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County News

Lisa Zielinski- Bay County Farm Bureau Administrative Manager

Medicare made easy

You’re turning 65 in a few months. Your mailbox starts filling up with advertisements about Medicare supplements, Medicare drug coverage, and Medicare Advantage plans. Your phone is suddenly ringing off the hook with solicitors who want to sell you new health insurance products. You haven’t entered the Twilight Zone … you’re just becoming eligible for Medicare.

But what is Medicare, you may ask. How do I get it? What does it cover? And do I need additional coverage to go with it? All valid questions.

What is Medicare?
Medicare is a federal health insurance program primarily for people age 65 and older, but it also covers people under the age of 65 with certain medical disabilities or diseases.

You’re automatically eligible for Medicare at age 65 if:
You are a U.S. citizen or a permanent legal resident who has lived in the United States for at least five years; and
        You or your spouse has worked long enough to be eligible for Social Security benefits – usually having earned 40 credits from about 10 years of work – even if you are not yet receiving these benefits.

How do I enroll in Medicare?
If you’re already drawing your Social Security benefits, you’ll automatically get Medicare Part A and Part B starting the first day of the month you turn 65. (If your birthday is on the first day of the month, Part A and Part B will start the first day of the prior month.) Medicare Part A is hospital insurance (facility charges) and Part B is medical insurance (covers the people who provide your care).

You’ll receive your Medicare ID card in the mail three months prior to your 65th birthday. If you do nothing, you’ll keep Part B and will have to pay Part B premiums. You can choose not to keep Part B, but if you decide you want Part B later, you may have to wait to enroll and pay a penalty for as long as you have Part B.

If you aren’t getting benefits from Social Security at least four months before you turn 65, it’s your responsibility to sign up for Medicare Part A and/or B by contacting Social Security. You have seven months to enroll in Medicare, starting 3 months prior to your 65th birthday month and ending 3 months after your birthday month. But it’s best to sign up well before your birthday month to avoid delays in coverage.

To enroll in Medicare:
        Apply online at
        Visit your local Social Security office, or
        Call Social Security at 1-800-772-1213.

Should I get Part B?
If you or your spouse is still working and you have health coverage through that employer or union, contact your employer or union benefits administrator to find out how your coverage works with Medicare. As a general rule of thumb, if the employer group health plan covers 20 or more employees, you may be able to delay taking Part B – with no penalty – until the employee retires. The employer group health plan will remain your primary insurance and Medicare Part A will be your secondary insurance. If the employer group health plan covers less than 20 employees, you’ll probably need to take Part B when you’re first eligible for it to avoid lapses in coverage and late enrollment penalties. In this case, Medicare will be your primary insurance, and the employer group health plan will be your secondary insurance.

What does Medicare cover?
Medicare Part A
Medicare Part A is hospital insurance that helps covers the facility charges when you are in a hospital or skilled nursing facility, as well as covers most of the cost for hospice care and home health care. As long as you or your spouse has worked and paid Medicare taxes for at least 40 quarters, you won’t pay a premium for Part A.

If you’re admitted to a hospital or skilled nursing facility, you’ll be responsible for paying a deductible of $1,408 for each hospital benefit period in 2020. Generally, a hospital benefit period starts the day you are admitted to the hospital and ends after you’ve been out of the hospital for 60 continuous days. Once you’ve paid your Part A deductible, you pay $0 for days 1-60 of a hospital benefit period. However, if you’re in the hospital for an extended period of time, you would pay $352 per day for days 61-90. For days 91 and beyond, you would pay $704 per each “lifetime reserve day” you use to extend a hospital benefit period. You are allotted 60 lifetime reserve days over your lifetime. After your lifetime reserve days are used up, you would pay all costs for days 91 and beyond of an extended hospital stay.

Please note: These deductible and copay amounts may be adjusted each year.

Medicare Part B
Medicare Part B is medical insurance that helps pay for the people (doctors and nurses) who provide your care, diagnostic tests, ambulance, outpatient services, preventive services, and more. The standard Part B premium amount is $144.60 per month (or higher, depending on your income).

