Medicare Open Enrollment – Redlands CA – Yucaipa CA

Changes To Medicare’s Open Enrollment


Medicare’s Open Enrollment has begun!  Below is some useful information about the some of the changes to Medicare’s Open Enrollment. Remember you are not alone, because we are here to help you with all of your Medicare questions.

Have great day!
George Litchfield

George Litchfield Insurance
California License #0B56846
Call us at (909)792-3300 or (888)891-5557

Changes in MedicareMedicare’s annual election period will begin October 15 and changes are expected thanks to the roll-out of the Health Insurance Marketplace. Due to the new Health Insurance Marketplace, those who are eligible for Medicare should know the differences between the two government programs.

Medicare beneficiaries have the option of making changes to their healthcare plans for 2014 during this annual enrollment period that runs from October 15 to December 7. That means anyone who has original Medicare, Medicare Advantage or Part D prescription drug plans can make any changes they desire to their coverage.

Some people may run into confusion when it comes to these two government-run health insurance exchanges. A Medicare beneficiary should know they are not required to enroll in a health insurance plan from the Health Insurance Marketplace if they already have coverage under Medicare. However, they should still evaluate their Medicare plan options for the upcoming year in order to make sure their coverage meets their medical needs.

Since the new healthcare law requires individuals to have coverage, anyone who will turn 65 during the annual enrollment period for Medicare should look for plans that will give them coverage through the end of 2013 as well as a plan that will begin on January 1, 2014.

One thing to know about Medicare is that it is not a part of the Health Insurance Marketplace. If you’re covered through Medicare then you won’t be charged penalties for being under-insured according to the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Remember that Medicare’s annual open enrollment runs from October 15 to December 7 while the Health Insurance Marketplace enrollment period is from October 1, 2013 to March 31, 2014.

Medicare changes to expect

A Medicare recipient who reaches the drug donut hole will benefit from lower costs. The gap in prescription drug coverage begins when someone reaches the initial coverage limit, which is estimated to be $2,850 in 2014. Once an individual spends $4,550, catastrophic coverage begins. When a beneficiary is in the donut hole, an individual may pay for costs out of their own pocket. However, in 2014, anyone who reaches the donut hole will be given a 52.5 percent discount on brand-name drugs and a 28 percent discount on generic drugs – up from a 21 percent discount in 2013.

Those with catastrophic coverage are responsible for a co-pay of $2.55 for generic prescription or preferred multi-source drugs that cost up to $51, a 10 cent decrease from 2013. The co-pay for drugs with a retail price of up to $127 is $6.35. In 2014, beneficiaries will be required to pay a 5 percent cost-sharing fee for any drugs with a retail price more than $127.

Changes are expected to Medicare Part B premiums, which are based on a beneficiary’s income. Information on premiums for a Part B plan for the upcoming year will be available by the time Medicare’s annual enrollment period begins.

Deductibles and premiums will change for Medicare beneficiaries with a prescription drug Part D plan. The initial deductible for Part D will decrease to $310 for 2014 and monthly premiums will be $31 for a basic drug plan. Keep in mind, however, that Part D premiums are subject to the same income-based thresholds as Part B plans.


Medicare’s Open Enrollment Period for 2013: What You Need to Know

medicare open enrollmentThe Medicare Open Enrollment Period for 2013 is coming up soon! For a quick rundown on what you need to know, take a look at this basic Q&A.

What is it?
Throughout the year, Medicare has different enrollment periods. The Open Enrollment Period, or OEP, is the time-frame during which Medicare beneficiaries (people with Medicare) can make changes to their Medicare plans.

What’s in a name?
In past years, you may have heard the Open Enrollment Period referred to as the “Annual Enrollment Period,” or even the “Annual Election Period.” Both of those (and the acronym that went with them, “AEP”) are older names for what officials at the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services are now calling Open Enrollment Period.
When is it?
OEP comes in the fall. As in 2011, this year’s OEP will take place October 15 through December 7, 2012. Any changes you make to your Medicare plan during this period go into effect on January 1, 2013.

What changes can you make?

