Authors Posts by admin

admin

842 POSTS 0 COMMENTS

Jon Hansen pictured with Commissioner Doak. On Jan. 22, Doak presented Hansen with a Citation of Appreciation for his service to the people of Oklahoma.

An Oklahoma hero

The Oklahoma Insurance Department is mourning the loss of Jon Hansen. The dedicated public servant died after a battle with cancer.
“Oklahoma lost a great man today,” said Oklahoma Insurance Commissioner John D. Doak. “Jon spent his life serving others and doing everything in his power to make communities safer. In the wake of the Oklahoma City bombing, Jon comforted the entire country and became a symbol of our state’s strength, courage and resiliency. I was deeply honored to call him a friend. Jon will be truly missed.”
Hansen rose to the rank of Assistant Chief with the Oklahoma City Fire Department and retired after 27 years of service. He served on the Incident Management team during the 1995 Murrah building bombing. In addition to those responsibilities, he also served as the media point of contact. Hansen also helped in the aftermath of the Moore tornadoes, the World Trade Center bombing and Hurricanes Charley, Ivan and Katrina.
Most recently, Hansen served as the Executive Director of the Oklahoma Council on Firefighter Training. It was in this position that Hansen worked alongside the Oklahoma Insurance Department’s Insurance Services Office (ISO) program. Hansen helped train rural firefighters in order for their department to get a better ISO rating. An improved rating could lead to lower insurance premiums for homeowners.

Crowning jewel: St. Anthony Pavilion is set to open

by Jason Chandler, Staff Writer

St. Anthony Hospital is excited about its new four-story St. Anthony Hospital Pavilion. When it opens in late May or early June of this year, the 110,000-square-foot facility will grace Oklahoma as the hospital’s latest expansion on the Oklahoma City hospital’s midtown campus.
It consists of a new emergency room to replace the existing ER. There are two new intensive care units and an intermediate care unit.
The Pavillion represents the crowning point of the 2014 plan. In 2003, Saints made the decision to stay in midtown by investing $220 million to improving and modernizing its campus. The results have been spectacular, adding to the renaissance of downtown Oklahoma City with development and growth.
St. Anthony will have an additional helipad on top of the hospital, said Darla Wilson, RN, director of critical care services.
“One thing very nice about this is you have your emergency room on the very first floor and you have your intermediate care unit,” Wilson said. “And then the third floor is both transitional care and ICU and the fourth floor is all ICU.”
It is designed to expedite health care with the consumer in mind. She said the new addition will reach out to the community in a patient friendly manner that is designed in a way to meet the flow of patients’ needs and that of the nursing staff and physicians.
The nursing staff was instrumental in the design of the complex as well.
“What is really nice is we are increasing bed capacity for the intensive care unit,” Wilson said. “We will be at 36 beds (from 32), but we are also adding a 12-bed transitional care unit that will take ICU patients and overflow step down while waiting for placement.”
Nurses are excited to prepare for work in a brand new facility, Wilson added. She said they have known more beds were needed for patient care and Saints responded.
Every other room will have a lift for the patients to offer good support for the patients and it also makes work easier for the nursing staff when moving them. Enhancements will also benefit the families of patients.
A floor to ceiling window will help orient patients to know day from night even if they are not directly facing it.
“It gets that light into the room,” Wilson said.
Families will have more places to sit and relax in their loved one’s rooms. A longer bench designed for comfort will allow them to recline. All this is possible as the physicians and the nursing staff will be able to reach the patients when needed.
Wilson and her husband moved to Oklahoma City in 1988 and she has been employed at St. Anthony ever since then.
“It has changed so much in this area. And the hospital has changed and it’s just beautiful,” Wilson said. “I love the staff. They are a wonderful staff who care about their patients. They care that they are giving the best exceptional care. They truly have that desire.”
“I think that is what you want from your staff. That is what their heart felt desire is.”
Several things about the new ER make Courtney Myers happy as a registered nurse and, manager of the ER. It will not have two sides of an emergency room as is evident in the current ER.
“Currently we have 15 beds on one side and an additional eight beds. So trying to operate two ERs in conjunction with each other is difficult from a management perspective,” Myers said. “So now we will all be under one roof, so that’s really nice.”
Patients will enjoy a brand new and beautiful lobby. What is especially nice is there will be a private area designated for the mental health population, she said. It will be more therapeutic for the mental health patients to be in during their crisis.
“We looked nationwide at what the premier facilities were doing for mental health patients in ERs and that’s how we designed that area for them,” she said. The ER is designed to model a fishbowl, she said, for better monitoring of activity. As a result, the nurses are also excited about moving into the new building.
“We’ve all seen the healthplexes being built, so the staff is excited to move into a new building as well,” said Myers, who has been with Saints for 18 years.
“It’s amazing to me because this will be the third ER I have had some involvement with. We always had plans that we would outgrow the ER, so to see us outgrow what we thought we would outgrow is pretty amazing to me.”

