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Over 65? Expect a flurry of Medicare mail
Medicare, the federal government’s health insurance program primarily for people age 65 and older, is launching its prescription drug benefit January 1.

If you are eligible for Medicare, you will be receiving mail from private health plans and insurance companies in your area, as well as from any former employer offering retiree benefits.

Key features of Medicare Part D
The standard or basic Part D plan will look like this:

  • A monthly premium, averaging around $35 a month
  • An annual deductible of $250
  • You pay 25 percent between $250 and $2,250 in drug costs during the year
  • You pay 100 percent between $2,250-$5,100 in drug costs during the year— this is the coverage gap
  • You pay 5 percent of the cost after you exceed $5,100 in drug costs during the year—this is the catastrophic coverage level

Since the plans are being offered by private entities, some plans may provide options with better benefits. However, Medicare requires that you pay $3,600 in out-of-pocket expenses during the year, not counting the monthly premium, before you are eligible for catastrophic coverage.

You may be covered by only one Part D plan at a time. You may change from one plan to another during open enrollment each year. During this first year, open enrollment will be held from November 15 through May 15.

You do not have to enroll in any plan—it’s your choice. While you are still working, you may be covered by your employer’s health plan that provides a prescription drug benefit. Or you may be covered by a spouse’s plan.

Be careful, however: if you are not covered for prescription drugs by another plan—such as your employer’s plan or your spouse’s plan—you will pay a penalty when you do enroll for Part D.

This penalty is required by Medicare and is 1 percent per month for each month that you are eligible for Medicare and do not have prescription drug coverage. For more information, call (800) 633-4227 or go to

—Ann Smith, National Rural Electric Cooperative Association

Know your Medicare ABCs, and now Part D
Medicare consists of various parts. You are automatically enrolled in some, others you have to take an action to opt-out or opt-in for that benefit. You share the cost in the form of premiums, coinsurance, and deductibles.

Medicare Part A is the hospital benefit. You are automatically enrolled if you are receiving Social Security benefits. Otherwise, you should enroll in this benefit during the seven-month period starting three months before your 65th birthday. There is no premium but you do have some out-of-pocket expenses.

Medicare Part B covers physician visits, outpatient services, and durable medical equipment. You are automatically enrolled in this benefit when you enroll in Part A. There is a monthly premium and you pay certain out-of-pocket expenses. You have to opt-out if you do not want the coverage.

Together, Part A and Part B form what is known as “original Medicare” or “traditional Medicare.”

Medicare Part C (now known as Medicare MA for Medicare Advantage) is a substitute for Parts A & B. If enrolled in this plan, you get all your services and benefits through one source, such as an HMO. A premium is required and you have to opt-in for this coverage.

Medicare Part D is the new prescription drug coverage that goes into effect on January 1. The plans are provided by private health plans or insurance companies. A premium is required and you have to enroll in a plan to be covered.

Crowe collector knife
Red Hill Cutlery in the Basham Lumber Company of Radcliff will be selling a J.D. Crowe collector’s knife early this fall. The J.D. Crowe knife will have two blades, with J.D. Crowe’s signature laser etched on the main blade. Images of J.D. Crowe will be laser cut into both sides of the knife on the handle. Only 100 of the knives will be made, and they will be available exclusively through either the Red Hill Cutlery store, or its Web site at

Danville’s history fest
The 27th annual Constitution Square Festival takes place in downtown Danville on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, September 16-18. This celebration of Kentucky’s origins takes place on the site of the drafting and signing of Kentucky’s Constitution in 1792. The festival features strolling musicians, pioneer living-history encampments and craft demonstrations, as well as 85 fine arts and crafts booths. There is no admission charge. For more information, call (859) 239-7089 or visit the Web site

Guest Opinion
Kentucky’s Noblest Roman

by Ron Sheets

In December of 1980, the predecessor of Kentucky Living, the Rural Kentuckian, carried a feature article entitled, “The Noblest Roman.” The term came from a colleague’s accolade given to the long career in the United States Senate of Kentucky’s senior senator at the time—John Sherman Cooper. The late Dr. Thomas Clark, who died this summer at the age of 101, could be titled the Noblest Roman of Kentucky History. He could also be called the Noblest Roman of Kentucky.

My earliest “defining moment” of our state’s Historian Laureate came during an interview prior to his receiving the highest recognition afforded by Kentucky’s electric cooperatives—the Distinguished Rural Kentuckian Award in 1983.

He described going back to his parents’ farm in rural Mississippi just following their receiving rural electrification. Every light on the farm was burning as Dr. Clark arrived home from the University of Kentucky. He suggested to his dad that it would save him money if he turned the lights off that weren’t being used. In Dr. Clark’s own words, “My father’s retort to me was, ‘Leave them on, Tom. I’ve lived all my life in darkness and tonight we’re going to live with light.’ ”

Later, Dr. Clark confirmed rural electrification as one of the three most significant events of the 20th century relative to improving of the quality of life, along with advancement in education and road construction.

Dr. Clark expanded that interview to talk about what rural electrification had done for women. He emphasized that rural electrification freed women from being tied to the home. It enabled them to get a better education, to take outside employment, and be freed from the lifelong drudgery of using the scrub board all day on Mondays and lifting a 7-pound stove-heated iron all day on Tuesdays. Rural electrification brought physical and economic emancipation to rural women.

I will remember his poetic flow of speaking, his dignity, and the immeasurable depth of genuine respect paid him in both the halls of greatness and the shadows of meekness. I admired his sense of spirit. He remarried in his mid-90s, calling it “one of the wisest decisions I ever made,” following his lifelong union with his first wife, who had passed away a year and a half earlier.

Kentucky’s electric cooperatives had no greater friend than Dr. Thomas Clark. And we have no fonder memory than that of the Noblest Roman.

Ron Sheets is president of the Kentucky Association of Electric Cooperatives.

Spooks and celebs of The Seelbach
Throughout his 25-year career at The Seelbach Hilton in downtown Louisville, historian Larry Johnson has entertained guests with stories about ghosts, gangsters, even U.S. presidents. Now he has documented the hotel’s 100-year history in a book called The Seelbach: A Centennial Salute to Louisville’s Grand Hotel.

The 96-page hardback is divided into short stories involving names you might recognize. There is the story about how F. Scott Fitzgerald included the hotel in The Great Gatsby. Readers will also find stories about Billy Joel’s impromptu concert in the Old Seelbach Bar, as well as eerie ghost stories.

Published by Butler Books of Louisville, it will be available in the hotel’s gift shop as well as bookstores. It sells for $14.95.

For more information about the book, as well as hotel tours, contact Larry Johnson at the hotel, (800) 333-3399, or visit the Web sites of either the hotel at or the publisher at

Geriatric care info
The National Association of Professional Geriatric Care Managers has released Questions and Answers When Looking for a Geriatric Care Manager, a brochure to assist older adults, people with special needs, and their families searching for professional assistance. The brochure explains what a geriatric care manager does, provides questions to ask when searching for a professional geriatric care manager, and discusses what to expect regarding fees and service agreements. To get the free brochure, go to the GCM Web site at and click on About Your Care Manager. That Web site also includes a searchable directory to help locate professional geriatric care managers in your area: go to the Find a Care Manager section. For more info, you can also phone (520) 881-8008.

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