September 23, 2014

Choosing a Medicare plan that’s right for you

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By Dave Reville

Medicare can help protect you or your loved one’s health, financial security and future. This year’s Medicare open enrollment season runs from Oct. 15 – Dec. 7. If you’re 65 or over, you can review your Medicare options and change plans if you’d like. In fact, each year you have a chance to review your coverage and see what new benefits Medicare has to offer.

If you’re satisfied that your current plan will meet your needs for the next year, you don’t need to make any changes. But it’s worth it to look at your options. Your health may change over time, and you may want to find a plan that works better for you. And if you are caring for someone who needs or has Medicare, you can also help that person navigate Medicare during open enrollment.

I encourage you to take some time to get to know how your Medicare works. Visit the AARP Medicare Question and Answer tool at www.aarp.gov/MedicareQA to find answers to common questions. When you are confident Medicare has you covered, you can focus on turning your life goals into real possibilities. 

What to Consider When Selecting a Medicare Plan

You can compare Medicare coverage options on the Medicare Plan Finder at www.Medicare.gov. Click on “Find Health & Drug Plans.” When looking at your options, consider the four Cs: coverage; cost; convenience and customer service.

Coverage

Make sure that the doctors you see and the medications you take will still be part of your plan in the coming year. If upcoming plan changes affect your coverage, then it’s important to review other Medicare coverage options.

Cost

Like most other insurance, Medicare does not pay for all your health care costs. You are responsible for paying for expenses such as deductibles, coinsurance and co-payments. If two or more plans seem to offer about the same coverage, consider choosing the plan with the lowest overall cost.

Remember, don’t just look at the premium (monthly payment). Also consider the deductible (how much you pay out-of-pocket before insurance kicks in), and coinsurance and copayments (how much you pay out-of-pocket for each service like visiting a doctor or filling a prescription). Make sure to compare all of these features so you can find a plan that works for you and your wallet.

Convenience

Compare plans to see which doctors and hospitals are included in the coverage, as well as what local pharmacies participate. If you prefer mail-order pharmacies, check out which plans offer this option.

Customer Service

The Medicare plan finder tool on www.Medicare.gov provides a quality rating for each plan. The rating covers several aspects of each plan, including customer service, member complaints, drug pricing, managing chronic conditions and more.

All plans now cover certain preventive services at no cost to you, thanks to the Affordable Care Act. These include screenings like mammograms and colonoscopies and annual wellness visits with your doctor.

Dave Reville is the associate state director of communications with AARP Vermont.

Generic drugs offer seniors big savings

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Dear Savvy Senior,

Are brand-name medications better than generic, and if not, why is there such a price difference? Also, how can I find out which medicines are available in generic form.

— Leery Senior

Dear Leery,

No. Brand-name medications are not better, safer or more effective than their generic alternative because they’re virtually the same.

To gain approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), generic drugs are required to have the same active ingredient, strength, dosage form and route of administration as their brand-name counterpart. The generic manufacturer must also demonstrate that people absorb the drug at the same rate.

The only difference between a brand-name drug and its generic is the name (generics are usually called by their chemical name), shape and color of the drug (U.S. trademark laws don’t allow generics to look exactly like the their brand-name counterparts) and price. Generic drugs are often 10 to 30 percent cheaper when they first become available, but by the end of the first year the price can drop in half. And by the second and third year it can drop 70 to 90 percent.

Cost Difference

The reason generic drugs are so much cheaper is because their manufacturers don’t have the hefty start-up costs that the original creators of the drug do. When a pharmaceutical company creates a new drug, it spends millions of dollars on the research, development and clinical testing phase. Then, if it gets FDA approval, it has to turn around and spend even more money to market the drug to the health care industry and the public.

The total cost can rise into the hundreds of millions by the time the drug is in the hands of consumers.

In an effort to recoup their investment, the brand-name drug makers charge a premium price, and are given a 20-year patent protection, which means that no other company can make or sell the drug during that period of time.

After those 20 years are up, however, other companies can apply to the FDA to sell generic versions. But because generic manufacturers don’t have the same research, development and marketing costs, they can sell their product much cheaper.

Also, once generic drugs are approved, there’s greater competition, which drives the price down. Today, nearly 8 in 10 prescriptions filled in the United States are for generic, which saves U.S. consumers around $3 billion every week.

New Generics 

You should also know that in 2014 and 2015, patents on a wide variety of popular brand-name drugs will expire and become available in generic, including Celebrex, Copaxone, Actonel, Nexium, Exforge, Cymbalta, Lunesta, Avodart, Abilify, Evista, Maxalt, Maxalt MPT, Micardis, Micardis HCT, Reneagel, Twynata and Xeloda.

