Dear Savvy Senior,

Are there any special Medicare programs that help seniors with their medication costs? My 74-year-old mother, who lives primarily on her Social Security, takes several high-priced drugs that sap her income even with her Medicare drug plan.  Looking for Assistance

Dear Looking,
Yes, there’s a low-income subsidy program called Extra Help that can assist seniors on a tight budget with paying for their premiums, deductible and co-payments in their Medicare (Part D) prescription drug plan.
Currently around 10 million people are receiving this subsidy, but another two million may qualify for it and don’t even realize it. They’re missing out on hundreds, maybe thousands, of dollars in savings each year.
Changes in the law make it easier than ever to qualify for the Extra Help program. Even if your mom applied and didn’t qualify before, she may be eligible now. The amount of additional assistance she would receive depends on her income and assets. If she qualifies for help, she’ll pay no more than $3.35 for a generic drug and $8.35 for a brand-name drug in 2018.
To get the subsidy, your mom’s assets can’t be more than $14,100 (or $28,150 for married couples living together). Bank accounts, stocks and bonds count as assets, but her home, vehicle, personal belongings, life insurance and burial plots do not.
Also, your mom’s monthly income can’t be more than $1,538 (or $2,078 for married couples). If your mom supports a family member who lives with her, or lives in Alaska or Hawaii, her income can be higher.
In addition, the government won’t count any money if your mom receives help for household expenses like food, rent, mortgage payments, utilities and property taxes.
How To Apply
There are three ways to apply for Extra Help: online at; by calling Social Security at 800-772-1213; or by visiting her local Social Security office.
The application form is easy to complete, but you’ll need your mom’s Social Security number and information about her bank balances, pensions and investments. Social Security will review her application and send her a letter within a few weeks letting you know whether she qualifies.
If your mom doesn’t qualify for Extra Help, she may still be able to get help from a state pharmacy assistance program or a patient assistance program. Visit and click on “Medications” to search for these programs.
Other Medicare Assistance
If your mom is eligible for Extra Help, she may also qualify for help with her other Medicare expenses through her state’s Medicare Savings Program.
State Medicaid programs partner with the federal government, so income and asset qualifications vary depending on where she lives. Medicare Savings Programs will pay her entire Medicare Part B premium each month. Some also pay for Part B coinsurance and copayments, depending on her income. Contact your mom’s state Medicaid office to determine if she qualifies for benefits in her state.
You can also get help through her State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP), which provides free one-on-one Medicare counseling in person or over the phone. To locate a SHIP counselor in your area, visit or call the eldercare locator at 800-677-1116.

Send your senior questions to: Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070, or visit Jim Miller is a contributor to the NBC Today show and author of “The Savvy Senior” book.

Falls are major cause of death from injury to older citizens. May is Better Hearing and Speech month so why is our Central Oklahoma Chapter of Hearing Loss Association of America concerned about Oklahoman’s health? Most people don’t realize it but the inner ear is the major control center for balance and hearing loss often occurs in the inner ear. COCHLAA encourages you to see an audiologist for a hearing exam. If you are experiencing symptoms such as: people don’t talk loud enough, people tell you that you play the TV too loud, you miss children’s laughs, you don’t hear the door bell or phone ring, they all signal the possibility of hearing loss. Contact COCHLAA at 405/717-9820, someone will be happy to answer your questions. Visit the Hearing Helper’s Room at 5100 N Brookline, Suite 100, here in Oklahoma City for a no obligation consultation.
One sad reality of a fall is that if you have fallen your chances of another fall are greatly increased. A fall can reduce a person’s ability to be self-sufficient, it can reduce the ability to earn an income, and can cause physical and financial hardships. Once again the old adage is good advice; an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
Here are some steps to help prevent falls:
Get your hearing checked. Good hearing helps you notice sounds that can warn of danger.
Keep your vision sharp. Have your eyes checked yearly to make sure your prescription is correct.
Exercise regularly. This can help improve strength and balance.
Know your meds. People who take four or more medications may be at risk of falling. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist about potential side effects.
Identify (and address) home fall hazards. About half of all falls happen at home. Poor lighting, clutter, slippery bathroom environments, and more pose potential hazards.
Make stairs and thresholds safer. Use contrasting colors at steps or thresholds—for example, on dark wooden floors, paint the edge of the steps a lighter color.
Keep emergency numbers in large print close by. Consider bringing a phone with you into the bathroom or wearing an emergency alert wristband or neck pendant should a fall occur.
Visit our website for more information.

