Welcome

Hi and welcome, I’m Lance D. Reedy, CSA, an independent agent and owner of Northwest Senior Insurance. I specialize in working with Medicare beneficiaries.

The time has come for you to select a Medicare supplement, Medicare advantage plan, and/or Part D prescription plan. The most important decision you will make is selecting a knowledgeable agent who holds your best interests above all else. As an independent insurance specialist, I welcome the opportunity to help you understand your options, find the best value for your situation, and provide you with the kind of service that you can count on.

Maybe you are past 65 and your Medicare supplement premiums have gone up. I’ll do my best to find lower cost options for you. Remember, you can change your Medicare supplement any month of the year.

I specialize with the following Medicare related products:

In addition, I also carry other lines of insurance that are important in the senior market:

  • Life insurance
  • Final expense or burial policies
  • Short term care insurance
  • Long term care insurance
  • Traditional fixed annuities

Your Shopping Type

Identifying your shopping type is most helpful when shopping for a Medicare supplement. Understanding your shopping type helps you to avoid the Ten Medicare Supplement Shopping Mistakes. Most importantly, doing so also helps you to get the best buys without paying more than you need to. Click on the blue eagle below to learn more…

Avoiding the Three Major Mistakes and having the correct mindset when shopping for a Medicare supplement will give you the peace of mind that you made the right choice.

Something New for Those Using Insulin: Part D Senior Savings Model

Starting in 2021 there is a new program for Medicare beneficiaries that use insulin. I have pulled this information from CMS.gov.

CMS’s Part D Senior Savings Model is designed to address President Trump’s promise to lower prescription drug costs and provide Medicare patients with new choices of Part D plans that offer insulin at an affordable and predictable cost where a month’s supply of a broad set of plan-formulary insulins costs no more than $35 each.

The idea here is that the user of insulin would pay no more than $35 per month for each insulin that he/she uses. Costs such as the deductible and the coverage gap (doughnut hole) will not apply

CMS is testing a change to the Medicare Coverage Gap Discount Program (the “discount program”) to allow Part D sponsors, through eligible enhanced alternative plans, to offer a Part D benefit design that includes predictable copays in the deductible, initial coverage, and coverage gap phases by offering supplemental benefits that apply after manufacturers provide a discounted price for a broad range of insulins included in the Model.

The Model aims to reduce Medicare expenditures while preserving or enhancing quality of care for beneficiaries, and to provide beneficiaries with additional Part D plan choices, both for beneficiaries who receive Part D coverage through standalone Prescription Drug plans (PDPs) and those who receive Part D coverage through Medicare Advantage, Prescription Drug plans (MA-PDs). These Model-participating plan benefit packages (PBPs) will provide stable, predictable copays for certain insulins that beneficiaries need throughout the different phases of the Part D benefit.

The article lists the participating pharmaceutical manufacturers.

  • Eli Lilly and Company
  • Novo Nordisk, Inc. and Novo Nordisk Pharma, Inc.
  • Sanofi-Aventis U.S. LLC

Please click here to bring up a list of the insulin brands available for the Senior Savings model.

The CMS article also recommends the use of Medicare.gov for finding plans that are participating in the program.

To pull up a 50-state, complete list of participating prescription drug plans (PDPs) and Medicare advantage (MA) plans, please click here.

The upshot of all of this is that you should have us shop your prescriptions on Medicare.gov, especially if you are using insulin, pens or vials. To do this, please use PDPHelper.com to send us a list of your prescriptions, and we’ll take it from there. End

Important Part D Prescription Plan News

In early October you should have received your Annual Notice of Change (ANOC) from either your Part D prescription (PDP) plan provider or your Medicare advantage plan company. If you didn’t receive your ANOC, be sure to contact your plan and ask for one. They should also be available online.

Yes, we understand that you are overloaded with information, and who wants to read more boring info. A year ago, Humana announced in their ANOC that they were discontinuing their existing PDPs and coming out with new plans for 2020.

They also announced that the people on the 2019 Humana Walmart plan—if they did nothing—would be placed on the new ~$52 Humana Premier PDP for 2020. Fortunately, many of you contacted us and we were able to find a more cost-effective plan for you for 2020.

We also alerted people about this situation in two issues of our e-letter, Northwest Senior News. Unfortunately, some folks missed the notices and were stuck on the more expensive plan for 2020. If you currently have the Humana Premier plan, be sure to contact us this fall if you have not already done so.

History Repeats

We have a similar situation this fall. Mutual of Omaha (MoO) has offered two PDPs the past couple of years. We have signed up many of you for the MoO Value plan. Unfortunately, MoO is discontinuing that plan going into 2021. If you do nothing, you will automatically be placed on the Mutual of Omaha Plus PDP with a premium of around $70 per month.

If you have the Mutual of Omaha Value PDP, be sure to contact us. We also will also be contacting you as time permits during the fall Annual Election Period (AEP). Be sure to review your ANOC.

PDP Basics

It’s important to understand how most of the lower premium PDPs under $50 per month are structured.

Typically, tiers 1 and 2 (generics), are not subject to the $445 (in 2021) deductible. Tiers 3, 4, and 5 are subject to the annual $445 deductible. Usually, tiers 3, 4 and 5 are name brand drugs. However, there are many generics sprinkled throughout these three tiers.

A plan sponsor, at its discretion, can opt for a lower deductible. For example, a plan could set the deductible at $300 instead of the maximum $445.

More expensive plans in the $70 and up monthly premium range usually do not have a deductible. That’s one reason why their premiums are substantially higher. They also have more drugs on their formulary, particularly expensive brands. Because so many popular prescriptions have gone generic, very few people need these higher-octane plans.

To sum this up, most of us have a PDP where the deductible is waived for generic tiers 1 and 2. Knowing the above is very helpful in understanding what’s next.

The new kid on the block

There is a major company that has come out with a new, low priced PDP for 2021. The premium will range from about $6.10 to $7.50 per month depending on your state. That’s right, the premium is less than $10!

Okay, what the catch? There are two of them. First, you really want to use a preferred pharmacy from their list, as your copays will be substantially higher at a standard pharmacy. Note: Walmart is a standard pharmacy with this plan.

