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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 https://SSA.gov/benefits/medicare
        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


The Johnson family hosted an entire K-12 student body at their potato farm near Sagola.

Champion of Excellence Awards recognize county Farm Bureaus for outstanding grassroots efforts implementing member-developed policy, advocating organizational positions and promoting Michigan agriculture.

Activities are evaluated based on the innovation and effectiveness of programs executed over the preceding program year. Successful programs are shared with other counties so great ideas can spread, enriching Farm Bureau and Michigan agriculture overall.

This is the second batch of Michigan’s 12 district-level winners; look for more in the weeks to come. One state-level winner will be announced at the 2021 Council of Presidents Conference.

District 5

Clinton County Farm Bureau coordinated ‘Clinton County Ghosts, Trivia and Great Food,’ a summerlong scavenger hunt that had participants sampling local fare while learning about the area’s farming legacy.

Guided by a booklet or mobile app, members visited 14 locations, each with clues and questions for points. Winners were selected at the subsequent annual meeting, each earning cash donations for the local school, 4-H or FFA group of their choice.

Participants included local Farm Bureau Insurance agencies, 10 local restaurants, 40 regular members, nine volunteers, 20 non-members and 25 associates. All learned more about how Farm Bureau benefits the community while promoting leadership development, current issues and connecting local residents with agriculture.

A top priority was engaging new and uninvolved members. Program leaders encouraged volunteers to embrace components that interested them, communicate with and support other volunteers, and represent Farm Bureau and Michigan agriculture.

District 12

Iron Range Farm Bureau coordinated with a local school to host a daylong education day at the Johnson family’s potato farm near Sagola. The entire student body, K-12, visited learning locations explaining different aspects of the farm’s operations with mini lessons tailored to each age group.

Each station was manned by a different presenter, including the farm’s own family members, retired teachers and MSU educators, each covering topics suited to their expertise. Together they covered the potato plant life cycle, evolving mechanization, the farm’s history and deep local roots, food safety, irrigation, water quality and storage.

Each presenter linked their presentation to classroom lessons in math, science, mechanics and other areas. Offering content for every age group at one event meant even the school staff learned some things, including the effectiveness of reaching a lot of students in a short time. Altogether 450 students, teachers and chaperones attended, and everyone left impressed by one facet or another, from the heavy equipment to the mountain of potatoes.

Coverage in the local newspaper ensured the event reached into the greater community, far beyond the farm and school. That was a community-relations win for the local farm community, as an abundance of information was shared about crop rotation, water quality and food safety programs, illustrating to all attendees the level of responsibility and environmental stewardship local farms embrace.

District 10

Clare County Farm Bureau’s Tract-or-Treat event last October saw local farmers lining downtown Clare with decorated tractors and implements. Families walked their children from one machine to the next, collecting goodies and enjoying activities along the way.

Treats included farm products like cheese sticks, apples, popcorn, maple sugar candy, honey and mini pumpkins — each with educational information attached.

Rooted in Promotion & Education, the effort informed attendees about locally raised farm products and the equipment used to raise them. Members took questions from children and grown-ups alike, connecting farmers with the community in laid-back, informative conversation.

Over the course of two hours, 13 Clare County members interacted with more than 250 people and handed out information on 15 different fruit, vegetable and livestock commodities — all in a family-friendly setting that dramatically boosted the local Farm Bureau’s profile.

~ ~ ~

Look for another batch of Champions of Excellence district winners in the next Farm Gate, Oct. 20.

Champion of Excellence Awards recognize county Farm Bureaus for outstanding grassroots efforts implementing member-developed policy, advocating organizational positions and promoting Michigan agriculture.

The “hybrid-virtual” format of this year’s Michigan Farm Bureau Annual Meeting marks the event’s biggest makeover since it outgrew and left the Michigan State University campus in 1970. Wrinkles are still being ironed, but what’s coming slowly into focus are the promising opportunities for refreshed member involvement at the county and regional level.

That grassroots activity is at the heart of the monthlong agenda, and there’s a lot to accomplish between the Nov. 4 kickoff and Dec. 2 business sessions.

District-level meetings Nov. 9-19 will offer a new kind of delegate experience for those chosen to represent their county Farm Bureaus. Delegate registration will be open Oct. 12-23; substitution deadlines will be forthcoming.

