Saturday, 01 October 2022

Opinion

Cate Kortzeborn is Medicare’s new regional administrator for Arizona, California, Hawaii, Nevada and the Pacific Territories. Courtesy photo.

Did you sign up for a Medicare Advantage health plan last year only to find that it doesn’t meet your needs? Not to worry.

You still have time to switch to another Medicare Advantage plan or return to Original Medicare.

Between Jan. 1 and March 31 each year, you can make the following changes during the Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period:

• If you’re in a Medicare Advantage plan (with or without drug coverage), you can switch to another Medicare Advantage plan (with or without drug coverage).

• You can drop your Medicare Advantage plan and return to Original Medicare. You’ll also be able to join a Medicare prescription drug plan (also known as a Part D plan).

During this period, you can’t:

• Switch from Original Medicare to a Medicare Advantage plan.

• Join a Medicare prescription drug plan if you’re in Original Medicare.

• Switch from one Medicare prescription drug plan to another if you’re in Original Medicare.

You can only make one change during this period, and any changes you make will be effective the first of the month after the plan gets your request.

If you’re returning to Original Medicare and joining a drug plan, you don’t need to contact your Medicare Advantage plan to disenroll. The disenrollment will happen automatically when you join the drug plan.

In most cases, you must stay enrolled for the calendar year, starting on the date your coverage begins.

However, you can make changes to your Medicare Advantage and Medicare prescription drug coverage when certain events happen in your life, like if you move or you lose other insurance coverage. These opportunities to make changes are called Special Enrollment Periods, or SEPs.

Rules about when you can make changes and the type of changes you can make are different for each SEP. You can learn more about SEPs here: https://www.medicare.gov/sign-up-change-plans/when-can-i-join-a-health-or-drug-plan/special-circumstances-special-enrollment-periods .

How do you switch? Follow these steps if you’re already in a Medicare Advantage plan and want to switch:

• To switch to a new Medicare Advantage plan, simply join the plan you want. You’ll be disenrolled automatically from your old plan when your new plan’s coverage begins.

• To switch to Original Medicare, contact your current plan, or call 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227). TTY users can call 1-877-486-2048.

If you don’t have drug coverage, you should consider joining a Medicare prescription drug plan to avoid paying a penalty if you decide to join later. You may also want to consider buying a Medicare Supplement Insurance (Medigap) policy if you’re eligible.

You can find out more about Medigap here: https://www.medicare.gov/supplements-other-insurance/when-can-i-buy-medigap/4-steps-to-buy-a-medigap-policy .

For more details about Medicare Advantage plans, visit www.Medicare.gov/publications to view the booklet “Understanding Medicare Advantage Plans.”

If you believe you made the wrong plan choice because of inaccurate or misleading information, including information from Medicare’s online Plan Finder, call 1-800-MEDICARE and explain your situation. Call center representatives can help you throughout the year with options for making changes.

A final note: If you enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan during your Initial Enrollment Period (when you first became eligible for Medicare), you can change to another Medicare Advantage plan (with or without drug coverage) or go back to Original Medicare (with or without a drug plan) within the first three months you have Medicare.

Cate Kortzeborn is Medicare’s regional administrator for Arizona, California, Nevada, Hawaii, and the Pacific Territories. You can always get answers to your Medicare questions by calling 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227).

Lake Progressives is a non-party-affiliated group that welcomes everyone who is interested in discussing, supporting or promoting progressive policies, programs or candidates at the local, state and national level.

In the 2016 primary, Lake Progressives endorsed Bernie Sanders for president. Lake County voters largely agreed. Bernie was the No. 1 choice in Lake County (5,195), with Trump (4,163) and Clinton (3,988) a distant second and third among local voters.

Today, Lake Progressives again endorse Bernie Sanders for president, for all the same reasons. Continuity is Bernie’s strength. It is the reason people trust him.

In 2016, Bernie raised the bar. He inspired millions of new voters, especially young people, with a message that resonated because it was true.

