Guide to planet retirement

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IN THIS ISSUE: Page 1: The Theft of My Identity

Page 2: Water vs. Coke

Page 4: Vision Changes as We Age

Page 6: How to Use an iPhone to Diagnose Eye Disease

Page 7: Automation

Page 7: Schizophrenia

Page 8: Smart Phones are Getting Smarter

Page 9: Grapefruit

Page 10: Medicare Update


Discovery consists of seeing what everybody has seen and thinking what nobody has thought.

- Albert von Szent-Gyorgyi, 1893-1986, American Biochemist


The Theft of My Identity

Yes, it happened, and it happened in the weirdest way. My identity was robbed!!! Since I have been in the process of moving for the last few months, I had been submitting my name, date of birth and social security number to mortgage lenders (to compare rates, etc.), utility companies, and vendors (e.g. for my 100% solar house). Then, my mortgage got held up because the escrow agent said that the transcript that the IRS sent to the underwriter did not match the 2012 tax return that I had submitted to them. This conundrum went back and forth for about two weeks, with my accountant finally getting involved and convincing the escrow agent to end him the IRS transcript. There it was: my name, my social security number, my correct income data (minus the 1099s), but an address in West Virginia – where I have never lived!!!! Double Yikes. So, then I was on the phone with the IRS for several hours and finally got to their Identity Theft Office. I had to download a special form and mail it in before they could start their investigation – estimated at 7 months. They said that this would delay my refund until the investigation is completed, but that is probably what this was all about -- the West Virginia alter ego probably did all this to get my measly refund.

So, what can you do to protect yourself from this? Here are some tips:

--Don’t plan on getting a mortgage or any other loan. Okay, that is not realistic, so just be aware that you are at risk.

--Keep track of who you gave your important information to and when. This could be important evidence if the IRS zeroes in on a suspect.

--Sign up for an I.D. protection service. I was already signed up with LifeLock, but once this mess came to light, I upgraded to LifeLock’s “Ultimate” plan. With my authorization, they will deal with the IRS, saving me hours on the telephone and possibly accelerating resolution/refund. They also alert me when accounts are opened in my name, in addition to sending me alerts when credit inquiries are made. If you have Protection 1 home security (a competitor of ADT), you can get up to a 45% discount off the LifeLock identity theft protection.

--Put an alert on all 3 credit agencies. I am not sure if this serves any purpose, but I did this to show that I am trying to be proactive to protect myself.

So, in the meantime, there is not much else to do but pray. I feel like a sitting duck.

I will let you all know the outcome of all this when I get my IRS refund…


I was always fascinated by the “secret formula” of Coca Cola. In the original formula, Coca tea was added – a brew from the coca leaf that is commonly taken in the Andean highlands to compensate for the lack of oxygen. Many natives are paid in coca leaves, which they chew in order to keep up a good production pace. Coca tea is not cocaine but, at sea level, does accelerate your blood pressure and certainly added a spring to your step.

After working with some exporters in the Caribbean island of Grenada, called the “Spice Island,” I learned that almost all of their nutmeg production was destined for cola manufacturers. So, now we know that Coke contains nutmeg extract (also a hallucinogen when taken in high concentrations and a poison when taken in higher concentrations). Coke also contains sugar, cinnamon, and who knows what else.

No wonder Coke has enjoyed the following slogans, starting from its commercial launch in 1886:

  • 1886 - Drink Coca-Cola.

  • 1904 - Delicious and refreshing.

  • 1905 - Coca-Cola revives and sustains.

  • 1906 - The great national temperance beverage.

  • 1908 - Good til the last drop

  • 1917 - Three million a day.

  • 1922 - Thirst knows no season.

  • 1923 - Enjoy life.

  • 1924 - Refresh yourself.

  • 1925 - Six million a day.

  • 1926 - It had to be good to get where it is.

  • 1927 - Pure as Sunlight

  • 1927 - Around the corner from anywhere.

  • 1928 - Coca-Cola ... pure drink of natural flavors.

  • 1929 - The pause that refreshes.

  • 1932 - Ice-cold sunshine.

