Four things to know as deadline nears for choosing Medicare coverage

The deadline for the Medicare annual election period, during which people with Medicare can enroll in a Medicare Advantage or Prescription Drug Plan, ends Friday.

It’s important to take this time to evaluate your health care choices. Even if you’re already enrolled in a plan, your insurance company’s drug formularies, provider networks and copays may change in 2019. Plus, your health care needs — such as the doctors you visit or the medications you take — could be different than they were last year.

Here are four simple steps to help you decide which kind of Medicare coverage is best for you:

1. Review your current Medicare health plan. Look at what you’ve spent on health care in the past year, including hospital expenses and prescriptions. Evaluating what you spent in 2018 will help you decide whether your current health plan meets your needs.

2. Know your options for Medicare coverage:

• Original Medicare (Medicare Parts A and B): Provides basic coverage for medical services and supplies in hospitals, doctors’ offices and other health care settings. Original Medicare does not include coverage for most prescriptions and includes cost-sharing in the form of deductibles and coinsurance.

• Medicare Advantage (Medicare Part C): Includes all the coverage offered under original Medicare and typically also includes prescription drug coverage. Medicare Advantage plans may include additional benefits as well.

• Medicare Prescription Drug Plans (Medicare Part D): Offers coverage for prescription medications. Such a plan can be added to Original Medicare, a Medicare Supplement (Medigap) plan or to some Medicare Advantage plans (that do not include prescription drug coverage), some Medicare Cost Plans, and some Medicare Medical Savings Account (MSA) plans.

• Medicare Supplement (Medigap) Plans: Pays most costs not included under original Medicare, such as deductibles and coinsurance.

3. Comparison shop. Research a plan’s out-of-pocket costs, and its network of doctors and hospitals. Check to see if your prescriptions are on your plan’s formulary (list of covered drugs), as these can change each year.

4. Ask an expert. There are resources if you have questions:

• You can visit websites such as and to view and compare plans in your area.

• You can also call 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227) (TTY: 1-877-486-2048) 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Chuck Dow, Humana Regional President of Medicare for Iowa, Chicago


Vote ‘yes’ on IWCC bond

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When the Iowa Western campus was created in 1966, the Board of Trustees selected a central steam heating system to heat and cool the buildings on campus. When the first buildings were constructed, that system was installed.

In the past few years, that 48-year-old system began to experience leaks in the distribution system which contains 8,000 feet of pipes. Last winter, a major leak occurred and when the contractors dug down to find the leak and make repairs, they found that the pipes were wearing very thin. This happens over a period of years due to the chemicals used in the process of creating steam.

The college was fortunate that they got 48 years of life out of the pipes that typically fail after 30. An engineering firm was hired to assess the issue and recommend a course of action to repair the system and to also provide a cost estimate for the repairs. The cost was much higher than was expected so a second firm was hired to provide a second opinion which confirmed the first.

Both sets of engineers recommended that since the need to replace all the old pipes was essential to avoid continuous breakdowns this would be the time to convert the system from steam heat to a modern hot water system. The pipes will cost the same to replace; however, a hot water system doesn’t require the use of chemicals and the hot water system would use much less natural gas to heat the water.

The greatest benefit would be that the pipes in a hot water system will last up to 80 years because corrosive chemicals will not be used. This would make the hot water system a significant investment in the future and it would be much less expensive to operate.

We are fortunate that the current system lasted more than 50 percent longer than is typical. We were also fortunate that the breakdown of the system occurred at a time when an existing levy will expire, so this bond will not result in an increase in tax.

Voting “yes” will not require more of anyone’s taxes and will enable the college to provide the education and training that our citizens need to contribute the economy of our area. Please vote yes. This is not just an investment in pipes it’s an investment in our future workforce and our community.

Mike Gronstal, Council Bluffs

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