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Starting another year

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

As we change from one year to another, it is like starting a new chapter. We can look forward to many expectations for a new year and say good-by to the year that has ended and is now history.

Dec. 31 was the final day for enrollments into the Plan D prescription program for those on Medicare. The annual enrollment period was from Nov. 15 to Dec. 31. That is rather a frustrating time in some ways since there are two holidays during that period and the time for enrollment is rather short. Many people have difficulty understanding the program and knowing the best way to enroll. Adding to the frustration is the difficulty in finding out from some of the companies if the enrollment is successful.

It is difficult to imagine what it must be like for the companies. All of a sudden they have these enrollments coming in and they must pass the information on to CMS for final approval, with a limited time to do it. Certainly, the companies would have to hire additional temporary help who most likely do not understand the program.

Add to that, it has to be a difficult time for CMS to review all of the enrollments and to provide approval. It will be another week or two before many of those enrolled in the plan will receive their cards and the information that they need. Each one is enrolled in the program for the year and for most people they cannot make any changes until the annual enrollment period which will be held from Nov. 15 to Dec. 31, 2010.

Not only does the annual enrollment period apply to Plan D, but it also applies to Plan C which includes the Medicare Advantage programs. Medicare Advantage includes private fee for service, HMO and PPO plans. While there was an annual enrollment period for these plans, these plans are now in three month open enrollment period. There are limitations on enrollments. Basically, it depends mainly on the Plan D prescription enrollment. If a Medicare beneficiary is not enrolled in a Plan D, they would only be limited to enrolling in a Medicare Advantage Plan which does not include a Plan D. It gets somewhat complicated and caution is needed to make the proper enrollment. Medicare Advantage is not the same as Medicare Supplements, the two are entirely different.

Many people have saved money by being enrolled in a Medicare Advantage Plan. These plans have been popular with many enrolled in the programs. Still, there have been enrollees who had terrible experiences.

Medicare has been a great program for senior citizens and the disabled who are enrolled in it. The question is how much longer is it going to be a great program, especially when funds are going to be taken out of it to pay for the health legislation that has been passed in the House and the Senate? We keep hearing that the program is on the way to going broke, and yet the proposal is to take money out of Medicare. The payments to providers are already being reduced. How much longer can we continue with payments being reduced to doctors and other providers, before there will be a drastic impact on the quality of health care that Medicare beneficiaries will receive? Many specialists in such places as Arizona and Florida already refuse to accept Medicare.

One of the places my late brother received care was at the Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale, Ariz. He felt that he received good care at the clinic like many others have. It is recognized as providing high quality health care -- among the best in the world. This week the clinic in Arizona announced that they will no longer accept Medicare payments. Those on Medicare will have to make payments in cash. This has an impact on a significant number of patients. The clinic is evaluating# doing the same thing at their other clinic locations. This may be a sample of things yet to come this year or in future years.

We have been hearing a lot about global warming. Such an event is evident as indicated about the extreme cold weather we are having at this time. If I heard right, December was the coldest month we have had in this century. This month will certainly go down in the records as being colder than it was in December.

There will be much more in the news about the carbon trade program that is being proposed because of global warming. Supposedly the climate change is cause by man with carbon pollution. This week, I watched a documentary on TV. It was about one of Al Gore's friends who had believed in the global warming theory. As he has studied the evidence, he is no longer of the same opinion. Much of the information about global warming being man made does not have any true facts behind it.

According to the documentary, the carbon trade and tax is about controlling the economy and to gain power. There are scientists who have come out with facts against global warming that have been threatened and fear for their lives.

On a lighter note, the many football games on TV during recent days have been great. The week around New Year's Day is a wonderful time to watch football. Granted, there were disappointments and frustrations. Still, there were outcomes that were great -- including good wins by Nebraska, Oklahoma and Texas Tech.

There will be a lot of things going on in this new year of 2010.

Leonard Ernsbarger
Leonard At Large