Mary's blog

Several weeks ago, in one day, I received my Medicare Supplement Insurance updates for 2016. In the 2 ½ inches of paper there were changes in just about all areas of coverage. The results were roughly:

• In the monthly base amount – up $10.
• In changes to co-pays – down to zero within the network
• In changes to prescription costs to customer – they are inching upward in general
• In changes to prescription providers – they will need to be in ‘network’ for 2016, I did check with my current drug providers and they are in the ‘network’
• In changes to what Medicare pays for – they pay for less now, note that is Medicare, not the Medicare Supplement provider…
• In changes to Fitness/Exercise charges – down, this is free now
• In Dental coverage – this is remaining the same, with 2 free checkups and a bite-wing xray at no extra charge

I feel pretty fortunate, even though there are many details to check, and I am not totally clear on what the bottom line will be, but am hopeful anyway. The only way to tell is to wait until the end of 2016, and calculate the medical expenses for both years. And in my case, since I had the second cataract surgery done in 2015, some charges for those one-time meds needed for that surgery changed the amount I paid in this year
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So where are the differences?

Prescriptions: More requirements like In-Network providers, who may not be the current providers that I use. After checking, all three providers that I use - they are all in the network, this is great for me.

• Tier Changes for Drugs: Every month I get a report from the Medical Supplement provider, showing my prescriptions and the costs I have paid for them. Also on the report is a list of tier changes for various drugs, which are changing to a higher cost. If my meds are changed to a higher cost, it could make a big difference in the amount of money going from me to a drug company.

• The charges for Chemotherapy are scary and I know people who have had to pay them – or try to pay them. Also, I have been told by a provider of bankruptcy services that medical costs are the largest reason for declaring bankruptcy.
• I still use the Goodrx.com website. When I recently was bitten by a Lymes tick, asked the doctor to use her screen and check the Goodrx.com site for doxycycline providers, we discovered that there were big differences between providers for this drug – like $50., so check it out for yourself.

If you or someone dear to you is on Medicare, rChance recommends you review the renewal information packet you received in the mail. During the Open Enrollment period (Oct 15, 2015 through Dec 7, 2015), you can make changes to your health and prescription plans. It might be a good time to talk to an insurance broker especially if you notice a rise in your projected out-of-pocket expenses to 2016. If you decide to make changes, remember to do it before December 7, 2015. That is the deadline for changes to 2016 charges.

If you have any thoughts about your Medicare please share. I’m sure other rChance readers would appreciate reading them.

Remember, it’s rChance to Thrive, Every Day and in Every Way

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Sometimes we start something without realizing how it is going to evolve – the potted plant that becomes a garden, or the new hobby you know will eventually bankrupt you, etc., you get the idea… that happened to us. I spotted a darling orchid while waiting in a grocery checkout lane. I was not shopping for orchids, it was the furthest thing from my mind, I will however, admit to being desperate for a sign of life during our long Wisconsin winter, but I did not know at the time the orchid would be that sign.

It was a very pretty plant and in the dead of winter, it called out to me as a sign of hope for spring, with lots of flowers, the colors being beautiful white with pink spots, yellow centers. It was the perfect thing to cheer up the kitchen while waiting for the snow to melt.

It survived the cold ride home, and looked so nice, cheering us with the flowers, which seemed to go on and on. After two months, tragedy, the blooms fell off and then after six weeks, redemption – it bloomed again! The only thing to do was to get another orchid, in a different color – this time a big pink one, which did just fine. Then a friend went south for the winter and said she was going to throw out her orchid, so I offered to take it, and what a mess. Big problem, it had to come out of a very small pot. So I got planting ‘medium’ (they don’t grow in dirt) and tried to get it out of the pot – it would not budge – it couldn’t even get water, so a knife around the edge finally loosened it enough to pull out a mass of stuff that practically filled a gallon ice cream pail. It was re-potted in a larger pot and now has new leaves, for a start.

