mermaidcamp

mermaidcamp

Keeping current in wellness, in and out of the water

You can scroll the shelf using and keys

What Are Health Savings Accounts?

January 24, 2017 1 Comment

HSA

HSA

I have had a health savings account at my bank for many years. It is a simple savings account earning little interest. My accountant advised me to contribute to it, and I did without understanding the full reason. Now that I am on Medicare, in a relatively safe position, I am extremely happy I have a hefty HSA. I can use it for any approved medical expense that is not covered by my insurance. To qualify in the first place I had to carry a high deductible health insurance policy. This virtually guaranteed all the expenses would be paid by me, since I never hit my deductible amount in a single year. Now that I am on Medicare I can’t contribute any more, but that is fine also. I believe I have just the right amount for my own situation. I was not taxed on the initial deposit and the expenditures always qualify as legitimate medical expenses on my taxes.  I get to essentially write it off twice, even though it earns little interest.

There are  few caveats, such as making sure the use you make of it is an approved expense under the law. I made a costly error couple of years ago by paying for some body work from that account that did not qualify.  I paid an IRS penalty larger than the original payment, just to make sure I am in compliance with the law.  Now I will never cross that line again, as I know the consequences.  I did get a written prescription from a doctor for lymphatic drainage treatments, shiatsu, and reflexology at the U of A Supportive Care for Healing at the hospital.  Without the written orders those treatments would not be allowed, but with doctor’s orders it is fine. The same is true of over the counter medicines or vitamin supplements. Make sure you have the doctor’s orders filed with your tax documents, just in case you need them. My plan and my HSA account is personal, so there is no other entity for me to satisfy other then the IRS and the bank where the account resides.

There are plans in which employers contribute to HSA as an alternative or supplement to insurance. The law creating HSA’s was signed by George Bush on Jan 1, 2004.  Previous to that time a similar medical savings accounts existed for employees of small businesses.  The present law is open to employers of all sizes, not just those with fewer than 50 employees. Now the HSA is being promoted as an alternative to health insurance.  I am very pleased I have one, but it is no way an alternative for insurance. It is effective to the extent that it meets the individual’s needs.  It can be spent on preventive care not covered by most policies, so it can upgrade the health care of the customer.  It can be invested in a more lucrative way than my own interest earning savings plan at a bank.  I have a debit card I use for all medical payments during the year.  The feature I like the best is the full accounting of all the money I have spent on health care during a given year.  The HSA  bank statement is all I need to do my taxes at the end of the year and keep track of my health care spending.  I am glad to have it, if for no other reason than ease of tax accounting.

Do you have a health savings account, gentle reader?  Is yours done through an employer or is it a personal plan?  I think it is a good idea, but there is much to know to choose the right one and deposit the right amount for your future needs.

IRS

IRS

Making The Most Of Medicare

October 7, 2016 2 Comments

Medicare Vitamins

Medicare Vitamins

I received my giant booklet from the insurance company this week, along with the almost as thick booklet from Medicare itself. I discovered last year when I enrolled that consulting a professional insurance agent is the only way to make an informed decision on this issue without loosing your mind.  To my great delight I was able to clear up a couple of questions I had about the updates on the phone with my agent.  Since I am pleased with my current coverage I don’t need to do anything during open enrollment season.  My agent, Karyn, will check and confirm that my dermatologist will remain in the coverage network.  We can then agree simply over the phone and she will remain my agent. She makes sure the plan works for my best financial interest.  She also acts on my behalf if I ever have conflict with an insurance provider.  Since the data is overwhelming, and the circumstances change each year only a professional can keep current with the latest nuances.  I am in a good mood not only because I have finished the task for the year, but my benefits almost all improved in 2017 for the same low price.  Should I need to use them I will be rewarded with more bang for my buck.