The senior living company, with facilities in Texas, Colorado, and Oklahoma, adds the eight properties to the portfolio to expand its presence in the Sooner State.

StoneGate Senior Living, an award-winning full-spectrum senior care and housing company, announces the addition of eight new properties in Oklahoma. The communities offer a range of supported services in all areas of retirement from independent living to assisted living, skilled nursing, rehabilitation, and memory care. The eight established properties are newly contracted from Southwest Healthcare.
“We are excited to announce our involvement with the Southwest Healthcare properties,” says John Paul Taylor, COO of StoneGate Senior Living. “As an Oklahoma native, as is our CEO, we have known Denver McCormick for many years and have always appreciated the manner in which he and the Southwest team have cared for the senior population. We will strive to follow in his footsteps with our involvement in his properties and hope to continue the legacy and success.”
The properties include:
* Garland Road Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, Enid, OK * Highland Park Manor, Okmulgee, OK * Meadowlake Estates, Oklahoma City, OK * Noble Health Care Center, Noble, OK * Ranchwood Nursing Center, Yukon, OK * Tuscany Village Nursing Center, Oklahoma City, OK * Meadowlakes Retirement, Oklahoma City, OK * Victorian Estates, Yukon, OK
StoneGate now contracts with 13 total properties in the state; 11 skilled nursing facilities and two assisted living communities with more than 1,300 beds. The skilled nursing facilities accept Private Pay, Medicare, Managed Care and Medicaid and the assisted living communities accept Private Pay.
“It has been my honor and privilege to work with Southwest senior leadership, regional support, and facility leadership to assure a smooth transition into the StoneGate portfolio of properties,” says Brandon French, Divisional VP of Operations.
StoneGate management says plans for the properties include making substantial investments in the physical plant and IT infrastructure. StoneGate also plans to continue to improve market presence through community outreach, strategic partnership, and marketing initiatives to promote and grow the StoneGate brand.

St. Anthony Hospital and Weatherford Regional Hospital are pleased to announce a new management agreement for Weatherford Regional Hospital. The agreement will offer Weatherford Regional Hospital a wide range of management support services that will aid the facility as they continue to provide the highest quality of health care to the community.
“This management agreement continues to strengthen our commitment to providing local access and exceptional care to the community that we serve,” said Debbie Howe, President, Weatherford Regional Hospital. “Weatherford Regional Hospital and St. Anthony Hospital working together will move us forward so that we can seek innovations in care, improve quality and provide greater access to health care and specialty services.”
The Board selected St. Anthony Hospital because of its commitment to patient satisfaction and exceptional health care. Weatherford Regional Hospital has been a tier one affiliate of the St. Anthony Affiliate Health Network since May 2013, and for five years prior to being a tier one, they were an affiliate in the network.
“Weatherford Regional Hospital and St. Anthony Hospital in Oklahoma City have been closely affiliated for more than ten years,” says Joe Hodges, Regional President, SSM Health Oklahoma. “We are pleased to join Weatherford Regional Hospital to further enhance specialty services for the residents in the area.”