Today, far from being a "radical," Bernie is the real centrist in this race, standing on the same side as most Americans on most issues.

Seventy percent of Americans across all parties favor Medicare for All (83 percent of registered Democrats favor it).

Most Americans favor tuition-free public college, a Living Wage, women’s rights, worker's rights, immigration reform, criminal justice reform, protection for Dreamers, green energy (and jobs from green energy), environmental protection, equal justice for all, and no cuts to Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid.

These are issues Bernie has advocated for throughout his career. In 2020 we have an historic opportunity to elect someone who will fight for us.

The most popular president in American history was Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who was elected four times. FDR was so popular that panicked politicians passed a Constitutional Amendment to limit the presidency to two terms, out of fear that "We, the People" would just keep re-electing FDR forever.

Why was FDR so popular? Because his policies helped everyone.

His programs strengthened America by putting people to work on infrastructure projects that improved everyone's lives and improved the entire nation's economy. He appealed to our better angels, and united a nation that had been divided by fear.

FDR's founding principles were "The Four Freedoms," the cornerstone upon which he based The New Deal: Freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want, freedom from fear.

Like FDR, Bernie wants what we all want – an America that is truly free, a nation that lives up to its own promise.

No one is free when they are crushed by debt.

No one is free when they cannot seek medical help because they don't have insurance, or the deductible is too high.

No one is free when they go to bed hungry, or if they don't even have a bed to sleep in.

For 40 years, wages have been stagnant and the quality of life for most Americans has gone downhill. Inequality is worse now than it was during the Great Depression. The time has come to elect the FDR of the 21st century, and enact another New Deal, another rising economic tide to lift all boats. The need is urgent.

This week, Congress voted to increase the military budget by $18 billion – that's $120 billion higher than the military budget in 2016. No one asked, "How are you going to pay for that?" because the elites never ask that question when it comes to making military contractors richer, or for increasing subsidies for fossil fuel corporations or Big Pharma, or for tax cuts for the wealthy.

The elites never object to giving "free stuff" to the already-wealthy.

It's not "free stuff," of course. Like everything else in the Federal budget, that money comes from U.S. taxpayers. As Bernie points out, instead of giving it to military contractors, that additional 120 billion of our tax money could have made tuition-free every public college, university, trade school and apprenticeship program in the United States, and eliminated homelessness, and provided school meals to every child in our public schools.

Corporations have bought most politicians in Washington ... but they have not bought Bernie.

Bernie's slogan is "Not me, us." Government of the people, by the people, and for the people.

That’s why Lake Progressives endorse Bernie Sanders.

Lake Progressives include Ava Kennedy, Chloe Karl, Chris Wilson, Danielle Alcantara, Deb Baumann, John Tyler, Juliana Vidich, Kimberly Tyler, Lia Alcantara, Lyn Alcantara, Mark Douglas, Paul Marchand, Paula Mune, Tim Everton, Todd Beeson, Trish VanDenBerghe and Wendy Kay.

I have read with increasing bewilderment about an effort under way to eliminate Lake Pillsbury.

I am admittedly neither an expert on dams nor riverine systems. However, I have lived through several droughts.

I am being told the frequency of droughts will increase significantly with global warming. Seems to me, that while trying to increase our water conservation efforts, we should not also be pursuing an effort to actually eliminate current water storage capacity. Humans of course cannot survive without water, it's as simple as that.

I've tried to understand a bit of what is going on here. I've read that Pacific Gas and Electric does not want to continue to produce electricity from Lake Pillsbury. OK, fine, I'm good with that, as long as they can produce what is needed from another source.

But making the gigantic conceptual leap from PG&E's business decision to now an effort to eliminate all the water storage afforded by Lake Pillsbury makes no sense at all.

I dug into this a little deeper. It seems once again, as often happens, minority special interest groups are behind it. And they come fully armed with the typical alarmism and half-truths.

I've read that the dam, which has solidly stood for nearly 100 years, is all of a sudden now a huge safety risk. Large population groups are in danger.