Richie Splitt is leading the Norman Regional Health System during an unprecedented time of growth.

by Bobby Anderson
Staff Writer

Richie Splitt’s kids attended All Saints Catholic School, just a stone’s throw away from the Norman Regional Healthplex.
He’s watched as the Norman Regional Health System has solidified itself over the past 70 years as the provider of choice for Norman and Cleveland County residents alike.
And just a couple weeks into his new role as the health system’s interim President and CEO, Splitt couldn’t be happier leading one of Oklahoma’s few remaining independent hospitals as it continues to evolve.
Norman’s second largest employer, only behind the University of Oklahoma, the Norman Regional Health System has undeniably woven itself into the fabric of Norman.
Splitt points to the health system’s employees as the reason behind its successes, growth and the community’s confidence in the level of care it provides.
“It’s our people,” Splitt said. “We can build beautiful buildings and bring in the latest technology and it matters not if we don’t have the staff who can operate it and make it function to the best of its ability and more than that relate to our patients and provide to them that reassurance and confidence and quality of care they expect.”
“It’s our people who set us apart from everybody else.”
Since May 2013, Splitt has served as the Chief Administrative Officer of the HealthPlex Hospital and Norman Regional Moore.
He has led the rebuilding efforts of the new Moore facility and established the EMSSTAT ambulance service in the community. Splitt has also been instrumental in the expansion of patient care services on the HealthPlex campus
“Richie will provide the continuity of leadership and organizational stability that Norman Regional staff and physicians require in order to continue providing exceptional care for our communities,” Authority Board Chair, Tom Clote said. “Splitt will provide strategic direction and work collaboratively with leadership, physicians and staff to ensure system initiatives continue, as well as future growth and development opportunities.”
Splitt took on the additional duties after former President and CEO David Whitaker left after 17 years.
“My main focus today is the same it was the day before any of this transpired and it’s our people,” Splitt said. “As leaders we’re called to provide a vision and a direction and reassurance and confidence and trust. I was doing that before and in this position it’s even more critical.”
The gains the health system has amassed are even more impressive considering the system operates as an independent entity and one of a shrinking number of municipal hospitals left in the state.
“I’m just one person in this process and I’m extremely humbled by this opportunity,” Splitt said. “It’s a great responsibility I’ve been given and I take that very seriously. I know as a single person I will fail without the help of the team and people around me.”
Splitt will soon engage Norman Regional staff with a series of town hall meetings.
“I’m attempting to provide information in a way they can have a better understanding about who I am and what I see for our organization through their eyes, their work and their healing hands,” Splitt said. “I would like to get affirmation … and I want to serve alongside them in the movement forward.”
Over the past 70 years, Norman Regional Health Systemhas grown to become a multi-campus system that serves healthcare needs throughout south central Oklahoma.
NRHS is operated by Norman Regional Hospital Authority, a public trust, which serves the public interests and functions as a political subdivision of the State of Oklahoma.
The acute-care facility on the Porter Avenue Campus is licensed for 324 beds and offers a full range of services.
The new HealthPlex campus at Interstate 35 and Tecumseh Road, licensed for 136 beds, features Cardiovascular Services, Spine and Orthopedic Surgery, and Women’s and Children’s Services.
On May 20, 2013 a tornado struck Moore Medical Center destroying the building. In May the new Norman Regional Moore emergency department will open to serve the emergent needs of Moore and south Oklahoma City.
Asked him if the continued confidence the hospital receives from the community ever surprises him and Splitt doesn’t miss a beat.
“I say no because I’ve been part of this community for many years of my life,” Splitt said. “I’ve known about this system for quite some time and have always admired it from afar until I joined it and became part of it.
“This is a very loyal community, a very proud community and they want what we want and that’s the best. They want the best for themselves and their loved ones and we want to provide the best possible care for them.”