Last November, INTEGRIS held a ground-breaking event to ceremonially kick-off construction of four different metro area INTEGRIS micro-hospital facilities. Work will occur at all four locations simultaneously, and our chain of micro-hospitals will be known as INTEGRIS Community Hospitals going forward because each location will include ER services as well as rooms for inpatient care. Upper floors within the four buildings will include physician and specialty clinics.
The photos below illustrate early phases of construction for INTEGRIS Community Hospital – Council Crossing located in northwest Oklahoma City. Construction crews tell us – if weather and wind cooperate – all concrete walls for the NW Expressway & Council Rd. location should be in place by the end of this week. Obviously, much work lies ahead, however we are on schedule to open the facility in February 2019.
In Moore, work crews will begin placing walls at our I-35 & South 34th Street location before the end of April. Structural steel is also visible from Interstate 40 at our Del City location near Sooner Road. Construction will begin in May at the OKC West location.
INTEGRIS Community Hospitals are being welcomed by leaders and families in each area. Excitement is growing as people begin to see the facilities take shape. We look forward to offering these easily accessible, high-quality health care service centers to our care continuum in the next 12 to 15 months.

Kevin Elledge

Kevin Elledge has been named chief administrative officer for OU Physicians, the physician practice of the University of Oklahoma College of Medicine.
In his new role, Elledge will work closely with OU Physician leadership to advance the mission of patient care across the OU Health Sciences Center enterprise. He will be responsible for the collective business and operational performance of the OU Physicians clinical practice, including the provision of core practice management services, revenue cycle functions, financial management, clinical operations, strategy development, information technology and analytics. Elledge will support the delivery of high-quality patient care across OU Physicians practice divisions and clinical units and will ensure coordination with the University’s missions of education and research.
Elledge has more than 14 years of experience with OU Physicians, most recently serving as the executive director of operations.
“As interim chief administrative officer, Kevin has worked tirelessly and very effectively to advance a number of important initiatives for our group,” said OU Physicians President Jesus Medina, M.D. “He has earned my respect as a trustworthy administrator, manager and leader. I am excited to continue working with him for the benefit of our organization.”
Elledge holds a bachelor’s degree in Computer Science from the University of Central Oklahoma. Prior to joining OU Physicians, he resided in Atlanta where he founded and operated a successful healthcare technology company.
With more than 1,000 doctors and advanced practice providers, OU Physicians is the state’s largest physician group. The practice encompasses almost every adult and child specialty. Many OU Physicians have expertise in the management of complex conditions that is unavailable anywhere else in the state, region or sometimes even the nation. Some have pioneered surgical procedures or innovations in patient care that are world firsts.

Date/ Day/ Location/ Time/ Registration #/ Instructor
May 3/ May 3/ Thursday/ Okla. City/ 9 am – 3:30 pm/ 951-2277/ Varacchi Integris 3rd Age Life Center – 5100 N. Brookline, Suite 100
May 5/ Saturday/ Midwest City/ 9 am – 3:30 pm/ 473-9239/
Williams First Christian Church – 11950 E. Reno Ave.
May 15/ Tuesday/ Norman/ 9 am – 3:30 pm/ 307-3177/ Palinsky
Norman Regional Hospital – 901 N. Porter Ave
May 11/ Friday/ Okla. City/ 9 am – 3:30 pm/ 951-2277/ Edwards
S.W. Medical Center – 4200 S. Douglas, Suite B-10
May 8/ Tuesday/ Midwest City/ 9 am – 3:30 pm/ 691-4091/ Palinsky
Rose State Conventional Learning Center – 6191 Tinker Diagonol
May15/ Tuesday/ Norman/ 9 am – 3;30 pm/ 360-5300/Schaumberg
1at Baptist Church Family Life Center – 300 W. Commanche
May 16/ Wednesday/ Warr Acres/ 8:30 am – 3 pm/ 789-9892/ Kruck Warr Acres Community Center – 4301 N. Ann Arbor Ave.
May 21/ Monday/ Shawnee/ 9:30 am – 3:45 pm/ 818-2916/ Brase
Shawnee Senior Center – 401 N. Bell St.
May 24/ Thursday/ Midwest City/ 9 AM – 3:30 pm/ 405-739-1200/ Edwards Midwest City Senior Center – 8251 E. Reno Ave.

