MED I CAREBLUEPR INT.COM Health Matters
JAN- FEB 2020
I’m not really a New Year’s resolution guy. This might come as a surprise considering my line of work: Helping people find the Medicare plan that best fits their long-term goals takes many of the same skills as setting these yearly benchmarks. But it’s precisely because of this job that I keep my distance from this resolution tradition. When it comes to keeping an eye on the health care industry today, being flexible and proactive are a must. Long-term planning is important to any endeavor, but to make any progress, you have to take action in the present. If something is broken in my life, I’m not going to wait until Jan. 1 to start fixing it — and if I fail to hit a goal, I’m certainly not throwing in the towel until next year. Today is always a good day to make a positive change in your life. This isn’t to discourage those in the midst of carrying out their own resolutions. Using the inspiration of a renewed year to make a change is a great place to start — just don’t get discouraged if you stumble along the way. I’ve found it’s best to plan out short- term goals that take you toward your wider ambition one step at a time. MAKING THE FUTURE HAPPEN Resolutions for the Present
“Hopefully, this new style is easier on the eyes!”
If you’ve ever been to my office, you know what I’m talking about. I have an entire magnetic whiteboard for a wall where I can track all my projects and hold myself accountable. For example, one note that has been staring at me from across my desk is “Make the newsletter more legible!” We’ve gotten plenty of feedback since our launch, and we’ve heard you. Hopefully, this new style is easier on the eyes! As full as my whiteboard tends to be, and as much as I worry about getting everything done, I’ve found many of my clients actually have the opposite fear. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had people tell me they don’t knowwhat they’ll do after retiring — work is such a large part of our lives. It can be tough imagining what could fill that void. If this is a concern of yours, I can tell you with confidence, “Don’t worry.” Time and time again, I’ve seen how quickly retirees fill their schedule with things they’re passionate about. Spending time with grandkids, volunteering with charities, traveling — basically, anything else you’re interested in can become your new 9-to-5. All you need to do is take steps toward that reality in the present.
Here’s to a happy and healthy new year,
2020 Medicare Changes
Nothing means more to us than hearing we’ve made a positive impact on our clients’ lives. We’re so grateful for all those who have shared their kind words with us over the years. Here are a few that touched our hearts! “They did a great job explaining the available options. We made the decision based on the data provided. It was a complicated process with so many choices. In the end we had enough information to make the right choice for us.” What Our Clients Think!
Keeping You Up to Date
A new year brings new beginnings and changes and 2020 is no different. Every year, adjustments are made to Medicare copayment rates, deductibles, and premiums, all of which take effect Jan. 1. As these changes take effect in the new year, here’s what you need to know. Increasing Monthly Premiums and Annual Deductible The first change is to Medicare Part B, the part that covers the medical and health services Medicare Part A does not. In 2020, the monthly premiums and the annual deductible in Part B have increased slightly from 2019. The monthly premiums for Medicare Part B have risen to $144.60, a $9.10 increase, while the annual deductible has climbed to $198, a $13 increase. These changes are the direct result of the rising cost of and spending for physician-administered drugs. Rising Cost of Drugs Today, the law states that the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) is required to pay physicians a percentage of a drug’s total costs, as well as the average price of the drugs. This, in turn, leads to drug companies and physicians charging and prescribing higher-priced drugs so they receive higher Medicare payments. Year after year, this impacts Medicare beneficiaries, but plans are in process to try and lower drug prices in Medicare Part B. Keeping You Informed The goal of CMS is to provide all Medicare beneficiaries with the knowledge, tools, and information to make accurate decisions about their coverage. To help with this, CMS is releasing information regarding premiums and cost-sharing for Free-for- Service Medicare. Make sure to check Medicare.gov for regularly updated information regarding 2020 and future Medicare costs. Although costs continue to fluctuate, the industry expects Medicare premiums to decrease in the coming years. In fact, this year indicates a 23% drop in the costs from 2018, the lowest in the last 13 years, according to CMS. Meanwhile, beneficiaries can experience a steady rise in benefits, plan choices, and enrollment.
–Michael Branch, customer since 2017
“Jason has always been available to help us with questions. Very professional and his knowledge of the products is extensive! He’s wonderful to work with!”
–Elizabeth Baker, customer since 2018
“Jason was very informative and knowledgeable about the whole Medicare process. Jason helped us navigate and we think that we chose the right program for us based on his advice.”