Danny Gordon, Local Artist/Illustrator.

by Vickie Jenkins

Almost all of us can remember our childhood days. We were stress-free, not a care in the world as we used our imaginations; using our fat, little fingers to sculpture our own little work-of-art with play-dough, color with brightly-colored crayons and draw numerous pictures. Our artwork seemed to take over the refrigerator. Did you know that as we were being creative, we were relieving stress? No wonder we were having so much fun!
Meet Danny Gordon, a self-taught multi-award winning artist/illustrator from Oklahoma City, OK. Danny has been drawing since the age of five years old. “I come from a family of 7 children. When I was growing up, my brothers and I would sit around the dining room table after dinner and draw pictures; animals, cars, houses, robots and anything else that seemed to fit a typical little boy’s style. Well, except for me. I was drawing people,” Danny answered with a smile.
After graduating high school, Danny attended several area colleges where he furthered his artistic skills and won numerous awards in the process, including the Most Prestigious Art Student in Oklahoma for 2 consecutive years, Prestigious Honor of Graphic Communication of Oklahoma and numerous awards for first place for his outstanding artwork. Most of his drawings consisted of portraits of people. Each canvas brought out the unique and creative side of Danny.
One of Danny’s first jobs was at C.R. Anthony Co. as an illustrator/fashion designer where he designed the ads for newspapers and magazines. His artwork was featured in various art shows, libraries, schools and children’s books. It was in 2004, Gordon’s art work expanded into “Danny’s Doggies.” These were pictures of a dog’s head drawn into cartoon form. The dogs took on their own personality as they held up signs of what they said to their owner. “Everyone liked the idea of the dogs,” Danny said. “I know everyone likes cats too but I love to draw pictures of the dogs. I have drawn over 600 kinds of dogs and that’s not even all of them,” he said.
“Is there one drawing that stands out from the rest?” I ask Danny. “I have always been a perfectionist, even when I was little. When I would draw and make a mistake, I would discard it right then. As my artistic skills improved, I didn’t discard as many pictures. Overall, I think one of my favorite drawings is one of my dogs, the Beagle. I name all of the drawings of the dogs and I choose a name that seems to fit their personality,” he replied with a laugh.
Wondering where Danny comes up with his ideas, he said, “Well, I am inspired when I see something. It can be anything. It causes me to be creative. Like with my dog art, I see a dog and his owner, and it makes me really think and study it. After a little while, everything becomes comical and it makes me want to make people laugh. That is one of my goals; to see people happy. I like the interaction between a dog and its owner. It’s kind of like the conversations are little secrets between the two of them.”
This successful and popular body of whimsical dog art has grown into a product line which includes collectible bean bag plush toys, dog toys, prints, and more. Not only does Danny’s artistic abilities come alive with his creativeness, his personality of passion for others shines through.
“Another one of my passions has always been teaching art to children. Many years ago, before I drew my first dog, I began teaching basic drawing lessons to children at the church that I attended. Since then, I have been visiting elementary schools throughout Oklahoma, teaching children to draw.”
Danny has visited many schools over the years. Children love for him to visit the classrooms where Danny gives the children a personal art lesson. “I usually draw a character like a mascot of the school or something. I let the children create what they want me to draw, choosing what the character will look like, how they will be dressed, if they are going to play sports or not. Children have a brilliant imagination and their mind runs wild sometimes,” he says with a laugh. “They have come up with some great ideas. One class even chose their character to be the class mascot. It was so much fun.”
Danny is the artist and founder of Comical Canine Gift Shop, located at 7918 N.W. 23, Bethany, OK. “Last year, we opened the Comical Canine Gift Shop and Art School where my comical dog prints and products are sold plus I am able to teach art classes for children age 7 and up. Here, you will be able to choose from a print of a dog, mug, coasters, backpack, tote bag, magnets and t-shirts. All of the items can be personalized depending on what is chosen.
Teaching children how to draw is another one of Danny’s talents. “Anyone can learn to draw whether they know it or not plus they have fun learning. Here are some basic learning skills that are taught in my art class. The students will be able to use simple basic shapes to draw a variety of images. They will learn about character design. An important step in drawing is when the student is able to demonstrate the ability to listen to a specific story and create a character. They use their imagination and this is so healthy for them. Basic Illustration is also taught. This allows the students to demonstrate the ability to hear a specific theme, concept or story and create a relevant image. The students will be able to use a variety of created lettering in segmented forms to create fun and interesting letters and lettering effects. One of the student’s favorites is Cartooning. The students will be able to demonstrate the ability to create humorous characters and scenes by using simple basic shapes. The children have fun with it plus they leave with their art work. This also gives the students a real feeling of confidence; a special feeling when the child draws a picture on their own and they succeed in their own little masterpiece. The look of surprise on their face is just priceless,” Danny says.
“The children love to think of something to draw and put it on paper. I have to share a story with you,” Danny said. One of my students, Ava, wanted to draw a picture of her cat, Beanie. She carefully completed her wonderful rendition of Beanie, then the amazing part happened! This was a reminder for me that no matter how many times my art is printed on a product, it’s utterly exciting! Ava chose to have Beanie printed on a t-shirt so that she could proudly wear it to school. She and her mother made this decision. Each of them was able to see the entire process of transforming Ava’s art into an actual product and their response was truly heartfelt. After I scanned Ava’s art and she and her mom saw the picture of Beanie on my large computer screen, they were so excited! I printed the t-shirt and the looks on Ava’s and her mother’s face was priceless! I love teaching children how to draw, showing them how they can create their own little masterpiece, putting it on to a useable product. Now, Ava’s mother is talking about having her art work printed onto a mug. She also wants a tote bag for her grandparents,” Danny explains.
Danny Gordon is a talented artist and enjoys his work of drawing and making children happy. Danny offers you a whimsical, funny and humorous dog art created from a unique and stylistic perspective. Each piece is a blend of caricature and accurate art that captures the small nuances of each dog breed he draws.
Starting May 7, 2016 and every following Saturday, Danny will offer two new comical pets to paint. You can go to the website www.comicalcanine.com which will show which pets are to be painted for that Saturday evening of painting and socializing. Danny’s Paint Your Pet Party is a non-alcoholic environment of fun for the family. For more information, please contact Danny Gordon at 405-498-3423 or stop by to see him at Comical Canine Gift Shop, 7918 N.W. 23, Street, Bethany, OK where you are always welcome.

