on a resolution that you really want to pursue. Be willing to improve a little each day. 

5 Ways for Staying Positive During the Holidays

1. Reminisce in a Positive Way 

Memories of holidays past can drum up bad feelings during the holiday season for many seniors. But memories are often some of the best things in our life. Instead of dwelling on things that are now different, focus on all the good that has happened. Use the past to reminisce about your favorite things and people. Take out old pictures, sing old songs, and remind yourself what the holidays are all about. 

The holidays are the ideal time to remember traditions and friends that have come through your life, reflect on things that have changed, and appreciate things that haven’t. Try using the holiday season to create a new photo album or scrapbook full of your favorite memories.  

2. Take Control of Finances 

While it is common to feel like you need to spend a lot of money during the holiday season, that is a feeling that must be forgotten. The true meaning of the holidays is love and togetherness, and those who truly love you would expect nothing more. Before you become over-stressed about the financial burden of the holidays, get ahead of the game by creating a budget and plan before the season hits. 

Give yourself a realistic budget and stick to it. Create lists and stay organized when it comes to shopping and purchasing presents for the holidays. Working through the holidays with a budget in mind will help you not only stress less about money, but also refrain from overspending what you don’t have. 

3. Get in the Spirit with Holiday Traditions 

Sometimes all you need is a little cheer to get in the spirit of the holidays. If you’re feeling the blues, try reminding yourself about the greater parts of the holiday season, like the food, decorations, and entertainment. Bake cookies and pies, watch your favorite holiday movies, make crafts, and hum along to your favorite holiday tunes. All of these things help remind us of our favorite holiday memories and traditions, putting us in the right frame of mind to celebrate and enjoy the coming holiday. 

Try enlisting the help of family members or friends to help you decorate, make homemade presents, or take you to go see lights in the neighborhood. Sometimes, participating in holiday activities can help not only get you in the spirit, but also become a time to connect with the people you love and make memories. 

4. Be Honest and Talk It Out 

It can be hard to admit when you have feelings of loneliness, depression, or are simply not feeling celebratory this holiday season. This can be especially true when seniors may see the people they love enjoying the holiday season themselves. But the people around you care about you and are there to support you. 

That being said, it is important to seek help and be honest when you need it. Seniors are more likely to suffer from depression, but less likely to seek help for it. Talk about your feelings of isolation or loneliness with family, friends, caregivers, or even a licensed professional. All of these people not only provide emotional support but also help you find solutions to the issues you are currently facing. The holiday season is no time to feel alone. 

5. Connect with Those Who Matter Most 

During the holidays, family, friends, and the people we love are typically the top-priority. It is a time to appreciate the people in our lives. For seniors having a difficult time, connecting with the people you love can be of tremendous help. Providing love and support, your friends and family can help get you through difficult holidays. Call the people you love often or ask them to call you. Technology is a great way to stay connected with loved ones who don’t live nearby.  

For those who are not able to see in person, set up a day and time of the week that works for both parties to speak on the phone. Visit family often and let the people in your life know how important those visitations are to you. Find social activities around you to participate in with friends or other seniors. There may be other people having a difficult time as well during this season and will be seeking solace in each other.   

This season, take care and fight the holiday blues by heeding the advice given. By taking care of our senior loved ones, the holidays can be a time of celebration, love, and hope for everyone. Contact our trusted professionals today to find out more about caring for seniors during the holiday season.  Bear Lake Manor 208-847-2400 or Bear Lake Memorial Skilled Nursing Facility 208-847-4441

Scams Are Alive and Well…

Medicare beneficiaries are often trusting people and can easily fall prey to scammers.  It is important to be aware of the different ways scammers operate and learn how to protect your financial assets and personal information.   

Some common scams: 

  • A caller, claiming to be a Medicare official, will call and ask you if you have a plastic Medicare card. They claim that if your card isn’t plastic, you don’t have an official card, etc.  They want you to give them your Medicare number so they can send you the “correct” card.  Be aware that all Medicare cards are made of paper.  They are not plastic. 
  • Someone claiming to be a government employee will call and say that your social security number has been compromised and because of this your social security number will be suspended, therefore you will not receive your social security payments.  They are seeking personal information.  
  • Someone, claiming to be from the IRS, may contact you telling you that you are eligible to receive another stimulus payment, but they want to verify your information.   
  • Someone may call, (sounding very “official”) and tell you that you have won a prize, but you need to send in a certain amount of money to collect it. 