Second, only tier 1 generics are excluded from the $445 deductible. That means any tier 2 generics are subject to the deductible as well as tiers 3, 4, and 5. However, this plan seems to have a wide range of tier 1 generics, and they are available for a low or even no copays.

Who are good candidates for this plan?

1) Those who take no prescriptions. The name of the game is usually to have the lowest premium.

2) Those whose prescriptions are all tier 1 generics on this plan and are willing to use one of their preferred pharmacies.

Please use PDPhelper.com to submit to us a list of your current prescriptions, and we will shop it for you for the upcoming 2021 season. We’ll let you know your most cost-effective choice of the available plans.

The biggest mistake that some people make.

When discussing the upcoming new PDPs with some people, we hear, “But my plan [meaning the existing one] is this or does that…” Yes, we understand that this thought process is based on what you know and understand. The problem is that it’s like driving forward, with your eyes glued to the rearview mirror.

The reason that this is a problem is because the prescription drug plans change every year. Companies discontinue older plans and create new ones. Drugs can be added or deleted from the plan’s formulary. Pharmaceutical companies bring new drugs to the market, and they are usually expensive. Just one of them can throw you into the coverage gap.

Additionally, the status of any given pharmacy can change with the plan. We have noticed that this is especially true with the smaller, independent pharmacies.

Drive with your eyes looking forward!

The Coverage Gap

And speaking of the coverage gap, also known as the doughnut hole, your cost sharing while in the gap is 25% of the cost for generics and name brands. Some plans may have lower cost sharing for tier 1 and 2 generics while in the gap.

Once the retail cost of your prescriptions hits $4,130 in 2021, you will be in the gap. Once your TrooP (true out-of-pocket) hits $6,550, you go into the catastrophic stage with drastically lowered copays. Please keep in mind that you will not actually be paying out $6,550, because the manufacturer’s 50% discount counts toward your TrooP costs.

Conclusion

As stated above, we strongly encourage you to use our PDPHelper.com website as a way of submitting of list of your current prescriptions to us. We thank you for your patronage and wish you the best for the upcoming 2021 season. End.

Medicare Advantage and MSA Plan News

Medicare Advantage (HMO & PPO) Plans

In general, we have noticed that the premiums have remained about the same. Be sure to look over your Annual Notice of Change (ANOC). Most companies will give you a side by side comparison of 2020 and 2021 benefits. Some plans have increased a few dollars and others have had minimal decreases.

Various plans have increased their offerings of dental, so be sure to see what benefits your plan offers. Some plans offer an optional supplemental benefits package in the $25-30 monthly premium range. These packages usually include dental, vision, and hearing benefits.

One company had a $50 copay for joining Silver and Fit. They have dropped that for 2021. Some plans now include a meals benefit after a hospital discharge. Again, be sure to consult your ANOC for specifics.

Medical Savings Account (MSA) – a different type of Medicare Advantage Plan

What are MSA plans and how to do they work?

An MSA is a high-deductible health insurance plan combined with a savings account that you can use to pay for your health care costs. Since this is a type of Medicare plan, Medicare provides the funding.

Medicare.gov has a handy 10 step breakdown of how MSAs work.

  1. Choose and join a high-deductible Medicare MSA Plan.
  2. You set up an MSA with a bank the plan selects.
  3. Medicare gives the plan an amount of money each year for your health care.
  4. The plan deposits some money into your account.
  5. You can use the money in your account to pay your health care costs, including health care costs that aren’t covered by Medicare. When you use account money for Medicare-covered Part A and Part B services, it counts towards your plan’s deductible.
  6. If you use all of the money in your account and you have additional health care costs, you’ll have to pay for your Medicare-covered services out-of-pocket until you reach your plan’s deductible.
  7. During the time you’re paying out-of-pocket for services before the deductible is met, doctors and other providers can’t charge you more than the Medicare-approved amount.
  8. After you reach your deductible, your plan will cover your Medicare-covered services. Read information from the plan for details about out-of-pocket costs.
  9. Money left in your account at the end of the year stays in the account and may be used for health care costs in future years.
  10. If you use funds from your account, you must include this special form [PDF, 89.4 KB] with information on how you used your account money when you file taxes. http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/f8853.pdf

The available states in the West are now MT, WY, UT, AZ, NV, NM, and OR. Unfortunately, MSA plans are currently not available in WA, ID, CA, and CO.

How MSA plans work

When you see your medical provider, you present your MSA ID card to your provider’s billing office. The provider bills the MSA plan. The bill comes back to you, and you pay you provider from your debit card account. Meanwhile, the MSA plan applies that amount to your deductible. Never pay your provider prior to them billing the MSA plan.

MSA plans do not provide prescription drug coverage. Medicare beneficiaries who are enrolled in an MSA plan and who also wish to have drug coverage, will need to enroll in a stand-alone Part D prescription drug plan.

FAQ’s

Q: Where do MSA plans get the money to set up my debit card account?

A: Remember, Medicare advantage (MA) plans are privatized Medicare plans. Let’s say that an MA plan without Rx coverage receives around $800 per person per month from Medicare to provide your health coverage. Out of that, MSA plans can fund your debit card account.

Q: Let’s say I spend $500 on doctor bills for 2021, what happens to the $1,500 still remaining in my debit card account?

A: Your unused funds rollover and will be available for a future year. This is not a “use it or lose it” deal. If you don’t use it, it rolls over.

Q: What happens if I exhaust my debit card account and still have more medical bills?

A: Your responsibility is to cover your bills until you reach your deductible. Once you have met your deductible, your MSA plan pays 100% of your Medicare approved expenses for the remainder of the year.

Q: What about networks. Am I restricted to a doctor network?

A: There are no networks with MSA plans. Most any provider that works with Medicare should be willing to accept your MSA plan. That’s great news for snowbirds or those who travel to other states.

Q: What about preventative checkups? How are they covered?

A: Unlike other Medicare advantage plans, there are no, zero copay physicals or other preventative services. Your provider will bill the plan, and then you’ll pay your physician from your debit card account.

Q: Can I use my MSA funds to pay for vision or dental services?

A: Yes. In addition, you can also use your MSA account for hearing aids, hearing aid batteries, prescription copays, and long-term care expenses. Please note: Using money in your account to pay for health care costs that aren’t covered by Medicare will not count toward your MSA plan’s deductible.