During OEP, you can…

  • Switch from Original Medicare (Medicare Parts A and B) to a Medicare Advantage (Medicare Part C) plan.
  • Switch from a Medicare Advantage plan back to Original Medicare.
  • Switch from one Medicare Advantage plan to another. This might involve switching from a plan without Medicare Part D prescription drug coverage to one that has it, or vice-versa.
  • Make changes to your Medicare Part D prescription drug plan:
  • Join a Part D plan.
  • Switch from one Part D plan to another one.

Drop your Part D plan altogether.

Note: Medicare Supplement Insurance plans are an exception. You can join one at any time during the year, not just during OEP.

Why is OEP so im portant?
Once the Medicare Open Enrollment Period closes on December 7, you can’t make any changes to your Medicare plan until the following year. There are some exceptions, such as if you move out of the area served by your plan. But for most people on Medicare, the OEP is the only time when you can make a change.

Do you have to make a change during OEP?
Absolutely not! If the Medicare coverage you have now is working for you, and your plan(s) is offered for 2013, then you can keep your coverage as it is. However, because this time comes but once a year, it’s a good idea to evaluate your coverage during Open Enrollment Period every year. That way, you’ll know if you already have the best coverage options for you, or if you need to make some changes.

If you have more questions regarding Medicare Open Enrollment please feel free to call our offices at (909)792-3300



Try to Avoid Medicare Late Enrollment Premium Penalties

discountsKnowing your Initial Enrollment Period deadline and the different Medicare parts before you’re eligible for Medicare may help you to enroll on time and avoid paying penalties on top of your monthly Medicare premium payments. It’s also important to know about different enrollment periods to help avoid a lapse in coverage.

When you become eligible for Medicare, you will need to sign up for Part A, Part B and Part D during your seven-month Initial Enrollment Period. For example, if you become eligible for Medicare when you turn 65, you can sign up 3 months before the month you turn 65, the month you turn 65, and 3 months after you turn 65.

If you didn’t sign up for Part A and/or Part B (for which you must pay premiums) when you were first eligible, you can sign up between January 1–March 31 each year. Your coverage will begin July 1. You may have to pay a higher Part A and/or Part B premium for late enrollment.

However, some people who meet certain requirements may not have to pay a penalty even if they did not sign up when first eligible.

Part A Enrollment Penalties

Most people are eligible for Medicare Part A, Part B and Part D at age 65. Coverage for Part A is usually available without having to pay a monthly premium as long as you or your spouse worked and paid taxes for ten years. If you aren’t eligible for premium-free Part A, then it’s especially important to sign up during your initial enrollment period to avoid a possible 10% penalty on top of your monthly premium. You would have to pay the higher premium for twice the number of years you were eligible for Part A, but didn’t sign up for it.

Part B Enrollment Penalties

Part B charges a monthly premium. The amount that you pay is based on your income and tax-filing status. You will need to sign up when you are first eligible to avoid an additional 10% of your Part B premium for every 12-month period you were eligible for Part B, but didn’t sign up for it. Usually, you will have to pay the monthly penalty for as long as you have Part B coverage. You can delay enrollment in Part B without penalty if you quality for a Special Enrollment Period (SEP). Find out how much you may have to pay if you miss your enrollment deadline with this Part B penalty calculator.

Part D Enrollment Penalties

One way to avoid having to pay Part D penalties is to sign up for a Part D drug plan as soon as you become eligible. Or, you can delay enrolling in Medicare Part D without penalty, but only if you have had other prescription drug coverage at least as good as Medicare. This is known as creditable coverage If it’s been more than 63 days since you’ve had creditable coverage, then the penalty may apply. For each month you delay, you may have to pay an additional 1% of the average premium per month. You will pay that penalty for as long as you’re enrolled in a Medicare Part D plan.

Learning about timely enrollment in Medicare could save you a lot of money later.

–This information was provided by Medicare Made Clear

Sincerely,  George
California License #0B56846
(909) 792-3300

Medicare Advantage defies expectations by growing

medicare advantageIf we used tennis scoring to track the progress of healthcare reform, this would be the moment to declare: advantage Advantage.

Obamacare opponents have been warning for several years now that Medicare Advantage, the private plan option that seniors can pick instead of traditional fee-for-service Medicare, would fail because of the healthcare law’s impact on the program. The prediction was that the gradual elimination of extra federal reimbursements to Medicare Advantage would kill it. But the opposite is happening.

