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The State of Health Insurance

Fresh from the Minnesota Association of Health Underwriters’ (MAHU) 75th Annual Convention the news continues to be the same: changes, challenges and uncertainties. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) is still the law of the land at this writing but continues to be challenged. While the current Administration and Congress have touted Repeal and Replace but have so far fallen short in the Senate, where it seems to remain deadlock with a hard Sept 30th deadline to revive. Regardless of the semantics used to describe the process, the most likely option is to pass changes to parts of the ACA – most likely through the National Budget process in the form of waivers or addendums to sections of the current law.

The main area which MAHU/NAHU is addressing is the need for a reinsurance program, a very successful program Minnesota had prior to the ACA, which would create premium stability against excessive losses due to claims for carriers in the individual health insurance marketplace. Minnesota has made this request and is waiting for Congressional review and decision.

Other important areas being discussed surround employee mandates. A proposed bill sponsored by Bill Cassidy (R) and Lindsey Graham (R) which was heard September 18 and focuses on making the ACA mandates apply only to employers with 500+ employees. Another area of impact would be changes to the definition of a full time employee. Currently that definition is any employee who works 30 hours or more. The proposed change would define it as a person working 40 hours or more. This would decrease the burden and cost for many small businesses allowing them to offer alternate health plans and programs not as strictly regulated by the ACA. Businesses with large part time and seasonal employees, for example the service industry, would see greater plan and carrier options to offer their employees. Finally, there is heated discussion surrounding the repeal of the Medical Device Tax. In theory eliminating this tax would decrease the cost of care by lowering the price of claims. According to some advocates this ultimately would allow carriers to keep premiums lower each year. Open Enrollment for individual health care plans begin November 15 and end December 15, 2017.

In the Medicare world, Minnesotans need to begin to brace for certain change on January 1, 2019. This change has nothing to do with the health care debate in Washington related to the Affordable Care Act. These are changes implemented by Medicare that will be taking effect in the future. Approximately 260,000 Minnesotans enrolled in Medicare Cost Plans could be affected when Cost Plans face discontinuation in many counties across Minnesota. This rule change in Medicare also affects populations in MD, VA, and Washington DC. All of the carriers have reacted with changes to their existing plans or introduced new plans for 2018 to make the 2019 transition easier. Finally, announced changes to Medicare starting January 1, 2020 will affect individuals with Medigap plans. All newly purchased 2020 Medigap plans will require individuals to pay the Part B deductible. Those enrolled in Medigap prior to 2020 will not be subject to this change. 2020 will also usher in the loss of several Medigap, both High Deductible options. It is still only 2017 so let’s not get too far ahead of this – a lot can change in a few years! Once again, it is very important to reach out annually to your Medicare or health insurance professional this Annual Election Period starting October 15 – December 7 to ensure that your coverage best meets your current and anticipated healthcare needs. You can also visit Medicare and MNSure for additional information.

Peter Hallberg
The Medicare Shoppe
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

EPPIA is a networking group whose members are committed to the welfare of seniors in our community. EPPIA members meet to learn, exchange information and discuss issues in the field of aging. For more information on EPPIA and local senior resources, please visit our website at

Must Love Dogs!

Depression, anxiety and loneliness are mental health issues for many older adults. Living the credo from a 2005 movie, Must Love Dogs, can help keep us active, provide companionship, and give meaning and purpose to our lives at any age.

As we get older, we often lose some of the relationships that keep us grounded, be it a spouse, friends or a career. While seniors in relationships experience these issues of loss, they may have a larger impact for those who live alone. I suggest that not only can a dog help us with these issues, they can also help us find new human companions.

How can our relationship with man’s (and woman’s) best friend be this special? There is scientific evidence to back up the positive benefits of dog ownership. A Japanese study published in Science (April 2015) found that staring into a dog’s eyes generates the hormone oxytocin in both the dog and the human. This is the hormone helps generate emotional bonds in humans. We too bond by staring into each other’s eyes. A more recent genetic study shows some canines have genes which correspond to human genes that make us more outgoing and friendly.

