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Medicare open enrollment ends Dec. 7: Comparing coverage options

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(Family Features) If you’re enrolled in Medicare, it’s important to remember Medicare Open Enrollment is open through Dec. 7 each year. It is the time for people with Medicare to compare their prescription drug and health coverage options for the upcoming year.

It is important to compare your options because plans can change every year – even your current choice may be changing. Your health needs can change, too. By comparing all your options, you could save money, find a coverage option better tailored to your needs or both.

How to Compare Prescription Drug and Health Coverage Options
Medicare.gov is the official source for information about Medicare and Open Enrollment. You may see enrollment information from various insurance companies and other sources. Start at Medicare.gov to get unbiased information to find the type of coverage that best meets your needs.

Comparing prescription drug and health coverage options is easy at Medicare.gov. You can input the list of medications you are taking and conduct a side-by-side comparison of plan coverage, costs and quality ratings. If you are happy with your current choice, you don’t have to do anything. If you choose a new option for 2024, you can enroll right there.

Before you enroll in a plan, consider the following:

  • Check if your health care providers are in a plan’s network.
  • Check if your prescriptions are included on a plan’s formulary and if the plan works with your pharmacy.
  • Check the plan’s Star Rating on Medicare.gov to see how it performs on quality, customer service and more.
  • Remember low monthly premiums may not always be the best overall value for your specific needs.
  • Review a plan’s estimated total costs to you, including deductible and other out-of-pocket costs.
  • Check if Medicare Advantage plans offer extra benefits, like vision, hearing or dental coverage, if you need these services.
  • Remember that you may need a referral or prior authorization for some services under Medicare Advantage plans.

Vaccine, Insulin and Drug Cost Savings
Improvements to the Medicare program are adding up to savings and improved access to affordable treatments because of the Inflation Reduction Act.

  • Insulin: If you have Medicare and take insulin, you’ll pay no more than $35 for a month’s supply of each covered insulin. This includes people who have Medicare drug coverage (Part D) and all Part B covered insulins.
  • Vaccines: People with Medicare drug coverage will pay nothing out of pocket for adult vaccines, including the shingles vaccine, that are recommended by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices.
  • Drug Cost Savings: In 2024, people enrolled in Part D who have very high drug costs will get some relief. Once they reach a certain threshold on paying out-of-pocket costs – what we call the catastrophic phase – they will no longer have additional cost sharing or copays at the pharmacy.

Medicare Can Help
To compare options and find the best coverage to fit your needs:

  • Visit Medicare.gov and conduct side-by-side comparisons of costs and coverage.
  • Call 1-800-MEDICARE. Help is available 24 hours a day, including weekends.
  • Access personalized health insurance counseling in your community at no cost, available from your State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP). Visit shiphelp.org or call 1-800-MEDICARE for locations near you.

Medicare Options
There are two main ways to get Medicare coverage: Original Medicare and Medicare Advantage (Medicare-approved plans from private companies). There are differences between the two that are important to understand when reviewing your coverage options.

  • With Original Medicare, you get your health care through Medicare Parts A and B. You can join a separate drug plan to get Medicare drug coverage (also called Part D). And you can see any doctor that takes Medicare anywhere in the U.S.
  • Medicare Advantage is an alternative that usually bundles your health and drug coverage all in one plan. Some plans may offer extra benefits that Original Medicare doesn’t cover – like certain vision, hearing and dental services. In many cases, you can only use doctors who are in the plan’s network.

If you are new to Medicare or need to review the ways you can get your Medicare coverage, visit Medicare.gov and click “Get Started with Medicare.”

Extra Help with Prescription Drug Costs
If you are struggling with prescription drug costs, Extra Help is a Medicare program that can help pay for your drug coverage (Part D) premiums, deductibles, coinsurance and other costs. If you make less than $22,000 a year ($30,000 for married couples), it’s worth it to apply. Visit ssa.gov/extrahelp or call the Social Security Administration at 1-800-772-1213 to apply. The program will expand to cover more drug costs for people with limited resources in 2024. People who qualify for Extra Help generally will pay no more than $4.50 for each generic drug and $11.20 for each brand-name drug.

Information provided by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services.

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SOURCE:
Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services

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7 smart home solutions that enhance convenience and security

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(Family Features) Devices that allow you to stay connected to your home from virtually anywhere are all the rage. If you’re looking to seamlessly integrate innovative solutions into your home for added convenience, security and peace of mind, you’ll need smart tech with the right features.

The experts at Masonite, a global industry leader in interior and exterior doors and door systems, share these seven smart home solutions.

Garage Door
Leave behind that nagging feeling that you forgot to shut the garage door when you’re a block away from home. Smart garage door openers that connect to an app on your phone mean you can always check on the status of your door to ensure it’s closed when it should be. It provides the added benefit of keeping track of who’s coming or going while allowing you to remotely open the door for friends, family, neighbors and others who may need access when you’re away.