You’ll pay an annual Part B deductible of $198 in 2020. After your deductible is met, you typically pay 20% of the Medicare-approved amount for most doctor services (including most doctor services while you’re a hospital inpatient), outpatient therapy, and durable medical equipment.

Do I need additional coverage to go with Medicare?
Medicare doesn’t cover everything. For example, Medicare Parts A and B don’t cover most prescription drugs, dental care, routine vision care and eyeglasses, hearing aids, or long-term care in a nursing home. And Medicare’s deductibles and copays can add up rather quickly if you need surgery or have a medical emergency. So most people choose to add other coverage to their Medicare Part A and Part B benefits.

You have two paths to choose from when adding onto your Medicare benefits. You choose to add Medicare Part D prescription drug coverage and a Medicare Supplemental insurance policy, or you can choose a Medicare Part C (Medicare Advantage) plan.

Medicare Part D
Medicare Part D is prescription drug coverage that you can purchase from a private insurance company that contracts with Medicare. You can buy Part D as a stand-alone prescription drug plan or as part of a Medicare Part C (Medicare Advantage) health plan. Part D monthly premiums vary by plan.

        If your income is above a certain limit, you’ll pay an income-related monthly adjustment amount in addition to your plan premium.
        If your income is below a certain amount, you may qualify for the Extra Help program that helps pay your Part D premiums and lowers your drug copays.

If you don’t enroll in Medicare Part D when you are first eligible, and you don’t have other prescription drug coverage, you may pay a late enrollment penalty when you do enroll in Part D.

You get an initial enrollment period to join a Medicare Part D plan that is seven months long and begins three months prior to your 65th birthday month. You also get an Annual Enrollment Period from October 15 – December 7 each year when you can switch plans for the upcoming calendar year.

Medicare Supplemental Insurance (Medigap)
Medicare Supplemental insurance, also known as Medigap, can be purchased from private insurance companies to help fill the “gaps” in Medicare. There are 10 standard Medigap plans. Medigap plans named with the same letter have identical benefits regardless which company offers it. Medigap plans help pay some or all of Medicare’s deductibles and copays for you, as well as extending your hospital coverage by an additional 365 days.

You get one Medigap Open Enrollment Period in your lifetime. This enrollment period starts on the first day of the month in which you are both age 65 or older and enrolled in Medicare Part B and lasts for 6 months. During your Medigap Open Enrollment Period, you can join any Medigap plan available in your area with no health questions asked. After your Medigap Open Enrollment Period expires, you can still apply for a Medigap plan at any time, but the insurance company is not obligated to accept you, and if they do, they can charge you a higher premium based on your health status.

Medicare Part C (Medicare Advantage plans)
A Medicare Advantage plan (like an HMO or PPO) is another way to get your Medicare coverage. Medicare Advantage plans, sometimes called Part C, are offered by Medicare-approved private companies that must follow rules set by Medicare. If you join a Medicare Advantage plan, you’ll still have Medicare, but you’ll get your Medicare Part A and Part B coverage from the Medicare Advantage plan, not Original Medicare. In most cases, you’ll need to use health care providers who participate in the plan’s network.

In addition to covering your Medicare Part A and Part B benefits, most Medicare Advantage plans also provide your Part D prescription drug coverage. And they may include extra benefits as well, such as dental, vision, hearing aids, and free gym memberships.

You get an initial enrollment period to join a Medicare Advantage plan that is seven months long and begins three months prior to your 65th birthday month. You also get an Annual Enrollment Period from October 15 – December 7 each year when you can switch plans for the upcoming calendar year. If you join a Medicare Advantage plan, you don’t need a Medigap plan.

Need help making a decision? Give me a call at 989-684-2772. My office hours are 9am-5pm, Monday – Friday.
Medicare Made Easy If you are turning 65 and have questions about your Medicare options...

State News

By Katie Eisenberger

Teenagers!?! Am I right??? We want to connect with them, but sometimes figuring that out isn’t as straightforward as reaching elementary students.

