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Mind the details with Medicare

Part of my job entails scheduling appointments for people who need help with their Medicare Insurance with our Medicare counselors, or SHIP counselors (Senior Health Insurance Program).

I have observed our volunteer SHIP counselors over the past month attending extensive trainings, having meetings and organizing for days in preparation for the Part D Open Enrollment which takes place Nov. 15-Dec. 31. These volunteers have left the above-mentioned events frustrated because Medicare is at best complicated and confusing, and at its worst a mind-numbing Catch 22 exercise in seeming futility.

Happily, our brave SHIP volunteers are now ready to cheerfully assist anyone who needs help with their plan. Katy Deshler, Patti Stewart and Patty Bailey are our saintly SHIP counselors who have given up more than a month of their lives to assist us. Musetta Wollenweber, Senior Center Director, oversees the program and has written the following about Part D Open Enrollment. Call me at 264-2167 for an appointment with a SHIP Counselor. Please bring your Medicare Card, other insurance cards and all of your prescription drugs in the bottles to your appointment.

Musetta says ...

Quick facts About Medicare’s coverage for prescription drugs.

Did you know Medicare assistance is available right here in Pagosa Springs? Your local SHIP (Senior Health Insurance Program) office is located at the Silver Foxes Den Senior Center and is funded by a grant from Medicare. Counselors provide free, unbiased information. SHIP counselors do not represent any insurance companies and are not paid commissions for helping consumers enroll in prescription drug plans or Medicare health plans.

Medicare offers prescription drug plans to help you pay for the prescriptions you need. For most people, joining a plan when you are first eligible means you will pay a lower monthly premium. Waiting to join may mean paying a penalty.

Even if you don’t use a lot of prescription drugs now, you should still consider joining a Medicare drug plan to make sure you have coverage for your future needs. Part D coverage is like having car insurance, you are not planning on having an accident, you are required to have it and will pay a penalty for not purchasing it and it’s there when and if you need it.

What do you need to know?

To get Medicare prescription drug coverage, you must choose and join a Medicare drug plan.

You can join a Medicare drug plan from Nov. 15-Dec. 31 each year. Your coverage begins Jan. 1 of the following year. Your local SHIP counselor encourages you to have your appointments scheduled before Dec. 8th to avoid loss of coverage.

Your SHIP counselor can help you through all the confusion of the numerous decisions you need to make beginning with understanding that your actual costs vary depending on which plan you choose, but all plans must provide at least a standard level of coverage set by Medicare. In general, you may pay a monthly premium and a yearly deductible. Then you also pay a share of your prescription drug costs, and your plan pays a share. After you and your plan have spent a certain amount for covered drugs, you may have to pay all costs out-of-pocket for your prescriptions up to a yearly limit. Once you have spent up to your plan’s out-of-pocket limit, you pay 5 percent of the costs and Medicare pays 95 percent of the costs for the rest of the year.

Many people with limited income and resources will get Extra Help paying for their Medicare prescription drug coverage. People with the lowest incomes and resources will get the most help with lower premiums and lower co-pays for their prescription. The good news is your SHIP Counselor can help with the application process of Extra Help.

What if you already have prescription drug coverage?

If you already have prescription drug coverage through your Medicare health plan or other insurance, check with your current plan to see how it works with, or is affected by, Medicare prescription drug coverage. Unless you have other drug coverage that’s expected to pay, on average, at least as much as Medicare’s standard prescription drug coverage, it’s important for you to join a Medicare drug plan when you are first eligible.

How can you get more information?

For more information about Medicare prescription drug coverage, contact your local SHIP office, which is located at the Silver Foxes Den Senior Center. Call 264-2167 to schedule your appointment, you can look at your “Medicare & You” handbook, visit www.medicare.gov, or call (800) 633-4227. TTY users should call (877) 486-2048. For more information about extra help with Medicare prescription drug costs and how to apply, you may contact your local SHIP (Senior Health Insurance Program ) also located at the Silver Foxes Den Senior Center.

Changes in Medicare Drug Coverage and Medicare Advantage plans.

The following programs will no longer be providing coverage or may have changed their benefits:

Medicare Advantage Plans with Drug Coverage:

• Wellcare PFFS Plans.

• Advantra Freedom PFFS Plans.

• Aetna PFFS Plans.

Medicare Prescription Drug Plans:

• Sierra Rx (is now part of United Healthcare).

• Unicare Medicare Rx Rewards.

• Wellcare Classic and Signature plans are available to current customers, but no new enrollments will be allowed at this time.

Low Income Medicare Prescription Drug Plans-no longer $0 premium:

• SilverScript Value.

• Sierra Rx

If you are unsure whether or not you are impacted by these changes, have received a letter regarding your coverage or want to compare your prescription drug coverage to make sure you have the plan best suited to your needs, call us, your local SHIP program, at 264-2167 to schedule your appointment before Dec. 8 to avoid loss of coverage. SHIP counselors are available to help you through these changes. Time is of the essence — do not wait — contact the office immediately for an appointment to assist you in enrolling in a program that best suits your needs.

Snow Day closures

When the school district closes for inclement weather, so do we. This includes our lovely lunches, transportation, programs and home delivered meals. Listen to KWUF FM 106.3 and AM 1400 for closures.

