(NewsUSA) - As baby boomers retire in record numbers -- 10,000 Americans a day -- more seniors than ever will be asking themselves, "How do I choose a Medicare health plan that's right for me?"
"Seniors should look for a high-quality health plan that has a team of doctors and specialists, who work together to coordinate your care and keep you healthy," said Patrick Courneya, M.D., medical director, Kaiser Permanente Medicare Health Plans.
Dr. Courneya offers these five important tips to help older adults make an informed decision for a healthy future:
1. Know when to enroll. Anyone who first becomes eligible for Medicare as they turn 65 can enroll during the three-month period before or after their 65th birthday. Those who choose to enroll after this window of time may pay a late-enrollment penalty. Medicare-eligible members may join or change plans during open enrollment from Oct. 15 to Dec. 7 each year, or they can join a Medicare five-star quality-rated plan nearly all year long. See tip four for star ratings details.
2. Know the difference between Medicare and Medicare Advantage. Medicare is the national health insurance program that began in 1965 and covers millions of Americans who are 65 and older, and those with certain disabilities. Medicare Advantage plans are offered by private organizations and approved by Medicare. Some Medicare Advantage plans offer extra benefits such as vision. Enrollment trends show that nearly one in three people who have Medicare are enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan.
3. Confirm health plan doctors accept new Medicare members. Choose a Medicare health plan that offers a network of doctors and specialists who accept new Medicare members. Some physicians are opting out of caring for Medicare members. Also, keep in mind, as Medicare members age, they may need access to more specialists who accept Medicare members.
4. Use the Medicare 5-star Quality Ratings Tool. The Medicare Star Quality Ratings system was created by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to help beneficiaries choose high-quality Medicare health plans. Plans receive an overall rating from one to five stars, with five being the highest for quality and service. Medicare members have the benefit of joining a five-star plan nearly all year -- from Dec. 8 through Nov. 30 of the next year. They must be eligible and live where a five-star plan is offered.
5. Review your health care needs annually. A Kaiser Family Foundation survey found that many beneficiaries -- once enrolled in a Medicare health plan -- don't often feel confident they made the right choice, and don't review their plan if their health care needs change. Medicare enrollees can use the Medicare star ratings to help them feel confident about choosing a high-quality plan.
The Kaiser Permanente Medicare health plans in California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maryland, Oregon, Virginia, Washington and Washington, D.C. received 5 stars -- the highest possible Medicare rating for 2015. Kaiser Permanente's Georgia plan received 4.5 stars for 2015.
Star ratings information can be found on kp.org/medicarestars or by calling 1-877-425-7892. Plans are rated each year and may change from one year to the next.
(NewsUSA) - Everyone is starting to spruce up their homes for holiday entertaining. According to the American Lighting Association (ALA), it's easy to make your home warm and inviting by updating your ambient lighting.
Start with the exterior.
The holidays typically involve gatherings, which means your outside lighting is an important element for giving your home a welcoming feel.
"Landscape lighting can solve a lot of different problems," says Joe Rey-Barreau, education consultant for the ALA and associate professor at the University of Kentucky's School of Interior Design.
Rey-Barreau says this can include path lighting to direct guests to your home, and suggests you consider LED lighting, which is energy efficient and has a long lifespan.
Brent Protzman, manager of energy information and analytics at Lutron Electronics, also offers some exterior lighting tips.
"To create a magnetic, inviting exterior, first provide general facade illumination to highlight the form of your home's exterior and avoid dark areas near the main entrance," Protzman says. "Adding landscape lighting to trees, shrubs and walkways is also welcoming."
Welcome guests as they enter.
Given the colder temperatures and snow, your guests will spend some time in your entryway to peel off winter coats and boots. With this in mind, you do not want them fumbling around in the dark. Rick Wiedemer, president of Hinkley Lighting, says your foyer should always have a central fixture.
"For a two-story foyer, use a large hanging fixture," Wiedemer says. "A one-story foyer is going to have a nice flush or semi-flush decorative piece."
Protzman and Rey-Barreau both suggest installing dimmers as well.
"Having the entry lighting too intense can be uncomfortable after coming in from a dark exterior," Protzman says. "Consider using a dimmer in an entryway to cut the intensity at night and reduce potential glare and discomfort."
Create a warm ambience.
Your home heating system and a fireplace are not the only ways you can chase away the freezing temperatures outside. The color temperature of your lighting can lend to a warm atmosphere.
"We believe 2700 Kelvin is the most used and most pleasant," Wiedemer explains. "It is most like normal outside lighting without looking into the sun."
LED light bulbs can also enhance your ambient lighting. Some LEDs are tunable so you can adjust the color temperature with a built-in dial or a smartphone app. Additionally, you can find color-changing LED products if you want to alter the theme to match the holiday.
Visit a local ALA showroom or americanlightingassoc.com to learn more.