From left, Kari Bayer, RN, administrative director of quality at INTEGRIS Baptist Medical Center is joined with Gwen Harrington, RN, infection prevention coordinator; Harry Wetz, respiratory therapist, patient safety officer and director of quality; and Keith Stephens, RN, administrative director for quality are part of the leadership team to ensure safety along with everyone who works at the hospital.

Always improving: INTEGRIS Baptist Medical Center receives 2016 Women’s Choice Award

by Jason Chandler, Staff Writer

INTEGRIS Baptist Medical Center has earned the recognition of the 2016 Women’s Choice Award, says Keith Stephens, RN, administrative director for quality at INTEGRIS Baptist Medical Center in Oklahoma City. This distinction honors INTEGRIS Baptist Medical Center as being one of the best hospitals in the United States for patient safety. Two basic components including patient safety indicators and prevention indicators were integral to the process, he said.
“I think it helps validate our efforts for patient safety and high quality health care,” Stephens said.
This distinction recognizes an outstanding interdisciplinary role of health care throughout the hospital, said Harry Wetz, respiratory therapist, patient safety officer and director of quality.
“I would say it’s the culture that we have here. One infection is too many,” said Keri Bayer, RN, administrative director for quality. “And so any patient that walks through our doors, we want to ensure we are doing the right care, providing it in a standard way. And we have a lot of processes in place to ensure we allow our nurses to provide care in the easiest way possible with evidence based guidelines.”
Bayer said she is honored to work at INTEGRIS Baptist Medical Center. It is the only organization she has worked for as a nurse and the only one she intends to serve. Her dedication flows from the set of values INTEGRIS has throughout its system. The personalized care is evidence based offering the highest levels of care.
“Every patient that comes here deserves that,” she said regardless of gender.
The hospital encompasses a highly trained interdisciplinary team of physicians, nurses and colleagues. All of the staff maintains annual training to maintain its competency. It has put in place standardized work flows of product, documentation and strict operating procedures to prevent infections. Outcomes are monitored closely for infection and safety.
“We hold each other accountable if we see a variation in that practice. The expectation is that we hold our peers accountable,” Bayer said.
They strive to understand if there is a break in the process how INTEGRIS Baptist Medical Center as an organization allowed the break to occur, Bayer said.
“We correct it,” she continued. “And we share that information and just continue to get better as we move forward.”
Gwen Harrington, RN, infection prevention coordinator, said they are engaged at all levels to identify what needs to be improved.
“We have great involvement in ownership from not only the patient care staff. That means not the leaders. That is the bedside staff nurses,” Harrington said. “They are doing the work every day.”
The shared knowledge among the staff helps to engage leadership effectively and the medical staff. Improvement opportunities from the physicians’ points of view are integrated into the best standards of care. Three physicians representing different services will attend meetings when discussing general processes. They are involved in solving the problems with the patient care staff.
“I think that is one of the things that we are getting better and better at to drive some of the outcomes that we have,” Harrington said.
There are always new products and equipment to blend into new processes with variations, Harrington said. Cleaning and disinfection of equipment to prevent associated infection is standardized. The process is ongoing.