Then came the largest one – a giant pot, over two gallons, with three separate orchids in it. It was the remains of a marriage, and although it had had good care, it was struggling. After a second household move, it came to live with us and now two of the three plants have new stems with buds and about eight buds each. One plant only has one new leaf but it will be fine, in time. The kitchen table is getting crowded; there are now six orchid plants, all getting light in the east windows and thriving. The original orchid is the best so far and now has 28 blooms. It looks like a bouquet on a stem. I think they like having friends around, just like us… Take a look at the picture attached. I am a proud orchid mama.

Please feel free to share your story, we will feel better if we are not alone with our little obsessions! Feel free to share your orchid pictures!

Remember, it’s rChance to Thrive, Every Day and in Every Way!

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Prescription Alert!  Recently I had a prescription emergency, which resulted in not being able to refill a long-used medication, which I learned only when I arrived to pick it up……..  The druggist was told that it was not covered anymore, due to the Medicare cuts which started on January 1st of this year.  I was stunned and when I called from the drug store to my Medicare Supplement insurance provider, they said that the FDA had decided (?) to not allow any woman over age 65 to take this medication and therefore, they could not pay any part of the prescription for me, although my Doctor had prescribed it. 

So I was cut off and not notified in any way – until I stood at the counter and tried to get the refill of the drug.  HOWEVER – I could still get the drug if I wanted to pay for it myself – this meant the cost would be $145. to me instead of $35.  This is just a taste of what the Medicare “cuts” mean to us over age 65.  I spent the next few days on the phone with the Medicare Supplement provider, visiting my Doctor (thank God for my Doctor!) and she helped me file an appeal, which two weeks later, has just been granted. 

What does this mean to rChance readers?  We all need to save money where we can, and prescriptions are one of the most difficult expenses to track and budget for, as many of the costs are outrageous, but there are options for us now – here is my best so far - on the computer, go to:  www.GoodRx.com

An entry screen will come up and you can key-enter any drug name that you would like to compare prices on, plus your zip code.  The screen is great, easy entry and print large enough to read.  That is all you have to enter, no personal information is required or asked for.  When you hit Enter, the results will come up and give a default choice for the form and dosages of the drug, but all dosages are listed.  If your dosage is not the default, you can choose the one you need and hit Enter again. 

The prices will come up for all the drug providers in your zip code area.  The locations in your zip code area will be shown and you can choose the provider, then hitting Enter brings up the screen that tells what the vendor pricing detail is and I hit ‘Get Coupon’ which brings up a coupon to be printed.  To confirm the price to the provider, I printed the coupon to take to the store, and called the provider to check the cash price of the drug.  The only thing I had left to do is wait for the Doctor’s office to open on Monday so they could fax the prescription to the best-price provider I chose.  And you can print, text or email the coupon to the pharmacy.

What was the pricing result for me?  The first prescription I entered was close to half (!) of what I paid previously.  The next one was also half and if I was willing to take a generic, the price was $4.00.  How about that? 

My rChance Lessons Learned here are: 

  1. Anyone can phone any pharmacy and find out the cash price for any drug. 
  2. I calculated what my Medicare Supplement would pay to get the final cost.  My part was about half of previous costs.  Hurrah!

The final result for me on this subject is that I got two prescriptions for about half of previous prices and one more at a different provider – also for about half of what I have paid – for YEARS.  Wish I had known about this sooner – a lot sooner! 

The prescription provider said that my Medicare Supplement insurance was just as good as using the coupon, but since I had the coupon, I knew the cash price that my insurance used to calculate the final price to me – I couldn’t be fooled and I would know if it was wrong.

The Goodrx.com site also works for anyone who does not have Medicare Supplement  insurance of any kind.  So either way (insurance or not!) you can get some benefit.

One of our guiding thoughts at rChance is to help our age group help each other.  And we can do it!  I followed this process through the result of getting my prescriptions at the best price possible – and so can YOU.

When updates for this topic are published on the rChance website, we will post them as updates on facebook and Twitter also – so keep watching and saving money on www.rChance.com

Remember, It’s rChance to Live and Thrive, Every Day and in Every Way!

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By the time a person is contemplating retirement it is time for a few reflections on life so far.  I started thinking about my life decisions to date and where they had led me.

Was I naïve in some ways? Yup… Did I trust a little too much?  I trusted without verification, but I was not trained to ‘verify’  -  that is, to find out whether what someone said was really true.  I was trained to forgive and tried to do that.  This path led to some disappointments and many of my missteps, I’m sure.