Things to remember to protect yourself from scammers: 

No one from the Federal Government will call you unsolicited and ask for personal information. These agencies already have details like your Medicare and Social Security numbers. 

Any important communications from the federal government usually come via the U.S. Postal Service. 

No federal government agency will initiate a serious contact with you through social media, text, or email. 

Medicare will not call you about a “problem” with your Medicare number or your coverage unless you initiated the first call and left a call back number.  It is the same for Social Security.  

Remember, NEVER give out any personal or financial information over the phone unless you have initiated the call.   

Never send money to someone unless you know EXACTLY to whom you are sending it.  Things that seem too good to be true, usually are. 

What is Cholesterol? What Does It Do For Your Body?

September is cholesterol awareness month. Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance that is found in all the cells in your body. Your body needs some cholesterol to make hormones, vitamin D, and substances that help you digest foods. Your body makes all the cholesterol it needs. Cholesterol is also found in foods from animal sources, such as egg yolks, meat, and cheese. If you have too much cholesterol in your blood, it can combine with other substances in the blood to form plaque. Plaque sticks to the walls of your arteries. This buildup of plaque is known as atherosclerosis.

HDL stands for high-density lipoprotein. It is sometimes called “good” cholesterol. It carries cholesterol from other parts of your body back to your liver. The liver then removes cholesterol from your body.

LDL stands for low-density lipoprotein. It is sometimes called “bad” cholesterol because it leads to a build-up of plaque in the arteries.

VLDL stands for very low-density lipoprotein. Some people also refer to it as “bad” cholesterol because it also leads to a build-up of plaque in the arteries. But VLDL and LDL are different. VLDL mainly carries triglycerides and LDL mainly carries cholesterol.

The most common cause of high cholesterol is an unhealthy lifestyle. These three lifestyle habits are the main culprits of high cholesterol:

Eating foods that contain lots of bad fats- Saturated fat found in such foods as certain meats, fried foods, and processed foods can raise your LDL.

Lack of physical activity- lowers your HDL, the “good” cholesterol.

Smoking- especially in women, lowers HDL and raises your LDL.

Having high cholesterol causes a myriad of problems including blocking the arteries to your heart, which can cause a heart attack, blocking other arteries in your body, including the arteries that bring oxygen-rich blood to your brain and limbs.

This leads to carotid artery disease, stroke, and peripheral arterial disease.

You can lower your cholesterol by changing your lifestyle. Eating healthier, exercising more, and giving up smoking are three ways to start.

If the lifestyle changes are not enough to lower your cholesterol to an acceptable level, you may need to take medication.

See your doctor for a cholesterol screening.

August is Cataract Awareness Month

Cataracts are the leading cause of vision loss in the United States, according to the CDC. Increased vision loss may mean that you need more than new glasses. More than half of all Americans over the age of 70 have developed cataracts to some degree.

Cataracts are common and curable. Symptoms include blurry vision, colors that appear faded, glare, double vision, and difficulty with night vision.

There are several risk factors that affect the formation of cataracts. If you have diabetes or are a smoker, if you have a family history of cataracts, excessive exposure to sunlight, eye injury or inflammation, or if you’ve had prolonged use of steroids, you are at greater risk for developing cataracts.

You can reduce your risk of developing cataracts by wearing UV protective sunglasses and a wide-brimmed hat while being outdoors. Controlling you blood sugar by diet and exercise, and quitting smoking are some ways to reduce your risk. Other ways to reduce your risk include eating more green leafy vegetables, fruits and foods that are rich in antioxidants. Antioxidants neutralize harmful free radicals in the body.

To learn more about vision health and cataracts visit: www.YourSightMatters.com

https://www.aao.org

National Eye Institute – NIH

https://www.nei.nih.gov

Surprising Contributors to Back Pain

Does an aching back feel like a regular problem, and not just something you randomly pulled at the gym? If so, you are not alone. 6 million older adults in the U.S. live with chronic back pain.