“Just in the last six months we’ve updated education and competencies with training not only internally, but with our vendors and our suppliers,” Harrington said. “We bring in those people from those companies, the clinical experts and equipment manufacturers to give us the manufacturers instructions for use of equipment to help us drive those outcomes and prevent occurrences.”
Monitoring looks at compliance with the practices and cleaning and disinfection in order to maintain quality of care, Bayer said.
“It’s truly every person that works at INTEGRIS that is honored, not just our clinical staff,” Bayer said. “It takes everyone to make it happen.”
Wetz said the bedside nurses strive every day to exceed what is expected of them. This attitude lends well to patient satisfaction, he said.
“When a patient is sick. It’s a very difficult time for them,” Wetz said. “Their understanding of what’s going on is heavily weighed on the communication level of the bedside caregiver. That directly effects satisfaction.”

Swimming with whale sharks, Exmouth, Western Australia.

Photography and Text by VirtualTourist

Looking for some adventure on your next trip? Members of travel website VirtualTourist.com love adventure and with this in mind prepared a list of some of their favorite activities and places to do them.
Mountain Biking in Moab, Utah
VirtualTourist members agree there’s no argument for the number one outdoor adventure area. Moab, Utah topped the list because of its access to all types of activities like classic hiking in Arches National Park and Canyonlands National park, rafting and kayaking on the Colorado River and backcountry skiing in the LA Sal mountains. If you’re up for an exciting mountain bike adventure, Moab is the place. And VirtualTourist members say April and May are the best months to do it before the weather gets too hot.
Canyoning in Banos Rio Blanco Canyon, Ecuador
Canyoning, exploring a canyon by such activities, including rappelling, rafting and water jumping, has become quite popular with adventure seekers. And if canyoning is on your list of activities to try, VirtualTourist members recommend heading over to Banos Rio Blanco Canyon in Ecuador. You’ll rappel down four waterfalls and slide down on your backside on the fifth. To get you heart racing, the tallest one stands at 115 feet. While hiking, you’ll have the opportunity to look for birds indigenous to the area and enjoy the sights and smells of the various flora.
Microlight Flight over Annapurna Range, Nepal
Ready to get air borne and kiss the clouds while soaring over the beautiful Himalayas? Then hop on board an Ultralight (Microlight) flight. These small two-seater aircrafts allow a one-of-a-kind view of Nepal’s beautiful landscape of snow-capped mountains, green hills, serene rivers and lakes. You’ll have an opportunity to capture some amazing photos that you wouldn’t be able to obtain from any other angle.
Sea Kayaking, Chilko Lake, British Columbia
The Chilko Lake region is a beautiful and magical destination. As one of British Columbia’s largest salmon spawning grounds, it attracts numerous grizzly and black bears making for incredible wildlife viewing and photography opportunities. VirtualTourist members say explore the lake in either a single or double kayak. Mornings present the best opportunity for animal spotting and you might see otters, beavers, a variety of birds and of course what everyone comes to see, bears. You can take fishing gear with you and try and find the perfect catch as well. Although the days are long, the sunsets from here are worth the wait.
Swimming with Whale Sharks, Exmouth, Western Australia
Every year from April to July, the world’s biggest fish, the whale sharks, gather along the Ningaloo Reef in Western Australia. This time of year provides an opportunity of a lifetime to swim and snorkel with these gentle giants. Whale sharks can get up to 41.5 feet and weigh about 47,000 pounds! While getting up close and personal with these massive, but harmless, animals is not guaranteed, most tour operators will offer you the chance to come back another day for free, if you didn’t see whale sharks during your excursion.
(c) 2016 Virtualtourist.com, Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC

Microlight Flight over Annapurna Range, Nepal.
Microlight Flight over Annapurna Range, Nepal.
The Porcupine Rim is an iconic bike route and the scenery is always changing.
The Porcupine Rim is an iconic bike route and the scenery is always changing.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received? Emerald Square Assisted Living

Just to be patient. Evelyn Swingle

Salvation, which I received probably 30 years ago. Les England

I remember my dad telling me I’d better save some of that money for a rainy day because I might need it. Joan Masilon

From my dad who told me make a man the kind of hand he can’t be without and you’ll always have a job. Jack Allee

By Ron Burg

As we age, there are certain things we can expect to change. Our memory isn’t as good, we usually take longer to make decisions, and we might need help doing tasks that were once simple. However, when a loved one – whether a parent, grandparent, spouse or sibling – begins to show signs of aging, it’s scary.
An even more frightening thought is determining whether he or she may need more medical and living assistance. This could mean moving to a smaller, more manageable household, professional home care services, or even moving in with a relative. You want to provide the best care possible for your loved one, while still respecting their independence and wishes. Your decision will likely be based off the mental and physical condition of your elderly loved one.
But, how do you know your mom’s sudden forgetful nature is a normal sign of aging or something worse? When it comes to dementia and Alzheimer’s, early detection can provide the best treatment and care.
Here are the early signs of Alzheimer’s disease:
· Memory changes
This is often the most obvious and common change associated with Alzheimer’s disease. Forgetting the occasional appointment or name is a usual sign of aging, and the elderly person can usually remember them later.
Memory loss that can signify something worse consists of forgetting new information, important dates and events, asking the same thing or needing to hear the same information over and over, and an increased dependency on reminders. If the memory loss disrupts a person’s daily life, you should probably head to the doctor.
· Withdrawal from usual activities
A person who suffers from the early stages of Alzheimer’s will avoid social activity and may stop all social interaction, hobbies, and sports due to their changes. You may also notice they become passive – watching TV for long hours, sleeping more, or avoiding daily tasks. What is normal, however, is an elderly person sometimes feeling weary of social obligations.
· Problems with writing and speaking
An early indicator is a sudden inability to follow or join a conversation. A person might stop in the middle of a conversation and have no idea how to continue, or repeat himself or herself often. They may also struggle with vocabulary and have trouble finding the right word for an object.
· Disorientation with time and place
While it is typical for a senior citizen to forget what day it is or where they were going, it is not an aging-related sign when a person becomes lost in a familiar area, doesn’t know how to get back home, or cannot recall how they got to their current location.
· Changes in mood and personality
Everyone experiences mood swings, but, in the early stages of Alzheimer’s, a person will often rapidly switch moods for no apparent reason.
· Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships
Some people will experience trouble reading, judging distance, and determining color and contrast. They will likely show signs of having difficulty while driving.
If you are concerned about a loved one or have suspicions they may have Alzheimer’s, seek a medical opinion. Remember, you are not alone, and it is best to receive an early diagnosis.
About Already HomeCare
Already HomeCare was founded with the ideal that we would never place a caregiver in someone’s home that we wouldn’t place in our own family member’s home. We operate in a culture of compassion, and are committed to helping your loved one live a healthy and independent life. Providing senior home care is a highly personalized, intimate experience. We go above and beyond to help reduce the stress and ensure your loved one is getting the quality care they deserve.