–David Cruse, customer since 2017
A misconception about Medicare tends to emerge during the winter months. Whether it’s through a commercial or another promotion, you’ve probably heard people talking about how you have a limited time window for switching your Medicare plan. We’re here to tell you that’s only for Medicare Advantage plans — so unless you’ve just turned 65 or are newly eligible because of a disability, enrollment periods for Medicare Advantage plans only occur during certain times of the year. That isn’t the case for Medicare supplemental plans. If you’re a Medicare Advantage client, then your enrollment periods are very specific: Oct.15 to Dec. 7, but there are important exceptions to the rules. If you’ve turned 65, then your enrollment options for either a Medicare Advantage plan or a Medicare prescription drug plan extend to a seven-month period: three months before your birthday month, your birthday month, and three months after your birthday month. However, if you have a Medicare supplement plan, then you can shop and change your plan at any time. This means you don’t have a deadline, but generally, there’s no reason to switch your plan. However, a month before your annual OUT OF TIME? How Medicare Plan Deadlines Actually Work
policy anniversary, your Medicare supplement carrier will mail you about any changes to your plan. If you’ve received a rate increase, then you could consider shopping around. You don’t have to investigate all possible rates at every Medicare carrier alone — the Medicare Blueprint Advisors can help narrow down the best options for you. If you’re considering switching your plan, Advantage or supplemental, give us a call so we can talk you through the process.
SIMPLE PANCAKES FROM SCRATCH
Everyone should be able to make pancakes without a boxed mix. This recipe is no-frills fantastic and can probably be made without so much as a trip to the grocery store.
2 cups all-purpose flour
• • •
1 3/4 cups milk
• • •
2 tsp baking powder
Unsalted butter or canola oil, to grease skillet
1/4 tsp salt
1 tbsp sugar, optional
1. Heat a griddle or skillet to medium-low. 2. In a mixing bowl, combine dry ingredients (including sugar if you like a sweeter pancake). In a separate bowl, beat eggs into milk. Gently stir the liquid ingredients into the dry ones. Mix only until flour is moistened. Clumps are fine. 3. Add some butter or oil to the skillet. If the butter foams or oil shimmers, the temperature is correct. Pour in a pancake of any size, cooking until bubbles form, about 2–4 minutes. 4. Flip and cook other side for 2–4 minutes. Serve warm.
Aquarius Capricorn Celebrate Champagne Fireworks
New year Party Pig Resolution
Snow Toast Winter
Freezing January Midnight
Inspired by Food Network
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Inside This Issue
THE PROBLEMWITH NEWYEAR’S RESOLUTIONS
STAY INFORMED ABOUTYOUR MEDICARE
FROM OUR CLIENTS
SWITCHING YOUR MEDICARE PLAN IN TIME
SIMPLE PANCAKES FROM SCRATCH
MEET THEWORLD’S FIRSTAIRPORT THERAPY PIG
Imagine you’re navigating a vast airport on a busy Saturday, shouldering your way through crowds and struggling to hear the PA system over the clatter of 1,000 wheeled suitcases. Suddenly, you see a pig wearing a hot pink sweater waddling toward you on a leash. Do you stop in your tracks? Does your stress level drop? Do you laugh out loud when you see its pink nail polish? If you answered “yes” to any of the above, then you can sympathize with the passengers, pilots, flight attendants, and staff at the San Francisco International Airport. They get to enjoy visits from Lilou, the world’s first airport therapy pig, on a regular basis! As part of the Wag Brigade, the airport’s cadre of (mostly canine) therapy animals, Lilou wanders the airport with her humans, bringing joy, peace, and calm to everyone she meets. Lilou may be the only pig of her kind, but airport therapy animals have been a growing trend for the last few years. According to NPR, as of 2017, more than
30 airports across the U.S. employed therapy dogs, and these days, estimates land closer to 60. The San Jose and Denver airports have therapy cats, and the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport even offers passengers the chance to play with miniature horses before boarding their flights. Therapy dogs started appearing in U.S. airports after the 9/11 terror attacks, which changed American attitudes about flying. They did so well at helping passengers calm down that airports began implementing permanent programs. Some have pets on hand 24/7 to assist passengers, while others host animal visits every fewweeks or months. These days, regular travelers have fallen hard for their local therapy animals, many of whom even have their own Instagram accounts and hashtags. So, the next time you’re traveling, keep an eye out for a friendly pup, cat, pig, or horse to pet. A bit of love from an animal just might improve your trip!
MEET THE WORLD’S FIRST AIRPORT THERAPY PIG
How Lilou and Animals Like Her Calm Stressed- Out Travelers
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