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Month: March 2022

The Early Signs of Alzheimer’s

Checking for Glaucoma — What do I do?

Gregory Gurbikian

President/CEO at Healthcare Solutions Direct, LLC, a nationwide insurance agency focused primarily on the retiree health market.

More than six million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s, a progressive, irreversible brain disorder that slowly chips away at a person’s memory and thinking skills. It can even impact language and impact a person’s ability to manage their day-to-day life.

While Alzheimer’s can affect people at any age, it’s more common for those 65 and above. In fact, the number of people living with Alzheimer’s doubles every five years starting at age 65.

There is likely not a single cause for Alzheimer’s, but there is currently no cure. Even though much research is done, there is still a lot that scientists need to learn to provide effective treatments. One of the best things you can do now is know the initial signs of the disease in order to diagnose it early and try to slow it down.

Watch for the early signs

Although many of us associate getting older with being forgetful, and maybe a little less coordinated, aging does not mean memory problems. When memory loss becomes so frequent that it begins disrupting your daily life, you are most likely experiencing a warning sign of dementia, which includes Alzheimer’s.

Feeling lost in what should be familiar places, or constantly repeating the same question over and over, are more serious issues that are related to memory loss. Just forgetting a person’s name once or twice or needing help to remember the title of the movie you saw last week may not be a sign of Alzheimer’s. There is a significant difference between these types of forgetfulness, but it is certainly something to pay close attention to as you age.

Other issues potentially related to Alzheimer’s can also manifest early enough to warn you to act. These will include the following:

· Having trouble with planning or solving problems. Things like remembering to pay bills or following an old recipe you have had memorized for years can be a sign.

· Finding it difficult to complete familiar tasks whether at home or at work such as using a cell phone or finishing up a shopping trip.

· Losing track of dates or getting the times wrong on planned events.

· Struggling with balance so that you find yourself spilling or dropping things more often.

· Experiencing hardship in following or joining conversations.

· Misplacing things around the house and struggling to work backwards or finding it hard to retrace your steps to find them.

· Noticing irregular changes in mood, personality, or behavior. Some might experience a loss of interest in socializing.

These changes, coupled with age and a family history of Alzheimer’s, may put you at higher risk for developing the disease yourself. Issues like these can start small and be very subtle. Your brain may change well in advance of your first real symptoms appearing for Alzheimer’s. If you happen to notice any of these early signs happening frequently, make sure to take note.

Get an annual wellness check

At any point, if you begin experiencing early signs of Alzheimer’s you should discuss these issues with your doctor as soon as possible. Even if they are not ultimately related to Alzheimer’s, keeping your doctor aware of any changes in your mental, physical, and cognitive health is very important.

You should also check your cognitive health as part of your annual wellness exam with your doctor. As a component of Medicare Part B, your well check covers a cognitive impairment assessment to look for early signs of Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia. This means every 12 months you can get tested to watch for the emergence of early Alzheimer’s signs without an additional cost. This is a very valuable preventative service available to those on Medicare.

Take advance action

Should you get a diagnosis or have high risk for the disease there is some preventative action that may also help slow down the progression of Alzheimer’s. These steps may also reduce your risk of any cognitive decline. However, taking advance action may require you to make some major changes to your daily routine. They are worth it though, so consider making these part of your day-to-day:

· Eating healthy food choices.

· Scheduling even it is short periods of physical activity.

· Planning time for socializing with friends and family.

· Sitting down for some mentally stimulating activities that really challenge you, like crossword puzzles and brain teasers.

Most of these lifestyle choices can also help you maintain your mental health and overall well-being so there are many reasons to incorporate them into your day.

Medical insurance is crucial to properly care for Alzheimer’s

Because Alzheimer’s is a progressive, and even a fatal disease, costs for long-term care are often high. Having proper medical insurance means adequate coverage to not only minimize costs, but also to enable you to get proper preventative care on a regular basis.

If you are a Medicare beneficiary, but you are unsure of the extent of your coverage, contact Healthcare Solutions Direct. We will work with you to evaluate your current plan and

recommend any additional coverage to help customize your plan to your specific healthcare needs. Medicare Part B gives you the coverage you need to catch early signs of Alzheimer’s through preventative care but if you are concerned about any other specific conditions, we are here to answer your insurance questions. We want you to feel comfortable with your own Medicare plan. Contact us today to learn more.