For a more information, Community Catalyst, a national, nonprofit consumer advocacy organization provides a list on its website of the top 50 brand-name drugs and the dates they should become available as generics. Go to communitycatalyst.org, and type “Drugs Going Generic 2014 – 2015” in their search bar to find it.

You can also find out if a brand-name drug has a generic alternative by simply asking your doctor or pharmacist. Or, visit GoodRX.com, a Web tool that provides prices on brand-name drugs and their generic alternatives (if available) at virtually every pharmacy in the U.S. so you can find the best deals in your area.

Jim Miller is a contributor to the NBC Today show and author of “The Savvy Senior” book.

Everyday Gourmet: Mint magic

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By Kim Dannies

Mint may herald spring, but it also deserves a starring role in autumn cooking. It is the most abundant, beautiful herb in the garden right now, yet we forget to incorporate its magic into our cold weather cooking. Here are a few mint-friendly dishes to try before the cold snap arrives.

Greek Mint Yogurt Sauce

This is my fall version of tzatziki (ta-zee-ki); use it as a dressing, dip or sauce. I love it smeared on lamb kabob gyros.

Triple line a colander with paper towel and add 16-ounces of Fage full-fat Greek yogurt. Let the yogurt strain for 1-2 hours. Gently envelop the yogurt pulp with paper towel and squeeze remaining liquid. Add yogurt to a prep bowl.

Shred two cucumbers (with skin and seeds) onto a flat plate. Wrap the pulp in two layers of paper towel and squeeze out excess moisture. Add cuke pulp along with 4 minced garlic cloves, the zest of one lemon, 2 teaspoons olive oil, 2 teaspoons lemon juice and 2 cups gently torn mint leaves to the yogurt. Season to taste with sea salt and fresh pepper; makes 2 cups.

New Potato Mint Salad

The new potatoes are finally in and mint is their natural partner. This crowd pleaser will quickly become a classic in your kitchen.

Gently scrub 5 pounds of baby red potatoes. If the potatoes are not bite-sized, then cut them in half (leave the skins on.) Fill a large saucepan with cold water; add the potatoes to the water; boil until tender, 15 minutes.

Fry 8 strips of bacon until cooked, but not crispy; drain; cut cooked bacon into pieces using kitchen scissors. Strain the cooked potatoes and add to a prep bowl. Liberally sprinkle potatoes with sea salt and fresh pepper. Fold in 8 ounces of creme fraîche (or sour cream), bacon and 2 cups of frozen peas (that have been thawed). Add 1-2 cups of gently torn fresh mint leaves. Fold mixture lightly. Taste and adjust for seasoning; serve immediately. Serves 6-8.

Kim Dannies is a graduate of La Varenne Cooking School in France.  She lives in Williston with her husband, Jeff; they have three twenty-something daughters who come and go. For archived Everyday Gourmet columns go to kimdannies.com.

Theater groups announce fall productions

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Lost Nation Theater performers act out a train chase scene from their upcoming production on 'The 39 Steps'.

Lost Nation Theater performers act out a train chase scene from their upcoming production on ‘The 39 Steps’.

Observer staff report

Local theater groups have announced their fall performances, ranging from thrillers to musical comedies.

‘KISS ME KATE’

Stowe Theatre Guild presents “Kiss Me, Kate,” opening on Thursday, Sept. 25, at 8 p.m. at Town Hall Theatre on the second floor of the Akeley Soldiers Memorial Building in Stowe.

“Kiss Me, Kate” features music and lyrics by Cole Porter. The story involves Fred and Lilli, a divorced pair of actors who are brought together to perform a musical version of “The Taming of the Shrew.” Of course, the couple acts a great deal like the characters they play. A secondary romance concerns Lois Lane, the actress playing Bianca, and her gambler boyfriend, Bill, who runs afoul of some gangsters. A fight on the opening night threatens the production, and when the gangsters appear with the mistaken idea that Fred owes their boss money, there is no telling what might happen. This show is filled with cool jazz, fantastic production numbers and clever banter.

Performances are Thursday to Sunday, Sept. 25 to 28, Oct. 2 to 5 and Oct. 9 to 12. Thursday to Saturday shows are at 8 p.m. and Sunday performances are at 2 p.m. Tickets $20 adults, $10 children.
For more information, visit www.stowetheatre.com or call 253-3961 and leave a message.