Beyond the science, if you’ve ever had a dog as a pet, you have experienced unconditional love. The wagging tail. The happy expression. The dog’s need to be touched by humans and to touch its owner, express this special bond between our two species. We too have a need for physical touch. Exercising a dog and caring for their needs is a positive and affirming activity. Most dogs crave attention. They will show you one way or another that they want to be walked, petted and played with. Yes, they are a responsibility. They need to be fed, exercised and loved. But that connection adds purpose to our life.

Walking a dog gives both of you exercise, a chance to get out and be with nature (another healing activity) and the chance to connect with people. If you don’t get out of the house, how are you going to meet new people? A walk in the neighborhood, or going to a dog park are fine ideas. Being in the moment while walking the dog can be akin to a meditation. It’s a calming, restorative activity. Practice focused breathing, shut off the mind chatter and be aware of what you and your pet see and sense while getting out and about.

Just like human relationships, if we put the work into the relationship with our dog(s), we’ll reap the rewards. Just be informed about what kind of dog you choose. Many breeds were developed for specific functions. These tendencies may make one sort of canine a better fit for your needs. Still young and athletic? Some dogs will love to run with you. Concerned about safety at home? Some dogs are more protective than others. But whatever pure, or mixed breed you choose, make sure sociability is high on their skill list. And, make sure you are willing and able to spend the time training a pet to be the kind of companion you desire.

If you choose wisely and care for them well, a dog will be an endless source of love, joy and companionship and truly will help make your golden years more golden.

Richard Jensen is an estate planning attorney (952) 944-0406, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  Reine, his constant companion, is a 10-year-old English Cocker Spaniel.

EPPIA is a networking group whose members are committed to the welfare of seniors in our community. EPPIA members meet to learn, exchange information and discuss issues in the field of aging. For more information on EPPIA and local senior resources, please visit our website at

Simplify Your Move

Moving is stressful enough at any time in life, but it is the most stressful for older adults. Why? Older adults have accumulated more things in their lifetimes, they often haven’t moved for decades, and they are often less mobile and able to perform packing and other tasks associated with moving. Additionally, there may be family dynamics that can be more or less helpful which include adult children who live out of town, lead busy lives, or have differing viewpoints on what and how things should be done and who should do it. These types of factors can leave the older adult feeling overwhelmed, stressed, and powerless regarding their own life choices and ability to move forward.

One mistake people sometimes make in moving is doing things out of order, which creates unnecessary stress and confusion. Here are a few simple steps that may help ease your mind and your move.

Step 1: Assess your needs including what area you want to live in, what amenities you would like, how much you want to pay for rent, etc.

Step 2: Tour several senior communities to get a first-hand feel for what feels good to you and make a decision about where you will live.

Step 3: Decide what you want to take to your new home (furniture, household items, etc.)

Step 4: Pack your household and personal items you want to move with you.

Step 5: Move your furniture and other belongings to your new home.

Step 6: Unpack your belongings and set up your new home.

Step 7: Sell, donate, recycle, and dispose of excess items you do not move to your new home.

Step 8: Put your current home on the market.

Tips To Know and Use:  There are companies that will help guide you through the process of assessing your needs and taking you on tours to senior communities at no cost to you. Their costs are covered by the senior community. Also, move management companies exist that will help you downsize, develop a floor plan, pack, move, and unpack you quickly and easily. Some of these companies will also help you downsize and get rid of items you no longer want. Other companies will sell desirable furniture and household items for you and charge only a percentage of the value of the sold items for their service. And, finally, there are realtors that will help you in a number of ways. Some recommend selling a house “as is” whereas others may recommend a few updates to improve the look of your home, and some prefer to have a home that is staged rather than vacant. Depending on the type of approach your realtor recommends, Step 8 (above) might be moved higher in the list and happen sooner rather than at the end of the move process.

