Tuesday, October 21, 2014

MDH establishes information line for Minnesotans with Ebola questions

As part of an ongoing effort to provide Minnesotans with information about Ebola and related precautions against the disease, the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) today established an Ebola Information Line. The number for the Ebola Information Line is 651-201-3920 or 1-800-657-3903.

“Minnesota’s best defense against Ebola is access to reliable information and resources,” said Governor Mark Dayton. “This hotline will provide Minnesotans a reliable point of contact for any questions or concerns they have about this disease.”

The line will be staffed during regular business hours, from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday. MDH has made arrangements for a translation service to help facilitate calls from those who do not speak English.

The purpose of the information line is to provide an easy, reliable source of Ebola information to Minnesota residents. Information about Ebola is available also on the Minnesota Department of Health website at http://www.health.state.mn.us/index.html.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Hunters can register deer through phone, Internet or in person

Hunters can register deer they harvest by making a telephone call, using the Internet, or bringing deer to a big-game registration station, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. Registration instructions for all methods are available at www.mndnr.gov/gameregistrationhelp.

“Our system gives hunters the ability to choose the registration option that works best for their situation. Electronic or phone registration is convenient for many hunters,” said Leslie McInenly, DNR big game program leader. A number of hunters still choose to go in person to registration stations.
However, hunters in the southeastern Minnesota deer permit areas of 348 and 349 must register deer in person during the opening weekend of firearms season because the DNR is conducting voluntary surveillance for chronic wasting disease in these areas. Phone and Internet registration will be available for these areas once enough samples have been collected.
In all areas, deer must be registered within 48 hours after the deer was taken, and before being processed and before antlers are removed. Deer can be transported out of the area where they were taken before being registered. Registration is important because it provides data on harvest that’s used for management of deer populations.
Phone registration
Register deer via phone by calling 888-706-6367. Directions are printed on the back of each deer hunting license. Have a pen ready. A confirmation number will be given; it must be written on the license and site tag.
Internet registration
Register deer via Internet at www.mndnr.gov/gameregistration. Directions will be similar to phone registration, and a confirmation number must be written on the license and site tag.   
Walk-in registration
When phone or Internet registration is not possible, hunters must take their deer to a big-game registration station. The person whose name appears on the license must be present at the registration station with their deer. They will receive a big-game possession tag that must be attached to the hind leg, ear or antler where the site tag was attached. A list of all stations organized by city and county is available at any DNR wildlife office or at www.mndnr.gov/hunting/deer.
Other species
In addition to registering a deer online, hunters can also go online to register a bear, wolf or turkey. If an animal can be registered via phone, instructions will be printed on the back of the license. More hunting information is available at www.mndnr.gov/hunting.

Board on Aging publishes guide to health care choices booklet for Medicare open enrollment

The Minnesota Board on Aging has just published its 2015 edition of Health Care Choices for Minnesotans on Medicare booklet. Now in its sixth edition, the annual guide contains comprehensive information about Medicare health care plan options in Minnesota.

Health Care Choices is a useful resource for older adults and family members making decisions during the Medicare open enrollment, which runs Oct. 15 through Dec. 7, 2014,” said Jean Wood, executive director of the Minnesota Board on Aging. “After Dec. 7, a change can only be made in a few special circumstances so it is important to use this time to make the best decision possible.  Any changes made will take effect Jan. 1, 2015.”

Health Care Choices is available online, by calling the Senior LinkAge Line®: A One Stop Shop for Minnesota Seniors at 1-800-333-2433, or by visiting www.MinnesotaHelp.info® and using the chat live feature or leaving an email after business hours.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Commerce Department Urges Minnesotans to Prepare for Medicare Open Enrollment

SAINT PAUL, MN –The Minnesota Department of Commerce urges seniors to use Medicare Open Enrollment as an opportunity to evaluate their coverage options. The Department reminds seniors that insurance policies can change, making it important to review any notices regarding changes from their insurance companies. Seniors should use open enrollment as an opportunity to reexamine their coverage and find a policy that fits their budget and health needs.

“Open Enrollment is the only time of year when everyone on Medicare can make changes to their coverage for the upcoming year,” said Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman. “I recommend that seniors carefully review their coverage options. It’s possible to save a lot of money by simply switching to a lower cost Medicare Supplement plan.”

Open Enrollment begins on October 15 and ends on December 7, 2014. New coverage will begin on January 1, 2015. To join in a new plan, seniors can either enroll through Medicare or by calling the new plan. Seniors do not need to do anything if they elect not to make any changes for the next coverage year.