‘THE 39 STEPS’ AND ‘COMEDY OF ERRORS’

 Lost Nation Theater presents two comedies this fall—“The 39 Steps” and “Comedy of Errors” in rotating rep, showcasing the talents of its actors, directors, designers and staff. Based on Alfred Hitchcock’s thriller, “The 39 Steps” begins Sept. 18.

Set in 1935 London, a man bored with life meets a mysterious woman with a thick accent who claims she’s a spy fighting to keep the UK safe. Soon, an even more mysterious organization (“The 39 Steps”) is hot on the man’s trail in a sweeping manhunt that climaxes in a death-defying finale.

Shakespeare’s “Comedy of Errors” begins Sept. 25. Two sets of twins (one set the servants to the other), separated while babies, are reunited after some 20-plus years. For the following three weekends (Oct. 2 – 19), the shows alternate performances.

The shows run in rotating repetition Sept. 18–Oct. 19. Curtain is 7 p.m. Thursdays, 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 2 p.m. Saturdays and 7 p.m. Sundays except Oct. 19, when it is at 2 p.m.

Tickets are $25-$30 with discounts for students and seniors. For tickets and information, call 229-0492, or visit lostnationtheater.org

‘THE MUSIC MAN’

The Lamoille County Players present musical comedy “The Music Man” Sept. 25-27 and Oct. 2-4 at 7 p.m.; Sept. 28 and Oct. 5 at 2 p.m. at the Hyde Park Opera House.

An affectionate paean to Smalltown, U.S.A. of a bygone era, Meredith Willson’s “The Music Man” follows fast-talking traveling salesman Harold Hill. “Professor” Hill cons the people of River City into buying instruments and uniforms for a boys’ band he vows to organize—despite the fact he doesn’t know a trombone from a treble clef. His plans to skip town with the cash are foiled when he falls for Marian the librarian.

Tickets are $18 for adults and $12 for students and seniors. For more information, visit www.LCPlayers.com or call 888-4507.

Police Notes

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Drug possession

James McCausland, 26, of Fayston was cited on a charge of possession of cocaine and heroin on Aug. 20, He was cited to appear in court.

Theft

Theft Eric John Bushway, 46, of Milton was cited on a charge of retail theft from Walmart on Aug. 21, according to police reports. He was cited to appear in court.

Victoria Thompson, 21, of Burlington and Jennifer MacDonald,29, of Burlington were cited on charges of retail theft and petit larceny (respectively) from Dick’s Sporting Goods on Aug. 27, according to police reports. No other information was released.

Ryan Sears, 21, of Hinesburg was cited on a charge of petit larceny after allegedly stealing an iPhone from a vehicle parked at Hannaford on Aug. 30, according to police reports.

Multiple charges

Nicholas A. Cota, 30, of South Burlington was cited on a charge of violating an abuse prevention order and three counts of violation of conditions of release on Aug. 21, according to police reports. He was lodged at Chittenden County Correctional Facility on $1,500 bail. No other information was released.

Fraud

Lin Kewang, 36, of Brooklyn, N.Y. and Shao Qing Chen, 25, of Brooklyn, N.Y. were arrested on Aug. 21 and lodged at Chittenden County Correctional Facility “on a federal retainer” after allegedly making seven fraudulent credit card purchases in Williston totaling $3,500, according to police reports. No other information was released.

Driving with suspended license

Heather L. Raymond, 28, of Swanton was cited on a charge of driving with a suspended license on Aug. 23, according to police reports. She was cited to appear in court.

Eric W. Begnoche, 30, of Swanton was cited on a charge of driving with a suspended license-criminal on Sept. 2, according to police reports. He was cited to appear in court On Sept. 29.

Illegal burning

Police responding to reports of a “heavy odor of burning plastic” near Essex Road and Industrial Avenue issued a ticket for burning solid waste on Aug. 25, according to police reports. Williston firefighters put out the fire, the report notes. No other information was released.

Driving under the influence

Conor Kiely, 20, of Burlington was cited on a charge of driving under the influence on Aug. 27, according to police reports. His blood alcohol concentration was .181, the report notes. The legal limit for driving in Vermont is .08. He was cited to appear in court.

Police notes are written based on information provided by the Williston Police Department and the Vermont State Police. Please note that all parties are considered innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.

Mini Metro tryouts coming up

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Observer staff report

Tryouts begin next week for the Mini Metro League.