Contact Healthcare Solutions Direct to understand your options

Finding the right Medicare plan for your personal needs is essential to maintaining both physical and mental health in an affordable way. While getting the right coverage is important, finding the balance between care and cost is too. Let the insurance experts at Healthcare Solutions Direct help you navigate your Medicare plan options. We represent the major Medicare carriers in the US, allowing us to pinpoint the best choice for you. After pairing you with the right plan, we walk you through the entire process, supporting you the entire way. To learn more, contact us today.

The information provided here is not investment, tax or financial advice. You should consult with a licensed professional for advice concerning your specific situation.

Gregory Gurbikian

President/CEO of Healthcare Solutions Direct, a nationwide insurance agency focused primarily on the retiree health market. Read Gregory Gurbikian’s full executive profile here.

Checking for Glaucoma — What do I do?

Checking for Glaucoma — What do I do?

Gregory Gurbikian

President/CEO at Healthcare Solutions Direct, LLC, a nationwide insurance agency focused primarily on the retiree health market.

More than three million people in the U.S. have glaucoma, but some don’t even know it. Your risk for this group of ocular diseases begins to increase as you age, which is why it is important to have regular check-ups if you have a higher probability of getting it. Luckily, Medicare will help cover a glaucoma screening every 12 months if you are a high-risk beneficiary.

What is glaucoma?

Glaucoma is a set of serious diseases that can cause permanent vision loss or blindness. Regardless of what type you have, vision issues with glaucoma are caused when fluid builds up in the front part of your eye, adding pressure and damaging your optic nerve. 

There are two primary types of glaucoma:

Primary open-angle glaucoma is the most common and happens gradually. If you suffer from this form, your eye does not drain fluid properly, so pressure builds up slowly. As this happens, there is no pain or vision changes, but over time you will begin to experience symptoms. They will start with patchy blind spots in your side or central vision. They will worsen to tunnel vision as the disease progresses. This type of glaucoma is easy to catch and treat early with regular check-ups since it moves slowly.

Angle-closure glaucoma affects the eye differently. There is a greater chance that you will have an acute sudden attack. This type occurs when your iris is too close to the drainage angle in your eye. It gets to the point that it can slide into place and cause a blockage. This makes eye pressure increase very quickly until it becomes a true emergency. Symptoms include severe headaches, eye pain, nausea and vomiting, blurred vision, halos around lights, and eye redness. If these symptoms occur, you should seek out medical attention immediately.

Regardless of what type of glaucoma you have, early treatment can make a difference if you are getting evaluated for the disease regularly.

 

What is my risk?

Glaucoma is a leading cause of blindness in people over 60, but some ethnic groups are more at risk than others. Anyone over 60 has an increased risk of the disease, but risk begins to increase earlier if you are of African American descent. Risk within that ethnic group begins at 50. For Hispanic individuals, risk ramps up later at 65.

There are also certain pre-existing conditions that increase your risk of glaucoma which include:

· Diabetes

· Heart disease

· High blood pressure

· Sickle cell anemia

· Extreme nearsightedness or farsightedness

· Certain eye injuries

· A family history of glaucoma

· High internal eye pressure

Risk also increases if you take corticosteroid medications, especially as eye drops for a long period of time.

How is testing covered?

If you have been categorized as high-risk for glaucoma, Medicare helps covers screening once every 12 months though Medicare Part B. The cost breakdown for original Medicare is that you pay 20 percent of the Medicare-approved amount and the Part B deductible. You will also have a copay if the screening takes place in a hospital outpatient setting.

What happens during a screening?

Exams typically take place at an ophthalmologist where they will examine your inner eye pressure, the shape and color of your optic nerve, the angle where your iris meets your cornea, as well as your cornea’s thickness. They will also ensure you have a complete field of vision or no blind spots. Certain tools that you might not often see at the eye doctor will help make this screening possible. There is a chance they will want to numb your eye so that your eyes are dilated for a better view at your optic nerve. Every test within the full screening is painless and often pretty quick.

Your doctor may also discuss preventative measures you can take to reduce your risk of glaucoma-related vision issues which include:

· Getting regular, dilated eye exams.