Q: Who can enroll in an MSA plan?

A: Most people who are on Medicare Parts A and B and reside in a state where an MSA plan is offered are eligible to sign up. You will need to decide if the program is right for you. There are some people that are ineligible to enroll in the MSA program. These exceptions primarily are those receiving VA or Medicaid benefits.

The following are some of the reasons why Medicare beneficiaries have enrolled in an MSA program.

  • Those that like the idea of a no premium plan.
  • Those that live in a county where no other Medicare advantage (MA) plans are offered. Many of the sparsely populated counties of Montana, Wyoming, and Oregon have no other MA plans to choose from.
  • Those that do little or infrequent doctoring.
  • Those that like the idea of having funds available for dental or vision.
  • Those that prefer to have their own standalone Part D Prescription (PDP) plan.
  • Those who are looking for an alternative to their Medicare supplement plan and don’t want or can’t get a standard HMO or PPO Medicare Advantage plan.

Important Information for Existing MSA plan Members

If you are already a member of an MSA plan, your membership for 2021 will automatically renew. Be sure to read your annual notice of change to keep informed of any changes to your plan. The MSA company is also offering a second version of their plan with a larger debit deposit and a larger deductible. Please contact us for details.

Conclusion

Please contact us with questions about this MSA plan or your interest in any other Medicare advantage plan. There are some situations where a switch to the MSA plan may be a good fit for your situation. Here are some examples.

Case #1: Alice is in her 90s and is on an old Plan F with a premium of over $300 per month. She has a medical condition which makes it difficult for her to switch to another Medicare supplement plan. She lives in a sparsely populated county that has no other Medicare advantage plans. He out-of-pocket will hundreds of dollars less than the annual $3,600 Medsupp premium.

Case #2: Martha has Medicare supplement Plan L. Since there is a fair amount of cost-sharing with Plan L, the maximum circuit breaker limit rises to $3,110 in 2021. By the time she adds in her annual premium for Plan L and her cost-sharing, she could be out hundreds more with Plan L compared to the MSA plan.

Case #3: Bill has Medicare supplement Plan K. In 2020 his circuit breaker limit is $6,220. That’s more than double of what him maximum out-of-pocket would be with the MSA plan.

Case # 4: Shirley’s Plan F has climbed to $200 monthly, and she would like to shop for a lower cost Medsupp. Unfortunately, she has a COPD diagnosis making it impossible for her to switch to a lower cost Medsupp. The MSA plan may be a good alternative for her. There is no medical underwriting.

Please contact us for complete details to see if the MSA plan is a good fit for you. End

PDP Helper Tips

This 2020 AEP is our fifth year of using PDPHelper.com. The following are some tips to help us do an accurate search on your behalf for your 2021 Prescription Drug Plan (PDP). Our goal is to recommend the PDP that will be most suitable for you.

Step 1

Please enter your name, phone, email address, your zip code, and your county of residence. Some zip codes span multiple counties, and that’s why we request your county of residence. This means where your residence sits.

Next, please list your top pharmacy choices. We also ask you if you would be willing to use Walmart, Walgreens, or a mail order pharmacy if that will save you money.

Step 2

In this section, only enter your pills, capsules, or tablets. Liquids, gels, creams, insulin, eye drops, patches, etc. are in the next steps.

Enter the name of your prescription, the dose, and the quantity you buy. Important, is the quantity you buy per one month, per every two months, per every three months, or per every twelve months? If you take something as needed, estimate how many pills you buy and how often you buy it. Your estimate does need to be exact. Just get it as reasonably close as you can.

Example #1—Betty take two, 500mg metformin tablets every day. She buys 60 every month.

Name of Prescription: Metformin
Dosage: Enter 500mg
Quantity: Enter 60
Frequency: Enter month

Example #2—John take hydrocodone/apap, 325/10mg, as needed for back pain. Some days he takes none but other days he takes two or three. He estimates he takes around 45 per month

Name of Prescription: Hydrocodone/apap
Dosage: Enter 325/10mg
Quantity: Enter 45
Frequency: Enter month

Step 3

The section is for Insulin, Inhalers and Nebulizers

Example #3—Alice uses insulin. She checks “yes”. She enters her information as follows:

Name of insulin: Lantus Solostar pens
Size: 3 mL
Quantity: 5 pack or just 5
Frequency: per 2 months

Example #4—Shirley uses Advair. She checks “yes” for the category: “Do you use any inhalers or nebulizers?” She enters her information as follows:

Name of inhaler: Advair
Size: 250/50
Quantity: 1
Frequency: 1 month

Step 4

This final step is for Eye Drops. Gels, Creams, Lotions or Salves, and Other Prescriptions.

Example #5—Mary uses eye drops. She checks “yes” for this category and fills in her information. Please do NOT attempt to say “2 drops per eye each day.” We need to know the size of the bottle, usually 2.5 mL, 5 mL, or 10 mL and how often you fill your prescription.

Name of eye drops: Latanoprost SOL 0.005%
Size: 2.5 mL
Quantity: 1
Frequency: 1 month

When finished, please hit the submit button. Thank you in advance for using PDPhelper.com. End

Arming the Elderly: A Self-Defense Guide for Senior Citizens

Introduction

For several years we have discussed important health issues in Northwest Senior News. Without question, maintaining optimum physical health in the later years, or the 4th quarter as I like to say, can lend to a more enjoyable retirement.

With the COVID-19 pandemic and the recent violence of the riots and protests, I think it’s relevant to look at another critically important issue, and that is our personal safety.

I sure many of you saw the ugly video of an unprovoked attack on a 92-year-old New York City woman by a man with a rap sheet a mile long. His strike knocked the woman down, and she hit her head on a fire hydrant as she fell. If you care to review this tragic incident, you can click here for a YouTube video of it. Caution: The scene is disturbing.

I came across an article authored by Molly Carter on ammo.com titled Arming the Elderly: A Self-Defense Guide for Senior Citizens. Please click on the link to view the complete write-up. I have summarized her key points.

Carter explains that 14 percent of seniors in the past year have experienced either physical, psychological, or sexual abuse; neglect; or financial exploitation. That’s alarming!

