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November 2014

Critical Questions to Consider During Medicare Open Enrollment Right Now

Washington Watch


It could cost you money if you don’t reassess your Medicare plan during the open enrollment season that began October 15 and goes through December 7.


Most of the 54 million Medicare recipients will not switch their Medicare plans because, as focus groups have found, the process is very confusing and overwhelming. But you could be making a big mistake by not taking a fresh look because in many cases, plans have changed, doctors you count on have been dropped from specific plans and some plans have disappeared altogether.


The big news this year, although not a surprise, is that many companies are consolidating their Part D drug policy offerings, so the number of plans for 2015 will decline by about 14%, according to Avalere Health, a Washington DC-based consulting firm that studies and analyzes the health care industry. Your insurer should have notified you if your plan has been discontinued but not necessarily about changes.


While there will be many choices, some parts of the country appear to be harder hit by plan reductions than others, including the Southeast and mid‑Atlantic regions, according to Avalere.


You must choose one of two paths: traditional Medicare, which is the original fee‑for‑service program, or a federally subsidized Medicare Advantage (MA) plan, which typically operates like a health‑maintenance or preferred‑provider organization.


For most Medicare patients, Parts A (hospital coverage) and B (physician coverage) are not sufficient, since neither covers the costs of prescription drugs and they usually have extremely high co‑pays and deductibles.


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We Came, We Saw, We Conquered... Thanksgiving!

Ernie's World


“Sheppard, party of 40 your tables are ready.”


Thanksgiving this year was at my brother-in-law and sister-in-law’s modest home in Carmel Valley. And like every year they invited all the relatives. Unlike previous years, though, this year they said...


“Sounds great, we’ll be there.”


“Sounds great, we’ll be there.”


“Sounds great, we’ll ALL be there.”


Everyone brought something to share. We had copious amounts of hors d’oeuvre including meats, cheeses, breads and enough veggie platters to start our own vegan colony. There was a cadre of casseroles, many involving beans of the world, Idaho’s entire yearly crop of potatoes, a couple dozen pies, and of course an abundant amount of turkey, stuffing and gravy. We also had a huge plateful of ham until we took our eye off the dog for a split second.


There were some less traditional offerings this year. For one, my wife told me she read that Bob was bringing a Salamander.


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