· Knowing if glaucoma runs in your family history.

· Using prescribed glaucoma eye drops as directed, even if you do not have symptoms.

Once you have completed your screening, your eye doctor will advise you on how long to wait before coming back.

How do I know I am covered?

Understanding all the services you are or not covered for with Medicare gets confusing. It is best to have a trusted insurance agent that you can rely on for questions. They will be able to review your coverage and let you know if there are any gaps worth addressing.

Avoid getting bogged down in Medicare Supplement choices

As you can see there are a lot of options when it comes to your Medicare Supplement options, but it really only comes down to one or two plans. At Healthcare Solutions Direct, we help you narrow down your supplemental coverage choices to the plan that works best with your particular healthcare needs. Our transparent and personalized approach means we pair you with the right Medicare insurance, no matter what. We will also take the time to answer all of your questions, ensuring you have a complete understanding of your policy coverage. To learn more, and get the best insurance coverage, contact us today.

Contact Healthcare Solutions Direct to understand your options

Finding the right Medicare plan for your personal needs is essential to maintaining both physical and mental health in an affordable way. While getting the right coverage is important, finding the balance between care and cost is too. Let the insurance experts at Healthcare Solutions Direct help you navigate your Medicare plan options. We represent the major Medicare carriers in the US, allowing us to pinpoint the best choice for you. After pairing you with the right plan, we walk you through the entire process, supporting you the entire way. To learn more, contact us today.

The information provided here is not investment, tax or financial advice. You should consult with a licensed professional for advice concerning your specific situation.

Gregory Gurbikian

President/CEO of Healthcare Solutions Direct, a nationwide insurance agency focused primarily on the retiree health market. Read Gregory Gurbikian’s full executive profile here.

Breaking Down your Medicare Supplement Options

Breaking Down your Medicare Supplement Options

Gregory Gurbikian

President/CEO at Healthcare Solutions Direct, LLC, a nationwide insurance agency focused primarily on the retiree health market.

On its own, Medicare is a somewhat complex system of health insurance. You have multiple parts, but they each do something a little different when it comes to your coverage.

While all eligible people have free access to Medicare Part A, it is not always enough. That’s where Medicare Supplement comes in. Medicare Supplement is not a single policy, but rather a variety of options from private insurance companies that all work to supplement Medicare. Each type of Medicare Supplement plan has different costs associated with it and can provide different coverage.

If you are considering supplementing your Medicare coverage with a Medicare Supplement, make sure you know what your options are.

Today’s most popular Medicare Supplement plans

Like all sections of Medicare, Medicare Supplement plans also use alphabet letters. Medicare calls them parts like Part A, Part B or Part D. Medicare Supplement on the other hand calls the alphabet letters plans. The two most commonly selected Medicare Supplement plans are Plan G and Plan N. Both give beneficiaries 100 percent comprehensive coverage through Medicare and are pretty much the only two plans that anyone is looking into right now to supplement their Medicare coverage.

Plan G

Known as the “Cadillac Plan” of Medicare, Plan G has the most bells and whistles. You never pay a co-pay, or any hospital or medical costs after reaching the annual Part B deductible in 2021 of $203.

All this coverage though will come at a price because the Plan G is the most expensive Medicare Supplement plan option out there for those new to Medicare. With the Plan G, you may pay for more than you need. With this unlimited plan it always sounds great, but it is only worth the money if you max out the limits associated with some of the other Medicare Supplement plans when it comes to co-pays and things like that.

From our experience you can expect to pay around $125 to $150 a month for the Plan G if you are newly eligible to Medicare. Some areas may be a little lower or higher depending on gender and other factors.

Plan N

The preferred choice for most newly eligible to Medicare when it comes to Medicare Supplement, is Plan N. The Plan N is commonly referred to as the NOW plan for Medicare Supplement plans. It provides a better balance between cost and protects beneficiaries from overpaying for coverage. It is also around $30 cheaper per month than the Plan G. If you are wavering between the Plan G and the Plan N, you might want to consider the following information. You would have to visit a doctor approximately 18 times in a single year under the Plan N to equal the cost of Plan G.