Things To Avoid:  Do not overfill your new home in terms of furniture, kitchen items, etc. etc. This is the single largest mistake most people make. People often say that they will go through and sort/throw things once they get to their new home, but this seldom actually happens. If you are having a hard time parting with things you own, consider getting a storage space instead of overcrowding your new home. If you and/or your family decide to do your own packing, make sure you properly wrap items and label boxes. We have unpacked boxes that others have packed, even professionals, and I am amazed at how poorly organized and protected some packing jobs can be.

Final Advice:  Get help from the types of companies and services discussed in this article. It will make your move less stressful and ensure that you end up living where you want to live and greatly reduce the stress of moving. Visit the EPPIA website listed at the end of this article to learn about companies that can help you make the most out of the life-changing decision of moving.

Holly Hansen, Partner
Brilliant Moves This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

EPPIA is a networking group whose members are committed to the welfare of seniors in our community. EPPIA members meet to learn, exchange information and discuss issues in the field of aging. For more information on EPPIA and local senior resources, please visit our website at


Keep on Truckin’ - It’s an iconic image from a sixties artist. It means keep going with optimism. For us older adults it can be a mantra to help us keep our bodies in good enough shape to keep us active the rest of our lives. Types and levels of activity may change as we age, but if you don’t use it, you lose it. As Nike says, “Just Do It.”

Getting a moderate amount of exercise, on a regular basis, has been shown to increase our lifespan, improve our resistance to illness, help prevent dementia and diabetes, relieve stress, promote lower blood pressure, and help prevent depression. So why don’t we do it? We tell ourselves it’s too hard, I don’t have the time, it’s too expensive, and it’s embarrassing to be a newbie in a class or to workout with others. Walking is not expensive. Strength training can be done in a chair or supported by a chair. Nobody you’d care to know is going to ostracize you or laugh at you. Members and staff at fitness centers are very welcoming and supportive of newcomers. And remember, your health insurance may pay for all or part of fees for classes or membership at a fitness center!

What happens if you don’t take care of yourself? A friend’s wife slipped and fell on the ice. It could happen to anyone. But at age 70, after her broken ankle was repaired, she was forced to spend a month in a nursing home. Why? She lacked the upper body strength to walk with crutches.

Find something you enjoy doing. You’ll have fun and getting some exercise won’t be a project. You might even make some new friends! My son who never played hockey as a child now plays twice a week with a group that includes those in their sixties. Pickle ball is great for those whose legs can’t quite deal with a full tennis court. The community center and the Eden Prairie Senior Center offer many fitness activities that are geared to older adults.

Eden Prairie also has wonderful trails - give them a try on foot or on a bike. I’ve rediscovered biking after my knees said “perhaps you shouldn’t be jogging.” Find an exercise buddy to help keep you motivated. Dancing, gardening, bowling, swimming, yoga, T’ai Chi, house or yard work are just a few active choices. There are so many options! Take a class, exercise to a video or TV program, join your friends and/or make new friends walking in the mall. Get a dog and take her/him for a walk. Fresh air is good for both of you! If you golf, walk instead of riding a cart. Get in the habit of walking up and down stairs. Simple things can make a big difference. If you feel you don’t have time, you don’t have to exercise all at once. Ten to fifteen minutes of activity a couple of times a day can be just as effective as a single period of thirty minutes.

Although some body parts such as knees or hips can be replaced, you only get one body. If you take care of it, it will enable you to lead a full, independent life for as long as possible. Just remember to talk to your doctor before you start an exercise plan. Start easy, savor small successes and Keep on Truckin’ in 2017!

Richard Jensen is an attorney who does estate planning (952) 944-0406, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

EPPIA is a networking group whose members are committed to the welfare of seniors in our community. EPPIA members meet to learn, exchange information and discuss issues in the field of aging. For more information on EPPIA and local senior resources, please visit our website at

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