I am happily surprised at the ways Medicare has made me happy during my first year.  The Silver Sneakers benefit was created with me in mind.  I need an excellent gym with a clean locker room at the least, to meet my minimum lifestyle requirements.  I have been happy at the Tucson Racquet Club for years, but now I get both the Racquet Club and the Tucson Jewish Community Center member ships for free.  The JCC is a wonderment of well run health and fitness programs.  The beautiful gym with fast wi-fi and filtered water for your bottle gives me a thrill every time I enter.  I was not miserable at the Racquet Club, but it is a real blast to have the gift of a better designed facility courtesy of Medicare.  For me it is like a won the spa for life sweepstakes.  There are all kinds of Silver Sneakers offers, but you must make sure that your insurance provider is on board with the program.  For my own purposes, this is the most important feature.  Since my company will continue to participate in the program my fabulous free membership will continue uninterrupted.

My over the counter pharmacy benefits will be slightly reduced from $25 a month to $50 each quarter.  If you place no order you will not use your benefits.  I make a game of trying to come out to exactly $25 each month. I use it for vitamins, bandaids, dental floss, and the like.  This also is one of my favorite benefits because they deliver your products by mail, the ultimate convenience.  I keep myself stocked up on these daily use items at no cost.  I may never run out of chapstick and cotton swabs.  The company I use is Humana, but this is not a plug.  It is important to match your own consumer needs with the company’s offer.  Your state may have different features, and they are all subject to change next year.

Good luck to all the Medicare consumers and their families in this wild season.  My best advice is hire a great insurance agent to represent you.  If you live in Tucson I highly recommend the services of Karyn Damshen.  She will remove the mystery from this stressful process.  Once you have a clear understanding of the options she will guide you to the best fit for you.  Her services are paid by the provider, so there is no extra cost to you as her client.  She works for you as an independent agent. This is a big boon to those trying to understand this complicated market.  I hope you all end up happy and well covered for whatever transpires next year.

Tucson JCC

Tucson JCC

Navigating Health Care

May 15, 2016 2 Comments

rose is a rose

rose is a rose

In order to navigate the tricky changing tides of health insurance coverage today we need experts. Since I switched to Medicare this year I went shopping last year for referrals for a good agent. I found Karyn Damschen of Retirement Navigators who helped direct me to the plan that works best for me.  I am extremely pleased with my coverage and my care at iora primary care.  Karyn is such a star Medicare expert that I carry her cards with me to pass out when I meet anyone who needs a health care insurance agent. Who, in my opinion, needs a health insurance agent? Absolutely everyone who has a choice in the matter.  If coverage by your employer is set, you probably would not benefit from a consultation with an agent.  All others need to be advised by those professionals who spend their time keeping current with regulations and changes in the market.  The market becomes more complex all the time.  The result for consumers is an unsettlingly confusing set of offers from which to choose.  After the coverage is in place we cross our fingers and hope anything that happens to us will be covered by our policy.  To make the best of this frequently changing situation I feel really great that I have Karyn representing my best interests and keeping me informed about all my options.

Recently I received the news that my primary care physician is leaving the brand new practice.  First my personal paraclete (health coach) from iora called to explain the change and transition.  The next day I got a call from the fabulous Karyn at Retirement Navigators who was busy calling all her clients who were effected by this situation.  She was ready and willing to change providers within the limits of my Medicare policy, or do anything I might want, in light of the new circumstances.  This was evidence to me that the front line of my health care system, my agent and my paraclete, are the best.  They spend all the time needed to match my needs with the best available medical care.  They have specialties and expertise in the insurance system that the doctor does not, and should not, be bothered to learn.  Although I liked my first doctor, I love the new system iroa is pioneering here in Tucson. The team approach has worked very well for me so far, and I expect that it will continue to evolve with a different doctor.  I am pleased with the choice I made to use iroa.  I have no wish to change because I like it now and think it will only improve with time.

