You never forget the onset of a chronic condition; the sequence of going from being healthy to having irreversible and progressive symptoms.
It was 1986, and I was getting over strep throat. Standing in front of the bathroom mirror, I noticed my head moving abnormally. My first thought was, it’s a temporary side effect of medication. When it didn’t go away, panic set in.
Fast forward to the diagnosis of essential tremor (ET), the most common movement and tremor disorder that is now thought to be a degenerative disease, affecting the lives of over 10 million Americans. I remember the neurology specialist sharing, “It’s nothing; just act like Katharine Hepburn,” the Academy Award actress who exhibited visual symptoms of head and voice tremors. My response was, “But I’m not her. I can’t act!”
The stigma of being different took an emotional toll. ET contributed to the dissolution of my marriage and unkind remarks from friends. I didn’t know anyone with ET. It would be 11 years before I did.
Through the International Essential Tremor Foundation, I started the first support group in the San Francisco Bay area. What a relief to see a mirror of me at the initial meeting. A year later, I co-founded the first online support group with Frank, a patient from Texas.
In 2003, we formed an online weekly chat that sparked a weekend in the Great Smoky Mountains with chat friends Jan and Jennifer, who discussed offering patients more options.
TAN, a nonprofit headquartered in California, was founded in a Tennessee log cabin! Two more people, Ann and Hok, joined the original board of directors that represented ET, dystonia and Parkinson’s patients.
Two of the board members were applying for SSDI. TAN didn’t know of Allsup, only paralegals and attorneys that took two years or longer to obtain SSDI decisions. A new online member, Mary Jane from New York, shared what a breeze her 2006 SSDI appeal had been with Allsup representation. With Allsup’s assistance, TAN added SSDI eligibility as a service
TAN’s Facebook page describes the organization as providing boutique one-on-one support and guidance. Thanks to Allsup, TAN services include Medicare and mental health. Our motto is: We can help you, with or without a diagnosis!
I never learned to act like Kate Hepburn. TAN and 17 years of great friendships with tremor patients helped me to accept who I am—ME regardless of ET!
By Tricia of Allsup
Like a well-oiled seasonal timepiece, the World Series and cooler weather are approaching.
So is Medicare open enrollment season.
Medicare’s annual election period runs from Oct. 15 through Dec. 7. This is when millions of Americans should take a close look at their Medicare plans to see if they still meet their healthcare and financial needs in 2015.
Although Medicare provides great savings, it’s so complicated that many people don’t fully understand how to take advantage of the program. For example, many seniors don’t learn that their costs will be higher next year or that their doctors or providers are no longer covered by their plans until it’s too late.
Fewer than 5 percent of seniors anticipate changing their plans each year, and that means millions of Americans won’t be enrolled in the Medicare plans best suited for them.
Here are a few things to keep in mind as you review your Medicare options:
- Medicare Advantage premiums are rising. The predicted average premium increase for Medicare Advantage plans will rise by $2.94 to $33.90 per month, according to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). The standard Part B premium, however, will remain the same at $104.90 per month.
- Prescription drug coverage may change. Part D prescription drug plan premiums, co-pays and deductibles may change, so take a close look at your plan changes for next year. CMS reported that the Part D base beneficiary premium will be $33.13 in 2015, compared to $32.42 in 2014.
- Donut hole coverage shifts. The prescription drug coverage gap, or donut hole, will be different next year. For example, the Part D initial deductible increases to $320 from $310. Also, the initial coverage limit increases to $2,960 from $2,850. The discounts during the donut hole also are higher in 2015 for both brand and generic drugs. Eventually, the donut hole will be eliminated by 2020 because of the Affordable Care Act.
- Providers may make changes. Physicians, specialists and hospital networks can shift their participation among Medicare Advantage plans, so it’s important to check your coverage for next year—to make sure you can access the healthcare you need and want.
These are just some of the basics to consider this Medicare annual election period. If you are wondering, “How do I choose my Medicare for next year?”—give one of our Medicare specialists a call.
You can reach the Allsup Medicare Advisor® for help with your Medicare plan questions at (866) 521-7655, or visit Medicare.Allsup.com.
By Tricia of Allsup
In just weeks, about 54 million people have the opportunity to make new Medicare choices for 2015. Medicare’s annual open enrollment period runs from Oct. 15 to Dec. 7, with plan choices taking effect Jan. 1, 2015.
One of the more common questions we get through the Allsup Medicare Advisor® is: Should I try a Medicare Advantage plan?
Like many choices in life, our answer is: It depends.
I can explain some of the reasons that people take a closer look at Medicare Advantage plans.
- They want to receive all their coverage through one plan. Medicare Advantage can combine traditional Medicare Parts A, B and D—which are hospital, medical and prescription drug services, respectively—into one plan. This means that you have one insurance coverage provider for your health claims.
- They want the predictability of a cap on their out-of-pocket costs. Medicare Advantage plans typically include an out-of-pocket maximum expense that beneficiaries can expect to pay. In 2014, the average out-of-pocket limit was estimated at $4,797.
- They want more options for reducing healthcare costs. Many people buy Parts A, B and D, as well as supplemental coverage, or Medigap. Getting coverage in the form of four separate plans can add up. Some people may find that one Medicare Advantage plan has comparable coverage for less. However, your options will vary depending on where you live.
- They take a number of prescription drugs. Medication can be a big part of your healthcare costs. Some seniors find a Medicare Advantage plan with drug coverage provides them with more cost savings.
- They would like some additional benefits such as dental and vision coverage. Medicare Advantage plans can offer some additional features that may not be provided with traditional Medicare. Options vary depending on where you live.
A few years ago, predictions were that Medicare Advantage enrollment would decline. But it’s clear seniors and people with disabilities are finding positives to choosing this path to Medicare coverage.
Compared to four years ago—there are 3 million more people enrolled in Medicare Advantage plans. The total was nearly 16 million participants in 2014, which is 1 in 3 of all Medicare beneficiaries.
If you are interested in your options, then get ready for Medicare annual enrollment. It starts soon: Oct. 15. If you’d like to get a jump on your Medicare plan choices this year, contact a Medicare specialist at Allsup Medicare Advisor® at (866) 521-7655.
You also can visit Medicare.Allsup.com to fill out an online form and reach a Medicare specialist.
By Jim of Allsup
I was mesmerized by what a retired Marine three-star general told me recently. He’s involved with active duty military members. He’s also very familiar with the new legislation that will try to fix the Veterans Administration’s ailing healthcare system.
We talked for hours and shared our mutual experiences working with service members and others with disabilities over the last 30 years.
He talked in detail about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and how the savagery of these wars compared to Vietnam. And he talked about the crippling mental effects of combat, and how men and women on active duty are uncomfortable to acknowledge their mental health issues for fear of being discharged.
Because of the lack of treatment, he said, their problems are like ticking time bombs. Many don’t turn to the VA for help because they don’t think it can help.
I listened in silence, thinking about how many vets leave active duty with limited resources to find and get both the healthcare treatment and benefits they deserve.
The general is extremely passionate about the needs of these GIs. So am I, and that’s why Allsup is doing everything we can to help veterans who have been denied VA disability benefits.
If you or someone you know has been denied the benefits the VA promised, click here for information on our Veterans Disability Appeal Service. Or call (800) 279-4357 and ask to speak with one of our VA-Accredited Claims agents.