Medicare drug plans are widely used by older adults. There are many different plans available to people. They can usually find a plan that works best for them and their situation. What a lot of people may not know about is that most of these plans have a coverage gap (also called the “donut hole”).
When a patient reaches this coverage gap, they are often charged a higher co-pay for their brand name drugs. These plans start over each new year. A lot of patients reach this coverage gap towards the end of the year. The drug plans only allow a certain amount of money spent on drugs each year. For 2021, it will be about $4,100 that the patient and their plan will be able to spend before reaching the coverage gap. Medications like insulin and inhalers are often expensive. This can lead to reaching the coverage gap sooner than expected.
If a patient does reach the coverage gap, their co-pay will be no more than 25 percent of the cost of the medication. Some medications may cost $500 a month. Some may cost even more. This can leave the patient with a very high co-pay. Patients are often confused about why their medication has increased so much from last month. The coverage gap is usually the cause. A patient can spend enough to get out of the coverage gap. Often, they must wait until the new year for their prices to return back to normal.
Patients can work to avoid or limit the time to reach the coverage gap. They need to be aware of how much their medications actually cost. Patients might just look at the co-pay and not realize the actual price. Patients can work with their doctors to try and find different medications that may be cheaper. They can find out if they qualify for extra help in affording their medications. Patients can also work with their pharmacist to find out other cost saving opportunities. They can also find coverage plans that work best for them.
Extended Release Meds Vs. Regular (Immediate Release). What’s the difference?
Many medications come in different forms. It is not always clear which medications are regular and which have special release forms. The regular or “Immediate Release” are more common. After a pill is swallowed and makes its way through the digestive tract. It works by releasing the full contents of the med right away when activated in the digestive tract. They will act more quickly and reach their “peak” quicker. Think of it like a roller coaster with a steep incline to the top but also a steep decline back down as it is removed by the body. The downside is that the medication may not last long enough to last all day. This is why we have to take some medications 2 or even 3 times a day. How long a medication can last in the body depends on what medication it is. Certain medications can last longer in the body than others.
There are also medications that will say, “Extended Release” or “ER” for short. Some will say “Delayed Release” or “DR”. These medications work differently than regular or “immediate release” medications. They do not release all of their contents right away like the regular medications. The tablet or capsule is specially designed. It will release the contents more slowly over time. Think of a more gradual slope for the roller coaster. It takes longer to reach its “peak” but it will last longer since it is not releasing all the medication right away. There are special parts that go into making these medications work this way. It is important not to change the pill by crushing it or cutting it in half. This can cause the med to not work the way it was meant to. Your pharmacist will be able to tell you if any of your medications have these special release forms.
The holidays are coming quickly and this means spending time with family and friends whether in person or on-line. One of the hardest things about the holidays is making sure you are eating healthy to keep a healthy weight. This is a hard time for everyone to manage what we are eating. With a few tips on how to eat healthier options and making a plan in advance can help keep the calories down and the holiday weight off.
Holiday gatherings usually mean a whole host of comfort foods and delicious treats await. It is important to make a plan and stick to a few simple steps to help get through the holidays. It is important to look over the options available and only choose the foods you love. Do not just load up on everything on down the buffet line. Be sure to take your time and use those calories wisely. When deciding to go back for a second helping, first take 10 minutes to let your food settle and give your stomach enough time to let your brain know just how full you are feeling.
Do not ignore the fruit and veggie platters. They can make for an excellent snack before meals and as great side dish options. It is also important to not starve yourself in preparation for the main meal. This will help to prevent over eating on items that might not be as good for you. If you do finish your meal early and you might be tempted to get more food. Instead, try socializing and spread some holiday cheer! The more active you are; the less time you will spend eating. Keeping your mind busy will also take your mind off food. You can also stay physically active by taking walks with family members if the weather permits. Be prepared and plan to fit in some time for some exercise activity. Even a short walk can have a positive impact in helping you keep your goals.
Watch the drinks and desserts! Alcoholic drinks have very little nutritional value and offer little but empty calories. They can also change your judgment and cause you to eat more than you might have planned. Desserts are also very high in calories and do not have much else for nutrition. Try a smaller portion of your favorite dessert instead. Make sure to slow down and savor each bite. With these tips and tricks, you can make it through the holidays and come New Year’s, we won’t have the guilt and fear of the scale.
Safe medication storage
People often take multiple medications. It can be easy to lose track of all the pill bottles you have in your home. People often struggle in handling these medications and keeping track of them all. It is important to manage your meds and always be aware of any meds that are expired or ones you are no longer taking. Follow these steps for better medication handling.
- Go through your meds. Make sure you have enough of what you need
- Check to see if any of them are expired. There may also be some meds you are no longer taking. Set those aside for proper disposal.
- Make sure you store them in a dry and safe place in your home. Store them in a safe location like a cabinet or drawer.
- Do not store in places that can be easily reached by children or pets. Avoid areas that can be damp like the kitchen or on a bathroom counter.
Safe Medication Disposal
If you do find meds that are expired or you are no longer taking. Dispose of them quickly and safely. The best way is to look for any medication take-back programs in your area. Many programs have specific dates for medication drop-offs.
The United States Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) provides many of these programs. They have also set up permanent disposal sites in hospitals and pharmacies. More details about drug disposal can be found here: https://takebackday.dea.gov/
The next best thing is to dispose of the meds in your household trash. First, check the bottle for any special disposal instructions and follow those directions. If there are no special instructions, then follow these steps.
- Take the pills out of the bottle and mix with something like cat litter, used coffee grounds, or even dirt.
- Mix the substance with the pills and place in a container like a sealed plastic bag.
- Throw the sealed container away with the regular trash.
- Remove any personal information from the bottle and place in recycling or trash.
There may be medications you don’t use anymore. There also may be medications that are expired. You can throw these away. It must be safe though. Follow these tips to throw away your medications.
Drug Take Back Programs
Drug Take Back Programs take your old medications. These medications can be expired. These medications can also be unused. It does not matter. Organizations like the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) run these programs. They make sure everything is done right. There are some local organizations that do this too. One example is the Missouri Prescription Pill and Drug Disposal program. St. Louis County has one of the largest take back programs in the country. This program is called PDP2. The PDP2 program has many medication drop-off sites. Some sites are at different police stations in the area. Some are also at pharmacies in the area. Call these sites first before you go. Not all sites take back medications. These drop-off sites are available 24/7.
Throwing Away Medications at Home
You can flush old medications down the toilet. This should only be an option if there are no take back programs in your area. Always check the medication information. Some medications cannot be flushed. Some medications can be dangerous to the environment. This is why some of them cannot be flushed. You can tell which medications are safe to flush at https://www.fda.gov/drugs/safe-disposal-medicines/disposal-unused-medicines-what-you-should-know.
You can also throw medications away in the trash. Only do this if they cannot be flushed. It still must be done safely though. Follow these steps to throw away medications in the garbage:
- Mix medications with something gross (coffee grounds, cat litter, or dirt)
- Put the mixture in a container that can be sealed
- Throw the whole container into the trash
- Black out any personal information on the original prescription bottle