I know of two or our clients that were scammed by email or phony business venture schemes. They were financially exploited. Do NOT open any emails requesting personal information such as your phone number, date of birth, Social Security number, or any passwords. If in doubt, still do NOT open it. Have a knowledgeable person look it first! Don’t let them tease your curiosity!

The author lists twelve tips to avoid becoming an easy target.

  • Walk with purpose.
  • Keep your eyes up.
  • Know where the exits are.
  • Watch for suspicious people.
  • Avoid places that are known to be unsafe.
  • Don’t go places alone.
  • Run errands during the day.
  • Don’t linger in isolated places.
  • Don’t be distracted.
  • Stay in well-lit areas.
  • Always be aware of your surroundings.
  • Keep your keys in your hand, ready to go.

I think these tips could summed up as situational awareness. Know what’s going on around you and be observant.

Carter encourages you not to be overly trusting. For example, you don’t want to open your door for someone that needs to “borrow” your phone.

She provides several other safety tips. This one deserves special attention: Improve your chances of evading criminals by staying active and fit. Seniors who live active lifestyles are faster, stronger, and have quicker reaction times than their peers. I’ll add that those who conduct themselves in this manner will be much less of a target for the bad guys.

That’s another reason to stay in robust health, keeping your weight at normal levels, and to stay physically fit. Evading danger is much easier for those that are.

The author discusses personal protection. She suggests walking with your fist wrapped around your keys with one key sticking out between your knuckles. This gives you a solid, makeshift weapon that can be used as a knife to slice or puncture. [This is more directed to people living in larger urban areas.]

A person can carry items such as a police whistle, a flashlight, mace [pepper spray] and a personal alarm.

She next discusses fighting or martial arts tips. Evading the confrontation is the first strategy. If the attacker demands your bag, don’t hand it to him. Throw it at his feet. That way he can’t grab your arm as easily. If you do end up in a fight, fight “as dirty as you can” Carter suggests. Poke his eyes, hit him in the balls, and punch him in the nose. If you are attacked from behind, throw your head backwards to throw the perp off his balance.

Carry a Concealed Weapon

Concealed carry is obviously a personal decision. Carter states three important considerations if you decide to carry.

  1. Have the right weapon.
  2. Be comfortable with it.
  3. Be willing to do what it takes.

Her main caution for semi-automatic pistols is that some seniors may not have the manual dexterity or strength to operate the slide. Her caution for revolvers is the finger strength required for the long pull. If you carry or decide to have a handgun at home, you will need to determine which one is best for you.

She next lists some recommended pistols and revolvers. She cautions against small-caliber hand guns for self-defense such as .22s because they don’t have enough stopping power. However, she stresses that “carrying a small gun is better than no gun at all.

I’ll comment that .22s have still killed lots of people. I have a former student that accidentally shot his 10 year-old brother in the back with a .22. It killed him.

Overcoming Obstacles and Limitations

The author emphasizes that it’s a smart idea to know your limitations when choosing a firearm to carry. A few issues that she mentions are arthritis, limited range of motion, poor eyesight, and any type of chronic pain.

One handy option for those dealing with vision issues is the consideration of having a laser light on your handgun. Carter offers the Smith and Wesson Bodyguard .38 with the built-in laser light as an example.

If Something Bad Does Happen

If something does happen, be sure to report it to the proper authorities. She refers to an article on the FBI’s website titled Scams And Safety. Carter states that seniors can and should protect themselves. End

How do I sign up for Medicare Part B if I already have Part A?

Most readers here have already been on Medicare Part B either recently or for several years. However, maybe you have a spouse/partner, or know someone else who has Medicare Part A (Hospital) but not Part B (Medical). Please pass this information on to those that are needing help to sign up for Medicare Part B. This is especially applicable during this COVID lockdown time when in-person visitation to your local Social Security Administration office has either been difficult or impossible.

The following paragraphs are from the FAQ section on the Social Security Administration’s website:

How do I sign up for Medicare Part B if I already have Part A?

If you are already enrolled in Medicare Part A and you would like to enroll in Part B, please complete form CMS-40B, Application for Enrollment in Medicare – Part B (Medical Insurance). If you are applying for Medicare Part B due to a loss of employment or group health coverage, you will also need to complete form CMS-L564 (Request for Employment Information).

You may complete the forms online by visiting the Apply for Medicare Part B Online During a Special Enrollment Period webpage; fax them to 1-833-914-2016; or return the forms by mail to your local Social Security office. If you have questions, please contact Social Security at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778).

Note: When completing the forms CMS 40B and CMS L564:

  • State “I want Part B coverage to begin (MM/YY)” in the remarks section of the CMS 40B form or online application.
  • If your employer is unable to complete Section B, please complete that portion as best as you can on behalf of your employer without your employer’s signature.
  • Also submit one of the following forms of secondary evidence:
  • Income tax returns that show health insurance premiums paid.
  • W-2s reflecting pre-tax medical contributions.
  • Pay stubs that reflect health insurance premium deductions.
  • Health insurance cards with a policy effective date.
  • Explanations of benefits paid by the GHP or LGHP.
  • Statements or receipts that reflect payment of health insurance premiums.

Are Hand Sanitizers Safe to Use?

by Lance D. Reedy

Because of the COVID-19 virus, hand sanitizers have been flying off the store shelves. However, just how safe are they? For a while, antibacterial hand soaps were all the rage. When the news came out that the triclosan, the active ingredient, was helping to create antibiotic-resistant bacteria, smart shoppers discontinued purchasing these products. Are there similar issues with hand-sanitizers?

Several months ago, I was at my local optician’s shop, and I noticed a bottle of Purell sitting on the counter. I had never used the product before. Wanting to try it, I squirted a dob into my hands and started rubbing it all over. I thought maybe it was a gel that you would wipe on and wipe off. The gal said, “No, you just rub it in.” To my amazement the thick liquid just disappeared.

That triggered my thinking…besides alcohol, what’s in these products? Are the ingredients safe, or are there some downsides?