According to Gbolahan Okubadejo, M.D., an orthpedic spine surgeon, we start to lose fluid in our discs as we age. When this happens, the discs tend to collapse. Along with this, our lifestyle habits raise the risk of back pain. Here are 5 surprising culprits:

Uninterrupted Sitting

Lots of sitting can take a toll on your health, including producing pain in your back. When you sit for extended periods of time, your joints aren’t being used. Immobility in that nerve-dense location can jump-start what’s known as the pain-spasm-pain cycle, in which a skeletal muscle spasm causes pain in your spine. It doesn’t just involve your spine. It can extend to your hips and sacroiliac joints. Studies show that sitting for as little as four hours can result in disc degeneration. You can counter the risk by increasing the amount of physical activity you do. It is recommended that after two hours of sitting you get up for five minutes of stretching.

Cigarette Smoking

Smoking limits blood flow, causing discs to age prematurely. In fact, the number one reason that people who have had spinal fusion surgery don’t heal is because of smoking, says Dr. Okubadejo. Smokers are three times more likely to develop chronic back pain.

Your Mattress

That cushy mattress that makes it seem like you’re floating on a giant marshmallow may feel good when you slip into bed each night, but it is not doing your back any favors. When you sleep on an old or plush mattress, the body tends to sink down, so there is less support for the spine. To prevent back pain, use a mattress that’s at least medium firm.

Your Shoes

Anyone who wears high heels knows that they can do a number on your back. But even sensible shoes can change your gait and lead to back pain if the soles are uneven, which happens when you wear them too long. Think about your shoes the way you think about your mattress. Not only is it important to have support while lying down, but you equally need support while being upright. Look for shoes with soles that provide medium firmness.

Stress

(There’s that word again.) Stress wreaks all kinds of havoc on the body. No surprise, it can also put the squeeze on the muscles around your spine. “People usually carry stress in the neck and shoulder area,” says Dr. Akhil Chhatre, M.D. But stress can also cause pain to travel farther down the back, thanks to the inflammatory response it sets off. To fend off this kind of pain, moving is particularly important, If you’re stressed, you may not be as active. If you are less active, you have pain, and if you have pain, you are stressed out. As far as which exercise is best, Dr. Okubadejo says that it’s all about the endorphins, whether you opt for a long walk, a short run, or strength training. Stretching can also make a difference.

SIX PILLARS OF BRAIN HEALTH

June is “Alzheimer’s and Brain Health Month”. Most of us are aware that Alzheimer’s is a progressive neurological disorder that causes the brain to shrink(atrophy), and brain cells to die. It is the most common cause of dementia. This article will focus on brain health.
Lifestyle has a profound impact on your brain health. What you eat and drink, how much you exercise, how well you sleep, the way you socialize, and how you manage stress are all critically important to your brain health. Cleveland Clinic’s“Six Pillars of Brain Health” will help you navigate your journey to brain health.
Read on.
Physical Exercise:
Get moving! People who exercise regularly have a lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. Exercise improves blood flow and memory and stimulates chemical changes in the brain that enhance learning, mood, and thinking.
Food and Nutrition:
You are what you eat. The aging brain is exposed to more harmful stress due to environment and lifestyle, resulting in “oxidation”, which damages brain cells. Food rich in antioxidants can help fend off the harmful effects of oxidation in your brain.

Medical Health:
Control medical risks. Hypertension, diabetes, obesity, depression, head trauma, higher cholesterol, and smoking all increase the risk of dementia. You can control these risks. Get annual checkups and take medications as prescribed.
Sleep and Relaxation:
Rest well. Sleep energizes you, improves your mood and your immune system, and may reduce buildup in the brain of an abnormal protein called beta-amyloid plaque, which is associated with Alzheimers disease. Stay positive. Be happy.

Mental Fitness:
Mental exercise is as critical as physical exercise in keeping your brain healthy.
Like your muscles, you must use your brain, or you will lose it.
Reading, doing puzzles, and memorizing keep your brain active. An article fromJohn Hopkins Medicine cites that if you want to keep your brain engaged throughout the aging process, listening to or playing music is a great tool, and provides a total brain workout.

Social Interaction:
Stay connected. Leading an active social life can protect you against memory loss. Spending time with others, engaging in stimulating conversation, and staying in touch with family and friends are good for your brain health. If it is difficult to get out, make phone calls and write emails or letters. Studies have shown that those with the most social interaction in their community experience the slowest rate of memory decline.