Advantage plans, which combine Part A (hospitalization) Part B (outpatient services) and usually Part D (prescription drugs), are on a big-time roll. Enrollment has jumped an impressive 10 percent in each of the past three years, according to data compiled by the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF), a non-profit healthcare research and policy organization. About 28 percent of all Medicare enrollees this year are in an Advantage plan

The growth of Advantage likely will shift into an even higher gear during the next few years following the launch of the state public insurance exchanges under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Most are managed care plans – 65 percent are health maintenance organizations (HMOs) and 22 percent are preferred provider organizations (PPOs), according to KFF.

Savings on premium costs are a big driver of Advantage plan growth. Enrollees pay their regular Part B premium, which is$104.90 this year. The Advantage plans also can charge a supplemental premium, but many don’t. This year, 55 percent of enrollees are in plans with no extra premium, and two-thirds of HMO Advantage plan members pay nothing extra, KFF says.

That means Advantage participants do not pay standalone premiums for prescription drug coverage, averaging $30 per month this year. They also are not paying for Medigap supplemental plans, which are popular in traditional Medicare and cover deductibles and coinsurance for long hospital stays and outpatient services, and help lower out-of-pocket costs.

Advantage plans also are gaining because the baby boomers coming into the Medicare system are accustomed to managed care.

The savings on premiums are an important plus for healthy seniors, since their overall usage of care will be low and out-of-pocket costs will be minimal. Baker urges less-healthy seniors to proceed with caution.

If you’re a relatively healthy 65-year-old who goes to the doctor once a year, you will save some money on premiums,but costs can escalate if you get sick.

If you are inclined to take traditional Medicare, there is an advantage to picking it when you first enroll because the Medigap policy won’t be able to exclude you for any pre-existing condition or charge a higher premium due to any past health problems. Depending on your state, you might have trouble getting a Medigap policy, or have to pay more, if you try to get a policy past that point.

Sincerely,  George
California License #0B56846
(909) 792-3300

When to Enroll in Medicare Advantage or Prescription Drug Plans

perscription drug plansAfter you’ve completed your initial enrollment in Medicare Parts A and B, there are some key dates to keep in mind. Review these dates and explanations to get a clear picture of when to take action.

Initial Enrollment Period (IEP)
For most, your IEP begins three months before the month you turn 65, runs through your birth month and ends three months after your birth month.

If you wait to enroll in a plan, there’s a chance you will have fewer plan choices and you may have to pay more.

Annual Enrollment Period (AEP) – Oct15 – Dec 7
During this time, you may enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan for the first time OR you can change prescription drug plans, Medicare Advantage plans, or return to Original Medicare. Coverage for enrollment changes takes effect on January 1.

Medicare Advantage Dis-enrollment Period Jan1 – Feb 14
If you’re in a Medicare Advantage Plan, you can elect to return to your Original Medicare benefits from the federal government. If you switch to Original Medicare during this period, you will have until February 14 to also join a Medicare Prescription Drug Plan to add drug coverage.

Feb 15 – Oct 14
During this time you will not be able to switch coverage unless you qualify under certain circumstances for a Special Enrollment Period.

Generally, you must stay with your current coverage until January 1, when any new coverage you chose during the Annual Enrollment Period begins. – If you or someone in your family is 65 or older and is in need of a Medicare Supplemental Plan or already has a plan, but wants to make sure that it is the right plan please give us a call (909)792-3300 or (888)891-5557 or go to our website  and we will give you a quote and help you keep money in your pocket

Medicare is Not a Family Health Plan

Turning 65 CakeHello,

This article explains what families can do if there is a spouse who is turning 65 and has a spouse under 65 that might  also have dependents. If you find this to pertain to you or someone you know please give us a call.  We can help you or someone you know with Medicare supplement plan needs as well as health insurance for anyone under 65.

Have a blessed day!

George Litchfield
Medicare Plan Specialist

Call me today at 888-891-5557

The transition to Medicare might be smoother for many couples if every married person were the same age as their spouse. Why? Many couples get their health insurance through one spouse’s employer. If that spouse retires at age 65 and enrolls in Medicare, a younger spouse—and any dependents—may be left without coverage. This is also true for domestic partners covered under one partner’s health plan.

