When Blog Friends Go Missing

Medicare Changes for 2012

category_bug_journal2.gif A short, little post today to remind you that the Medicare Open Enrollment period begins and ends earlier this year than in the past. The dates are from 15 October 2011 through 7 December 2011.

So mark your calendars if you want to make changes to your coverage. If not, you need do nothing but it's a good time of year to check your health coverage and make sure all is in order.

Medicare2012 By now, anyone who uses Medicare has probably received the annual Medicare & You 2012 handbook that is packed with useful information. If you have not received it, there is an online version here [pdf]. If you are new to Medicare this year, the handbook has extensive information on how to make the necessary choices and sign up.

That said, Medicare is complicated and although I have some quibbles, the people at medicare.gov should be congratulated for making the handbook and their website as clear and understandable as possible given the regulations they have to work with.

It has been my experience, too, that the customer service people at the end of the 1.800.MEDICARE telephone number are usually knowledgeable and helpful – and I've rarely had to wait longer than a minute or two to speak with a representative.

You can also call your State Health Assistance Program (SHIP) with questions about Medicare, Medigap coverage, long-term care and more. You will find phone numbers for individual states here or, if you have received the new Medicare & You 2012 handbook, the telephone number for your state is on the back cover.

The Affordable Care Act (ACA), passed by Congress in 2010, gives Medicare recipients several new benefits. Prescription drug prices are slightly lower and everyone gets a free, annual wellness visit with their physician together with a fairly long list of free preventive services such as annual flu shots, screenings for various cancers, HIV, diabetes and more. You can see the list here.

Even if you are happy with your supplemental, prescription drug and/or Medicare Advantage coverages, the open enrollment period is still a good time to make sure everything you need is in order.

Now, although all this is important for old folks to keep track of, it is pretty dry stuff so to lighten up a bit, here is funny and sorta true piece of wisdom from Connecticut physician's assistant, Sue Atkins, that seems applicable today:

“This is a deceptively simple philosophy,” says Sue, “that I have been working on and refining for most of my life. I am delighted to say that I believe I have refined it down to its essence sufficiently to share it with a select band of friends that may appreciate its elegance and simplicity.”

Deceptively Simple Philosophy

No new story at The Elder Storytelling Place today. More next week.


I love Sue's illustration! It's so true.

Even my Medicare Insurance agent was misinformed about the “Wellness” visit mentioned in the body of your post today.

See an article in the AARP Bulletin of July 2011 about this confusion; read the Medicare details: You pay nothing for the yearly “wellness” visit if the doctor or other health care provider accepts assignment.

In the large practice I'm in, the doctors do NOT perform the “wellness” visits; the Nurse Practioners do. Many other patients I know do not take advantage of this service for that very reason, but….it is acceptable practice as far as Medicare is concerned

There's a real lack of clarity about this particular "benefit"and it can cause unhappiness, to put it mildly!


I have received my new book from my HMO and need to compare the benefits and the cost to the HMO I left last year. I changed HMO's last year because my previous HMO raised the co-pay rates drastically on hospitalization. I traded the lower hospital rates for a HMO that had a higher co-pay for specialists. I lost that gamble. If we could only know what the future holds it would be so much easier to choose.

I did notice that the cost of many things have increased this year. When will this country wake up and have Medicare for all and kick the Insurance companies out of health care?

My friends who have recently enrolled in Medicare report they are hit with high co-pays for the preventative services listed on that Medicare page. I'm going to get them to give me as many specifics as they can: the last thing we need in healthcare is phantom benefits.

We looked at Sue Atkins' GAS scale.

My husband says that he was way ahead of his time...low on the GAS-scale for many years, if ever.

Unfortunately I peaked late, maybe 10-20 years ago...hmmm, about the time that I was assigned to cover local politics. Still trying to lower myself on the scale.

America is one of the most advanced Countries in the world yet the government is unable to set up a decent healthcare system that allows Americans of all ages and incomes to get the proper, affordable medical treatment needed to stay healthy and sustain life

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