Plan N works the same way as the Plan G in that it charges you $0 in hospital and medical charges once you have met the $203 annual deductible. The difference in the Plan G is that it does come with a discretionary small co-pay for doctor visits or trips to the hospital that are not deemed medically necessary. The charge for both is low, which means you can stay within your budget should you need to start using the insurance.

· For non-medically necessary visits to a doctor’s office, the co-pay charge is at their discretion. Doctors can charge up to a $20 co-pay. This charge is not applicable for visits that include preventative care, and you cannot get billed for a co-pay until you meet your annual Part B deductible in 2021 of $203.

· For visits to a hospital emergency room that does not result in an admission, the hospital can charge up to a $50 co-pay.

From our experience you can expect to pay around $95 to $125 a month for the Plan N if you are newly eligible to Medicare. Some areas may be a little lower or higher depending on gender and other factors.

Medicare Supplement plans that went out-of-date as of 2020

If you have had Medicare coverage for a while, or are over 65, you may have seen two other Medicare Supplement plan options which are the Plan C and Plan F. Both are only available to beneficiaries who became eligible for Part A before 2020. They are retroactively obtainable if someone was eligible for Part A prior to January 1st, 2020 and deferred getting Medicare Part B. In most cases the monthly premiums associated with these plans would not be cost prohibitive compared to the Plan G or Plan N.

A few other Medicare Supplement options

The list does not stop with the four plans listed above. Nobody can argue that Medicare Supplement is not robust when it comes to options, so there is also Plan D, Plan K, Plan L, and Plan M.

· Plan D is almost like getting Plan B with two bonus features. This plan includes the addition of skilled nursing facility care and foreign travel emergency care within its benefits package.

· Plan K and Plan L require that you meet your out-of-pocket yearly limit, and Part B deductible, before gaining access to 100 percent coverage. This restarts each year. Prior to that, Plan K covers most services by 50 percent, while Plan L provides 75 percent overage.

· Plan M is identical to Plan D in every aspect but one, it only covers the Medicare Part A deductible by 50 percent.

As you can see, the little quirks within each of these plans usually make them less-than-favorable to beneficiaries in need of comprehensive supplemental coverage.

Avoid getting bogged down in Medicare Supplement choices

As you can see there are a lot of options when it comes to your Medicare Supplement options, but it really only comes down to one or two plans. At Healthcare Solutions Direct, we help you narrow down your supplemental coverage choices to the plan that works best with your particular healthcare needs. Our transparent and personalized approach means we pair you with the right Medicare insurance, no matter what. We will also take the time to answer all of your questions, ensuring you have a complete understanding of your policy coverage. To learn more, and get the best insurance coverage, contact us today.

Contact Healthcare Solutions Direct to understand your options

Finding the right Medicare plan for your personal needs is essential to maintaining both physical and mental health in an affordable way. While getting the right coverage is important, finding the balance between care and cost is too. Let the insurance experts at Healthcare Solutions Direct help you navigate your Medicare plan options. We represent the major Medicare carriers in the US, allowing us to pinpoint the best choice for you. After pairing you with the right plan, we walk you through the entire process, supporting you the entire way. To learn more, contact us today.

The information provided here is not investment, tax or financial advice. You should consult with a licensed professional for advice concerning your specific situation.

Gregory Gurbikian

President/CEO of Healthcare Solutions Direct, a nationwide insurance agency focused primarily on the retiree health market. Read Gregory Gurbikian’s full executive profile here.

Lowering the Eligibility Age of Medicare

Lowering the Eligibility Age of Medicare

Gregory Gurbikian

President/CEO at Healthcare Solutions Direct, LLC, a nationwide insurance agency focused primarily on the retiree health market.

As the Biden administration begins acting, there are more and more healthcare initiatives that are coming to the forefront with concerns about policy changes. This often means updates or modifications to Medicare, and while your insurance agent should keep you informed on anything that will impact you directly, it is good to know what the folks up on Capitol Hill are up to when it comes to healthcare.

The latest developments are currently just in discussion as the administration plans to take another look when it comes to healthcare reform. What is one of the biggest concerns is what happens if the eligibility age for Medicare changes?

Pushing Medicare’s eligibility down

Certain policy elements are almost always up for grabs when it comes to healthcare changes. These include things like drug prices and healthcare coverage. What is different this time around though is the possibility of changing Medicare’s eligibility age from 65 to 60.

