Medicare and You: Hang on to that book

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60 Plus
Medicare and You:
Hang on to that book!

by Janis Hall

Sept. 23, 2015


The Medicare and You 2016 books have started arriving in Vermonters’ mailboxes. If you receive one, please resist the urge to throw it in the recycling bin.  Allow me to explain why it is important, and to provide some tips on how to get the most out of the book without necessarily reading every page.


The Medicare and You book is mailed to every Medicare beneficiary at this time of year. Why now? Because Medicare Open Enrollment begins October 15, and that is when everyone who’s signed up for Medicare has the opportunity to change plans.


It really can pay to review your plan during open enrollment, and the booklet is a good place to start this process. Your current plan may be about to raise your premium cost or change coverage details.  I know a couple who compared plans last year and chose a new one that not only saved them money but also provided better coverage for their needs.


Note, you will also get information in the mail from insurance companies about their plans. But the Medicare and You handbook is an unbiased guide designed to help you understand all options and make the smartest choices.


So, if you can put your hands on your Medicare and You booklet now, let’s take a look at it together.


The front cover lists three sections that are important to start with. This is a good strategy so you won’t get overwhelmed.


The “big picture” is covered in pages 12-22, which explain the very basics about Medicare and the kinds of choices you can make during open enrollment.


The detailed view is available starting on page 37, where you can learn exactly what services and other needs are covered by Medicare.


Then if you flip to the back of the book you’ll see this year’s available health plans and their monthly costs starting on page 153. Check to see if your costs are about to go up, and compare your plan to the other choices listed.


Also look over the table of contents on page 4. You’ll see all the types of questions that this book can help answer. For example, it shows there’s information about how to get help paying for your plan starting on page 119.


You should hold onto the Medicare and You book not only for open enrollment, but throughout the year. You might need to check what services you can get covered, and how often; especially if you develop a new health problem.  Or you might need to learn about your rights, and what to do if you believe you have experienced Medicare fraud.


If you prefer a digital copy to read on your computer or on a device such as a Kindle or iPad, see the inside of the front cover for instructions. You can download a booklet (make sure it says 2016 on the cover), or sign up to receive next year’s copy digitally.


The book also contains important contact information: 1-800-MEDICARE, as well as the phone number for our State Health Insurance Assistance Program (which is accessed through our Vermont Senior HelpLine), and are all right there on the back cover in case you have questions later on.


So if there’s a Medicare and You book going out in your recycling bin, I hope it is just last year’s issue.


We encourage you to use the web site if you can.  Among its many useful features, there’s an excellent plan-comparison tool that provides personalized recommendations based on your health care and prescription needs.


Another way to get a leg up for Medicare Open Enrollment is to attend a class. The next one scheduled in our region is in Woodstock on October 7 from 1:00-2:30 P.M. To get full location details and reserve your spot, call the Senior HelpLine at 1-800-642-5119.


60 Plus is a collaboration between Senior Solutions of southeastern Vermont and the Southwestern Vermont Council on Aging. Both can be reached by calling the Senior HelpLine at 800-642-5119.



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Falls Prevention Awareness Day 2015

Article published Sep 16, 2015
60 Plus: Falls Prevention Awareness Day 2015
On Sept. 23, senior advocates across the United States will join together to observe the eighth annual Falls Prevention Awareness Day (FPAD). This year the theme is Take a Stand to Prevent Falls.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

— One-third of Americans age 65 and over fall each year.

— Every 13 seconds, an older adult is treated in the emergency room for a fall; every 20 minutes, an older adult dies from a fall.

— Falls are the leading cause of fatal injury and the most common cause of nonfatal, trauma-related hospital admissions among older adults.

— Falls result in more than 2.5 million injuries treated in the emergency departments annually, including over 734,000 hospitalizations and more than 21,700 deaths.

— In 2013, the total cost of fall-related injuries was $34 billion.

— The financial toll for older adults who fall is expected to increase as the population ages and may reach $67.7 billion by 2020.

Here are four things that you can do to prevent a fall:

1. Begin an exercise program to improve your leg strength and balance.

2. Ask your doctor or pharmacist to review your medications.

3. Get annual eye checkups and update your eyeglasses.

4. Make your home safer by removing clutter and tripping hazards, putting railings on all stairs, adding grab bars in the bathroom, and having good lighting, especially on stairs.

The National Council on Aging sent out a survey to approximately 900 senior centers across the U.S. Only 107 (12 percent) from 29 states responded to the survey. The most common evidence-based programs that were successful in preventing falls were “A Matter of Balance” and “Tai Chi” followed by blood pressure checks.

Not all classes are offered in all areas. You may call the Senior HelpLine at 800-642-5119 to find opportunities near you. Many programs are also listed at

There are other ways to reduce your risk of falls, depending on your situation. But your health care professionals won’t be able to help you unless you tell them about your concerns.

One out of three people age 65 or older fall each year, but less than half talk to their health care providers about it. And the largest numbers of people with fall injuries are those who do not go to a doctor, receive no medical care, or treat themselves (

So take charge and prevent falls for yourself and your family members.

60 Plus is written by Heather Baker and Janis Hall. It is a collaboration between Senior Solutions of southeastern Vermont and the Southwestern Vermont Council on Aging.

Scam Alert!!!!

There have been reports of the general public receiving unsolicited calls from what appears to be the SNAP toll free information hotline number: 1-800-221-5689.  The unsolicited callers are requesting personal information offering assistance for filling out a SNAP application or other non-SNAP related services such as home security systems. Never provide personal information or your credit card number over the phone to unsolicited callers. This outside entity that has “spoofed” the SNAP toll free information hotline number is not affiliated with FNS or SNAP. If you suspect that you are receiving illegitimate calls from 1-800-221-5689, you may file a complaint with the FCC. If you have already fallen victim to this or a similar scam, please visit: for more information on identity theft.


Senior Helpline 1.800.642.5119