Our kindergarteners enjoy meeting a farmer and reading an ag-accurate book while sitting on their classroom rug. Third-graders look forward to the FARM Science Lab arriving for a day of hands-on learning. Fifth-graders engage with the FARM Crate or a county Project RED (Rural Education Day) event.

Then we have our middle schoolers, who turn into high schoolers, who then graduate to attend a trade school, college or head into the workforce. To help county Farm Bureaus develop stronger engagement points for grades 6-12 and beyond, the Michigan Foundation for Agriculture has set up the 2021 MFA High School and Collegiate Pail Program. (Play your cards right and it might also strengthen your membership pipeline at the same time.) 

County Farm Bureaus can recognize, connect and strengthen relationships with high school students and Collegiate Farm Bureau members with MFB feed buckets pails filled with resources that can spark conversations and connect the county with these future members. Four add-on packages can boost your county’s giveaway game at career fairs, honor state FFA degree recipients or graduating students, and boost brand awareness at county fairs and farm visits.

Each basic pail ($9) includes Collegiate Farm Bureau and Young Farmer program promotional material; an “Engage at Any Age” postcard (customizable for your county); networking and engagement tips; a panel of county-specific information (customizable); and suggestions for other county Farm Bureau touch points, like scholarship information, Young Farmer contests, social media and website links.

Four add-on packages are available for an additional $3 per pail:

  • Be Agriculture is for use at career fairs or college nights. Present one to FFA chapter officers or 4-H county representatives during National FFA/National 4H Week, or as giveaways or participation prizes during farm or industry tour. Contents include a career-themed Ag Mag, ‘Be Agriculture’ sticker and a Be Agriculture student handout.
  • On the Farm packs are great for giving to youth participating in youth safety events, livestock shows or county fairs. Connect with FFA Greenhands (first-year members) during your local FFA chapter’s Greenhand Ceremony, or give them away at farm visits to help promote Farm Bureau events. Contents include an MFB-branded first aid or sewing kit, a copy of Michigan Farm News and an MFB-branded emergency phone number magnet.
  • Recognition add-ons are good for presenting to county FFA and 4-H members earning state awards in Proficiency, Academic Excellence or State Degrees during their chapter/club annual banquet. Use them to award top showman in each livestock specie/age division at the county fair or local livestock show; to honor graduating FFA, 4-H or Collegiate members, or your county scholarship recipients. Contents include a customizable congratulations certificate and an MFB vinyl file folder with Collegiate membership and Young Farmer program information.
  • Be Mindful packages are aimed at encouraging students to practice good wellness and mindfulness practices. They’re good gifts for 4-H or FFA seniors as they move into their next phase of life, whether in post-secondary education or the workforce. Contents include a farm-stress post card, MFB stress ball or fidget spinner, and a Farm Bureau-themed journal/coloring booklet.

Through cost-share support from the Michigan Foundation for Agriculture, county Farm Bureaus will get half off their first $600 of pail purchases made by April 30 through the Michigan Agriculture in the Classroom store. Orders must be made by the county administrative manager from March 1 through April 30; click here.

Direct your questions and orders through your county administrative manager. Like I do with my 13-year-old, set some phone reminders and post a checklist on the bathroom mirror so you don’t miss the April 30 deadline. Your county won’t want to miss a chance to recognize, connect and strength relationships with your future members!

Also feel free to contact me with any questions!

Last year was tough and we’re all eager for 2021. Even if the New Year isn’t magical it still gives us a sense of light at the end of the tunnel and a new beginning. With that new beginning, one thing remains the same: We’re still all in this togethe

Tricia McDonald joined Gratiot County Farm Bureau in 2017, first getting involved simply because she had friends to go to events with. Fast forward three short years and Tricia notched an outstanding achievement as the top membership writer statewide. In the 2019-20 membership year, she signed up 15 new regular members.