Of the good, the bad and the ugly concerning hand sanitizers, let’s looks at the ugly first. This headline appeared on Foxnews.com:

FDA issues warning over certain hand sanitizers due to potentially toxic chemicals

The article explains that products made by Mexican-based Eskbiochem may contain methanol. Methanol (wood alcohol) was sold as moonshine and is toxic if taken orally. The article says the following about methanol:

Significant exposure to the chemical can cause nausea, vomiting, headache, blurred vision, permanent blindness, seizures, coma, permanent damage to the nervous system or death, the FDA’s warning reads.

That’s ugly for sure. The article lists the various brand names marketed by Eskbiochem. Hmm, names like CleanCare NOGerm Advanced Hand Sanitizer sounds innocent enough. Buyer beware. Let’s move on to another article.

FDA tells hand sanitizer producers to make it unpalatable after surge in poison control calls

It looks like people are drinking the stuff because it has alcohol in it. Yuck! Because of that, the FDA is encouraging the manufacturers to add ingredients to the sanitizer that would make it unpalatable. You’d think it’s unpalatable already. We’ll move on as I don’t think any of our readers are foolish enough to drink hand sanitizer.

Here’s another article: Get coronavirus-fighting hand sanitizer from these unexpected brands

Due to the demand for hand sanitizer, other manufacturers have jumped into the fray. Please refer to the above article for a rundown on the 16 brands listed.

Before using any of those products, a smart idea is to check out the ingredients to ascertain if they are safe to apply on your skin. Are there any hormone disrupters buried in the list of ingredients? Some of these may be relatively safe, and others may have questionable ingredients.

What about the Ingredients in Purell and other sanitizers?

From DailyMed, Purell’s hand sanitizer’s ingredients are as follows:

Water, Isopropyl alcohol, Caprylyl Glycol, Glycerin, Isopropyl Myristate, Acrylates/C10-30 Alkyl Acrylate Crosspolymer, Aminomethyl Propanol, Fragrance (Parfum)

When you rub Purell or other similar products into your hands as if you were washing them with soap and water, you coat both sides of your hands, and whatever these ingredients are, they soak into your skin. Just how safe are they?

Concern #1: An article from Newsweek is titled, Hand Sanitizer Speeds Absorption of BPA From Receipts. Whoops, BPA is a known hormone disrupter. The freshly applied hand sanitizer serves as a vehicle to better enable the BPA on the electronic cash register receipts to be absorbed into your body.

You walk into the store and slather hand sanitizer on your hands thinking you’re safer. As you complete your purchase, you handle the register receipt. You may have unwittingly enabled some BPA to soak into your skin.

Concern #2: An article on TheStreet.com is titled– 5 Hidden Dangers of Hand Sanitizers. The introduction reads as follows: Hand sanitizer has been used during the coronavirus outbreak to battle the spread. Like anything, use in moderation.

It sounds pretty simple as an alternative to washing your hands with soap and water. It’s quick, portable, and convenient, especially when you don’t have running water nearby. Hand sanitizer or hand antiseptic is a supplement that comes in gel, foam, or liquid solutions.”

Easy-peasy and simple, right? Maybe. Here are 5 hidden dangers.

#1: Toxic chemicals: “If your hand sanitizer is scented, then it’s likely loaded with toxic chemicals. Companies aren’t required to disclose the ingredients that make up their secret scents, and therefore generally are made from dozens of chemicals.”

Synthetic fragrances contain phthalates, which are endocrine disrupters that mimic hormones and could alter genital development.”

#2: Weaker Immune System: “Studies have shown that triclosan can also harm the immune system, which protects your body against disease.”

#3: Hormone Disruption: Another effect of triclosan is interfering with your body’s hormones.

#4: Alcohol Poisoning: “Just because it doesn’t have triclosan, doesn’t mean it’s completely safe.

#5: Antibiotic Resistance: While the COVID-19 virus is not bacterial, creating more antibiotic resistant bacteria is a bad idea. If you contract a bacterial infection, now your immune system may be more compromised, which could make you more susceptible to contracting the virus.

Purell rated by EWG.org.

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) rates hundreds of products with a graphic consisting of four categories:

  • Cancer
  • Developmental & Reproductive Toxicity
  • Allergies & Immunotoxicity
  • Use Restrictions

The overall rating for Original Purell Hand Sanitizer is 4, with 1 being the best and 10 being the worst.

The concern for Cancer and Developmental & Reproductive Toxicity is low. Allergies & Immunotoxicity is rated high. Use Restrictions is rated as moderate.

It appears that Purell is one of the least bad of the hand sanitizers.

What’s good? Of course, it’s going to be something homemade where you know what going into it meaning no questionable chemicals

Coronavirus hand sanitizer you can make at home — and it’s doctor-approved

The recipe is pretty basic: However, it didn’t say how much distilled water to add.

  • 2/3 of rubbing alcohol
  • 1/3 of Aloe Vera Gel
  • 5 drops of essential oil
  • Distilled Water

One hand sanitizer that I have seen, and find to be less objectionable, is Dr. Bronner’s – Organic Hand Sanitizer Spray. They have the following verbiage on their website:

Our Organic Hand Sanitizer kills germs with a simple formula: organic ethyl alcohol, water, organic lavender oil, and organic glycerin—that’s it! None of the nasty chemicals you find in conventional sanitizers, but just as effective…

This looks to be safer compared to some of the above-listed hand-sanitizers. One concern, however, is the link between hand sanitizers and BPA absorption. If it’s the use of ethyl alcohol, Dr. Bronner’s could still cause a problem if you handle cash register receipts.

A hand sanitizer-less solution or soap on the go.

I have carried a one-ounce, small plastic bottle filled with Dr. Bronner’s Peppermint Pure-Castile Soap. I can use is in a public restroom. It’s incredible how well a few drops of this liquid soap will lather-up.

I have also used it while traveling. I can step out of my car, lather up with Dr. Bronner’s, rinse off with a water bottle, and dry off with a small hand towel. If you have someone with you, he/she can dribble the rinse water on your hands. You can also use a spray bottle filled with water only, for rinsing. This is a terrific way to wash you hands while on the go when there is no running water available.

Note: I have no affiliation with and nor do I have any financial stake in any of the products mentioned in this article.

Conclusion: There is no question that good hand sanitation is a smart idea, not just because of the COVID-19 virus but for preventing other cold or flu bugs. Good hand hygiene is also a wise idea before eating, especially if you will be touching food.