The prices for the classes are: $15 for AARP members and $20 for Non-AARP. Call John Palinsky, zone coordinator for the Oklahoma City area at 405-691-4091 or send mail to:

Independent studies place Mercy in the lead for quality of care and patient safety

Shorter hospital stays, fewer complications and better patient results are just a few metrics used to rank Mercy as a leading health care organization. For the third year in a row, Mercy is one of the top five large U.S. health systems in the 2018 Watson Health 15 Top Health System study. In addition, Mercy Hospital Oklahoma City received an “A” safety grade from The Leapfrog Group, an independent hospital watchdog group, in ratings released today.
“This level of national recognition reflects the hard work of countless co-workers who care for our patients every single day,” said Jim Gebhart, president of Mercy Hospital Oklahoma City and regional strategy officer. “We have made these efforts across many communities and many states because, like the Sisters of Mercy before us, we are dedicated to providing exceptional care for all.”
The Watson Health study, formerly the Truven Health Analytics study, analyzes 338 health systems and 2,422 hospitals across the U.S. Leapfrog Hospital Safety Scores assign A, B, C, D and F letter grades to 2,500 hospitals nationwide, providing the most complete picture of patient safety in the U.S. health care system.
Both Watson and Leapfrog combine rigorous analysis of individual hospital performance and metrics by using objective, independent research and public data sources. Hospitals and health systems do not apply for consideration.
Mercy outperformed peers in the following ways:
*Saved more lives and caused fewer patient complications
*Lower cost of care
*Readmitted patients less frequently
*Shorter wait times in emergency departments
*Shorter hospital stays
*Better patient safety
*Higher patient satisfaction
Some of the keys to improving the quality of patient care have included efforts made possible because of Mercy’s dedicated team, leading technology and best practices:
* Hand hygiene, while seemingly simple, is difficult to enforce, especially across an organization with 40,000 co-workers. By establishing Mercy-wide goals and putting rigorous plans in place, Mercy has reduced one of the most common health-care associated infections, Clostridium difficile (C-diff), by 67 percent from 2016 to the present.
* With more than 2,000 integrated physicians – one of the largest medical groups in the nation – Mercy brings primary care and specialty doctors together to implement proven, clinical-based best practices to improve patient care.
* Mercy was among the first health care organizations in the U.S. to have an integrated electronic health record (EHR) connecting all points of care. With a finely-tuned EHR, clinical best practices can be hard-wired into the system, resulting in triggers that warn of possible complications at very early stages, as well as data that can help reduce variation and improve compliance.
* Specialty councils, made up of physicians, nurses and clinicians, represent more than 40 areas of medicine, providing best practices for everything from heart surgery to the delivery of babies.
“This award speaks to the engagement of our staff and physicians in the journey toward high quality, reliable care,” said Terri-Anne Bone, vice president of performance improvement for Mercy Hospital Oklahoma City. “While the award recognizes our efforts to date, we know that there is work to be done. The kind of diligence our co-workers demonstrate will enable Mercy to continue to improve care in the future.”
Mercy Hospital Oklahoma City was also recently named one of the nation’s 100 Top Hospitals® by IBM Watson Health. In addition, Mercy Hospital Oklahoma City was one of only 13 hospitals in the nation to receive the Everest Award, achieving the highest national benchmarks along with the greatest improvement over five consecutive years.

Floyd Cross cancer survivor.
Cross Family Benefit.

The seventh annual Cross Family Benefit for the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation will be held on May 7 in Kingfisher. Cowboys from across the country will saddle up to raise money for cancer research and also to honor the life of Floyd Cross.
Cross battled – and defeated – recurring bouts of colon and liver cancer for 12 years before passing away in 2016. The Cross family continues to fight the disease in his honor by raising funds to support cancer research at OMRF.
“The Cross family is a great example of how Oklahomans can do something meaningful to help combat diseases like cancer,” said OMRF Vice President of Development Penny Voss. “Grassroots efforts like this one make a big difference in giving momentum to the world-class research happening right here in Oklahoma City.”
In addition to the steer wrestling competition and t-shirt sales, raffle tickets will be sold for $1 or six for $5 for a wide variety of prizes. A weekend getaway to Red River, New Mexico, will be up for auction.
The event will be held at 1 p.m. at the Kingfisher Rodeo Roundup Club Arena. To enter or for more information, call Sherrie Cross at (405) 375-4872 or (405) 313-1776. The books are open from 10 a.m. until noon on May 7. Admission is free.