You can only get Medicare if you yourself are 65, unless you are eligible due to disability. You are not eligible for Medicare when your spouse or partner turns 65. (The use of “spouse” in the rest of this article also means “domestic partner.”)

Health Insurance for a Younger Spouse

It’s important to plan ahead when a younger spouse relies on health coverage through an older working spouse’s employer. There are a number of considerations, including:

  • How many years will it be before the younger spouse turns 65 and becomes eligible for Medicare?
  • Does the younger spouse work and have access to a health plan through their employer?
  • Does the retiring spouse have retiree health benefits from their former employer that will cover the younger spouse?
  • Does the younger spouse have a pre-existing condition that may be an obstacle to getting other coverage? (Note that starting in 2014, as part of the Affordable Care Act, insurers can no longer discriminate on the basis of a person’s pre-existing condition.)

Buying health insurance for a younger spouse until they are eligible for Medicare can become costly. If eligibility is several years away, the retiring spouse may want to continue working—at least for a few years. That way, the younger spouse can continue to receive benefits through the working spouse’s employer plan until he or she turns 65.

Alternative health insurance options for younger spouses do exist. You’ll need to do some homework to find the one that may work for you. Here’s a run-down of the types of coverage available.

COBRA Temporary Insurance

Spouses and dependent children may be eligible for COBRA insurance through the retiring spouse’s former employer. The COBRA law allows you to continue receiving benefits for up to 18 months. You must pay the full premium; the employer no longer pays its share. You may only have a short time to apply for COBRA after the older spouse retires. Talk to the plan benefit manager ahead of time so you can be ready to act if you choose to go with COBRA.

Individual Insurance

Most private insurance companies offer individual plans. An “individual” plan may cover one person, spouses/partners or families with dependent children. Historically, people with preexisting conditions could be denied coverage or charged a high premium. This will no longer be the case in 2014 when the Affordable Care Act goes into effect. is a good place to start when looking for insurers in your area. You may also want to contact your current insurer to see what individual plans are available.

Group Health Plans

Some organizations offer group health plans to their members. These might include professional, alumni and social organizations. Premiums may be lower for this type of coverage than for individual insurance. Check with the organizations you belong to and see if they offer this member benefit.

HIPPA-Protected Insurance

HIPAA, or the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, allows individuals to buy insurance that doesn’t exclude or limit coverage for preexisting medical conditions. (Note that the Affordable Care Act provides additional protections.) You are protected by HIPPA if you’ve had group or COBRA insurance for at least 18 months with no break in coverage longer than 63 days. You can learn more about your protections from your state department of insurance.

Spouses facing Medicare decisions have many things to consider and choices to make. Take the time to understand your specific situation and learn your options.

–This information is provided by Medicare Made Clear – If you or someone in your family is 65 or older and is in need of a Medicare Supplemental Plan or already has a plan, but wants to make sure that it is the right plan please give us a call (909)792-3300 or (888)891-5557 or go to our website  and we will give you a quote and help you keep money in your pocket

3 Surprising Facts About Arthritis

arthiritisAbout 50 million Americans have arthritis. If you are one of them or know someone who is, then you know how painful it can be. But there’s more to arthritis than you may know.

The word “arthritis” means “joint inflammation.” It’s used to describe a variety of conditions that affect the joints and the tissues around the joints.

There are over 100 types of arthritis. Osteoarthritis is the most common type. It is also called degenerative arthritis. Other forms include rheumatoid arthritis, lupus and gout.

Arthritis affects many things besides the joints. Here are a few that you may be unaware of.

1. Arthritis increases the risk for heart disease, diabetes and other chronic conditions.

In a 2007 survey, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that almost half of American adults with arthritis have at least one additional chronic condition. Heart disease is the most common one. Diabetes and upper respiratory conditions follow close behind.

Experts aren’t sure why this is so. It could be that there are common risk factors. For example, age and excess weight are risk factors for arthritis, heart disease and diabetes. In addition, arthritis can interfere with physical activity. An inactive lifestyle can lead to weight gain, heart disease or diabetes.