  • 1937 - America's favorite moment.

  • 1938 - The best friend thirst ever had.

  • 1938 - Thirst asks nothing more.

  • 1939 - Coca-Cola goes along.

  • 1939 - Coca-Cola has the taste thirst goes for.

  • 1939 - Whoever you are, whatever you do, wherever you may be, when you think of refreshment, think of ice cold Coca-Cola.

  • 1941 - Coca-Cola is Coke!

  • 1942 - The only thing like Coca-Cola is Coca-Cola itself.

  • 1944 - How about a Coke?

  • 1945 - Coke means Coca-Cola.

  • 1945 - Passport to refreshment.

  • 1947 - Coke knows no season.

  • 1948 - Where there's Coke there's hospitality.

  • 1949 - Coca-Cola ... along the highway to anywhere.

  • 1952 - What you want is a Coke.

  • 1954 - For people on the go.

  • 1956 - Coca-Cola ... makes good things taste better.

  • 1957 - The sign of good taste.

  • 1958 - The Cold, Crisp Taste of Coke

  • 1959 - Be really refreshed.

  • 1963 - Things go better with Coke.

  • 1966 - Coke ... after Coke ... after Coke.

  • 1969 - It's the real thing.

  • 1971 - I'd like to buy the world a Coke. (basis for the song "I'd Like to Teach the World to Sing (in Perfect Harmony)")

  • 1974 - Look for the real things.

  • 1976 - Coke adds life.

  • 1979 - Have a Coke and a smile (see also Hey Kid, Catch!)

  • 1982 - Coke is it!

  • 1985 - America's Real Choice

  • 1986 - Red White & You (for Coca-Cola Classic)

  • 1986 - Catch the Wave (for New Coke)

  • 1989 - Can't Beat the Feeling. (also used in the UK)

  • 1991 - Can't Beat the Real Thing. (for Coca-Cola Classic)

  • 1993 - Always Coca-Cola.

  • 2000 - Enjoy.

  • 2001 - Life tastes good. (also used in the UK)

  • 2003 - Real.

  • 2005 - Make It Real.

  • 2006 - The Coke Side of Life (used also in the UK)

  • 2007 - Live on the Coke Side of Life (also used in the UK)

  • 2008 - love it light (also used in the UK)

  • 2009 - Open Happiness

  • 2010 - Twist The Cap To Refreshment

  • 2011 - Life Begins Here

  • 2012 - Enjoy Coca Cola

Anyway, back to the gist of this message: Water vs. Coke – and some amazing information from my dear friend Karen:


1. 75% of Americans are chronically dehydrated.
2. In 37% of Americans, the thirst mechanism is so weak that it is often mistaken for hunger.
3. Even MILD dehydration will slow down one’s metabolism as much as 30%.
4. One glass of water will shut down midnight hunger pangs for almost 100% of the dieters studied in a University of Washington study.
5. Lack of water, the #1 trigger of daytime fatigue.
6. Preliminary research indicates that 8-10 glasses of water a day could significantly ease back and joint pain for up to 80% of sufferers.
7. A mere 2% drop in body water can trigger fuzzy short-term memory, trouble with basic math, and difficulty focusing on the computer screen or on a printed page.
8. Drinking 5 glasses of water daily decreases the risk of colon cancer by 45%, plus it can slash the risk of breast cancer by 79%, and one is 50% less likely to develop bladder cancer.

And now for the properties of COKE:

1. In many states (in the USA) the highway patrol carries two gallons of Coke in the truck to remove blood from the highway after a car accident.
2. You can put a T-bone steak in a bowl of coke and it will be gone in two days.
3. To clean a toilet: Pour a can of Coca-Cola into the toilet bowl and let the “real thing” sit for one hour, then flush clean. The citric acid in Coke removes stains from vitreous china.
4. To remove rust spots from chrome car bumpers: Rub the bumper with a rumpled-up piece of aluminum foil dipped in Coca-Cola.
5. To clean corrosion from car battery terminals: Pour a can of Coca-Cola over the terminals to bubble away the corrosion.
6. To loosen a rusted bolt: Applying a cloth soaked in Coca-Cola to the rusted bolt for several minutes.
7. To remove grease from clothes: Empty a can of coke into a load of greasy clothes, add detergent, and run through a regular cycle. The Coca-Cola will help loosen grease stains. It will also clean road haze from your windshield.


