Health briefs for Nov. 16, 2013: Medicare patients can alter plans through Dec. 7 |

Health briefs for Nov. 16, 2013: Medicare patients can alter plans through Dec. 7

— Open enrollment for Medicare Part D prescription plans and Medicare Advantage health plans is underway and continues until Dec. 7. Current Medicare beneficiaries interested in changing to a different plan must make a decision by Dec. 7.

New plans become effective Jan. 1, 2014.

“This is a critical time for consumers on Medicare to review their coverage and make sure it meets their needs,” said Marguerite Salazar, Colorado commissioner of insurance, in a press release from the Colorado Division of Insurance.

People should evaluate their Medicare plan each year, and because plan prices, benefits and networks change, even people who are happy with their current plan should use this time to review their coverage. The Plan Finder tool at can be very helpful in comparing one plan to another.

Colorado consumers can call their local State Health Insurance Assistance Program at 1-888-696-7213 for help. SHIP is housed in the Colorado Division of Insurance and provides personal assistance to anyone in Colorado.

Consumers also can contact Medicare directly at 1-800-633-4227.

“SHIP is a key component to our mission of consumer protection,” Salazar said. “The counselors’ expertise is a great consumer resource. It’s free, unbiased and no one is trying to sell you anything.”

Unfortunately, open enrollment also brings the risk of unscrupulous sales activities. Here are a few key facts to remember as Medicare beneficiaries review their plans.

• Legitimate insurance carriers do not sell Medicare plans door-to-door.

• Contacting you by phone is inappropriate unless you requested it or you already are the carrier’s customer.

• Insurance carriers should not start selling one product and then switch to another unless you requested this sales approach in writing.

• If an event is advertised as “educational,” no sales pitch should be made at the event.

For more information about SHIP, visit or call 1-888-696-7213.

November is Diabetes Awareness Month

Nearly 26 million children and adults in the United States have diabetes. Another 79 million Americans have pre-diabetes and are at risk for developing Type 2 diabetes. According to the website for The Memorial Hospital, recent estimates project that as many as one in three American adults will have diabetes in 2050 unless people take steps to stop diabetes.

According to the American Diabetes Association, early detection and treatment of diabetes can decrease the risk of developing the complications of diabetes. The following symptoms of diabetes are typical. However, some people with Type 2 diabetes have symptoms so mild that they go unnoticed.

Common symptoms of diabetes include frequent urination, extreme thirst or hunger, extreme fatigue, blurry vision or cuts and bruises that are slow to heal. Weight loss with increased food intake can be indicative of Type 1 diabetes, while tingling, pain, or numbness in the hands and feet can mean Type 2.

Learn about how diabetes is diagnosed or take a risk test to find out if you are at increased risk for having Type 2 diabetes. The American Diabetes Assocation offers a free risk assessment at

Whooping cough vaccinations recommended

Responding to a recent surge in cases of whooping cough or pertussis, Coloradans are urged to make sure they are up to date on vaccinations. Colorado has seen epidemic levels of pertussis during the past two years. One hundred new cases of pertussis were reported in the second half of October.

The Tdap vaccine is recommended for:

• Children 7 to 10 years old who are not fully immunized with the childhood DTaP vaccine series

• Adolescents 11 to 12 years old

• Adults who never have received a Tdap vaccine

• Pregnant women at 27 through 36 weeks of pregnancy

• Parents/caregivers of infants younger than 12 monthsold, including grandparents, baby sitters and child care workers

• Health care workers

• Others who plan on having close contact with an infant

The Tdap vaccine may be received at all Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association flu clinics or from one’s private medical provider. For a list of flu clinics, call 970-871-7624 or visit

Wellness Wednesday benefits seniors

Wellness Wednesday, a program of the Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association, is a day of activities for older adults every Wednesday at The Journey at First Baptist, 1150 W. Ninth St. The day begins with a memoir writing class at 8:15 a.m. offered by Colorado Northwestern Community College. Two exercise classes, beginning and advanced Movement & Exercise, are at 10:30 a.m. Lunch is at 11:30 a.m., and a guest presentation follows at noon. Pinochle begins at 1 p.m. Senior wellness checks and foot care with nurses also are available. Fees and/or appointments may be required for some activities. All are welcome. For more information, call 970-871-7676.

Medical foot care clinics for older adults

The Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association provides medical foot care clinics for older adults from 8 a.m. to noon Wednesdays at The Journey at First Baptist, 1150 W. Ninth St., and from 9 to 11 a.m. the first three Thursdays of each month at Sunset Meadows I, 633 Ledford St. Clinics include consultation, foot inspections and toenail trim. The copay is $20. Call 970-875-1884 to make an appointment.

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