Medicare Tips and Strategies

Coffee Chat Presentation 9/1/16

Mike Mason taking questions after his presentation


Our September Coffee Chat featured an informative presentation on Medicare’s Most Wanted Tips and Strategies with “Medicare Mike” aka Mike Mason, an independent agency owner specializing in Medicare insurance and education. Here are a few highlights!

Most people know that Medicare is health insurance for those 65 or over, as well as younger people with certain disabilities including End-Stage Renal Disease (ESRD). However, Medicare can be very confusing because of the detailed and often changing regulations. As an introduction, there are four main parts – A, B, C, and D:

  • “A” and “B” are the original
  • Medicare Part “A” (Hospital Insurance) helps cover hospitalizations, skilled nursing facility care, hospice, and home healthcare needs. It does NOT cover custodial or long-term care. It is free if the individual has worked the equivalent of 10 quarters
  • Medicare Part “B” (Medical Insurance) is mostly physician coverage – helps cover outpatient services, labwork, tests, durable medical equipment (DME), preventative services and screenings and certain medications. It has a monthly premium
  • “C” and “D” are the newer portions run by private insurance companies
  • Medicare Part “C” (Medicare Advantage) includes all benefits and services covered under “A” and “B”. It also usually includes Part “D” and may include additional services for an extra cost.
  • Medicare Part “D” (Medicare Prescription Drug Coverage) helps cover prescriptions – it may lower your costs and protect you against higher costs in the future.

Here is a helpful chart courtesy of Mike that summarizes your Medicare options:

Medicare Options

Summary of Medicare Options


In general, Medicare does not cover:

  • Routine dental
  • Hearing aids
  • Routine eyecare or glasses
  • Custodial care

There are several available Medigap / Medicare Supplement Insurance plans. “F” is the most comprehensive and covers what is often the patient’s responsibility for most medically necessary items. It’s pricing is not standardized from the difference insurance companies that offer it, although the coverage is. There is a six-month open enrollment period for Medigap coverage at age 65 where you can sign up without any required health history questions.

Annual enrollment is October 15 – December 7 each year. There is a penalty for late enrollment and a separate penalty for Rx if you could have enrolled earlier but didn’t. So make sure to sign up when you turn 65!

Links to more Information:

  • There is often financial assistance available for those on Medicaid earning less than $12,000/year. See: socialsecurity.gov/prescriptionhelp
  • Retirement Planner: Applying For Medicare Only (even if you are waiting to apply for your Retirement or Spousal Social Security payments): https://www.ssa.gov/planners/retire/justmedicare.html
  • There is a calculator for Rx costs on different plans as well as lots of other information at the government’s official website: medicare.gov
  • The State Health Insurance Assistance Program, or SHIP, is a national program that offers one-on-one counseling and assistance to people with Medicare and their families: shiptalk.org

We hope you’ll join us for the next Coffee Chat on Thursday Oct 6 at 8am to hear Debra Ogilvie, Au.D discuss the latest advancements in hearing aid technologies and tinnitus management. If you want another chance to hear Mike’s presentation, he will be speaking on Oct 6 at Soup for the Caregiver’s Soul at 1pm at Swim RVA, 5050 Ridgedale Parkway, Richmond 23234; RSVP for that at 804.768.7878 or leidheiserd@chesterfield.gov And if you are interested in having Mike speak to your group please contact him at mikemason1968@aol.com.

Brenda D. Mitchell, RN

CEO, Crater Community Hospice, Inc.

Honoring America’s Veterans Includes Meeting Their Unique Needs

We Honor Veterans





As the nation honors those who defended our freedoms through their military service on Independence Day, it’s important to remember that they also deserve recognition and compassionate care when dealing with a serious illness. Crater Community Hospice is honored to deliver Veteran-centric care to those who served our country.

As a We Honor Veterans hospice provider, Crater Community Hospice is providing specialized care to Veterans who are facing a life-limiting illness.   The National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization in collaboration with the Department of Veterans Affairs created We Honor Veterans to empower hospice and other healthcare providers across America to meet the unique needs of seriously ill Veterans and their families.

Many Americans do not realize that 1 in 4 of all deaths in the U.S. are Veterans. That’s more than 680,000 Veterans every year.  A generation of World War II and Korean War Veterans are facing end-of-life care decisions now, and they are quickly being followed by younger Vietnam War Veterans, many of whom are confronting serious illnesses at an even earlier age.  We see our patient demographics closely matching this national figure. With a quarter of all Crater Community Hospice families having served in the U.S. Armed Forces, we are committed to serving and honoring veterans with hospice support that acknowledges their service and sacrifice.