Delegates should be prepared to review the resolutions booklet online beginning Nov. 1; printed copies will be available at district meetings. Reviews should prioritize looking for possible amendments and potential omissions. Members will be encouraged to address either; procedures for doing so will be forthcoming.

“What we anticipate is something like what our old open-policy sessions used to look like,” said Deb Schmucker, director of MFB’s field operations division. “Delegates will need at least a smartphone or a tablet to vote.”

Staffers from MFB’s public policy and commodity division will attend each district meeting to help facilitate those conversations.

Even-numbered districts will also have to squeeze elections onto their agendas.

See below for a complete list of district meeting times, dates and locations.

~ ~ ~

Prior to all that, the Nov. 4 kickoff session will take place entirely online and therefore viewable by all members with high-speed internet. MFB President Carl Bednarski will launch the monthlong process with his annual address, which will include announcements of the 2020 Volunteer of the Year and Distinguished Service to Agriculture winners.

That agenda will also include reports from CEOs Scott Piggott and Don Simon, Treasurer David Baker, representatives of the rules and credentials committees, and approval of last year’s annual meeting minutes.

~ ~ ~

The Dec. 2 business and policy session will take place in person or virtually by district, based on COVID phase restrictions; they’re also listed below.

All 12 districts will join as satellites around a hub composed of MFB leadership and the state Policy Development committee to manage the proceedings:

  • Nomination and election of district, Young Farmer and P&E directors
  • Election of MFB President
  • Policy resolution discussion – reaffirmation style
  • Policy resolutions

~ ~ ~

Look for more details as they develop in Farm Gate and all your usual Farm Bureau communications channels.

~ ~ ~

District Meetings

District 1

  • Nov. 9 — 6 p.m.; Essenhaus Inn and Conference Center, 240 US-20, Middlebury, IN; dinner included
  • Dec. 2 — 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; same location; lunch included

District 2

  • Nov. 19 — 6:30 p.m.; Hillsdale College Dow Hotel and Conf. Center, 22 E. Galloway Dr, Hillsdale; dinner included
  • Dec. 2 — 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; same location; lunch included

District 3

  • Nov. 11 — 6 p.m.; Crystal Gardens Banquet Center, 5768 E Grand River Ave, Howell; dinner included
  • Dec. 2 — 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; same location; lunch included

District 4

  • Nov. 19 — 9 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.; Railside Golf Club, 2500 76th Street SW, Byron Center; lunch included
  • Dec. 2 — 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; same location; lunch included

District 5

District 6

District 7

  • Nov. 11 — 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.; Reed City Fire Department, 523 Morse St, Reed City; dinner included
  • Dec. 2 — 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; same location; lunch included

District 8

  • Nov. 12 — 6 p.m.; Jeremy and Kayla Enser Farm, 8290 Kochville Rd, Saginaw; dinner included
  • Dec. 2 — 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; same location; lunch included

District 9

  • Nov. 11 — 6 p.m.; Evergreen Resort, 7880 Mackinaw Trail, Cadillac; dinner included
  • Dec. 2 — 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; same location; lunch included

District 10

  • Nov. 9 — 9:30 a.m.; Arenac Community Center, 583 E Cedar Street, Standish; refreshments will be served
  • Dec. 2 — 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; same location; lunch included

District 11

  • Nov. 10 — 6:30 p.m.; Courtyard Marriott, 1866 Mkwa Place, Petoskey; dinner included
  • Dec. 2 — 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; same location; lunch included

District 12

  • Nov. 10 — 11 a.m. EST; Sweet Grass Convention Center, W 399 US 2 & 41, Harris; lunch included
  • Dec. 2 — 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. EST; same location; lunch included
The “hybrid-virtual” format of this year’s Michigan Farm Bureau Annual Meeting marks the event’s biggest makeover since it outgrew and left the Michigan State University campus in 1970. Wrinkles are still being ironed, but what’s coming slowly into f

Champion of Excellence Awards recognizes county Farm Bureaus for their outstanding efforts to implement member-developed policy, advocate organizational positions and educate and promote Michigan agriculture.