Dear Savvy Senior, I’m approaching 65 and am interested in a Medicare Advantage plan to cover my health care and medications. What tips can you provide to help me pick a plan? Medicare Shopper

Dear Shopper,
Medicare Advantage plans have become increasingly popular among retirees over the past 10 years, as more than 30 percent of Medicare participants are now enrolled in an Advantage plan. Here are some tips and tools to help you pick a plan that fits your needs.
First, let’s start with a quick review. Medicare Advantage plans (also known as Medicare Part C) are government approved health plans sold by private insurance companies that you can choose in place of original Medicare. The vast majority of Advantage plans are managed-care policies such as HMOs or PPOs that require you to get your care within a network of doctors.
If you join an Advantage plan, the plan will provide all of your Part A (hospital insurance) and Part B (medical insurance) coverage. Some plans even offer extra benefits like vision, dental and hearing, and most plans include Part D prescription drug coverage too.
You also need to know that the monthly premiums for many Advantage plans are cheaper than if you got original Medicare, plus a separate Part D drug plan and a Medigap policy, but their deductibles and co-pays are usually higher. That makes these plans better suited for healthier retirees.
How to Pick
To help you pick a plan, a good first step is to call the office managers of the doctors you use and find out which Advantage plans they accept, and which ones they recommend. Then go to the Medicare Plan Finder tool at Medicare.gov/find-a-plan and type in your ZIP code or your personal information to compare health plans with drug coverage in your area.
This tool also provides a five-star rating system that evaluates each plan based on past customer satisfaction and quality of care the plan delivers. When comparing, here are some key points to consider:
Total costs: Look at the plan’s entire pricing package, not just the premiums and deductibles. Compare the maximum out-of-pocket costs plus the copays and coinsurance charged for doctor office visits, hospital stays, visits to specialists, prescription drugs and other medical services. This is important because if you choose an Advantage plan, you’re not allowed to purchase a Medigap policy, which means you’ll be responsible for paying these expenses out of your own pocket.
Drug coverage: Check the plan’s formulary – the list of prescription drugs covered – to be sure all the medications you take are covered without excessive co-pays or requirements that you try less expensive drugs first.
Dental, vision and hearing: Some Advantage plans come with dental, vision and hearing benefits, but are often limited. Get the details on what exactly is covered.
Coverage while traveling: Most Advantage plans limit you to using in-network doctors only within a service area or geographic region, so find out what’s covered if you need medical care when you’re away from home.
Out-of-network coverage: Check to see what’s covered if you want to see a specialist in a hospital that is not in a plan’s network. You can get a list of doctors and hospitals that take part in a plan on the plan’s website.
Retiree benefits: If you have employer-based retiree health coverage, be sure you speak with the benefits manager, because signing up for Medicare Advantage may void your coverage.
How to Enroll
Once you’ve selected a plan you can enroll either on the Medicare.gov website, over the phone at 1-800-MEDICARE, directly with your chosen plan or through an insurance broker.
If you need some help choosing a plan contact your State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP) at Shiptacenter.org. Also see the HealthMetrix Research Cost Share Report at MedicareNewsWatch.com that lists the best Advantage plans based on health status.
Send your senior questions to: Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070, or visit SavvySenior.org. Jim Miller is a contributor to the NBC Today show and author of “The Savvy Senior” book.

Kid Governor Justin Evers and Sunbeam CEO Jim Priest.

Sunbeam Family Services and the Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy (OICA) recently appointed eight-year-old Justin Evers as Oklahoma’s first Kid Governor.
Justin, a second grader at John Rex Charter Elementary School, was one of 19 children ages 7-11 who submitted videos for the “Vote 4 Kids” campaign led by Sunbeam and OICA. Kid Governor’s term begins April 2016 and will end in November at the 2016 Oklahoma Kids Count Conference.
During Justin’s term, he will address issues affecting the well-being of Oklahoma’s children such as foster care, childhood poverty, early childhood education and mental health.
Justin says he wants Oklahomans to pay attention to issues that affect the state’s children, specifically foster care. His parents, Lindel and Shannon Evers, are foster parents and the video he submitted to be considered as a candidate addressed the need for more families to join the effort.
“I think it’s great that I’ll have a chance to be the first Kid Governor of Oklahoma,” Justin said. “I want kids to know what’s happening in our state.”
Justin’s first public appearance will be at Sunbeam’s Shine a Light fundraising gala on April 7 at the Chevy Bricktown Events Center at 6:30 p.m. Learn more at www.shinealightokc.org.

Social