Front Door
Take your front door to the next level with a high-performance model incorporated with top tech like the Masonite M-Pwr Smart Door, the first residential front door to fully connect to your home’s electrical system and wireless internet network. Homeowners can create a customized welcome-home experience with the door’s motion-activated LED welcome lights and a smart lock that recognizes your arrival and automatically unlocks. Whether at home or away, homeowners can use the door’s smartphone app to program the lighting, confirm if the door is open or closed with a door state sensor or monitor the entryway with a built-in video doorbell.

Plus, the integrated connection to the home’s power means there’s no need to charge or replace device batteries, providing peace of mind that you’re always connected and protected. Available at The Home Depot, homeowners can select from a range of designs, colors and glass styles all made with the Masonite Performance Door System. The system is designed to protect your home from the elements and provide superior weather resistance, energy efficiency and comfort with premium fiberglass construction, a rot-resistant frame and a 4-Point Performance Seal so there’s no need to sacrifice style for enhanced performance.

Mirror
Hectic mornings may never completely be a thing of the past, but you can smooth out the start to your day with a smart mirror that displays important information like weather, news updates and your schedule. Many interactive displays allow you to check notifications and play music for a sleek, stylish addition to the bathroom that helps you stay on track and on time.

Refrigerator
Smart refrigerators are often inherently newer models, meaning they’re typically more energy efficient to save money on electric bills. With built-in features like cameras and sensors that aid in keeping track of grocery lists, they can help reduce food waste by reminding you to consume perishables before they spoil. Some models even include an interactive display that lets you watch recipe videos so you can test your skills with a virtual assistant.

Oven
Wi-Fi connectivity is the key feature of smart ovens, improving the cooking experience with increased control. By using an app on your smartphone, you can remotely preheat the oven and set timers. You can even cook like a pro with models that allow you to import recipes for automatic temperature control.

Dishwasher
Similar to smart appliances like refrigerators and ovens, smart dishwashers bring added convenience to your day along with improved function and efficiency. Connection to Wi-Fi and remote accessibility via smartphone app allow you to start wash cycles and check cycle status while away, receive notifications when detergent is low and more.

Washer and Dryer
If laundry feels like a chore, you can make it less of a hassle with smart washers and dryers that connect to your home Wi-Fi network. These smart appliances allow you to remotely start and stop washing and drying cycles from your smartphone and can send notifications when cycles are finished. Built-in diagnostics send alerts to your phone when there’s a malfunction or it’s time for required maintenance. Plus, they can help you maximize energy efficiency by automatically starting a cycle during off-peak hours.

Visit Masonite.com/MPWR-Smart-Doors to find more innovative solutions.


SOURCE:
Masonite Doors

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3 health reasons men’s travel plans take a back seat

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(Family Features) Taking a road trip is an enjoyable pastime for many. However, if you are making too many pit stops along the way, it might be time to talk to a doctor.

Men over the age of 45 who frequently experience urinary symptoms may be facing challenges that extend beyond the restroom.

Urinary symptoms such as a frequent or urgent need to urinate may be indicators of an enlarged prostate, commonly known as benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH).1,2 BPH symptoms can contribute to interrupted sleep, reduced productivity and feelings of depression.3 BPH affects 42 million men in the United States,4 including more than 40% of men in their 50s.

Delaying travel due to restroom access may be more common than you think. In fact, Teleflex, maker of the UroLift™ System, conducted a survey of approximately 1,000 men in the United States ages 45 and older, all of whom have experienced at least one urinary symptom associated with BPH.5

Consider these findings:


Photo courtesy of Adobe Stock

Men are bothered by having to stop while traveling. Among respondents, 41% reported they have to stop to urinate more than they would like during road trips, and 15% shared they can only travel for an hour or less before having to stop to urinate.


The frequent need to urinate impacts enjoyment of road trips. Among the men surveyed, 33% strongly agreed or agreed they “used to enjoy road trips, but the frequent need to urinate makes them less enjoyable.”


Photo courtesy of Adobe Stock

Some men choose routes based on public restroom availability. Nearly one-quarter (23%) of men responded they “usually” or “always” choose certain routes on road trips due to more or better bathroom facilities.

Men experiencing urinary symptoms should consider contacting a urologist. If left untreated, BPH can lead to permanent bladder damage.6 Medications are often prescribed for BPH, but they may cause unwanted side effects.7-8

Consider the UroLift™ System, a unique treatment for an enlarged prostate with more than 450,000 men treated worldwide.9 The minimally invasive procedure lifts and holds enlarged prostate tissue out of the way to unblock the urethra. It does not require heating, cutting or destruction of prostate tissue, and it provides rapid symptom relief and recovery.10-11 It has a low rate of complications12 and is the only leading BPH procedure shown not to cause sexual dysfunction.13-15

To learn more about treatment options, contact your doctor and visit UroLift.com.

