Tags Articles tagged with "medicare"


Joan Koczor

By Joan Koczor

The meaning of the American Dream has seen many changes since first introduced as early as the 1600s.

The American Dream is mentioned in the Declaration of Independence, which states “all men are created equal” with the right to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

Freelance writer James Adams popularized the phrase “American Dream” in his 1931 book “Epic of America.” in his 1963 “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” Martin Luther King Jr. based the civil rights movement in the African American quest for the American Dream.

As young adults, many believed they could achieve the American Dream by working hard, saving a little to provide an education for their kids so they could have a better life than they did, and retire with sufficient funds to see them through their retirement or golden years – hopefully, mortgage- and debt-free.

The new reality is people are living longer, more expensive lives with very little money in reserve.

The result is Americans older than 65 are working – nearly 1 in 5. Over the past decade those numbers have risen faster than any other age group. Today there are 9 million seniors working compared to 4 million in 2000.

Some seniors are returning to the workforce by choice while others are returning out of need. A recent poll showed many older people are more concerned with running out of money than dying.

Theresa Ghilarducci, a labor economist said, “There is no part of the country where the majority of middle-class older workers have adequate retirement savings to maintain their standard of living in their retirement.”

Seniors are traveling the nation looking for seasonal jobs offering hourly wages and few or no benefits.

Amazon’s Camper Force program hires thousands of seniors to box online orders during the Christmas rush. Walmart has hired many elderly employees as greeters and cashiers. Websites such as Workamper News have been created listing various types of jobs.

This is not the case with all seniors. There are some who have adequate funds to enjoy a carefree lifestyle. That makes some of us wonder where we went wrong. How did they accumulate all that money?

A little grim? Reality can be like that.

Ask yourself – how important are money and possessions. You can’t put a dollar amount on sharing each day with the person you love, and having reasonably good health, a place to call home, food on the table and friends to share the good times and bad.

Joan Koczor is a senior advocate and a member of the Age-Friendly Maricopa Advisory Committee.


Changes to Medicare cards coming

Medicare (CMS) is developing a new number which will replace the SSN-based Health Insurance Claim Number on the Medicare cards. CMS will be mailing new Medicare cards between April 2018 and April 2019 to all individuals with Medicare.

The new Medicare card will:

  1. have a new number unique to the individual.
  2. no longer contain the social security number of the individual.
  3. not change the Medicare coverage or benefits for the individual.

To ensure timely receipt of the new Medicare card, ensure your mailing address is up-to-date. If the individual needs, they may do so Visit SocialSecurity.gov or call toll-free 1-800-772-1213 to correct your address. TTY users can call 1-800-325-0778. You can also write or visit any Social Security office.

Reminder: Medicare will never contact the individual to request personal information. The individual needs to protect their new Medicare number like their Social Security number and only share it with trusted providers.

Source: Pinal County Newsletter

This column appears in part in the February issue of InMaricopa.

By Joan Koczor

Joan Koczor

Open enrollment in Medicare begins Oct. 15.

Rebecca Jennings, program director for Medicare from Pinal Gila Council for Seniors, will give a presentation about Medicare on Oct. 23 at Maricopa City Hall from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

On July 30, 1965, as an amendment to the Social Security Act of 1935, President Lyndon B. Johnson made Medicare law by signing H.R. 6675 in Independence, Missouri. Former President Harry S. Truman was enrolled as Medicare’s first beneficiary and received the first Medicare card. Johnson wanted to recognize Truman, who, in 1945, became the first president to propose national health insurance, an initiative opposed by Congress at the time.

Medicare is a single-payer, national, social insurance program administered by the federal government. Coverage for this program became effective in 1966. Some 19 million people enrolled in Medicare when it went into effect in 1966

Many people are already enrolled in Medicare, and many of you may be eligible for coverage beginning in 2018.

To better understand what open enrollment is about – before you make any major changes to your existing coverage – here are a few of the plans offered:

Medicare Part A (Hospital Insurance) Costs. Most people don’t pay a Part A premium because they paid Medicare taxes while working. If you don’t get premium-free Part A, you pay up to $413 each month.

Medicare Part B (Medical Insurance) Costs. The standard Part B premium amount in 2017 is $134 (or higher depending on your income). Most people who get Social Security benefits pay less than this because the Part B premium increased more than the cost-of-living increase for 2017 Social Security benefits. If you pay your Part B premium through your monthly Social Security benefit, you pay less ($109 on average). Social Security will tell you the exact amount of your Part B premium.