Marty Hall and wife Carolyn have made Sid’s Diner an El Reno institution known across the country during the past 27 years.

by Bobby Anderson, Staff Writer

Pull up a chair and feel like you’re at home.
That’s the philosophy Marty Hall has brought with him to work every day for nearly five decades in the restaurant business.
And it’s how you’ll feel when you take a seat at Sid’s Diner in El Reno and Hall spins around and asks ‘How ya doin?’”
“I love the people I meet,” said Hall, who has turned the tiny onion burger joint into a destination.
Hundreds of people daily flow into Sid’s, which is just 880-square-feet of real estate (including the walk-in cooler).
“I didn’t have any money left,” Hall said of why it’s not bigger. “When I opened the door I had $300 to my name.”
Hall built the diner in 1990 after owning the old-style walkup Dairy Hut just around the corner along Route 66 which his mother and father helped him purchase when he was 21.
Hall started working in the restaurant business at age 13, peeling onions and washing dishes at 50 cents an hour.
He also got to eat anything he wanted.
“I had to work. I was just trying to help my folks out,” Hall said.
The restaurant’s namesake – Hall’s father Sid – was a highway foreman who supervised I-40.
“Dad never saw this place. He died before I could get it done,” he said. “A year from retiring he passed away from a heart attack.”
The walls of Sid’s Diner are covered with magazine and newspaper articles from food critics who have made the trek to El Reno – population 18,000 – to see what all the fuss is about.
“I’ve got magazines I haven’t even put up yet,” Hall giggled.
Adam Richman brought the The Food Channel’s Man Vs. Food show to El Reno a few years back.
What he found at the corner of Wade and South Choctaw blew him away before meat even touched flattop.
“We make our own spatulas. We don’t buy them,” Hall told Richman. “We use brick trowels.”
Hall used one to flatten a freshly-formed third-pound of ground beef on the seasoned grill and topped it with a heaping handful of thinly-shaved Spanish white onions.
Hall says there’s nothing fancy about any of it. The 200 or so burgers he smashes out every day for lunch trace their roots back to the Great Depression, which, as legend has it, was when Ardmore restaurant owner Ross Davis paired five cents worth of beef with half a onion.
Oklahomans and travelers along Route 66 have been enjoying the meaty marriage ever since.
Hall’s diner has been featured in Best Roadside Eats, Delicious Destinations with Andrew Zimmern, Favorite Places on Route 66 in Oklahoma, Top 5 Burgers in America by the Food Network, Is this a Great State or What with Galen Culver and Discover Oklahoma to name a few.
Visitors have come in from as far away as Africa and Korea.
Hall was born at Tinker Field while his dad was fighting in Korea. His mother used to tell the story of how she went into labor around 10 p.m. one May 7.
His grandparents put his mother into dad’s 1948 Chevrolet and sped down Route 66 until the wind and hail forced them to pull over.
“They got caught in a storm and mom said it was a bad one,” he said. “She was pretty sure there was a tornado but they made it.”
Eight months later his father came home to meet him for the first time.
“I wouldn’t change a thing. I love what I do,” Hall said.
Working six days a week, Hall swaps off with son Adam on long and short weeks, with one working 32 hours and the other working 42.
Sid’s will one day become Adam’s, who at 35 is the same age Hall was when he built the diner.
This December, Hall’s book detailing it all showed up on Amazon.
A Burger Boy on Route 66 contains decades of stories and photos of those who traversed Route 66 and stopped by for a bite.
The flip was switched a few years back for Hall to write a book. “I’m a Christian and my wife is the one who really encouraged me,” he said.
The gravity of it all struck him a few years back.
A friend and her mother stopped by for lunch. She asked how he was getting along.
“I always say I’m doing fine, I’ve got a really good shepherd,” Hall said. “She said ‘I know. He likes to watch you cook those hamburgers.’ I had never thought about it that way.”
Hall paused.
“There’s a whole lot more going on here than cooking hamburgers.”