It becomes something of a chicken-and-egg thing. But whichever comes first, these conditions seem to occur in the same people. The good news is that the same positive lifestyle behaviors may help manage or prevent all of these conditions. These include:

  • Eating a healthy diet
  • Getting regular physical activity
  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Managing stress

2. Arthritis and depression often go hand-in-hand.

One-third of U.S. adults 45 and older with arthritis have depression, anxiety or both according to the CDC survey. Researchers were unable to find any pattern to who did or did not develop depression or anxiety. They conclude that these conditions need to be addressed with everyone who has arthritis.

The survey also showed that half the people with anxiety or depression never brought the subject up with their health care providers. So it’s not surprising that many people are undiagnosed and untreated. Proper treatment for anxiety or depression may help improve the physical symptoms of arthritis, such as pain.

It’s important to discuss your emotional health as well as your physical health with your doctor. Medicare’s annual Wellness Visit, covered under Part B, is a good time to have a thorough discussion. Your doctor can help you find resources that may help you manage the emotional and physical effects of arthritis and other chronic conditions.

3. Arthritis is the most common cause of disability in the United States.

Nearly 21 million Americans with arthritis experience limited activity due to their condition, the CDC says. In addition, one-third of adults 18-65 with arthritis report limits in their ability to work. This can take a big toll on the lives of the individual, their families and their communities.

It may seem counterintuitive, but physical activity is the best defense against disability. It can help reduce pain and improve physical function, mental health and quality of life. Walking, biking and swimming are good choices.

Be sure to talk to your doctor before starting a new physical activity program. It’s important to choose activities you enjoy and that are healthy for you. It’s also important to start with reasonable goals and expectations. Your doctor can help you create a plan that meets your needs and abilities.

May is Arthritis Awareness Month

Exercise is an important part of arthritis treatment. So it makes sense that the Arthritis Foundation’s Arthritis Walk is the main event recognizing Arthritis Awareness Month. The event raises awareness and funds to fight arthritis. The message is to keep moving, and you can do that while helping the cause. Look for an Arthritis Walk near you.

–This information is provided by Medicare Made Clear – If you or someone in your family is 65 or older and is in need of a Medicare Supplemental Plan or already has a plan, but wants to make sure that it is the right plan please give us a call (909)792-3300 or (888)891-5557 or go to our website  and we will give you a quote and help you keep money in your pocket

Hands-Only CPR Helps Save Lives

CPR Hands OnlyWould you believe that the classic disco song “Stayin’ Alive” might actually help save lives? The American Heart Association (AHA) hopes it can.

The song that inspired John Travolta’s “Saturday Night Fever” dance moves happens to have the perfect beat for giving Hands-Only CPR. That’s a good thing for anyone unfortunate enough to experience cardiac arrest. Most of us can at least hum the tune, which may make it easier to remember the hands-only technique. That, in turn, may make it more likely that we will act if the need arises.

People in cardiac arrest who receive immediate CPR on the scene are up to three times more likely to survive, the AHA says. Sadly, most cardiac arrest victims never get that chance. Bystanders give CPR to less than one in three. The AHA hopes that the simple hands-only technique will change all that. The organization is using “Stayin’ Alive” to teach Hands-Only CPR to anyone who wants to learn.

Hands-Only CPR Basics

Almost anyone can learn and give Hands-Only CPR. The AHA describes the two steps this way:

Step 1: Call 911.

Step 2: Push hard and fast at the center of the chest.

“Hard and fast” varies from person to person of course. That’s where “Stayin’ Alive” comes in. Imagine the song. Now imagine pressing down hard on someone’s chest—once per beat.

Hands-Only CPR given in the first few minutes by a bystander who sees the victim collapse has been shown to be as effective as conventional CPR with mouth-to-mouth breaths. Conventional CPR may be better than Hands-Only CPR for infants and children, teens or adults found in cardiac arrest (whom you did not see collapse) and victims of drowning, drug overdose or collapse due to breathing problems.

