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Learn more about health care act, Medicare at The Den

If you missed the September Affordable Health Care Act presentation, we’ve gotcha covered. Renee Burch, Health Coverage Guide, will return Tuesday, Oct. 8, at 12:30 p.m. to make sure you know the scoop.

The Affordable Care Act is changing how health insurance works for all of us. Soon virtually everyone in Colorado will be able to get health insurance whatever their health history. Insurance will be available either through their employer, Medicaid, or on their own through a new marketplace called Connect for Health Colorado. The best news of all is that new federal assistance will make it more affordable for you than ever before. Federal assistance will be available to small employers and individuals who meet income guidelines. In addition, Medicaid coverage will be available to an additional 160,000 people in Colorado. You are not required to use this new marketplace; however, to get help paying for your insurance you must apply for your insurance and the assistance through Connect for Health Colorado.

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 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 (800) 633-4227 24-hours a day/seven days a week to find out more about your coverage options. TTY users should call (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.

There’s extra help with prescription medications

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 is set 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 estimate 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 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/prescriptionhelp or call Social Security at (800) 772-1213 (TTY users should call (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 (800) MEDICARE ((800) 633-4227). TTY users should call (877) 486-2048.

AARP Driver Safety 

A class will be held Thursday, Oct. 10, 11:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m. at the Senior Center. Registration required. AARP members pay $12, non-members $14. For further information, and to register, call Lois O’Dell at 259-5589.

Weekly activities at The Den

Friday, Oct. 4 — 10 a.m. Stitchin’ in the Kitchen; 10:30 a.m. brain injury support group; 12:30 p.m. gym walk during open gym.

Tuesday, Oct. 8 — 12:30 p.m. healthcare exchange presentation, gym walk during open gym; 1 p.m. Meditation for Healing.

Wednesday, Oct. 9 — 11 a.m. blood pressure checks; noon nutrition education handout for Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

Thursday, Oct. 10 — Medicare counseling by appointment; 11:30 a.m.–3:30 p.m. AARP Driver Safety course (registration required).

Friday, Oct. 11 — 10 a.m. Stitchin’ in the Kitchen; 12:30 gym walk during open gym.

Cafe Fox menu

All meals include our great salad bar.

Friday, Oct. 4 — Macaroni and cheese with ham, tossed salad, peas, bran muffin, bananas and Mandarin oranges.

Monday, Oct. 7 — Baked chicken, black eyed peas, orange beets, orange wedges, whole wheat roll.

Tuesday, Oct. 8 — Savory meat loaf with gravy, smashed potatoes, peas ‘n carrots, tossed salad, whole wheat roll, Jell-O fruit. 

Wednesday, Oct. 9 — Crunchy baked fish, tartar sauce, creamy coleslaw, smashed sweet potatoes, mixed veggies, banana.

 Thursday, Oct. 10 — Closed

Friday, Oct. 11 — Chicken Alfredo, Harvard beets, cranberry sauce, tossed salad, whole wheat bread, winter fruit.

 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 3, 2013.