1. The active ingredient in Coke is phosphoric acid. Its pH is 2.8. It will dissolve a nail in about 4 days. Phosphoric acid also leaches calcium from bones and is a major contributor to the rising increase in osteoporosis.
2. To carry Coca-Cola syrup (the concentrate) the commercial truck must use the Hazardous Material place cards reserved for Highly corrosive materials.
3. The distributors of coke have been using it to clean the engines of their trucks for about 20 years!

Now the question is, would you like a glass of water or Coke?

Vision Changes as We Age

I am acutely aware of vision changes because, as many of you may recall, I had lens replacement surgery on both eyes following a brutal assault in 2000 that damaged both of my lenses – causing clouding over the impact zones like cataracts. The surgery did not go well and there were many complications (the lens in one eye was recalled because it was contaminated – but is still in my eye because it can’t be removed…)

Nonetheless, I was reminded after reading the Sept. 9th issue of NIH News in Health ( how important it is that we keep track of vision changes that are a natural part of aging. One cause of impaired eyesight later in life is cataracts. A cataract is a clouding of the lens in the eye. If left untreated, cataracts can greatly limit vision. In fact, some people with severe cataracts can’t see anything and may only be able to tell the difference between light and dark.

Check with an eye care professional if you have any of these symptoms. They may also be a sign of other eye problems:

  • Cloudy or blurry vision.

  • Colors seem faded.

  • Glare—headlights, lamps or sunlight may appear too bright. A halo may appear around lights.

  • Poor night vision.

  • Double vision or multiple images in one eye. (This symptom may clear as the cataract gets larger.)

  • Frequent prescription changes in your eyeglasses or contact lenses.

Cataracts are common in older adults. About half of all Americans will either have cataracts or have had cataract surgery by the time they reach age 80. Early symptoms of cataract can be improved with eyeglasses, brighter lighting, anti-glare sunglasses, or magnifying lenses. If these steps don’t help, surgery is the only effective option for treatment. Surgery involves removing the cloudy lens and replacing it with a plastic lens.

Cataract procedures are among the most common surgeries performed in the United States. Most patients recover in just a few weeks, and many have improved eyesight after a few days. Recent advances have allowed doctors to tailor new lenses to patients and help reduce the need for eyeglasses after surgery.

The decision to have cataract surgery is a personal one that should be made between you and your doctor. Some experts advise that cataracts be removed only when vision loss interferes with your everyday activities, such as driving, reading or watching TV.

The best way to prevent or delay cataracts is to protect your eyes from harmful ultraviolet rays from the sun. Try wearing sunglasses or a hat with a brim. Researchers also believe that good nutrition can help reduce the risk of age-related cataract. They recommend eating plenty of green leafy vegetables, fruits, nuts and other healthy foods, or some of the new vitamins specific for the eyes. Also, smoking may speed cataract development, so it is another good reason to quit.

To screen for early signs of eye disease, ophthalmologists recommend that everyone have a dilated eye exam at age 40, even if your vision seems fine. Once you’re in your 60s, a dilated eye exam is usually advised every year.

Cataracts may bring out the artistic side of you! If fact, we may owe the entire impressionist period in art to impaired vision in an age before reliable surgery:

  • Van Gogh left us the gorgeous halos in scenes of the Starry Night and Café Terrace at Night.

  • Mary Cassatt had cataracts. “I look forward with horror to utter darkness,” Cassatt wrote in 1919, fearing that an operation on her left eye would be “as great a failure as the last one.” It was, and she stopped painting.