As Gratiot’s then-new Young Farmer chair, McDonald originally set out simply to share some of the value she’d found in the organization, starting with some friends who weren’t yet members. But she quickly encountered an obstacle that dogs membership writers everywhere: Many of her prospects had been members previously but lost sight of that membership’s value.

The question is legendary and worth a good think: What does Farm Bureau membership offer that’s valuable enough to attract prospective members?

Tricia started with her own Young Farmer group’s current events and how they might be enhanced to provide more value.

“That really lit a fire and led to our Young Farmer group committing to hosting events and facilitating programs that met members’ needs and showcased the value of membership,” McDonald said. “We did a Young Farmer barbecue, which was later paired with a membership ice cream social.

“It also led to us developing our Feed-a-Farmer program.”

Feed-a-Farmer was the brainchild of a previous Young Farmer chair who ran out of time to execute it. When COVID restrictions made traditional events difficult — or impossible — McDonald thought it warranted revisiting as a way to demonstrate membership value even within healthy safeguards.

The way Gratiot’s Young Farmers drew it up, Feed-a-Farmer eligibility only required the recipient farm’s primary contact to be a member — but the whole crew got fed a solid meal livened up with a generous sprinkle of Farm Bureau seasoning…

Back at the clubhouse, McDonald turned her attention to striking a better balance between new-member recruitment and existing-member retention.

She encouraged her Young Farmer peers to bring a non-member friend to the group’s annual chili cookoff and cornhole tournament — a fun networking opportunity already on the calendar. Each cornhole team was to have at least one current Farm Bureau member onboard to help ensure good interaction between existing and prospective members…

Next thing you know? Tricia’s the state’s top volunteer writer of new regular members.

“Farm Bureau impacts every individual in the ag industry in a different way, but it’s valuable to everyone in some way,” McDonald said. “Find someone in agriculture, whether a farmer or industry professional, and really listen to them.

“Learn what’s important to them, and it’ll help you find the value they’re looking for. Once you know their interests, talk about how the organization could benefit them through its various programs, discounts, or just the ability to network and meet others in the area and industry.

“Most importantly, remember it doesn’t hurt to just ask. Now might not be a good time for them to join, but at least you’ve planted a seed for the future.”

Planting seeds. That is how we grow.

Tricia McDonald joined Gratiot County Farm Bureau in 2017, first getting involved simply because she had friends to go to events with. Fast forward three short years and Tricia notched an outstanding achievement as the top membership writer statewide

Continuing our series of real talk with real experts about the real issues facing Michigan farmers, Farmers After Hours: Rural Access, Wellness and You will explore the struggles and resources available for rural healthcare, wellness and support. By breaking down the building blocks of overall health — medical healthcare, rural health trends and mental health — this series will help viewers build awareness of their current health habits and connect with resources to improve their overall well-being.

  • March 17: Live Farmer Panel
  • March 24: Rural Access: The Struggle is Real; healthcare & broadband; Eric Frederick, Connect Michigan
  • March 31: Creating Connectivity: Resources for Rural Areas; healthcare & broadband; The Rural Broadband Association and Rural Health Association
  • April 7: Rural Health Trends; mental health, suicide and cancer; Drs. Elena Stoffel and Joe Himle, University of Michigan
  • April 14: Rural Trends: Diffusion and Meaningful Solutions; mental health, suicide and cancer; Kim Vapor and Dr. Joe Himle, University of Michigan
  • April 21: Farm Stress: The Physical and Mental Toll; real-life stressors, tolls and stigma reduction; Charlotte Halverson, AgriSafe
  • April 28: Combating Stress: Tactics, Resources and Networks; Eric Karbowski, MSU Extension
  • May 5: Live Ask-the-Expert Panel

Register for the new Farmers After Hours series here. Catch up on previous series here on YouTube.

MFB staff contact: Kate Thiel517-679-5741

Continuing our series of real talk with real experts about the real issues facing Michigan farmers, Farmers After Hours: Rural Access, Wellness and You will explore the struggles and resources available for rural healthcare, wellness and support.

Coming Events

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