About Cardiac Arrest

Cardiac arrest is the sudden loss of heart function, breathing and consciousness. The precise cause is an electrical disturbance in the heart. The disturbance stops the heart from pumping blood and oxygen to the rest of the body. Various types of heart disease, a heart attack or an electrical problem in the heart may cause the disturbance. [Your heart has its own “generator” that sends an orderly flow of electrical impulses that keep it beating regularly.]

Sudden cardiac arrest is a medical emergency. It must be treated immediately or the victim will die. Hands-Only CPR does what the heart can’t until help arrives.

The AHA says that four out of five cardiac arrests happen at home. If it happened to your loved one, would you know what to do?

Learn CPR

All CPR training courses that include skills practice will teach you to perform the essential skill of Hands-Only CPR—high-quality chest compressions. The AHA’s Family & Friends® CPR Anytime program is a 20-minute training you can do in the comfort of your own home. You can also find information about instructor-led CPR courses at

–This information is provided by Medicare Made Clear – If you or someone in your family is 65 or older and is in need of a Medicare Supplemental Plan or already has a plan, but wants to make sure that it is the right plan please give us a call (909)792-3300 or (888)891-5557 or go to our website  and we will give you a quote and help you keep money in your pocket

Check Your Blood Pressure Lately?

medicare high blood pressure

Hello everyone!

This is a very informative article about high blood pressure. Have you checked yours lately? There are some great tips on how to reduce high blood pressure.  Pass this story along if you think it might help someone you care about.

As always feel free to contact me at any time if you have any questions.

Have a blessed day!

George Litchfield
Medicare Plan Specialist

Call me today at 888-891-5557


High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, is the theme of World Health Day, April 7, 2013. World Health Day is celebrated annually to mark the founding of the World Health Organization (WHO) in 1948. Each year, the day is dedicated to raising awareness about a global priority public health concern.

This year’s theme, high blood pressure, is an apt choice for the United States. A 2011 report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Vital Signs: Prevalence, Treatment, and Control of Hypertension,” states that:

  • About 1 in 3 U.S. adults—an estimated 68 million people—has high blood pressure.
  • Less than half (46%) of people with high blood pressure have their condition under control.

World Health Day 2013 is a wake-up call to check your blood pressure regularly and work with your doctor as needed to keep it in a healthy range. According to the American Heart Association, normal blood pressure for adults over 20 is 120/80.

About High Blood Pressure

High blood pressure is diagnosed when your readings stay above 140/90. It’s important to get a number of readings over time for a diagnosis. Blood pressure can change from minute to minute with changes in posture, exercise, stress or sleep.

High blood pressure should not be ignored. Even though it may not cause any noticeable symptoms, it does increase the risk of heart attack, stroke and kidney failure. In addition, uncontrolled high blood pressure may cause blindness, irregular heartbeat and heart failure. The risk of developing these complications is higher if you have other cardiovascular risk factors, such as diabetes.

The treatment for high blood pressure almost includes lifestyle changes, such as eating a healthier diet and getting more exercise. In some cases, one or more medications may be prescribed.

The good news is that high blood pressure is preventable as well as treatable. You can help reduce your risk of developing high blood pressure when you:

  • Reduce salt intake
  • Eat a balanced diet
  • Avoid harmful use of alcohol
  • Get regular physical activity
  • Maintain a healthy body weight
  • Avoid tobacco use

Keeping Tabs on Your Blood Pressure

Your doctor or nurse probably checks your blood pressure at each visit. It’s a good idea to ask what the numbers are, if they don’t tell you at the time. Remember to do this at your next Medicare wellness visit, which includes blood pressure screening at no additional cost to you.

You can also check your blood pressure yourself with a home monitoring device. You can get one at your local drugstore. The pharmacist can help you choose one that fits your needs. In addition, many drugstores, pharmacies, health clinics and other public places have electronic blood pressure testing machines you can use.

It’s a good idea to test your blood pressure at different times of the day and to keep a record of your readings over time. This can provide important information to you and your doctor and help you create a prevention or treatment plan that meets your needs.

–This information is provided by Medicare Made Clear – If you or someone in your family is 65 or older and is in need of a Medicare Supplemental Plan or already has a plan, but wants to make sure that it is the right plan please give us a call (888)891-5557 or go to our website  and we will give you a quote and help you keep money in your pocket