Blood Pressure – Need to Knows

Blood pressure is a measurement of the way that blood presses against your artery walls. If your blood flows at higher-than-normal pressure, you may have high blood pressure, also known as hypertension. Millions of Americans (one out of two adults) have high blood pressure, but many people don’t know it. It is often called “the silent killer” because it gives off no symptoms. The only way to know if you have high blood pressure is to have it checked periodically. High blood pressure cannot be cured, but it can be managed effectively through lifestyle changes, and if needed, medication.

If you blood pressure stays higher than 130/80 mm Hg for a period of time, it can cause serious problems such as heart disease, stroke, kidney disease and dementia. Blood vessels in your eyes may also burst under increased pressure and when this happens, it can cause blindness.

Risk factors for high blood pressure include:

Age: Blood pressure tends to get higher as we get older. However, it can affect younger people too.

Genes: High blood pressure often runs in families.

Gender: Before age 60, more men than women have high blood pressure. After age 60, more women have it than men.

Race or ethnicity: While anyone can have high blood pressure, African Americans tend to get it at a younger age. Among Hispanic adults, people of Cuban, Puerto Rican, and Dominican backgrounds are at a higher risk.

Lifestyle habits: Eating too much salt, drinking too much alcohol, being obese, smoking, and not getting enough exercise can raise your blood pressure.

What should I change?

Eat healthy foods, such as more fruits and vegetables. Eat less salt. Drink less caffeine.

Avoid foods with saturated fats and cholesterol. Consider boosting potassium,

which lessens the effects of sodium on blood pressure.

Move more. Get at least 2 ½ hours of physical activity a week.

Aim for a healthy weight – Losing just 3 to 5 percent of your body weight can improve

your blood pressure. If you weigh 200 lbs., that is a weight loss of 6 to 10 lbs.

Reduce stress by practicing mindful meditation.

Practice relaxation technics, laugh more.

Stop Smoking.

Visit: www.nhlbi.nih.gov/hypertension

Am I Getting All of the Benefits I Can From Medicare? 

By Kim Hulme, SHIBA Partner 208-847-0949 

The above question is one of the most common questions that I get as a Senior Health Insurance Benefits Advisor (SHIBA).   I believe this question is most often prompted by ads that people are seeing on television.  The answer is a two-part explanation of the two different kinds of Medicare and what benefits each provides.   

Traditional Medicare 

Traditional Medicare is referred to as Medicare A (inpatient hospital coverage) and Medicare B (outpatient medical services). A Part D prescription drug plan also falls in this category. Traditional Medicare can be used anywhere in the U.S., as long as the provider accepts Medicare, (which is usually the case.) There are some things traditional Medicare does not cover, such dental, hearing, and vision. Cataract surgery and jaw surgery are some of the few exceptions to that rule.  Medicare recipients can purchase vision, dental and hearing coverage separately if desired. Traditional Medicare does offer several screenings.  If you are not taking advantage of these screenings, you are not getting all the benefits you could be getting through Medicare. 

Medicare Advantage Plans 

A Medicare Advantage (Part C) plan is another way to get your Medicare A and Medicare B coverage, and in many cases, a Part D prescription plan. These plans are administered by private, for profit, companies, and these are the plans you are seeing advertised on television.    Many of these plans offer some dental, vision, and hearing benefits.  Often the dental coverage only includes an oral exam, cleaning, X-rays, and flouride treatment.  Plans differ in how they cover these extra benefits.  Advantage plans can have large out of pocket expenses, anywhere from $5500 to $10,000 per year.  In addition, many of them are HMO plans so these plans only pay if you visit a doctor or facility in network.  This could be problematic if traveling or visiting out of state.  Some Medicare Advantage plans have premiums that are almost the amount you might pay for a Medigap plan if you have traditional Medicare.  In addition, some of these plans do not have drug coverage, and if you are enrolled in one of these, you cannot purchase a separate Part D plan.  

Medicare Advantage plans are state and county specific.  Several rural counties across America, and especially here in Idaho, do not have Medicare Advantage plans.  Bear Lake county is one of those counties.   Areas with lower population base do not produce the revenue that Medicare Advantage plans find acceptable. 

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