Medicare Advantage Plan or Part C. If you have Medicare Advantage or Part C, take a few minutes to review your coverage as plan benefits can change year to year. Before open enrollment begins, you should receive an Annual Notice of Change, which provides any changes in your Medicare Advantage plan’s cost, benefits, provider network and other rules as they apply to the coming year. At this time, you can change plans or switch back to Medicare Part A and Part B. Keep in mind if you do switch back, consider a Medicare Supplement to cover what Medicare doesn’t.

Medicare Advantage Plan or Part D. At this time, you can switch your Part D or Medicare Advantage Plan. Also at this time you should receive an Annual Notice of Change. Please review it carefully as drug formularies can change each year. A drug covered in 2016 may not be covered in 2017.

If you are satisfied with your current Medicare coverage you need to do nothing. However, at this time you can explore what other coverages are available and if they better serve your needs.

A trained – and trusted – insurance professional can provide detailed information about the Medicare plans available, answer any questions or concerns you may have and explain other options that may work better for you.

Information is out there – just ask or go online.

Medicare2017.org, Medicare.gov

This column appears in the October issue of InMaricopa.

Medicare or Medicare Advantage

Medicare Advantage plans (sometimes called Medicare Part C) are offered by private insurance companies as an alternative to traditional Medicare. Their insurance benefits cover the same services as traditional Medicare Part A and B, but some plans also offer prescription drug coverage (Part D). Medicare Advantage plans may have slightly different (usually lower) costs and out-of-pocket expenses; some plans charge an additional premium. Access is often more restricted because these are HMO or PPO plans, i.e. you may not be able to see all providers under a Medicare Advantage plan that you can under Medicare. First-time enrollees are automatically enrolled in traditional Medicare but may choose to switch to a Medicare Advantage plan at the time of enrollment or annually after that.

Medicare v. Medicare Advantage
Medicare Medicare Advantage
Overview Medicare in the U.S. is an insurance program that primarily covers seniors ages 65 and older and disabled individuals of any age who qualify for Social Security. It also covers those of any age with end-stage renal disease. Medicare Advantage, sometimes known as Part C, is a private insurance alternative that replaces “Original Medicare” Parts A and B. Some Medicare Advantage plans even cover prescription, or Medicare Part D.
Type of program Government-run Private
Eligibility Regardless of income, anyone turning 65 can enroll in Medicare so long as they paid into Medicare/Social Security funds. People of any age with severe disabilities and end-stage renal disease are also eligible. To be eligible for a Medicare Advantage plan, a potential subscriber must already be eligible for Original Medicare, pay the monthly Part B premium, and not have end-stage renal disease.
Services Covered Routine and emergency care, hospice, family planning, some substance and smoking cessation programs. Limited dental and vision. Everything covered by Original Medicare. Also often covers prescription drugs and may cover dental, vision and hearing. May have special preventive care coverage, like gym membership.
Cost to Enrollees Part A costs nothing for those who paid Medicare taxes for 10 years or more (or had a spouse who did). Part B in costs $109 per month for most on Social Security. Part D costs vary, usually around $30 per month. Medicare Advantage costs vary. Must pay Original Medicare’s Part B premium, plus — usually — a monthly Medicare Advantage premium (approx. $30-$65). Likely required to pay a copay to visit a doctor. Coinsurance costs vary.



by -

By Gloria Smith

Parts, plans, tiers – Oh my.

Do you feel like Dorothy and Toto, dealing with Medicare prescription choices?

I hope this helps.

Parts A and B covers in and out of hospital services. Most people add a prescription plan. There is a 1 percent (of $33) penalty if you don’t enroll in Part D unless you have creditable coverage elsewhere, such as VA, TRiCare, Employer Coverage.  The penalty is payable as long as you have a prescription plan.

Two options for Part D:
Enrollment in Part A or B is required for a standalone plan. You can also get prescription coverage through a Medicare Advantage Plan.

Medicine is assigned a category for payment called a tier. Each tier has a fee structure (co-payment or percentage). Plans usually include at least two medicines for most conditions. Each company decides which two medicines they cover.

What to do if I want to change?
Read the annual notice of change that is sent to you by Oct. 1. Confirm the coverage and cost for your medicine.  You make changes between Oct. 15 and Dec. 7.

What do you need to know about Prescription Medicine for 2017?

There are three categories of cost:
• Initial – Covers cost of medicine (your co-payment and plans payment) up to $3,700 including a deductible up to $400. Not all plans have deductible.
• Gap/Donut hole – $3,700 to $4,950
• Catastrophic – $4,700 and above

Ask Gloria Smith, Independent Insurance Broker, gloria@gloriadsmith.com, 520-568-6750 , Insurance and Consulting Services, LLC.