We do this in several ways, including educating our clinical professionals on an on-going basis to provide individualized care to patients with a history of military service and their specific needs. We also work collaboratively with the Sitter & Barfoot Veterans Care Center and McGuire VA Hospital, and provide Veteran-specific resources in our library.

But one of our most important programs is recruiting and training Veterans to provide specialized volunteer services to Veterans. If you are a Veteran we invite you to become part of this Veteran-to-Veteran Volunteer Program. The program aims to pair Veteran volunteers with Veteran hospice patients.  Veterans are part of a distinct culture with their own common language and experience. When Veterans interact, their common language and experience can form a strong relational bond. The camaraderie created between Veterans has proven to be supportive for all involved. Once paired, Veteran volunteers have the unique ability to relate and connect with each patient that has been proven to be supportive for all involved.

Veteran volunteers:

  • Assist Veterans in telling their life stories
  • Take part in Pinning Ceremonies and other recognition events
  • Offer companionship, support, and friendship by visiting as little as one a month

Comprehensive training is provided to all volunteers and Veteran Volunteers will receive additional training with Veteran-specific content. Please contact Volunteer Coordinator, Teresa Brockwell at TBrockwell@cratercommunityhospice.org or call 804.526.4300 to learn more about this rewarding opportunity.

As we celebrate our nation’s heroes this 4th of July – and every day of the year – we must not forget that it is never too late to say ‘thank you’ to our nation’s Veterans. These fellow Americans have made profound sacrifices in defense of freedom and they deserve our heartfelt thanks and appreciation. Honoring our nation’s Veterans includes supporting them throughout their entire lives, especially at the end.

If you know a Veteran who is in need of the special care hospice and palliative care brings to people facing serious and life-limiting illness, please reach out and help them learn more about the services that hospice and palliative care can provide. Contact us at (804) 526-4300 or info@cratercommunityhospice.org to learn more about the ways we support our nation’s heroes.

For a full listing of upcoming community events, please click here. CCH also provides a free monthly e-newsletter with tips and resources for caregivers. Sign up here.

To all our nation’s Veterans, thank you.

Brenda D. Mitchell, RN

CEO, Crater Community Hospice, Inc.

The History of Hospice

The word hospice comes from the Latin word “Hospitium” meaning guest house or hospitality. In medieval times, a hospice was a place for weary travelers to rest while on their journey. In 1948, Dr. Cicely Saunders first used the word “hospice” to describe a special hospital for the terminally ill. Having been a social worker, nurse and physician, Dr. Saunders had returned to medical school to specialize in pain control for the terminally ill. In 1967 she organized and became director of the St. Christopher’s Hospice in London. The goal of the her medical practice was to keep patients active, alert and making decisions about their own care for as long as possible. Dr. Saunders believed that patients who had exhausted curative options were being ignored by their health care providers. She is quoted as saying, “There is never nothing more that can be done.” Her emphasis on comfort-oriented care and pain management, emotional care and spiritual care served to enhance the patients’ quality of life while facing the end of life.

Dr. Saunders introduced her method of specialty care for the dying in the United States  in 1963 in a lecture for nurses, social workers and physicians at Yale University. In her lecture she used case studies and photographs of patients to show the dramatic differences patients experienced before and after symptom and pain control became the primary focus of their care.

Today hospice care is much like it was first envisioned by Dr. Cicely Saunders with the greatest difference being the introduction of home based care versus institutional care for the dying.

Crater Community Hospice was founded in 1995 after the need for hospice services was identified by both John Randolph Hospital in Hopewell and Southside Regional Medical Center in Petersburg. At that time both facilities were community hospitals and recognized that a community based hospice could better serve the local community and patients throughout the Crater Health District.

Today CCH is the only community-based hospice organization in the region. Our team of hospice professionals (registered nurses, licensed practical nurses, aides,  social workers, and a chaplain) as well as community volunteers, cares for hospice patients in their homes, health care facilities, or in the hospital, helping patients to celebrate life every day.

by Brenda Mitchell,MSN,RN,APHN-BC,CHPN,CHPA
      Executive Director, Crater Community Hospice