Medicare Open Enrollment will be October 15th – December 7th this year. Be aware that your benefits and premiums could change from one year to the next. So even if you are confident that you want to keep your current coverage for next year, it is important to make sure you understand any changes that may apply and that you’ve double checked to make sure that your current plan is still the best available option for you. The available plans and what they cover changes from one year to the next, so even if the plan you have now was the best option when you checked last year, it’s important to verify that again before you lock yourself in for another year.
The coverage gap (donut hole) begins once you reach your Medicare Part D plan’s initial coverage limit of $4,020 and ends when you spend a total of $6,350 out of pocket. Part D enrollees will receive a 75% discount on the total cost of their brand name drugs and a maximum of 25% co-pay on generic drugs purchased while in the donut hole. There is minimum cost sharing once in the catastrophic category.
Medicare Advantage plans can change the coverage options they offer from year to year, so it’s important to stay up to date with your plan. Between January 1st and March 31st each year, if you are enrolled in a Medicare Advantage Plan, you can leave your plan and return to original Medicare and buy a Part D prescription plan to supplement your original Medicare. Only one switch during this time frame is permitted each year – you can change your mind multiple times during the enrollment period in the fall, but you can only switch to a different Medicare Advantage Plan (or back to Medicare) once in the first quarter of the new year.
If you enroll in Medicare on or after January, 2020 you will not be able to purchase a Medigap Plan C or F. If you are currently enrolled in Plan C or F Supplement Plans – you will be grandfathered in and should not see a change.
September is Healthy Aging Month, an annual observance designed to focus on the positive aspects of growing older. It is time to think about improving physical, mental, social and financial wellbeing.
To get you started on reinventing yourself, here are some ideas from the editors of Healthy Aging Magazine (www.healthyaging.net).
Do not act your age, picture your best year and be it.
Be positive in your conversations and your actions every day.
Surround yourself with positive thinking, energetic, happy people of all ages.
Walk like a vibrant, healthy person.
Stand up straight.
Practice good oral hygiene and remember to smile more often.
Be around people: volunteer your time, take a class or invite someone out to lunch or coffee.
Start walking, for your health and to greet the neighbors.
Make this month the time to set up your annual physical and other health screenings.
Learn something new or find your inner artist.
Operation We Care – We will be mailing out personal items and goodies to our local servicemen and women in November. Any personal or individual sized items are welcome. Thank you for all your contributions to this very worthwhile project now in its 13th year.
An Opioid Epidemic is in our nation and county. Opioids are a class of drugs that include Heroin, Fentanyl (which is 50-100 x’s more potent than morphine), Vicodin, Oxycontin, Percocet, Demerol, Morphine and Codeine.
These drugs were marketed as non-addictive. As a result, doctors were prescribing them for chronic pain, as well as for acute pain related to injuries or dental procedures. Many people who took these drugs found themselves dependent on them. Others started using these drugs for recreational purposes or to self-medicate as a way to address additional uncomfortable emotions and problems.
Opioid addiction is characterized by a powerful, compulsive urge to use opioid drugs, even when they are no longer required medically.
Addiction is a disease that disrupts normal, healthy functioning of a vital organ - the brain. Opioids act on receptors to reduce the perception of pain, and can stimulate the brain’s reward regions, creating a sense of euphoria and well-being. Because drug addiction changes the brain so drastically, it can also drastically change a person’s personality. The addicted brain is hardwired to seek that intense pleasure it needs. Every action revolves around seeking that high. Nothing else will do or nothing else matters, not family, not jobs, nothing. The more a person uses drugs, the more dependent their brain becomes on them. As tolerance grows with those addicted, a person needs more pain pills to achieve the same effect.
An overdose is a medical emergency. It occurs when the opioids cause the heart to slow down, lowers blood pressure and slows breathing. Depressed breathing is the most dangerous side effect of opioid overdose. Lack of oxygen to the brain will not only result in permanent neurological damage, but may also be accompanied by the widespread failure of other organ systems, including the heart and kidneys. And death is a real possibility.
Narcan Nasal Spray counteracts the life-threatening effects of opioid overdoses. It begins to work almost immediately and temporarily reverses the effects until emergency medical assistance can arrive.
Sometimes you can’t avoid it and opioids are prescribed. Make sure your doctor knows all the other medications you are taking, including: prescription, non-prescription, over the counter meds and supplements. Take note of how many pills you receive from the pharmacy and keep track of refills. Do not share your medication with anyone else. Keep all medicines in a safe place.
Dispose of expired or unused medicine at a safe drug disposal site. Most local police departments as well as the Schuylkill County Sheriff’s Department participate and have permanent drug take back sites.
If you or someone you know is having trouble with drug addiction there is a Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service National Helpline 1-800-662-HELP (4357). This is a free, confidential, 24/7, 365 day-a-year treatment referral and information service for individuals and families facing mental and/or substance use disorders.
There are at least two addiction treatment providers in Schuylkill County: The Clinical Outcome Group in Pottsville (1-800-264-1290) and the Schuylkill Health Counseling Center in St. Clair (570-622-5898).