Do you have a health insurance agent, gentle reader?  It is worth the time to find one to represent you.  They can read the map and keep you on the road to the best health care available to meet your needs.

rose is a rose

rose is a rose

My Medicare Miracle

January 14, 2016 5 Comments

View from the exercise bike, JCC

View from the exercise bike, JCC

My life has changed dramatically in the last two weeks. I have been looking forward to Medicare because it saves me a significant chunk of cash each month. I shopped and researched wildly, reaching the conclusion that the new Iora Primary Care is right for me.  I am signed up with Humana on a Medicare Advantage plan that costs me nothing and offers benefits I can really use.  I went to my first appointment with Dr Julia Jernberg, my new primary care physician, on Monday.  She is the smartest, coolest doctor I have ever seen.  She gave me a simple practice I can do at home to relieve a chronic pain I have had in the front of my ankle.  She specialized in this orthopedic technique at University of Arizona School of Alternative Medicine. She nailed the diagnosis (always key to success), then taught me how to do my own simple hands on healing.  I find a position of comfort and gently coax my muscle out of trauma for about three minutes at a time, twice a day.  It is ridiculously easy to do, but she cautioned me not to be too zealous and overdo my remedy.  She nailed the zealous diagnosis too.  I have followed her instructions for three days and believe I can feel improvement.  Dr. Julie is truly my dream doctor, a teacher of self care.  She is assisted by the best staff in the most well designed environment.  I could not be more pleased with this fantastic upgrade to my health care.

My Silver Sneakers card arrived in the mail this week too. This card provides free membership privileges to Medicare recipients at health clubs all over the country.  In Tucson many clubs participate in the program, but each one offers a different set of privileges.  I am already a very happy member at Tucson Racquet Club, and have arranged to pay a fee over and above my Silver Sneakers membership (covered by my insurance company). I think it is worth paying $22 a month to be able to attend all the classes at my club.  However, I took my Sneakers card to the newly remodeled Jewish Community Center and was given full membership privileges.  The JCC does not restrict me to Silver Sneakers classes with my special membership.  They offer a wide array of fitness options.  This thrills me, but not as much as the fabulous Zuckerman Family Wellness Center does.  The gym is the feature I use the most at a club.  This one is spacious, modern, well staffed and super clean.  The view from the equipment room is spectacular, and like the Racquet Club, it is situated right on the Rillito River walk.  They have new state of the art equipment and professional trainers.  There is free high-speed WiFi which I used to read some magazines on my iPad while I peddled the new age exercise bike. The bike even has arm rests.

I am highly impressed with the quality of the operation, but my favorite part of the JCC gym is the special needs population.  Some special needs individuals work out independently and some come to the J with care givers who encourage and help them.  I watched a young man who appeared to have Down Syndrome have such a great time on the TRX equipment that he inspires me to try it.  He was so comfortable and happy swinging on the rings and attempting super difficult moves that I decided I can do that too.  I think it is really fun to share the gym with the special population, and it is the first time I have experienced that cool thing.  You just go, JCC!!!

My Very Own Medicare Paraclete

January 6, 2016 3 Comments

Haley in the greenhouse

Haley in the greenhouse

I am excited to have lived long enough to make it into Medicare. I have expert guidance and very good luck in my choice of providers. Iora Primary Care recently opened very near my home.  I will go to my first appointment next week, but yesterday I met my new Paraclete.  Her name is Haley and I like her a lot.  She will be my helper/guide/uplifter at the medical practice.  We visited the Tucson Botanical Garden yesterday while getting to know each other.  I am an enthusiastic new patient of this brand new model for Medicare Advantage clients who are insured by Humana.