What experts are saying this? The "Save the River" groups. I'm not sure they are the self-proclaimed dam experts I'd turn to for this evaluation. Those dam experts …

I've read that tearing down the Lake Pillsbury dam will be a huge economic boon to Lake County, creating thousands of jobs for workers needed for dam deconstruction.

Oh, really, are these the type of sustainable jobs we truly need for a vibrant economy? Or perhaps are they the most temporary type of job available, lasting just until the damage is done?

Do these self-interest groups think the public is so naive as to believe anything said or written no matter how outlandish?

Seriously, "an economic boon" created by eliminating a sustainable water storage area that is also used perennially for recreation? Are we expected to believe that? Methinks someone takes us for fools …

I have also seen a certain amount of obfuscation at play. Rarely, or never actually, have I seen this effort described as "eliminate Lake Pillsbury." It would appear there is a desire to keep that significant fact buried for as long and as deep as possible.

Instead, I read about an effort "to eliminate the aging and unsafe Scott Dam" – a headline many would pass right over. No one I know catches the significance of that.

Everyone knows Lake Pillsbury, almost nobody knows that Scott Dam creates it. This trickster naming ploy is designed to keep the average person unaware of what is going on. Perhaps until it’s too late, the train has left the station, and no one is on board.

Another recent scam seems to be a variant of the old tried-and-true shell game. Just substitute "basin" for "shell" and you got it.

I wondered who gets to make this decision of eliminating such a significant amount of our crucial water storage. Well, the special interest groups, pushing forward their own agenda, it appears to me. I believe this consists of just five mostly biased self-serving involved parties.

I read recently that Lake County, where the lake is located, wished to join the voting block of decision makers. The current voting block of special interests themselves gave a resounding "No! Thanks, but no thanks."

Anyone seen the missing fox? Hope it's not in the henhouse.

So who are the groups represented on this all-powerful voting block? One for example, is Humboldt County, who previously had gone on record as already wishing to abolish the dam. I ask, how much of the water stored in Lake Pillsbury does Humboldt County use? Well, water doesn't flow uphill, so I believe that the answer is “nary a drop.” Guess what else also flows downhill … uh-huh.

What is going on here? How is this allowed? Humboldt County can vote, but Lake County cannot? Are Sonoma and Marin counties, who are also recipients of this stored water on the voting block? Absolutely not. Yet not one, but two fish-advocacy groups are. Does this feel like well-balanced advocacy to anyone else? I still can't find that fox.

Perhaps a simple solution is needed – one that often works best. Take this to the people, let the people decide by popular vote if they want crucial water storage retained, or let a river run through it. A river that can go fully dry, and certainly will be come the next drought.

How many fish will be swimming upstream then? They won't get up creek, with or without a paddle.

A quick internet search shows that Lake Mendocino holds 122,000 acre feet of water. Lake Pillsbury increases that amount by 70 percent, with an additional capacity of 86,000 acre feet.

With global warming on the horizon, complete with more frequent droughts, who in their right mind would try to eliminate such crucial existing water storage capacity that's been in place for a century?

I have nothing against salmon or steelhead, I just realize that some trade-offs must be accepted in our modern world. I would not propose or support damming another freely running river, but we sure can use the water, and this storage capacity has been in place for 100 years.

Perhaps a self-proclaimed expert may now appear and try to nitpick away at my letter. Oftentimes these biased "experts" are not needed, common sense works just fine.

Leave Lake Pillsbury alone.

No dam-age should be done.

Jim Rexrode lives in Kelseyville, California.

As we head into the new year, I wanted to let you know how much your Medicare premiums, deductibles, and other out-of-pocket costs will be in 2020.

Each year, Medicare premiums, deductibles, and copayment rates are adjusted according to the Social Security Act. For 2020, the Medicare Part B monthly premiums and the annual deductible are higher than the 2019 amounts.

The standard monthly premium for Medicare Part B enrollees will be $144.60 for 2020, an increase of $9.10. The Part B premium in 2019 was $135.50.

The standard premium is what most people with Medicare pay. Part B covers physician services, outpatient hospital services, certain home health services, durable medical equipment, and certain other medical and health services not covered by Medicare Part A.

The annual deductible for all Part B beneficiaries is $198 in 2020, an increase of $13 from the annual deductible of $185 in 2019.

The increase in the Part B premiums and deductible is largely due to Medicare’s rising expenses for drugs administered in doctors’ offices. Current law requires Medicare to pay the average sales price for a Part B drug and also pays physicians a percentage of a drug's sale price.

This incentivizes drug companies to set prices higher and for physicians to prescribe more expensive drugs, since that leads to a higher Medicare payment. The Trump Administration is working to lower prices for Part B drugs through its drug pricing blueprint.

Since 2007, Part B premiums have been based in part on a beneficiary’s income, with higher-income beneficiaries paying higher premiums. These income-related monthly adjustment amounts affect about 7 percent of people with Part B.

The 2020 Part B total premiums for high-income beneficiaries can be found here.

Medicare Part A covers inpatient hospital, skilled nursing, and some home health care services. About 99 percent of Medicare beneficiaries do not have a Part A premium since they paid Medicare payroll taxes for at least 40 quarters of employment.

The Part A inpatient hospital deductible that beneficiaries will pay when admitted to the hospital will be $1,408 in 2020, an increase of $44 from $1,364 in 2019. The Part A inpatient hospital deductible covers beneficiaries’ share of costs for the first 60 days of Medicare-covered inpatient hospital care in a benefit period.

In 2020, beneficiaries must pay a coinsurance amount of $352 per day for the 61st through 90th day of a hospitalization (versus $341 in 2019) in a benefit period and $704 per day for lifetime reserve days (versus $682 in 2019).

For beneficiaries in skilled nursing facilities, the daily coinsurance for days 21 through 100 of extended care services in a benefit period will be $176 in 2020 ($170.50 in 2019).

These premiums and cost sharing apply to people with Original or Traditional Medicare. Premiums and deductibles for Medicare Advantage and Medicare Part D Prescription Drug plans were previously finalized.

On average for 2020, Medicare Advantage premiums are expected to decline by 23 percent from 2018, and will be the lowest in the past 13 years while plan choices, benefits and enrollment continue to increase.

Cate Kortzeborn is Medicare’s regional administrator for Arizona, California, Nevada, Hawaii, and the Pacific Territories. You can always get answers to your Medicare questions by calling 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227).

In recent years, a frequently repeated story has come from our county government that hiring and retaining good top-level employees has become increasingly difficult due to our low pay, and this is the explanation for why we have lost a number of experienced high-level staff members.

The most recent departure from the county management roster is our registrar of voters, who had been on the job for less than six months before heading towards greener pastures.

The problem with the county’s version of events is that there is ample evidence that a force other than our low pay scale is encouraging county upper level staff to depart, and that the same force has caused turmoil among the rank and file in the past as well.

In fact, years ago a large contingent of county employees went before the Board of Supervisors to voice their dismay at how this force had been negatively affecting their workplace, causing them unnecessary stress while destroying their morale.

This weird sort of mutiny was quickly forgotten by the BOS and life went on, until no one could be found to run the Registrar of Voters Office. Now the problem can’t really be ignored any longer, as that same force has not only cost us the most qualified and experienced registrar of voters imaginable – but her replacement as well!

This leaves the Registrar of Voters Office with no permanent department head as we go into the primary season, and no chance of hiring a replacement before the next election.

The “force” mentioned above is the county administrative officer, Carol Huchingson, whose management style has cost the county dearly in terms of lost talent and lost tax dollars spent on hiring and training replacements – not to mention the lost productivity.

The truth is, people are willing to work for less money here but they are not willing to work under Huchingson, who has consolidated much of the control of county government into her office and lobbied to end the independent status of the Registrar of Voters Office.

Three different things can happen: We can keep losing good people for bad reasons, or Huchingson can stifle her less-endearing managerial traits and stop micromanaging her staff, or our BOS can find a new county administrative officer.

The BOS is always hesitant to fire management staff and especially a county administrative officer, since it would be a tacit admission that they had goofed up hiring them in the first place.
The other reasons that sort of thing doesn’t happen much is if you need to replace someone, that means a fair amount of work doing the recruiting and screening-and it probably means spending some money to hire someone to do it. It always takes a while for a new hire to get up to speed and it's always a gamble they will work out too, more reasons the replacement option isn’t popular.

So now the BOS has to make a decision, which since the elections are right around the corner we can assume will be whatever is the safest option, meaning that the urge to pretend that everything is just fine and having six or seven different people in a year or so run the Registrar of Voters Office is normal will be very hard to resist.

But one thing does have to end: Never again can the county use the excuse of low pay for the loss of its staff, because now everyone knows the truth.

Phil Murphy lives in Lakeport, California.

Dave McQueen. Courtesy photo.

KELSEYVILLE, Calif. – Everyone knows that kids who miss a lot of school typically do worse than their peers academically.

But you may be surprised to learn that when students in the earliest grades miss just two days per month for any reason – excused or unexcused – it can translate into third-graders who can’t make the transition from learning to read to reading to learn; sixth-graders who cannot keep up in core classes, and high school students who do not graduate.

Missing 10 percent of school, which equates to about 18 days for the whole school year, is called “chronic absenteeism” and children living in poverty are more than twice as likely to be chronically absent. This is especially damaging in kindergarten through third grade when students are building fundamental language and math skills.

Even when students have good reasons to be absent, such as medical appointments or family emergencies, they still miss out on the teacher’s instruction and interaction with their classmates. Studies show it takes three days for students to catch up for every one day missed.

When you think about it, it makes sense. Let’s say a student misses a lesson. He or she comes back to school the next day and the class has moved on, having learned the new concept. The student not only missed yesterday’s concept, now he struggles to understand the current lesson because he doesn’t have the benefit of yesterday’s information.

When school changes from being fun to being confusing, from being easy to being hard, many students stop trying.

The best thing parents can do is to get their students to school every single day. This means scheduling appointments after school when possible. It means planning family trips to coincide with school holidays. It means only keeping students home for illness when they have one of these three symptoms: a fever higher than 100 degrees; diarrhea or vomiting during the previous 24 hours; or eyes that look pink and/or crusty.

At school, we do all we can to minimize the spread of germs. We teach children to wash their hands frequently and to cough into their elbows. We disinfect surfaces and empty trash cans full of used tissues. All the while, the students continue to learn.

Don’t get me wrong, I understand the desire to keep kids home from school when they have the sniffles, to wrap them up in a warm blanket and feed them chicken soup. But allowing them to skip school regularly puts them behind.

School builds on material taught the day before, the week before, and the year before. When students get behind in the early years, it can be incredibly difficult for them to catch up.

Unfortunately, students who live in communities like ours with high levels of poverty are far more likely to be chronically absent than others because of factors out of their control such as unstable housing, unreliable transportation and a lack of access to health care.

If you are having trouble getting your student to school every day, talk to your student’s teacher. Let’s see if we can connect you with resources – other families who could help, district support, or assistance from other community resources.

Education is the path to success. Let’s keep kids in school every day to help them all be successful.

Dave McQueen is superintendent of Kelseyville Unified School District.

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1Oct
10.01.2022 7:00 am - 11:00 am
Sponsoring Survivorship annual walk and run
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Konocti Challenge
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Farmers' Market at the Mercantile
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20th annual Falling Leaves Quilt Show
1Oct
10.01.2022 11:00 am - 1:00 pm
Weekly writing workshop
1Oct
10.01.2022 11:00 am - 6:00 pm
Lakeport Harvest Festival
1Oct
10.01.2022 4:00 pm - 8:00 pm
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Peace and Plenty Farm
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10.01.2022 5:30 pm - 9:00 pm
Luau on the Creek

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