  • Claude Monet’s paintings noticeably lost subtlety as the artist aged and his lenses yellowed from the progression of cataracts. He is quoted as saying that he was “trusting solely to the labels on the tubes of paint and to the force of habit.” It is easy to see a stylistic contrast. On the fifth floor of the Museum of Modern Art, a three-canvas set of Monet’s water lilies spreads across a gallery wall in dazzling homage to the artist at the height of his brilliance. Off to one side is a painting of the Japanese bridge at Giverny from the early ’20s, when Monet’s cataracts were at their worst. It is a disturbing mix of dark reds and browns, much darker than the water lilies, yet just as compelling, perhaps, in its brooding intensity. Monet, terrified by Cassatt’s example, put off surgery, but finally had a successful operation on one eye in 1923. His last paintings before his death three years later harked to his earlier work. He also destroyed many cataract-period canvases, but it is unclear whether they surprised him. He had ruined paintings at other times in fits of pique.

  • Edgar Degas, known for his paintings of nudes and ballet dancers, suffered retinal disease, probably macular degeneration, for nearly half his life. Degas first noticed eye problems as a national guardsman in the Franco-Prussian War in 1870-71, when he could not aim his rifle because of a blind spot in his right eye. By 1890, his left eye also began to deteriorate. Light dazzled him. He tried to use peripheral vision to compensate for his loss of central vision. Some speculate that Degas’s return to pastels and his interest in sculpture might have arisen from seeking an easier-to-control medium. When Degas died in 1917, his colleague Pierre Auguste Renoir said, “It is fortunate for him ... any conceivable death is better than living the way he was.” The simulations showed that the draftsmanship became less detailed and the shadowing coarsened as Degas’s sight deteriorated.

  • Pissarro, who in his last 15 years suffered chronic infection of the tear sac in his right eye, had difficulty painting outdoors, particularly in winter. Pissarro’s late cityscapes of Rouen and Paris, regarded as masterpieces, were painted from indoors behind a window to protect his eyes.

How to use an iPhone to diagnose eye disease

Yes, there’s an app for that! Massachusetts Eye and Ear researchers have developed a simple technique of fundus (retinal) photography in human and rabbit eyes using an iPhone, an inexpensive app, and instruments that are readily available in an ophthalmic practice, as described in the Journal of Ophthalmology.

Commercial fundus cameras can cost tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars, making the technology out of reach for smaller ophthalmic practices and to physicians in third-world countries. But previous techniques of fundus imaging were often difficult to repeat, partly because video capture using Apple’s built-in camera app in iPhones cannot independently control the focus and the exposure, which results in glare and poor image quality.

Retina specialists at Harvard Medical School say that this technique is a simpler and higher quality method to more consistently produce excellent images of a patient’s fundus and extremely helpful in the emergency department setting,  in-patient consultations, and during examinations under anesthesia as it provides a cheaper and portable option for high-quality fundus-image acquisition for documentation and consultation. The technique is well tolerated in awake patients most likely since the light intensity used is often well below that which is used in standard indirect ophthalmoscopy. For more info:


I was automated out of my very first job after the summer of 1965. I was hired in July by the National Center for Nursing in New York City to grade the nurses’ exams – among the first multiple-choice exams taken by filling in the bubbles with a number 2 pencil. I operated an IBM 360. This machine was shaped like a desk. I put each exam paper one at a time into a slot on the left of the desk top and a meter (like an applause meter with a moving needle) located in the middle of the desk top went back and forth and stopped on a number. I removed the exam from the slot and hand-wrote the grade at the top of the paper.

I thoroughly enjoyed this job – at the cutting edge of technology -- and commuting to Columbus Circle and feeling the daily New York work-a-day pulse. But, one day in late August, workmen rolled in large IBM 1230 machines. All I had to do was feed in all the exams at once. The machine automatically typed the grade at the top of each paper. 100 exams were processed in about 5 minutes. I had been automated.

I mention all this because I read recently about the probability of computerization (0 =none; 1=certain) for the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics 2010 occupational categories, along with the share in low, medium and high probability categories. The probability axis displays rough as a timeline, where high-probability occupations are likely to be substituted by computer capital relatively soon.