Indicated for the treatment of symptoms of an enlarged prostate up to 100 cubic centimeters in men 45 years or older. Most common side effects are temporary and can include discomfort when urinating, urgency, inability to control the urge, pelvic pain and some blood in the urine.1 Rare side effects, including bleeding and infection, may lead to a serious outcome and may require intervention. Speak with your doctor to determine if you may be a candidate.

1 Rosenberg, Int J Clin Pract 2007
2 Vuichoud, Can J Urol 2015
3 Speakman, BJUI 2014
4 U.S. 2022 estimates based on US Market Model 2022-24 (5-17-22 FINAL), data on file.
5 Survey conducted by Teleflex in 2023. Data on file, n=1,015.
6 Tubaro, Drugs Aging 2003
7 Lusty, J Urol 2021
8 Bortnick, Rev Urol 2019
9 Management estimate based on product sales as of September 2023. Data on file Teleflex Interventional Urology.
10 Roehrborn, J Urology 2013
11 Shore, Can J Urol 2014
12 Roehrborn, Can J Urol 2017
13 AUA BPH Guidelines 2003, 2020
14 McVary, Urology 2019
15 No instances of new, sustained erectile or ejaculatory dysfunction in the L.I.F.T. pivotal study

MAC02797-01 Rev A


SOURCE:
Teleflex

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Understanding the impacts of LDL cholesterol

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(Family Features) About 38% of American adults have high cholesterol, which can be caused by poor lifestyle habits or genetics, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Having a high low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol number – considered “bad” cholesterol – can contribute to fatty buildups (plaque) and narrowing of the arteries.

LDL cholesterol is also the type of total cholesterol most closely associated with an increased risk for a heart attack or stroke. In fact, 75% of heart attack and stroke survivors reported having high cholesterol, according to a Harris Poll survey conducted on behalf of the American Heart Association, yet less than half (49%) prioritize lowering their cholesterol.

“There’s a pervasive lack of public awareness and understanding around bad cholesterol and its impact on your cardiovascular health,” said Joseph C. Wu, MD, PHD, FAHA, American Heart Association volunteer president and director, Stanford Cardiovascular Institute and Simon H. Stertzer, MD, professor of medicine and radiology at Stanford School of Medicine. “As bad cholesterol usually has no symptoms, we often find that many patients are walking around without knowing they’re at risk or how to mitigate it.”

To learn about LDL cholesterol, its impact on heart health and the steps you can take to maintain a healthy number, consider this information from the Lower Your LDL Cholesterol Nowinitiative, nationally sponsored by Amgen.

Get to Know Your LDL Number
According to the survey, nearly half (47%) of heart attack and stroke survivors are unaware of their LDL numbers. While cholesterol levels can vary by race and ethnicity, with higher levels of LDL seen most often among Asian men and Hispanic women, various research studies on LDL have shown “lower is better.”

For healthy adults an LDL at or below 100 mg/dL is ideal for good health. If you have a history of heart attack or stroke and are already on a cholesterol-lowering medication, your doctor may aim for 70 mg/dL or lower. In addition to race and ethnicity, family history, age, sex, tobacco use or exposure to secondhand smoke, eating habits, lack of physical activity, heavy alcohol usage and obesity can impact LDL numbers.

Understand How Often to Check Your Numbers
Because high LDL does not typically cause symptoms, it’s important to have your number checked by your health care professional. Ask your doctor for the right frequency for you. Generally, healthy adults ages 20-39 should have their cholesterol checked every 4-6 years. Adults over age 40, or those who have heart disease (including prior heart attack) or other risk factors, may need their number checked more often.

Learn Risks Associated with LDL
Too much LDL cholesterol can lead to a buildup of fatty deposits inside your arteries – a condition known as atherosclerosis – which can narrow arteries and reduce blood flow. If a piece of the plaque breaks free, it might travel into the bloodstream and block a blood vessel to the heart or brain, causing a heart attack or stroke. This narrowing also elevates the risk of peripheral artery disease.

Take Steps to Manage High LDL
Managing high cholesterol is not one size fits all. Talk with your health care professional to map out the right treatment plan for you. According to American Heart Association guidelines, lifestyle habits can help control your cholesterol, including:

  • Eating a healthy and balanced diet (emphasizing fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds, lean protein and fish)
  • Staying active and aiming to get at least 150 minutes of moderate activity each week (such as brisk walking)
  • Managing stress
  • Eliminating tobacco use

However, some individuals, especially heart attack and stroke survivors, should have a conversation with their doctor about cholesterol-lowering medications.

Talk to your doctor about getting your cholesterol tested and visit heart.org/LDL for more information.

Photos courtesy of Shutterstock


SOURCE:
American Heart Association

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