Haley has experience in different kinds of yoga and fitness.  She is assigned to me as a coach.  The problems with using the word coach are various.  For one thing everyone and their dog is a coach now.  It is impossible to know what the term is supposed to mean in each case.  Also coaching implies some kind of external pressure rather than helper by one’s side.  We tried out the word paraclete on some people we met at the gardens.  It does sound exactly like parakeet, and nobody knows what it means, so it is high comedy.  We met the botanist in charge of the butterfly greenhouse, whose first language is Italian.  He was able to guess the meaning, but I think it will be an uphill struggle to get this word into common use.  Religious people use it to connote Holy Spirit.  I like the idea that Haley is my personal Paraclete, provided and paid for by Medicare.  Whatever we call her she is the bomb.  This was worth the wait.

Haley in the greenhouse

Haley in the greenhouse

Haley at the Gardens

Haley at the Gardens

Haley at the Gardens

Haley at the Gardens

Iora Health, the Zappos of Primary Care

October 22, 2015 6 Comments


I am in luck that a new model for Medicare patients has come to my neighborhood.  Today Iora Primary Care opened a new practice very close to my home.  My health insurance agent told me about this new practice that operates in a revolutionary way.  I was invited to the ribbon cutting this morning that was well attended and very festive.  Dr. Rushika Fernandopulle and some of the senior staff of the company flew out to Tucson from Boston, the site of the home office.  The day had started with a heavy downpour and thunderstorm, but the weather cleared in time for an excellent party, some brief speeches, an official proclamation by the mayor of Tucson, and a ceremonial ribbon cutting to launch the business.  A fine time was had by all.  I sat down with Dr. Fernandopulle later this afternoon to learn more about our new local health care option.  He has some great ideas.

His model was born partly from frustration in his American practice of primary care and partly from experience working around the world.  By observing what works well with low or no tech he has crafted a system that takes advantage of good relationships first.  The team approach makes the best use of both the patient and the doctor’s time.  The office has a casual feel to it, and all the employees I met are enthusiastic about their jobs.  I think Rushika is right that the synergy of culture is what distinguishes this medical practice from all others.  I am very pleased to be given this choice for my Medicare coverage.

Rushika

Rushika

Julie

Julie

healthy spread

healthy spread

Medicare on My Mind

August 25, 2015 3 Comments

Silver Sneakers

Silver Sneakers

I will only pay four more ridiculously high premiums to the Aetna Insurance Company before we break up forever. They are leaving the state at the end of the year, and I will be eligible for Medicare at the same moment. I think I am lucky with that timing. I will not need to learn about anything other than Medicare, but it is a complicated task. I did not change my private insurance policy when the new regulations came into effect because I had only a couple of years left to use it. Now that I have a chance to design and create a plan that may really benefit my health I am pleased.

My investigation started with a referral for a health insurance agent.  My friend’s agent referred me to a Medicare specialist who will see me this week for an initial appointment.  Karyn Damschen is the agent who will walk me through the basics and help me decide on the best plan for my needs.  After a short phone consultation I was happily relieved to know that an impartial independent representative of all insurance companies can advise and guide my choices.  She works for me but is paid a commission by the insurance company whose policy I purchase.  She also is my support for using the system and making the most of tax credits I may deserve.  I probably could navigate the computer system when the policies and pricing become available in November, but the decision is important. My future health care (at least until the market opens again next year) depends on making a wise purchase.  The more I know the better.  I look forward to the guidance of a professional to help me make a wise decision.

Silver Sneakers is a program I plan to use to pay my health club dues.  My club has the program, so in January I will be able to assign my dues to the insurance company of my choice.  This is a gift that goes on giving.  Now that I have paid into the insurance pools for years and extracted no benefits, I am ready to receive something that I value.  There are specialty classes created for the senior set to enjoy in good health.  My club offers Zumba Gold and a senior strength/flexibility class.  I have not participated, but think it is an excellent idea to give special attention to this part of the population.

Zumba Gold

Zumba Gold

If you are eligible soon for Medicare I urge you to find an agent to help you make the best of it.  Who knows, maybe I will see you at the Tucson Racquet Club sometime.  I will be there enjoying my excellent benefits.  I will be in the steam room if you need me.

%d bloggers like this: