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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

Creative membership events like Berrien County’s belt sander races helped county Farm Bureaus statewide achieve a second straight year of overall regular membership growth.

Another successful membership year is in the books, and it shines with all the hard work, diligence and dedication of our most driven Farm Bureau volunteers! For the second year in a row, we achieved statewide Target — growth in our regular memberships. That’s a major achievement regardless of the circumstances, but in a year when associate membership slipped, it’s a significant milestone and testament to the hard work happening in our 65 county Farm Bureaus.

Some of the exciting things from the 2020/2021 membership year:

  • 39 county Farm Bureaus reached Target
  • Statewide regular membership increased by 78 members
  • 144 agents and volunteers qualified for Key Club, and 34 volunteers qualified for Carhartt Club
  • The statewide regular member retention rate was 94.95%
  • Statewide inactive regular members (2,208) decreased by 228 from last year — 1,285 less than three years ago!
  • 2,105 total new regular members, 376 of them being new regular members written by 170 volunteers
  • 348 new members written the previous year jumped in and got involved in Farm Bureau events and programs

We also saw a tie for our Top Writer Award: Lenawee County Farm Bureau President Thomas VanWagner (Dist. 2) and Missaukee County Force of Nature Ellen Vanderwal (Dist. 9) each signed up 10 new regular members!

Here are the remaining top writers, per district:

  • Dist. 1 — Tod Kubiszak, Van Buren: 7 new regular members
  • Dist. 3 — Lisa Kelley, Wayne: 7
  • Dist. 4 — Scott Phelps, Allegan: 5
  • Dist. 5 — Devin Richards, Shiawassee: 8
  • Dist. 6 — Ben Zaleski, Huron: 8
  • Dist. 7 — Breann Bonga, Montcalm: 6
  • Dist. 8 — Jeffrey Fulton, Saginaw: 8
  • Dist. 10 — Amanda Rodabaugh, Gladwin: 6
  • Dist. 11 — Ben Blaho, Emmet: 9
  • Dist. 12 — Dean Shepeck,Menominee: 6

Farm Bureau Insurance Agent Jason Scramlin wrote 48 new regular members this last year, followed closely by Agent Mark Hop with 45. Statewide, 144 agents and volunteers qualified for Key Club, writing at least five new regular members each.

This year we also saw an increase in Carhartt Club qualifiers, with 34 volunteers writing five or more new regular members, five they wrote last year renewing this year, or a combination of the two totaling five.

On the vital retention front, Northwest Michigan Farm Bureau in Dist. 9 earned Super Defender honors with an amazing 97.64% regular member retention! Top Defender winners by district are as follows:

  • Dist. 1 — Cass: 96.05% regular member retention
  • Dist. 2 — Lenawee: 94.95%
  • Dist. 3 — Washtenaw: 95.56%
  • Dist. 4 — Ionia: 95.74%
  • Dist. 5 — Clinton: 95.27%
  • Dist. 6 — Lapeer: 96.30%
  • Dist. 7 — Osceola: 96.71%
  • Dist. 8 — Bay: 95.54%
  • Dist. 10 — Arenac: 96.59%
  • Dist. 11 — Presque Isle: 96.09%
  • Dist. 12 — Hiawathaland: 94.88%

Congratulations to all of our award winners, hard-working membership volunteers and resilient county Farm Bureaus. We look forward to recognizing them all over the coming months with prizes and recognition. The hard work and dedication happening statewide is evident in the success of this year’s membership campaign.

Take a moment to stop, breathe and celebrate your success, big or small — you’ve earned it! Then stay tuned for some exciting announcements coming soon about next year’s campaign, which we’re already a few weeks into!

Laura Lunceford manages MFB’s Membership Development department.

Another successful membership year is in the books, and it shines with all the hard work, diligence and dedication of our most driven Farm Bureau volunteers!

Members looking to join the state board of directors are asked to express their candidacy in writing — email works — to MFB Secretary Andy Kok on or before the Annual Meeting Kickoff Nov. 3.

Ambitious Farm Bureau members looking to take their involvement game to the next level may consider contending for a seat on the MFB Board of Directors. This year’s state board election will decide who represents Farm Bureau members in Michigan’s odd-numbered districts, currently occupied by the following:

  • Dist. 1 — Brigettte Leach (Kalamazoo)
  • Dist. 3 — Mike Fusilier (Washtenaw)
  • Dist. 5 — Stephanie Schafer (Clinton)
  • Dist. 7 — Mike DeRuiter (Oceana)
  • Dist. 9 — Ben LaCross (Northwest Michigan)
  • Dist. 11 — Pat McGuire (Antrim)

Two at-large positions are also up for reelection:

  • At-Large — Andy Hagenow (Kent)
  • At-Large — Doug Darling (Monroe)

The third at-large position is occupied by President Carl Bednarski (Tuscola), who will be up for re-election next year.

Members looking to join the state board of directors are asked to express their candidacy in writing — email works — to MFB Secretary Andy Kok on or before the Annual Meeting Kickoff Nov. 3.

MFB’s State Annual Meeting Rules Committee instituted a new rule last year asking candidates for MFB director positions to provide a written statement describing how they meet the bylaw qualifications for directors, attesting that they are “directly and actively engaged in farming as owners and/or operators of farms whose primary interest is in farming” — and that they are not employed full-time in an occupation other than farming, nor serving in a county, state or national elective office.

“This move was recommended by a statewide committee several years ago,” Kok said, “to help the delegates understand how each candidate meets the ‘full-time farmer’ eligibility requirement for service on the board of directors.”

Statements will be shared with delegates prior to elections taking place.

Prospective candidates should contact Kok directly for the necessary form or more information.

Not up for reelection this year are those directors representing even-numbered districts:

  • Dist. 2 — Jennifer Lewis (Hillsdale)
  • Dist. 4 — Jeff Sandborn (Ionia)
  • Dist. 6 — Travis Fahley (St. Clair)
  • Dist. 8 — Michael Mulders (Bay)
  • Dist. 10 — Leona Daniels (Arenac)
  • Dist. 12 — David Bahrman (Hiawathaland)

Every year half of the MFB Board of Directors are up for election or re-election: even-numbered districts in even numbered years, odd-numbered districts in odd years. Two/Three at-large directors (from anywhere in the state) are also up for reelectio
The Great Mississippi Tea Company is out to prove high-quality tea can be produced in America. ProFILE participants toured the operation and learned about the specialized harvesting equipment the company uses to pluck the topmost leaves from established tea plants.

The 2020-21 ProFILE class found better luck with its capstone trip than its kickoff junket in March of last year, which wrapped right as the world slipped headlong into a global pandemic. As the latest cohort of MFB’s elite leadership program wraps up on schedule after its 15-month agenda, COVID is still with us but it didn’t dampen the experience for Michigan’s best and brightest young farmers.

In a decidedly unfamiliar corner of the Deep South bearing little in common with Michigan’s commodity lineup, our ProFILErs did what they always do: dial in on the common denominators that tie all farm sectors together — and do it so seamlessly you’d scarcely notice where the northerners end and their southern kin begin.

ProFILE coordinator Alex Schnabelrauch, director of MFB’s Center of Education and Leadership Development, said the logistical and environmental challenges this trip posed may’ve made its payoff all the sweeter for those taking part.

“Michigan’s county Farm Bureaus — and the industry as a whole — have some truly exceptional young leaders and we’re excited to see how they use what they’ve gained to improve their farms and communities.”

This year’s class includes Emily Boeve (Ottawa County), Casey Bozung (Van Buren), Sara Bronkema (Ottawa), Alisha Gibson (Kalamazoo), Brandon Hotchkin (Jackson), Charles Loveland (Jackson), Matt Marston (Livingston), Mike Mathis (Oakland), MaryAnne Murawski (Huron), Dirk Okkema (Mecosta), Terry Page (Ionia), Mike Sell (Wayne), Brenda Sisung (Clinton), Amanda Sollman (Saginaw) and Cody Tyrrell (Huron).

Altogether the group made nearly a dozen stops around the Mississippi Delta region, seeing firsthand the production of such key regional commodities as rice, cotton, tea and catfish. More familiar than the commodities were the challenges their producers face: labor, processing, logistics, water management and at least one wildlife pest —bears! — nobody saw coming.

“Our Michigan members put all their skills and knowledge to use, serving as tour-stop emcees, engaged learners and savvy reporters providing coverage along the way,” Schnabelrauch said. “Our hosts in Mississippi and Louisiana remarked how impressed they were with the depth and breadth of our group’s questions.”

MFB Digital Editor Tony Hansen was along for the ride and filed his coverage straight from the sweltering south; follow these links to read his detailed accounts: Day 1Day 2Day 3 and Day 4.

More than 70 young farmers have been nominated by their county Farm Bureaus to be part of the 2022-23 ProFILE class.

The 2020-21 ProFILE class found better luck with its capstone trip than its kickoff junket in March of last year, which wrapped right as the world slipped headlong into a global pandemic.

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