In many cases we just believe what someone says – from our family and friends to our country’s officials and leaders.  The result of all this is where we are today, in all the parts and places of our lives and in our country’s life also.

The good thing about going to church is that we can get a re-direction, a checkup of sorts, on where we are headed now.  And the perspective is wide enough that we can help ourselves and others in the process.  Going to church helps me think about the plight of those less fortunate than me, including parents, friends,children and our beloved animals and pets.

Church is a place where I can feel safe and protected by those around me, who are there because we have common beliefs and a chance to make life time connections with others.  In church I realize I am not alone in my values and am reminded that helping others is a worthy goal.

Kindness and love are the only answer.  Conversely, cruelty and terror cannot be tolerated.  We all have to deal with the results of our actions, even though we have tried in many cases, to do our best and something has not worked out.  In church we hear that even though we have failed, we are encouraged to try again, and try to do our best, not only for ourselves but for others. 

The rewards of this behavior are amazing.  We feel part of a larger effort, not alone in our own struggles, and we feel good about ourselves by helping others, developing inner strength from knowing that we are doing the ‘right thing’.

I was very close to my Mother and spoke with her almost every day.  Periodically, I would have some dilemma that seemed hopeless and would complain to Mother about the unfairness or difficulty of a solution.  When she and I could not resolve a problem she had a stock answer, which was “Well, Mary, there is only one thing I can tell you.  You are just going to have to do something for someone else, a good deed.”  The first time I heard this I was practically insulted.  What?  Leave my little insulated world of Me, Me and Me?  Think of someone else, and their problems?  But what about me? 

These were not welcome words but it did not take long to realize that the real world was a lot bigger than ‘my world’ and that my problems were not exactly so important.  They forced me to forget about myself or at least, to try to let go and focus on something else and ‘someone else’s problems’.  Amazingly, my big issues always seemed to disappear and fade away.

Mother always listened and gently re-focused me to the bigger picture about life.  Church does the same thing for me.  My pastor helps to put my life in perspective and point me to the larger reality of the world, and the needs of many people less fortunate than me.

I do believe that God listens to me and that some remarkable things have happened in my life as a result of my prayer and beliefs.  Blessings are not a one-way street, I have to do something to demonstrate that I can pass on blessings, not just sit and receive them.  That is hard, but the rewards are wonderful.

Remember, It’s rChance to Live and Thrive, Every Day and in Every Way!

Copyright (c) 123RF Stock Photos

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After one of those long work weeks, I did the usual Saturday chores, ending with the proverbial Saturday evening shower/shampoo and ready for a quiet evening of a movie on tv or reading a book -

However, this evening at 8 pm, got an emergency call, about a dear old friend, Jan, from early corporate career days, who had retired and moved to the country, up north in Wisconsin.  Jan, who was just fine in the  morning, had gone to help clean at the church, fell down, had an aneurysm in the brain and was on life support in St. Paul Regions Hospital.  I called another lady – Kay (the three of us were a team, who had worked together), and we rushed to the hospital, shocked and unnerved, to see Jan and say our goodbyes.  We had been the Three Musketeers for about 5 years, and were as close as sisters.  When I left the firm, the other two stayed together and worked in two more companies together, as they were both programmers.  We got together periodically and did not give up our friendships.

Jan looked perfectly normal and passed away within hours.  It was so hard to believe.  She was a wonderful person, always looking to help others, volunteered at the food shelf, helped at the church, and was always kind and generous to everyone.  Meanwhile, the economic slowdown was not going well up north, there was no work and they had torn down the modest cabin on their land and built a truly beautiful home, majestic and gorgeous.  Her husband had had a triple bypass about 10 yrs ago, and when they moved up north, they both sold mortgages, and we know what happened to that business, they tried to diversify, she did the mortgage business and he did other things, construction – anything that would bring in income. 

Kay and I had wondered how they would make it in the ‘country’ but seeing how that went for them was another reason I was afraid to jump into retirement and then be challenged by the national economic recession.  Her death was tragic, she was mourned by at least a thousand people in two services.  She was an expert quilter and a fussy housekeeper besides, never anything out of place, and their home was filled with guests on weekends, because everyone loved to be with them.

