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Learn about advance directives at the Senior Center

SUN Columnist

Advanced directives are important for people of all ages. They direct medical providers to alternate decision makers. They authorize your appointees to conduct business on your behalf when you are unable to; they can direct limited instructions about future medical care, etc.

Wills are documents which deal with your property after you are dead; a will directs the personal representative or administrator to collect your assets, pay your bills and then distribute what is left according to the terms of your will.

Because advanced directives are so important for people of all ages, these will be made available at the Senior Center on Oct. 18 beginning at 10 a.m. on a first-come, first-served basis, gathering information in the morning; you’ll need to return in the afternoon to sign.

With attorney Mike Green, individuals and couples will have a general brief discussion about the documents involved; they will then discuss what information is necessary to prepare the documents.

Don’t miss this opportunity to have these documents prepared for you, and it’s free.

Medicare

Medicare Open Enrollment is Oct. 15-Dec. 7.

Medicare is stronger than ever with more benefits, better choices and lower costs to beneficiaries. Expanded Medicare benefits under the health care law (the Affordable Care Act) continue to be available, including certain free preventive benefits, cancer screenings and an annual wellness visit. Whether you choose Original Medicare or a Medicare Advantage plan, take advantage of Open Enrollment to review cost, coverage or both for next year (2014).

• More benefits: Certain preventive benefits, including cancer screenings, are available with no cost to patients when furnished by qualified and participating health professionals. The annual wellness visit allows people to sit down and discuss with their doctor their health care needs and the best ways to stay healthy.

• Better choices: Medicare will notify beneficiaries about plan performance and use its online Plan Finder to encourage enrollment in quality plans.

• Lower costs: Average premiums for 2014 for prescription drug coverage and Medicare health plans will remain stable. People who are in the “donut hole” in Medicare’s prescription drug benefit will enjoy approximately 53 percent discounts on covered brand name drugs and see increased savings on generic drugs.

The new Health Insurance Marketplace won’t affect your Medicare coverage and is not part of Medicare Open Enrollment. Medicare is not part of the Health Insurance Marketplace. You do not need to enroll in the new Health Insurance Marketplace to maintain or change your Medicare coverage.

Your health care needs change from year to year. And, your health plan may change the benefits and costs each year, too. That’s why it’s important to evaluate your Medicare choices regularly. Open Enrollment is the one time of year when all people with Medicare can see what new benefits Medicare has to offer and make changes to their coverage.

It’s worth it to take the time to review and compare, but you don’t have to do it alone. Medicare is available to help.

• Call your local SHIP office (located at the Senior Center) at 264-2167 for an appointment to help navigate you through the process and provide information

• Visit www.medicare.gov/find-a-plan to compare your current coverage with all of the options that are available in your area, and enroll in a new plan if you decide to make a change.

• Call 1-800-633-4227 24 hours a day/seven days a week to find out more about your coverage options. TTY users should call 1-877-486-2048.

• Review the “Medicare & You” 2014 handbook. It is mailed to people with Medicare in September.

• If you have limited income and resources, you may be able to get Extra Help paying your prescription drug coverage costs.

Extra Help 

Medicare’s “Extra Help” program helps people with limited income to pay for their prescription medications.

Making ends meet should not mean going without your medications. If you have limited income and resources, Medicare’s “Extra Help” program sets it up so this year you might pay no more than $2.60 for each generic drug and $6.50 for each brand name drug. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services estimates that more than 2 million people with Medicare may be eligible for the subsidy, but are not currently enrolled to take advantage of these savings. A recent law changed how your income and assets are counted:

• Life insurance policies do not count as resources.

• Any help you get from relatives, friends and others to pay for household expenses — like food, mortgage, rent, heating fuel or gas, electricity, water, and property taxes — does not count as income.

Many people qualify and don’t know it.

The changes that took place in 2010 allowed more people than ever to qualify for “Extra Help.” Even if you were previously turned down for “Extra Help” due to income or resource levels, you should reapply. If you qualify, you will get help paying for Medicare prescription drug coverage premiums, copayments and deductibles. To qualify, you must make less than $16,755 a year (or $22,695 for married couples). Even if your annual income is higher, you still may be able to get some extra help. Your resources must also be limited to $13,070 (or $26,120 for married couples). Resources include bank accounts, stocks and bonds, but not your house or car.

There’s no cost or obligation to apply.

It’s easy and free to apply for “Extra Help.” You or a family member, trusted counselor or caregiver can apply online at www.socialsecurity.gov/prescription help or call Social Security at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY users should call 1-800-325-0778). All the information you give is confidential. Medicare beneficiaries can also receive assistance in their local communities from their State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP) at 264-2167.

To learn more about Medicare prescription drug coverage, visit www.medicare.gov, or call 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227). TTY users should call 1-877-486-2048.

Calendar

Friday, Oct. 18 — 10 a.m. advance directives workshop; 10 a.m. Stitchin’ in the Kitchen; 12:30 gym walk during open gym.

Monday, Oct. 21 — 12:30 p.m. gym walk.

Tuesday, Oct. 22 — Gym walk during open gym; 1 p.m. Meditation for Healing, Medicare counseling by appointment.

Wednesday, Oct. 23 — 11 a.m. blood pressure checkups, Medicare counseling by appointment.

Thursday, Oct. 24 — 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Medicare open enrollment event, walk-in only.

Friday, Oct. 25 —10 a.m. Stitchin’ in the Kitchen; 10:30 a.m. book club; 12:30 p.m. gym walk during open gym; 12:45 p.m. snowfall prediction deadline.

Cafe Fox menu

All meals include our great salad bar.

Friday, Oct. 18 — Roast pork, smashed potatoes, brown gravy, California veggies, whole wheat roll, baked apple, orange wedge, raisin nut cup.

Monday, Oct. 21 — Oven fried parmesan chicken, baked potatoes, Mandarin spinach salad, cornbread, peaches.

Tuesday, Oct. 22 — BBQ pulled pork, whole wheat bun, macaroni salad, savory black beans, fresh orange.

Wednesday, Oct. 23 — Crab patty with cream gravy, peas, brown rice, salad, Mandarin oranges.

Thursday, Oct. 24 — Closed.

Friday, Oct. 25 — Honey BBQ chicken, oven browned potatoes, spinach, bran muffin, fresh apple.

Reservations are required by 9 a.m. the morning of the day you would like to dine at Cafe Fox. For your convenience, you can make your reservation up to one week in advance (call 264-2167), on our website at www.archuletacounty.org, at select departments and at the Senior Center.

Suggested donation for older adults age 60 plus is $4, guests $6. Our meal program is partially funded through the Older Americans Act via the San Juan Basin Area Agency on Aging, United Way, Archuleta County, Town of Pagosa Springs and other individual donations and grants. These funds help support the cost of the meal which is approximately $12.85. 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.

This story was posted on October 17, 2013.