A study from the Oxford Martin Programme on the Impacts of Future Technology suggests that nearly half of U.S. jobs could be susceptible to computerization over the next two decades, and that jobs in transportation, logistics, and office/administrative support are at “high risk” of automation. More surprisingly, occupations within the service industry are also highly susceptible, despite recent job growth in this sector. The probability of computerization for the occupation types ranges from recreational therapists (the lowest) to cashiers, counter and rental clerks, and (thankfully) telemarketers, the highest probability.

On the other hand, specialist and some generalist occupations involving the development of novel ideas and quick thinking are the least susceptible to computerization. In the low-risk category are most management, business, and finance occupations, occupations in education, healthcare, as well as arts and media jobs, engineering and science occupations.

For more info: Carl Benedikt Frey, Michael A. Osborne, The Future Of Employment: How Susceptible Are Jobs To Computerisation?, September 17, 2013


I heard on TV that most of the recent mass shootings were done by schizophrenics, who are usually non-violent, and that the shooters claim that “voices” told them to pull the trigger. I was interested to read that researchers found that people with schizophrenia have a high number of spontaneous mutations in genes that form a network in the front region of the brain. The findings reveal further clues about the causes of this chronic, severe brain disorder. People with schizophrenia may hear voices or see things that aren’t there. They may believe that people are reading their minds or controlling their thoughts.

Schizophrenia occurs in about 1% of the general population. However, it occurs in 10% of people who have a parent, brother or sister with the disorder, indicating that genetics plays a role in its cause. Previous studies have shown that many people with schizophrenia have new genetic mutations. These misspellings in a gene’s DNA sequence occur spontaneously and so aren’t shared by their close relatives. Researchers at the University of Washington in Seattle and colleagues set out to identify spontaneous genetic mutations in people with schizophrenia and to assess where and when in the brain these misspelled genes are turned on, or expressed. The study results were published in the August 1, 2013, issue of Cell, and showed that the likelihood of having a spontaneous mutation was associated with the age of the father in both affected and unaffected siblings. Significantly more mutations were found in people whose fathers were 33-45 years at the time of conception compared to 19-28 years.

Among people with schizophrenia, the scientists identified 54 genes with spontaneous mutations predicted to cause damage to the function of the protein they encode. The researchers used newly available database resources that show where in the brain and when during development genes are expressed. The genes, they found, form an interconnected expression network with many more connections than that of the genes with spontaneous damaging mutations in unaffected siblings. The spontaneously mutated genes in people with schizophrenia were expressed in the prefrontal cortex, a region in the front of the brain. The genes are known to be involved in important pathways in brain development. Fifty of these genes were active mainly during the period of fetal development.

These findings support the concept that schizophrenia may result, in part, from disruptions in development in the prefrontal cortex during fetal development. For more info: Common Genetic Factors Found in 5 Mental Disorders:

A human hair has a diameter of around 100 microns. You can see a single hair with your eyes, and you can even take a picture of one with a smartphone. In comparison, a virus may have a diameter of around 100-300 nanometers (nm). It would take about 300-1,000 viruses lined up side by side to equal the width of a human hair.

Visualizing a virus, or other structures that exist on a nanoscale level, typically requires expensive, sophisticated microscopes. These microscopes have bulky lenses and specialized optical components that are difficult to scale down and implement in a small, portable device. Such a compact device, though, could have enormous health benefits. For instance, it might allow researchers to track viruses and perform other diagnostic tests in the field.

A team of researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles sought to overcome the many challenges involved in building a compact, lightweight, fluorescent microscope that can detect single particles on a nanoscale level. Their work was funded in part by an NIH Director's New Innovator Award. Using a 3-D printer, the researchers constructed a handheld component that could attach to a smartphone. For a light source, they used a compact blue laser diode that was powered by 3 AAA batteries. They positioned the laser to illuminate a sample at a steep, oblique angle. This prevented the background light that could interfere with the detection of signal from the samples. The device also included a specialized filter to further block background noise in the images. The scientists described the construction and testing of the device online on September 9, 2013, in the journal ACS Nano.