The lesson to be learned is that there are good reasons to do our own thing, time is a wasting!  I should say that to myself, one moment I think retire now, the next minute I hear a financial trouble story – or a foreclosure – apparently they are common in our area now.  One more reason, we need to keep on trying,  

Remember, It’s rChance to Live and Thrive, Every Day and in Every Way!

Copyright (c) 123RF Stock Photos

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Hello there – rChance to thrive, every day and in every way, comes from the life and experiences of us, Mary and Dave, two friends who met in high school sophomore biology class and have managed to remain friends for a long time – long enough to have multiple kinds of jobs, friends and families, many of which we still have!

We have had parents who have passed on or are facing challenges, children, pets, lots of relatives, quite a few career changes and now we are facing the challenges of maturity.  As we prepare for another really big life transition, we happened to run into this new thing called a ‘recession’ – and it is throwing many people into a really scary situation – people we know, people who have the ‘good’ jobs.’ A lot of us are worried.  Many of us are not used to going without.  Many of us are trying to save for retirement. Many of us are just trying to keep our job.  Some of us are looking for a job. Most people are pretty worried, and so are we – at least some of the time.

Since we have had a few years to think about getting ready for this time of life, we tried to do some pre-planning, saved some money, and tried to do things that would keep the wolf from the door.  But along came the recession, the banking debacle, and the housing crisis, while at the same time some huge scandals revealed that those wealthy and supposedly smart people we looked up to were not very honest, or ethical and we discovered that they took from millions of people like us – people who worked, saved something and did the best they could. 

However, now it is rChance, our chance to thrive and have a good life, value the things that are worth valuing, and not go down the financial drain while we do it.  We believe we can do a lot to make our lives better and help other people like ourselves.  Other people means YOU!

We think that all of you deserve more than you may have gotten, more than you may have earned and now, the best fruits from a lifetime of working and paying into the system. We also believe that we all know some things, we know we do, and so do you. So we have developed a framework – a plan, if you will, that will help all of us prepare for rChance – for a great new phase of life, and we believe everyone has something to offer - good ideas, and if we collaborate, we can really help each other – a lot.

Remember, its rChance to thrive, every day and in every way!

Copyright (c) 123RF Stock Photos

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Blog Topic:

After our first explanation of what we think rChance can be – we would like to talk about ‘Us’.

Where have the rChance generation come from?  What have been some of our environmental influences – for better or worse – to start, as children:

  1. Most of us had two parents
  2. Most of us had a brother, sister or many of them
  3. Most of us attended a pretty good school, or at least passable
  4. Most of us had a vacation in some form or fashion
  5. Most of us had decent clothes – ok or a little better, even if they were hand-me-downs
  6. Most of us had basic, but good food – home made by Mom
  7. Most of us could ride a bike, play in the yard or the street, climb a tree, swim, or at least splash around in the water, most had been on a horse and a lot of us had family pets – dogs, cats, birds, fish, or rabbits.

Overall, we had a pretty similar childhood experience.  Even if we had parents of different backgrounds, nationalities or religions, we kind of grew together. At least, we felt like we were together and as we grew up, we thought we had a collective power, a common psyche and we could depend on finding others our age who felt and thought as we did. 

What didn’t we have?  A lot of ‘extra’ things – things that our parents couldn’t afford, thowe were ‘extras’  - like a fancy bike – we had bikes, but not fancy bikes.  We didn’t have fancy cars or houses either, in general, but we had livabile, nice houses with the occasional special decoration or nice furniture, new dishes – maybe from the grocery store or flatware from Betty Crocker, but it was ‘nice’.  Little did we know that they would be the collectibles of today or that they were classic styles.  Some of those dishes were from gas stations – my Aunt Rose had two sets of them – the Ruby red and the Emerald green.  They undoubtedly survived them because she and Uncle Ben had no children.  Of course, no one knew why they did not have children and probably neither did they, that was not known in our childhood either.

We did not expect anyone to give us anything – we would have to get it ourselves – like NOW.  More about what we had and did – next time.

Copyright (c) 123RF Stock Photos

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Blog Topic:

Under consideration to be amended

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