It may not seem like a significant step by lowering the Medicare eligibility age by five years, but this small change would give access to almost 23 million more people in the U.S.

It is a popular idea for some circles and not so for others. About 77 percent of individuals are in favor of lowering the eligibility age for Medicare as far down as 50. When it comes to lowering the age of eligibility for Medicare it will fundamentally change this type of coverage, so it is not something to take lightly. The question that remains is would it be for the positive or negative. That debate can be successfully argued by both sides.

On the pro side

The biggest positive to lowering the eligibility age for Medicare is that it enables people 60-64 access to good healthcare coverage. It would also bring down the cost of healthcare for people within this age range and may decrease premiums for those already enrolled in Medicare.

Lowering the Medicare eligibility age also removes a segment of the population who spends the most on healthcare when it comes to employer insurance. It is just a fact that older individuals will on average, need more healthcare services than those who are younger. Providing Medicare access to this group of people helps employers save on insuring its employees. It also helps those that are using healthcare services the most get more affordable options.

The other positive about lowering the eligibility age, is that when this segment of the population is out of work for whatever reason, they will continue to have access to affordable health insurance.

On the con side

The con to this fundamental change to Medicare by lowering the eligibility age could endanger traditional Medicare and increase financial risk. The financial risk for those going onto Medicare early could be an exposure to no out-of-pocket cap with traditional Medicare. Those who do not enroll in a Medicare Supplement plan, or an alternative Medicare Advantage plan could be left with some big out-of-pocket expenses when it comes to their healthcare. The other question is how insurance companies would price out these policies with the eligibility age now lowered.

The change could also play a part in shrinking the workforce. People within the 60-64 age range who were waiting to retire until becoming Medicare eligible, could choose to leave their jobs a little earlier.

There is also concern that hospitals and doctors would push back since adding more people into the Medicare system would impact their incoming revenue. This is because Medicare negotiates lower rates with healthcare providers which included hospitals and doctors’ offices. Many would not be able to financially survive a drastic cut in the income disparity between Medicare and that of employer group coverage.

Change is always constant

There is no way to know what the future will bring when it comes to Medicare. What policies will get pushed through, which will be rejected, but lowering the eligibility age for Medicare is an important topic for all our political leaders. It is most likely a safe bet to assume changes will happen down the road at some time in our lifetime.

Contact Healthcare Solutions Direct to understand your options

Finding the right Medicare plan for your personal needs is essential to maintaining both physical and mental health in an affordable way. While getting the right coverage is important, finding the balance between care and cost is too. Let the insurance experts at Healthcare Solutions Direct help you navigate your Medicare plan options. We represent the major Medicare carriers in the US, allowing us to pinpoint the best choice for you. After pairing you with the right plan, we walk you through the entire process, supporting you the entire way. To learn more, contact us today.

The information provided here is not investment, tax or financial advice. You should consult with a licensed professional for advice concerning your specific situation.

Gregory Gurbikian

President/CEO of Healthcare Solutions Direct, a nationwide insurance agency focused primarily on the retiree health market. Read Gregory Gurbikian’s full executive profile here.

Asking for Generic Prescriptions Is Best

Asking for Generic Prescriptions Is Best

Gregory Gurbikian

President/CEO at Healthcare Solutions Direct, LLC, a nationwide insurance agency focused primarily on the retiree health market.

If we looked at all the prescriptions filled in the U.S., 90 percent are for generic medications. However, brand-name drugs account for 74 percent of drug spending. There is good financial argument in favor of going generic.

Brand-name Medicare Part D drug claims total a little less than what is happening at the national scale for all prescriptions. Only about five percent of all claims are for brand-name drugs but using each opportunity to switch to the generic form can save you money. The numbers do not lie. Even with excellent drug coverage, it is almost always less out-of-pocket for you to opt for a generic medication.

A recent study delved into this issue, noting that if all clinicians traded out brand-name medications for generic options, it could save around $977 million in a single year.

What qualifies as a generic?