Specimens were positioned in a sample holder on a miniature mechanical stage that could be moved to adjust the depth and focus. Both the sample and laser source were housed in a unit that prevented the user from being exposed to laser light and enabled samples to be viewed in the presence of strong ambient light. This “opto-mechanical” attachment weighed less than half a pound. Samples were magnified by the built-in lens of the cell phone camera along with an external lens. The magnified fluorescent images were then recorded by the sensor chip in the cell phone.

The researchers could detect beads as small as about 100 nm. They were also able to view fluorescently labeled human cytomegaloviruses, which range from 150 to 300 nm in diameter. They confirmed the ability of the device to detect nanoscaled objects of varying brightness by viewing the same samples with conventional scanning electron microscopy and confocal microscopy.


I just moved from a house with a grapefruit tree. I never indulged because doctors say that you should not eat grapefruit if you are taking statins to lower your cholesterol -– which I have been doing for years.

Now researchers used nanoparticles derived from grapefruits to deliver targeted drugs to treat cancer in mice. The technique may prove to be a safe and inexpensive way to make customized therapies. Nanoparticles are emerging as an efficient tool for drug delivery. Microscopic pouches made of synthetic lipids can serve as a carrier, or vector, to protect drug molecules within the body and deliver them to specific cells. However, these synthetic nanovectors pose obstacles including potential toxicity, environmental hazards and the cost of large-scale production. Recently, scientists have found that mammalian exosomes—tiny lipid capsules released from cells—can serve as natural nanoparticles. But making therapeutic nanovectors from mammalian cells poses various production and safety challenges.

A research team at the University of Louisville hypothesized that exosome-like nanoparticles from inexpensive, edible plants might be used to make nanovectors to bypass these challenges. The scientists set out to isolate nanoparticles from the juice of grapefruits, grapes and tomatoes. The researchers found that grapefruit juice yielded the most lipid nanoparticles. They then prepared ‘grapefruit-derived nanovectors’ (GNVs) and tested them in different cell types. GNVs were taken up by a variety of cells at body temperature. These nanovectors had no significant effect on cell growth or death rates. They proved to be more stable than a synthetic nanovector and were also taken up by cells more readily. The scientists next tested the GNVs in mice. They proved capable of delivering a broad range of therapeutic agents to targeted cells in culture, including chemotherapy drugs, short interfering RNA (siRNA), a DNA expression vector and antibodies. The researchers next tested GNVs in mouse models of cancer. GNVs carrying a tumor inhibitor reduced tumor growth and prolonged survival when given intranasally to mice with brain tumors. When injected into mouse models of colon cancer, GNVs with targeting molecules collected in tumor tissue to deliver therapies and slow tumor growth.

This is exciting news for people with cancer. These nanoparticles are derived from an edible plant, and are believed to be less toxic for patients, result in less biohazard waste for the environment, and are much cheaper to produce at large scale than nanoparticles made from synthetic materials. They are currently in clinical trials. For more info:


The Medicare “Open Enrollment (“Open Season”) is coming up fast: October 15 to December 7, 2013 for coverage starting on January 1, 2014.

Remember that you can do the following during the Open Season:

  • Change from Original Medicare to a Medicare Advantage Plan.

  • Change from a Medicare Advantage Plan back to Original Medicare.

  • Switch from one Medicare Advantage Plan to another Medicare Advantage Plan.

  • Switch from a Medicare Advantage Plan that doesn’t offer drug coverage to a Medicare Advantage Plan that offers drug coverage.

  • Switch from a Medicare Advantage Plan that offers drug coverage to a Medicare Advantage Plan that doesn’t offer drug coverage.

  • Join a Medicare Prescription Drug Plan.

  • Switch from one Medicare Prescription Drug Plan to another Medicare Prescription Drug Plan.

  • Drop your Medicare prescription drug coverage completely.