We have heard the admonitions, “Don’t touch your face.” Sometimes that’s hard to avoid when you have an itch, need to rub your nose, or need to rub out some dried tear junk from the corner of your eye. Keeping your hands clean certainly will lessen to chance of getting a bug when you do touch your face.

Soap and water is the consensus as the optimal way to clean your hands. Hand sanitizers come in second place. You’ll have to decide the risk verses benefit of using these products. If you do use a hand sanitizer, for sure, do your due diligence and choose the safest (or least bad) products. End

Fat Heals—Sugar Kills: Chapter 3, The War on Fat

by Dr. Bruce Fife

 

Recap of Chapter 2:

Dr. Fife enumerated the importance of fat in our diets. He also explained that if we do not get enough cholesterol in our diets, our livers will produce what our bodies need. He detailed how our ancestors ate real food, but when they started to transition to refined, Western diets, degenerative diseases set in.

Chapter 3

The Heart Disease Epidemic

My Comments: This chapter details one of the greatest health-related tragedies in American history. This is the promulgation of the diet-heart-hypothesis, also known as the lipid or cholesterol hypothesis. The adoption of this misguided hypothesis has only led to increased heart disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity, strokes, and thousands upon thousands of pre-mature deaths.

Starting: In colder climates hunter-gatherers subsisted primarily on meat and fat. Those in warmer climates ate less meat as they had more access to plant food. The human body was well adjusted to eating and thriving on diets rich in saturated fats and cholesterol.

Not only was heart disease extremely rare in these societies, the first documented case of heart disease was in Britain in 1878. Dr. Paul Dudley, Dwight D. Eisenhower’s personal physician, graduated from medical school in 1910. He commented about heart disease being a rare, new disease. Consider these statistics:

1910-1920: 10 deaths per 100,000 per year were due to heart disease.

By 1930: 46 deaths per 100,000 per year due to heart disease.

By 1970 the death rate had increased to 331 per 100,000.

That means that the death rate had increased 30-fold over a 60-year span! By 1950, heart disease had become the number one killer in the US. Fife suggests that the change was due to diet. Researchers in the 1950s noted that wealthier people had more access to fat in their diets, so they thought that fat might be a contributing factor to heart disease.

In 1953 Ancel Keys wrote a paper that gave credence to the connection between fat and heart disease. Keys later refined the idea and came up with the diet-heart-hypothesis. By 1957 he came up with his (in)famous Seven Countries Studies. The gist of it suggested that as the diets in countries had an increased intake of fat, their heart disease rates also went up. Keys had seemingly linked fat intake to heart disease rates.

Keys actually studied 22 countries, but he deceptively threw out results that didn’t conform to his theory. For example, he did not include France and Germany as they had high fat intake but how heart disease rates. Other researchers questioned Keys’ results, but by this time Keys had become a media darling.

The cholesterol hypothesis was immediately hailed as the long-sought cause of heart disease. Many doctors were quick to accept the new hypothesis, as it provided a seemingly logical and convenient answer to the heart disease mystery.

What’s also interesting about Ancel Keys is another study that he did in 1953. He measured the cholesterol levels in men. Twenty-year-old men had a cholesterol level of 190. Seventy-year-old men had a cholesterol level around 265. He discovered that cholesterol levels increased with age. However, this did not fit his cholesterol-heart-disease hypothesis, so he quietly discarded this study.

My Comments: One of the major takeaways I remember from Dr. Stephen Sinatra’s The Great Cholesterol Myth is the meta study (studies of several studies) of the connection between cholesterol levels and all-cause mortality. All-cause mortality means causes of ALL deaths and not just deaths due to heart disease.

The researchers looked at four cholesterol levels. (1) 250+, (2) 200-249, (3) 160-199, and (4) below 160. Those in group (1) had the lowest all-cause mortality while those in group (4) had the highest all-cause mortality. If this is true and if Keys’ discarded study is true, then why are so many doctors still trying to lower the cholesterol levels of their otherwise healthy patients?

Continuing: Keys’ fame from finding what was believed to be the key to heart disease rolled on. He appeared on Time magazine’s front cover. He published his first book, Eat Well and Stay Well, in 1959.

Keys had one problem, however. There was a British research professor, John Yudkin, who was also studying the causes of heart disease. In a nutshell, Yudkin’s studies pointed the finger at sugar, refined sugar, of course.

One way that Keys brushed off Yudkin’s counter claims was by suggesting that sugar was just carbs.

The effects of the different types of carbs wasn’t generally recognized at the time, so sugar wasn’t seriously considered.

Sugar intake doubled from 1909 to 1999, and the type of fats people were eating also changed. Vegetable oil (really seed oil) consumption increased while the consumption of animal fat decreased. Yudkin saw the connection between the increase in sugar consumption and heart disease in modern civilization.

Keys won the battle with Yudkin as Keys vilified him and referred to his studies as a “mountain of nonsense.” He accused Yudkin of issuing “propaganda from the meat and dairy industry.” Never mind the fact that Keys’ main financial backer was the sugar industry. Meanwhile, Yudkin was a mild-mannered university professor simply trying to get the truth out. He was not combative as was Keys. In the end, Yudkin’s scientific reputation was ruined, and he had now become an embarrassment to the University of London.

Keys discarded later studies that showed inconclusive or unfavorable results to his diet-heart-hypothesis. The Minnesota Coronary study found that the greater the drop in cholesterol, the higher the risk of death during the trial. For complete details of the Ancel Keys’ saga, please read pages 33-45.

My Comments: Keys claimed in essence that “science” said his diet-heart-hypothesis was true. First off, science, doesn’t say anything. Scientists, mortal human beings, make claims or assertions, based on conclusions they draw from studying any particular topic.

The lesson to be learned here is that when anyone doggedly asserts that “science says” or “the science behind it  says,” we should ask ourselves, What is, if any, the agenda behind what said person is promoting. Keys’ agenda was obviously fame and fortune. He retired a wealthy man. Yudkins’ agenda was seeking out the truth. Generally speaking, the agendas behind the phony science-reliance are either financial, political or both.