To help Minnesota seniors make informed decisions regarding their Medicare options, the Commerce Department has the following tips and reminders for Medicare Open Enrollment:

MNsure, Minnesota’s Health Insurance Marketplace 

MNsure is for people who do not have health insurance already through a job or government program, like Medicare. MNsure does not change any of the benefits or coverage for seniors who are on Medicare. The enrollment periods for MNsure and Medicare do overlap, so consumers should make certain that the health coverage options are Medicare plans and not plans available through MNsure.

Be on the Lookout for Fraud and Scams 

Seniors need to know that it is illegal to sell seniors a plan through MNsure if the agent or broker knows that their client currently has a Medicare plan. Since the enrollment periods overlap, this may invite more fraudulent activity by suggesting unsuitable products to consumers and seniors need to be aware of their rights.

Seniors need to protect themselves from fraud. Education and getting good help, are the best defenses against becoming a victim - remember that your insurance agent or broker cannot imply that they are endorsed by Medicare, solicit door-to-door, contact you by phone or email (unless the consumer initiated the call), or attempt to sell non-health related products such as life insurance or annuities during educational open houses.

Selecting a Medicare Part D Plan 

Medicare Part D is supplemental coverage offered by private insurance companies that helps pay for prescription costs. Shop around to see which plan is likely to save the most money. Most Medicare Advantage plans include prescription drug coverage.

Shop around for your Medigap Policy 

Medicare Supplement Insurance policies obtained through private insurance companies (also called Medigap) offer coverage and services that are not provided by Original Medicare and premiums can vary widely from company to company - be sure to compare plans and policies. 

Questions about Medicare Open Enrollment? 

·         Visit the Medicare website at www.medicare.gov or call 800-MEDICARE (800-633-4227)
·         Call the Senior LinkAge Line® at 800-333-2433 to select or enroll in a plan

Open Enrollment for Medicare is October 15 through December 7, 2014. For information on special enrollment periods, go to the Medicare Website for Special Enrollment Periods.

The Minnesota Department of Commerce is here to help.

Seniors can visit the Commerce Department’s Medicare Toolkit for more information about Medicare Open Enrollment, insurance FAQs, and tips for spotting and preventing fraud. Consumers should call the Department’s Consumer Services Center at 651-539-1600 or toll-free at 1-800-657-3602 (in Greater Minnesota) if you have any questions or concerns about your insurance agent or if you believe you have been a victim of a scam or fraud.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Learn wilderness survival basics before going afield

A missing duck hunter near Mille Lacs Lake forced to spend the night in the woods is a good reminder that anyone spending time outdoors should know wilderness survival basics, said an official with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

A recent news release from the Crow Wing County Sheriff’s Office said that 76-year-old Glenn Huff of Garrison had become disoriented while hunting and was unsure of his whereabouts. Rather than wander aimlessly, Huff then “hunkered down with his dog for the night, and at first light started to make his way back to his vehicle.” The following morning Huff and the dog met up with sheriff’s office deputies who reported Huff in excellent condition following the incident.

“That incident is a good reminder that anyone can get lost in the woods, including hunters,” said acting Capt. John Paurus, DNR enforcement education program coordinator.
Panic is an enemy for those who get lost. They should remember the acronym S.T.O.P.
  • SIT: They should collect their thoughts and realize they are not lost; they just can’t find camp or vehicle.
  • THINK: What do they have at their disposal both physical and mental that can help them in this situation? Inventory survival kit and start to develop a plan.
  • OBSERVE: Look around, is there shelter, water, an open area where searchers could see them?
  • PLAN: Create a plan of action. Pick a spot that to build a fire for heat and signaling. In addition, can the spot provide basic shelter?
A basic survival kit can be packed into a quart zip-lock bag and should contain the following:
  • Basic shelter materials: Two 55 gallon garbage bags and 30 feet of braided mason’s line.
  • Means to start a fire: Disposable lighter, waterproof matches or matches stored in a waterproof container, or 10 feet of toilet paper or Petroleum Jelly soaked cotton balls in a waterproof container.
  • Means of signaling: Whistle, signal mirror (could be an old CD). A fire is also a signal.
  • Means of knowing direction: A compass.
  • Comfort food: Food bar, nuts or trail mix.
Anytime people head outdoors they should plan for the unexpected and be prepared to spend the night in the woods. Here are some musts before heading out.
  • Always let someone know the destination and return plan.
  • Carry a compass or GPS and know how to use it.
  • Carry a basic survival and first-aid kit.
  • Carry a cell phone.
  • Check the weather and dress for it.
These outdoor safety tips are part of the DNR hunter education firearms safety program. An online study guide for hunters and outdoor enthusiasts is on the DNR website www.dnr.state.mn.us.  Click on HunterCourse.