And, now that the ability to switch is up on and we all get confused by this sort of decision-making, the advertisers from the different private health plans are in full swing. You really have to do some homework and walk through a comparative study of plans you are eligible for before renewing with your current plan. This is freely available on Medicare’s website:

If you are comfortable reading fine print and not computer savvy, you can get assistance by contacting your local SHINE volunteer (SHIP in Florida, HICAP in California). They will help you to assess the best plan for you, particularly for covering your prescriptions drugs and giving you the most benefits for your monthly premium. Medicare also recently launched Medicare Interactive, an online resource that translates complicated Medicare benefits information into “what-does-this-mean-for-me?” advice for professionals and consumers. The Medicare Rights Center also offers a hotline staffed by expert counselors. People with Medicare can call (800) 333-4114.

Why should you go through this exercise of comparing plans every year? Because the private health plans (Advantage Plans, like HMOs and PPOs, Medigap Plans, Part D drug plans) change their terms and conditions in early October – dropping/adding benefits, dropping coverage for prescriptions drugs that you may be taking or doctors that you are used to seeing, and usually raising co-pays and premiums. Lots of fine print to plow through that you are usually not aware of until you are denied benefits or charged more!

So, don’t make a hasty decision just because a nice Advantage Plan salesman came to your house and showed you the bottom line to sign on or because your “over-50” magazine subscription is sponsoring a healthcare program (which many consider a conflict of interest). And, given the flurry of advertising on TV and in print that are playing on your fears, be sure to notify Medicare if any of the plans you become aware of are breaking any of the following rules:

  • Insurance brokers and agents cannot tell you that you must sign up for a Medicare Advantage plan to get Medicare prescription drug coverage. In fact, upon turning 65 and meeting the eligibility requirements, you can have Original Medicare and sign up for a stand-alone Part D plan to get Medicare prescription drug coverage. Stand-alone Part D plans are usually inexpensive, but you must sign up for them when you become eligible for Medicare (or are still covered by an employer benefits plan) or you will have to pay a monthly penalty for the rest of your life! Most Advantage plans bundle prescription drug coverage into their plans. If you drop out of an Advantage plan and go back to Original Medicare during the enrollment period, be sure to sign up for a Part D plan to cover your prescription drugs.

  • Insurance brokers and agents cannot tell you that you can only get information about a plan or sign up for a plan if an agent comes to your home. In reality, you can get information about the plan by either contacting the plan or taking a look at the plan’s website. Keep in mind that while plan agents can come to your home to talk to you about a plan, there are certain rules they must follow before doing so. For example, plan agents cannot come to your home without your consent.

  • Insurance brokers and agents cannot tell you that you can always return to Original Medicare coverage if you are dissatisfied with the plan. In reality, people with Medicare can only make changes to their Medicare coverage during certain enrollment periods. The plan agent should also tell you that you can only change your Medicare health and drug coverage during specific times throughout the year.

If an insurance company or broker has provided you with misinformation, you should report them to 800-MEDICARE. If possible, try to include specific names, locations and times. Since Medicare is unable to monitor every single action of insurance companies and brokers, your report to Medicare will help ensure that the rules protecting people with Medicare are followed.

Lastly, keep in mind that you should always double-check everything an insurance broker or agent tells you. For example, if an insurance broker tells you that your doctor is part of a Medicare Advantage plan’s network, call your doctor to verify this.


If you are not a member of Medicare or benefiting under the new rules of the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”), rejoice!

  • You won’t be charged more for health insurance just because you’re a woman, as was done in the past.

  • You can’t be denied coverage or charged more due to pre-existing conditions, like cancer or being pregnant.

  • You can choose from any primary care provider, OB-GYN, or pediatrician in your health plan’s network without a referral.

  • You’ll get free preventive care like mammograms, well-woman visits, contraception, and more, and will actually receive a reminder when it is time to get them.

Regarding Obamacare: who knows what Congress has in mind. Frankly, since all of our elected officials have excellent healthcare coverage paid for by us taxpayers, they obviously are not motivated to get something done for people without healthcare coverage. There is no reason why the proposed Health Exchanges, modeled after Medicare’s selection of Advantage Plans, etc., won’t work well. The more people who sign up, the cheaper the rates will be.

So, I hope the Government stops the rhetoric and opens enrollment, originally scheduled for October 1, 2013, so that coverage can start for millions of uninsured as soon as January 1, 2014.

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