Another point to be learned here is to observe how the accuser is actually projecting his own dirty secrets when attacking someone else’s credibility. Keys accused Yudkin of “propaganda” and being supported by the meat and dairy industry. In fact, it was Keys promoting the propaganda, and it was Keys that was secretly being supported by an industrial (the sugar industry) lobbying group.

Continuing: Dr. Fife continues by explaining that the Keys-Yudkin rivalry was far more than just a professional one. It was a carefully orchestrated scheme to discredit Yudkin and his theory. Through Keys, the sugar industry succeeded in diverting suspicion away from sugar as a possible cause of heart disease and placing the blame squarely on saturated fat.

The sugar villains formed their “research” councils and they sponsored conferences. In one conference, Lipton’s Brisk tea, containing 11 teaspoons of sugar per serving, was recommended for diabetes! No kidding!

Yes, the plot was to influence medical research, government agencies, and public opinion. A hidden, re-discovered sugar industry memo acknowledging that sugar is fattening, causes cavities, and causes diabetes outlined the following propaganda campaign: Destroy those “fallacies” and at the same time convince the people of the wholesome qualities of sugar. Among their other villainous deeds, the sugar industry also eviscerated John Yudkin.

Here’s where it went political. Keys got his allies (cronies?) on boards of various governmental and medical organizations to promote the sugar industry’s interests. Among these were:

  • American Heart Association (AHA)
  • National Institute of Health (NIH)
  • S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)
  • Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and others

My Comment: This lesson serves as a good example that it behooves us to perk up our ears when some association, organization, or governmental agency is stridently advocating a certain diet or health position. Again, we should ask, “What’s their agenda?”

The member information mailers from my own Medicare company still parrots the following about diet and nutrition. “Watch your cholesterol and fat intake. Eat lean meats and use sugar moderately.” Cholesterol and fat are still baddies, while some sugar is okay. Why can’t they say, “Avoid all refined sugar and high fructose corn syrup products.” The writers of such publications still have their heads buried in the false sugar industry propaganda from over 50 years ago. Looks like falsehoods don’t die out too quickly.

Continuing: The sugar industry formed (and still does) lofty sounding organization names such as the Food and Nutrition Advisory Council. This council wasted little time in printing up 25,000 copies of an 88-page booklet titled Sugar in the Diet of Man, Theses were distributed to media and other opinion makers. Accompanying those booklets was the headline, “Scientists Dispel Sugar Fears.”

Sugar Propaganda

Dr. Fife quotes some of the verbiage used by sugar promoters in magazine advertisements.

Example 1: 1954 The headline on the ad reads What makes people fat? It then answers the question: People get fat simply because they overeat. Why do they overeat? Because they are hungry. Why are they hungry? One of the reasons…is because their blood sugar level is low. What is the fastest way to raise the blood sugar level and help keep them from overeating? Sugar and the good things containing it.

My Comment: This is as bad as the old 1950s magazine ads that read, “More doctors recommend Camel cigarettes.”

Continuing: Well, duh, a person eats more sugar to raise a falling blood sugar level only to have it crash again due to spiking his blood sugar. Have another doughnut to get your blood sugar up again!

Example 2: 1959 The ad headline reads, “Are you getting enough sugar to keep your weight down?” Then the verbiage says, “Sounds strange until you consider the necessity for appetite control when dieting. How do you curb a king-sized appetite? The easiest way is sugar. No other food satisfies your appetite so fast with so few calories. That’s why you’ll find sugar in many modern reducing diets.”

“Why today’s active women need more sugar…The strenuous life requires energy—the kind sugar provides. That’s why active people who know their energy needs include sugar in their diets.”

Sugar makes peaches taste peachier! All of us talk about tasting food, but now science tells us that your sense of smell is also very important to your recognition of flavors…”    

Fife’s comment, “There you have it. Science proves sugar is better.”

Example 3: 1971  An ice cream a day…Sugar can be the willpower you need to undereat…When you’re hungry, it usually means your energy is down. By eating something with sugar in it, you can get your energy up fast. In fact, sugar is the fastest energy food around. The ad goes on with similar blather.

The Federal Trade Commission would never allow such verbiage today. In fact, the sugar industry’s propaganda is so bad that it’s almost comical. The sad truth, however, is that the country bought into it.

1980 Dietary Guidelines for Americans

Cut back on the consumption of fat, saturated fats, and cholesterol. Avoid excess consumption of sugar, primarily in the form of candy to prevent cavities.

There it is. Saturated fat and cholesterol were demonized while sugar in processed foods got a pass. For sure, this horrible dietary advice was at the hands of Ancel Keys and the Sugar Industry’s minions. And this was all done on the latest scientific evidence!

Sadly, the public as a whole, instead of becoming thinner and healthier, grew fatter and sicker.

Misleading Medicare Advantage TV Advertising

By Ron Iverson, President of the National Association of Medicare Supplement and Medicare Advantage Producers

Sick of the Medicare TV commercials yet?  They’ve made their way into major network programming and still keep appearing in senior interest market networks.  I don’t expect they will subside until after [the January 1 – March 31 Open Enrollment Period] OEP, if then.  Either TV advertising is too cheap, or the people who run the ads are making a lot of money off of them–enough to keep running them.

Forbes ran an interesting article by Forbes Contributor, Diane Omdahl, last week headlined, “Half-Truths and Medicare Advantage Commercials.”  She spent a lot of time fact-checking the statements and started her story like this:

“If you watched any television in the last several months, you probably saw a slew of commercials for Medicare Advantage plans.  One that pops up frequently features a former professional football player who once did a commercial wearing pantyhose.  His commercials must be working so well that another former NFL star has also started promoting Medicare advantage plans.  All the commercials, no matter the narrator, talk about the Medicare benefits you deserve and that you should be getting.  They list those benefits in a very big and bold font and encourage you to call the toll-free number and sign up today.”

“According to federal law, whatever we see or hear in an advertisement must be truthful and not misleading.  I spent some time the last few days closely watching several different commercials.  Everything that was said about the cost and benefits was true, to the extent that it was said.  But there was much left unsaid, and that’s important information you need to make a smart decision.”