The Food and Drug Administration says that generic drugs are the same as brand-name medicines if they meet certain criteria. The generic form of a medication has to equal the brand-name in:

· Dosage form

· Safety

· Strength

· Route of administration

· Quality

· Performance characteristics

· Intended use

Generics also need to use the same active ingredient as their brand-name counterpart and prove to the FDA that their product works the same. The reason we have brand-name and generic medications is all because of patents. When a drug company comes up with a new medication, they patent it. This is what turns into the brand name item. With that patent, they have a window of time where no other companies can manufacture the drug. For this reason, they can set the price point wherever they want. There is no competition. Once that window is up, generics can come in and make the same medication, and usually charge less to compete.

The generic drug stigma

Most often, doctors are the ones requesting a brand-name medication over its generic counterpart, even if a generic exists. This happens about 30 percent of the time, meaning patients are missing opportunities to save money without having to sacrifice the quality of the medicine they are taking.

The reason for this is doubt. Almost half of all clinicians look at generic drugs in a negative light. They question their quality, even though the FDA requires it to be equal to its brand-name counterpart. This is because there are slight differences between the two categories of medication. Generic drugs do not always go through the same rigorous testing. They can also have a 10 percent quantity variation in the amount of the active ingredient. This can lead to inconsistencies in the medication as well as put it at a lower effective rate than that brand-name medications. However, with these potential problems, they often are not enough to pose a high risk. It does help doctors doubt though, creating a stigma against generics.

This doubt passes on to patients who then request brand-name medications as well, just to “be safe.” Patients may also feel like they are saving money when picking a brand name drug since many companies offer rebates or manufacturer discounts. While this will lower out-of-pocket costs, the price may still be higher than the generic form. These discounts also do not last forever, and it is not always possible to flip from a brand name to a generic if you have been on the medication for a long time.

Where medication coverage comes from

Knowing this difference between brand-name and generic medications can help you make more affordable choices, but the real way to save on medications is with the right insurance. For Medicare, that means having a Part D plan. Medicare Part D is required to cover a wide range of the prescription drugs Medicare beneficiaries often take. This also includes medicines in certain protected classes such as those used to treat cancer.

You will not find a master list of what drugs are covered though. Each plan within Medicare Part D is slightly different. Within them, you will often find medication tiers. This is how insurance plans group drugs which is often based on price. Although what medicines are in each tier can vary, it is a given that a Tier 1 medication will generally cost less than a Tier 2 or Tier 3, etc.

Getting right prescription drug plan

Since there are variations between Medicare Part D plans, it is best to work with a knowledgeable insurance agent when selecting what is right for you. They will assess your specific healthcare needs and then make recommendations that help you get the best coverage when it comes to your prescriptions.

They will also help you with all the other parts of Medicare, ensuring you get comprehensive coverage in every area. This is how Healthcare Solutions Direct does it by making sure all your questions about Medicare are answered before you select a plan. Our goal is to get you the right coverage and will work with you from start to finish to accomplish that.

Advocate for the generic

Since rigorous standards label a drug as generic, there is no reason you should not advocate for it with your doctor when encountering a new prescription. Your doctor will also know if a) there even is a generic form available and b) if it will really work for you. Sometimes there are issues with generics. Sometimes your doctor wants the brand name for a particular reason. In these instances, make sure you get an explanation of why a generic option is not right for you.

Your Medicare Part D will only get you so far when it comes to making the right choices in which type of medication you use. Your Medicare insurance agent will ensure that you have the right

plan to accommodate your needs. It is then up to you to limit your own out-of-pocket costs as best you can. To ensure you have the right Medicare Part D coverage, work with an experienced insurance agent, who understands the often-complicated nuances of Medicare. For the best service, contact us today.

Contact Healthcare Solutions Direct to understand your options

Finding the right Medicare plan for your personal needs is essential to maintaining both physical and mental health in an affordable way. While getting the right coverage is important, finding the balance between care and cost is too. Let the insurance experts at Healthcare Solutions Direct help you navigate your Medicare plan options. We represent the major Medicare carriers in the US, allowing us to pinpoint the best choice for you. After pairing you with the right plan, we walk you through the entire process, supporting you the entire way. To learn more, contact us today.

The information provided here is not investment, tax or financial advice. You should consult with a licensed professional for advice concerning your specific situation.

Gregory Gurbikian

President/CEO of Healthcare Solutions Direct, a nationwide insurance agency focused primarily on the retiree health market. Read Gregory Gurbikian’s full executive profile here.

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