Senior Spotlight

Mary Lou Maehr was born in 1932 in Chicago, Ill. After she graduated from an all-girls high school in Davenport, Iowa, she worked for John Deere and Company. In January 1952, she married and six months later, the Air Force moved her new husband and her to Germany. Upon her return to San Antonio, Texas, she raised two boys and two girls, then sold everything and moved to Atlanta for seven years. This competent single mother’s list of highly responsible jobs includes working for Stanley Products, owning a restaurant and bar, working for Forest Products, managing an American Legion Post and managing a country club.

When the job market crashed she moved to Decatur, Ala., and ran a frozen yogurt shop until her daughter asked her to move to Pagosa Springs. Mary Lou worked here as a hostess, bartender, and jack of all trades for the restaurant Isabel’s for five years and then retired. She also served on the board of Archuleta Seniors, Inc. for five years. Her happiest moments were the births of her children.

Crocheting, ceramics, oil painting (she painted the handsome fox mascot in our dining room), sewing, and playing bridge are her hobbies. Raising and showing dachshunds has been another pasttime dear to her heart. “Hailey” is her current dachshund. Mary Lou’s best financial advice is to “keep every penny you get your hands on.”

“Life isn’t always fun,” she imparts, “but it is always worthwhile.”

Thank you

Thank you to Dan Wollenweber, and an anonymous angel, for donating the hardware and the lumber so we can host the Pagosa Springs High School art shows in our dining room. Thank you Dennis Ford for arranging for the paint. Thank you Chris Scarpa, Frank Martinez and the trustees for patiently painting, cutting and hanging the lumber for the Art in the Den project.

Thank you Cecilia Hopper for your donation of candy for our Halloween celebration.

Thank you Dolores Sause and Dolores Gallegos for gracefully and efficiently dishing up our lunches last week when we were extra-short staffed, and for letting me play and sing in the kitchen.

Services

Are you homebound or know someone who is? Let the Silver Foxes Den help you with your meals. We have expanded our service to the more rurally isolated areas of the county and would like to help you, help yourself.

These meals are the same meals prepared in our kitchen by the same cooks who prepare those scrumptious senior center meals. Our hot meal, home-delivery program remains available to those closer to town four days per week. Meals are available to people age 60-plus for a suggested donation of $3 per meal. Give me or Musetta a call at 264-2167 for further information.

Weekly activities

Friday, Nov. 6 — Geezers, 9 a.m.; Tai Chi Intermediate, 9:30 a.m.; Tai Chi Beginning, 11 a.m.; Gym Walk, 11:15 a.m.

Monday, Nov. 9 — Gym Walk, 11:15 a.m.; Seeds of Learning (here for lunch), 11:30 a.m.; Canasta, 1 p.m.

Tuesday, Nov. 10 — Chair massages, 10 a.m.; blood pressure checks, 11 a.m.; Gym Walk, 11:15 a.m.; Energy Assistance presentation, 12:45 p.m.; Meditation for Healing, 1 p.m.

Wednesday, Nov. 11 — Closed for Veterans Day.

Thursday, Nov. 12 — Administration Day.

Friday, Nov. 13 — Geezers, 9 a.m.; Tai Chi Intermediate, 9:30 a.m.; Tai Chi Beginning, 11 a.m.; Gym Walk, 11:15 a.m.; ASI annual meeting (Senior Center dining room) and Board Meeting, 1 p.m.

Medical expenses

The Silver Foxes Den, in cooperation with Archuleta Seniors, Inc. (ASI), may be able to help with excess medical expenses.? Items covered might be prescription copays, eyeglasses, hearing aids, and dental care.?Qualifying amounts are based on income and need. Recipients must be current members of ASI. Dues are $5 per year. For more information about how we might help you or your family, please contact Musetta at 264-2167.

ASI memberships

Is it time for you renew or buy your 2009 ASI Membership? You can purchase memberships at The Silver Foxes Den on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Folks 55 and over will benefit with discounts from many local businesses, including the local hot springs. This is one of the best deals in Pagosa Springs.

Menu

Suggested donation for older adults age 60-plus is $3, kids 12 and under and guests $6. Our meal program is partially funded through the Older Americans Act, United Way, and Archuleta County, Town of Pagosa Springs and other contributions and grants. These funds help support the cost of the meal which is approximately $9.75. Please note our menu is subject to change. The salad bar opens at 11:30 a.m. with lunch served from noon to 12:30 p.m.

Friday, Nov. 6 — Chicken cordon bleu, rice pilaf, asparagus, apricots, roll.

Monday, Nov. 9 — Oven fried chicken, mashed potatoes and grabby, hot marinated carrots, biscuit, strawberry fruit whip.

Tuesday, Nov. 10 — Salmon patties, brown rice, mixed vegetables, fruit, raisin nut cup, whole wheat bread.

Wednesday, Nov. 11 — Closed, Veterans Day.

Thursday, Nov. 12 — Administration Day.

Friday, Nov. 13 — Cabbage roll, Japanese vegetables, mashed potatoes, fruit salad, chocolate chip cookie.