“First, the benefits: ‘Get the benefits you deserve, including rides to medical appointments, private home aides, nurse and doctor visits by telephone.’  Medicare describes these as benefits for daily maintenance and doesn’t cover them. However, because of policy [and funding] changes, Medicare advantage plans can now provide them. The plan, not Medicare, must cover these costs.  This is a new program and not that many plans offer these benefits.  Based on my preliminary plan research, here are some important points not mentioned in the commercials:”

  1. These benefits appear to be more common in health maintenance organization (HMO) plans. Except for an emergency, the benefits are only available through a network of selected providers, which can limit the individual’s choice.
  2. The plan likely requires prior approval or authorization. Before receiving care, the plan must review and approve the physician’s order.
  3. There are limits on these benefits. For example, two meals a day for five days after hospitalization with a limit of four hospitalizations, and a private home aid four hours a day for no more than 31 days a year.
  4. And, most important, the plans we researched require members to select only one benefit per calendar year.

“In some commercials, there were two more benefits that require clarification.  ‘Free preventive screenings.’  Medicare covers a long list of preventive and screening services.  You don’t need to enroll in one of these plans to get preventive services.  ‘A 75% discount on prescription medications in the Coverage Gap.’  You see this and think, ‘Wow! A big discount on drugs!  Where do I sign?  However, as with preventive services, this benefit is not unique to Medicare advantage plans.”

“The coverage gap is more commonly known as the donut hole.  In 2020, the donut hole closed.  Beneficiaries are responsible for 25% of the cost of medications in this payment stage.  In other words, they get a 75% discount.  Anyone with Part D prescription drug coverage will qualify automatically for this discount when their total drug costs hit $4,080. This benefit comes with the plans in the commercials, some other Medicare advantage plan with drug coverage, or a stand-alone Part D drug plan.” Note: this is like extolling a certain make of automobile because it comes with four wheels.

“Second, the costs.  ‘All these benefits may be available at no additional cost to you.’  The commercials focus on zero-premium plans and benefits available for no added cost.  However, at the moment the narrator says this, a small line of type appears on the bottom of the screen.  It’s there for only four seconds, while the list of benefits continues.  The small type reads, ‘Plan premiums, co-payments, and coinsurance can apply.’ ”

“Not all Medicare Advantage plans are zero-premium.  And for those that are, it’s important to know that zero-premium does not mean zero costs.  There are out-of-pocket costs for most services.  Plan members will pay their share of costs until they reach the plan’s out-of-pocket maximum limit.  That’s how much a person could write in checks when something happens, like a cancer diagnosis or a major car crash.  In 2019, the average limit was $5,059.”

“Third, the call.  The narrators talk about the help you will get when you call the toll-free number.  But, once again, the small print is revealing.  Dial the number and you’ll be transferred to a licensed insurance agent.  One commercial noted that the agent may or may not offer Medicare advantage plans.  Another said the person you talk with may not offer plans in your area.”

Then, Omdahl, who has written about health matters for thirty years, asks a question.  “The facts, as presented, are true but then the question becomes, “Are these commercials misleading?”  According to the Macmillan dictionary, misleading means something that is intended or likely to make someone believe something that is incorrect or not true.  She then refers to the American Medical Association (AMA), which in the fall of 2019 passed a resolution.

“Whereas, Medicare Advantage plans are heavily marketed to seniors by insurance companies, with less than ideal transparency in advertising; …and “Whereas, Presentations by insurance company officials to seniors can overemphasize the value of different options and can create confusion; therefore be it “RESOLVED, That our American Medical Association encourages AARP, insurance companies and other vested parties to develop simplified tools and guidelines for comparing and contrasting Medicare Advantage plans.”

“The AMA identified the need for tools to help individuals go beyond the TV commercials and get the information they need to make a smart decision.”

“Keep in mind that these Medicare Advantage plans are offered by for-profit entities, corporations not unlike your cable provider, department store, or neighborhood used car lot.  The purpose of the TV commercials is to get you to act, to call the number on your screen to make a purchase.  First, do your research.  Be an informed shopper.  Go beyond the commercials to the whole truth.  Your Medicare coverage is too important.”

End

Fed up with Telemarketers?

In anti-fraud effort, feds to probe how telemarketers get hands on seniors’ Medicare info

This article is a summary of a recent CBS News post.

The best thing to do when your phone rings from a “Medicare” telemarketer or one who claims to be a “Medicare specialist” is to treat it like a rattling rattlesnake. Yep, stay away from it and don’t get bitten.

Background: Insurance companies, pharmacies, and other interested parties can electronically access Medicare and Medicare’s records of any Medicare beneficiary. This can be done for legitimate purposes. For example, there might be some confusion on a claim of your date of birth or your Medicare number. However, there is also a nefarious use of this database.

The watchdog agency’s decision comes amid a wave of relentlessly efficient telemarketing scams targeting Medicare recipients and involving everything from back braces to DNA cheek swabs.

So how are these telemarketers getting access to your personal information? Answer: It’s from some entity that is accessing Medicare’s database for an illicit purpose.

Key personal details gleaned from Medicare’s files can then be cross-referenced with databases of individual phone numbers, allowing marketers to home in with their calls.

Put another way, a pharmacy may be accessing Medicare’s database when they have no business doing such.

But investigators found that some pharmacies submitted tens of thousands of queries that couldn’t be matched to prescriptions. In one case, a pharmacy submitted 181,963 such queries but only 41 could be linked to prescriptions.

In one report, 98% of the queries from a group of 25 pharmacies “were not associated with a prescription.” This also puts an individual’s privacy at risk.

Inappropriate use of Medicare’s eligibility system is probably just one of many little-known paths through which telemarketers can get sensitive personal information about beneficiaries, investigators said.

If a telemarketer contacts with seeming private information that he/she should not have had access to, do not let yourself be mesmerized by such. Know that your information was illegitimately obtained. Do not engage these people

Hang up immediately! Do not allow them to set their hook into you.

COVID-19 Scams

Sadly, the fraudsters are taking advantage of the COVID-19 situation. Hang up on any telemarketing schemes dealing with the virus or government paychecks. Likewise, delete any emails attempting to click-bait you into to clicking on something. Those are to be treated as venomous snakes, as that’s what they are. Stay clear and social-distance yourself from them.