Grassroots activities are evaluated based on the innovation and effectiveness of programs executed over the preceding program year. Successful programs are then shared with other counties so great ideas can spread and multiply, enriching the greater organization and Michigan agriculture overall.

Following are the first three of Michigan’s 12 district-level winners; look for more in the weeks to come. One state-level winner will be announced at next year’s Council of Presidents Conference.

District 1: Berrien

 
Last November the Berrien County Farm Bureau partnered with 4-H clubs and the Southwest Michigan Collegiate Farm Bureau in “Thanks-4-Giving,” providing bushel baskets full of seasonal edibles to local families in need. Volunteers collaborated to collect and package food, then deliver finished baskets to underprivileged families across southwest Michigan, helping neighbors in need.

By filling gaps left by local agencies, Farm Bureau members led by example, demonstrating it’s better to give than receive. Each participating group contributed, experiencing the rewards of helping the less fortunate while sharing the abundance of southwestern Michigan agriculture.

The project was innovative for its multi-organization collaboration. On packing day, the youth building at the county fairgrounds resembled a food distribution warehouse: rows of food, stacks of baskets, coolers filled with frozen turkeys and a human assembly line circling the room.

From Clover Buds to senior Farm Bureau leaders, everyone worked side-by-side to fill the baskets to overflowing. Excited chatter about fat turkeys and the aroma of fresh-baked rolls filled the air — plus a warm camaraderie knowing their efforts meant giving local families more to be thankful for.

There’d never been a local drive in which those donating the food also delivered it, but by noon that day all 110 baskets (4,400 pounds of food!) were in the appreciative hands of local families — some delivered, some picked up from the fairgrounds.

Another benefit was closer relations between the county Farm Bureau, Collegiate Farm Bureau, and more than a dozen local 4-H clubs. Local agribusinesses (including some previously uninvolved members) and a Farm Bureau Insurance agent also donated.

Finally, many of the recipient families met Farm Bureau and 4-H members as a result, tying the local farm community closer to those whose food they raise.

District 4: Barry

With in-person events off limits but still eager to make a good first impression, the Barry County Farm Bureau coordinated a remote new-member-welcome meeting via WebEx. They introduced the board, outlined county Farm Bureau structure and summarized the benefits of membership. Embodying the organization’s grassroots ethic and reaching many new members at once, the experiment proved a successful means of welcoming newcomers while respecting everyone’s health and safety — just like the good Farm Bureau family members they are.

Even through the abstract format of a computer screen, everyone involved was able to find common ground and start building the relationships at the core of the Farm Bureau experience. One newcomer interested in the Young Farmer program was connected with the county chair; others asked general questions about the policy process and member benefits.

While the focus was on new members, any regular member was encouraged to join in. Those who did helped drive home the value of membership and the extensive networking opportunities Farm Bureau offers. The first-of-its-kind event met membership-campaign requirements, spurred leaders to lead and offered practical new skills for everyone involved.

District 2: Calhoun

 

Calhoun County Farm Bureau event combined intergenerational networking and policy chatter — plus a touch of stress management — in its Float Down the River. Even Mother Nature cooperated to make the family-friendly excursion a success, including lunch on an island for the 25 participants.

The Float achieved two key goals: member networking and policy discussion. It attracted several Farm Bureau newcomers and brought some long-uninvolved members out of the woodwork. Everyone found common ground quickly and enjoyed discussing shared issues and challenges, learning from each other and reaping value from their membership.

Everyone chipped in with loading and unloading the boats and helping others board their vessels, labeled with the names and farms of each participant.

The Young Farmer committee took the lead organizing and promoting the event, reserving canoes, buying food, arranging signage and transporting vessels — all within budget.

Board members heard about other farmers’ concerns, younger farmers connected with their elders and active members shared which Farm Bureau activities they most enjoy and find most effective.

Many participants appreciated the fresh new approach, the opportunity to leave farm stresses behind for a day and forge new relationships with like-minded peers.

~ ~ ~

Look for another batch of Champions of Excellence district winners in the next Farm Gate, Oct. 6.

Champion of Excellence Awards recognizes county Farm Bureaus for their outstanding efforts to implement member-developed policy, advocate organizational positions and educate and promote Michigan agriculture.

Coming Events

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