Mini Metro is a competitive basketball league with teams from area high school districts. The Mini Metro season runs from early November through mid-February, with one or two practices during the week and games on Sundays. Boys and girls teams are fielded for a fifth and sixth grade division and a seventh and eighth grade division. The Champlain Valley Union High School teams are made up of players from Charlotte, Hinesburg, St. George, Shelburne and Williston. Tryouts for seventh and eighth grade boys are scheduled for Sunday, Sept. 21 from 3 to 5 p.m. and Tuesday, Sept. 23 from 7 to 9 p.m.

Tryouts for seventh and eighth grade girls are set for Monday, Sept. 22 and Wednesday, Sept. 24 from 7 to 9 p.m.

Tryouts for fifth and sixth grade boys are scheduled for Sunday, Sept. 28   from 3 to 5 p.m. and  Tuesday, Sept. 30 from 7 to 9 p.m.

Tryouts for fifth and sixth grade girls are set for Monday, Sept. 29 and Wednesday, Oct. 1 from 7 to 9 p.m.

Tryouts will be held at the CVU gym.

For more information, visit https://sites.google.com/site/cvuminimetro/

CVU harriers in BFA event Saturday

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By Mal Boright
Observer correspondent

Coach Scott Bliss and his Champlain Valley Union High cross country teams will be laying down feet on Vermont ground Saturday after getting a dash of regional competition last Friday in the Empire State.

Coming up for the Redhawks Saturday afternoon (1 p.m.) will be a Bellows Free Academy of St. Albans hosted event at Hard’ack.

Last weekend it was a run against top competition in the Springstead Invitational at Colonie Town Park just north of Albany, N.Y.

“Things went pretty well considering (we were) facing a top 10 girls team in the USA and four of the top teams in New York,” Bliss told the Observer by e-mail.

CVU’s boys team finished fourth among 10 competing teams, while the girls were fifth among 11.

The top Redhawk finisher was the boys’ Tyler Marshall, a sophomore, who came in the sixth. Another CVU sophomore, Calvin McClellan was 18th, followed by Elliott Eastman (20th), Tyler Wong (25th), Justin McAuliffe (32nd) and Burke Spillane (37th).

Sophomore Sophia Gorman led the CVU girls with a ninth place finish as the winning team, Saratoga Springs High, gobbled up seven of the top 10 finishing slots.

CVU’s Carly Neeld was 21st and Meara Heininger 27th. Next came Emma Putre (32nd), Abby Keim (37th), Evelyn Needham (38th) and Jennifer Ireland (40th).

“It was a great experience for us,” Bliss said.

CVU girls take 5-0 soccer mark into Spirit Day clash

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By Mal Boright

Observer correspondent

With a 2014 five-game win streak in tow, the Champlain Union High defending Division 1 champion girls soccer team awaits the Spirit Day invasion of Spaulding High Saturday for a noontime collision on the Hinesburg pitch.

The Crimson Tide from Barre popped Rutland High 3-1 Tuesday, while coach Stan Williams’ Redhawks were dispatching last year’s title game foe Essex High 3-0 at CVU.

The Red and White controlled play throughout, owning a 17-3 advantage in shots on goal.

“Yeah, it is better,” said Williams, who has been hoping for better offensive cohesion in the early season games. He said he made some position adjustments at halftime and the second half showed improvement with solid scoring opportunities.

The final 40 minutes included goals by CVU’s Sierra Morton and Paige DuBrul after Audrey Allegretta (from Morton) slammed home the lone first half tally.

The pointer by DuBrul, midway through the second half, took Essex back to last November. It was the then junior midfielder who scored the lone goal in the CVU championship victory that put the final touch on an 18-0 season and third straight crown.

CVU netminder Maddie Turneau made three stops in compiling her fourth blank job in five starts.

The Hornets are 3-2.

Last Wednesday, the Redhawks rolled up a 5-1 home victory over South Burlington High (1-5). The scoring was spread five ways with Allegretta, Morton, Catherine Cazayoux, Naomi Burhans and Lindsay Kimball the goal getters.

Spaulding is Spirit Day foe for boys soccer team

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The Champlain Valley Union High boys soccer team took a three-game win streak into their Wednesday contest against 0-3 Harwood Union High at Duxbury, where the Highlanders have been difficult in the past.

Coach Katie Mack’s Redhawks combine returns to the hills of Hinesburg Saturday morning for its second home contest of the campaign, a 10 a.m. Spirit Day session against Spaulding High of Barre.

Last Friday, CVU rolled into Middlebury Union High’s complex and rolled out with a 4-0 blanking of the Tigers, on whom they fired 18 shots.

Max Brown cut loose with a pair of goals and a helper. Josh Prue and Richard Baccei also scored for the Redhawks, who have won three games following a season-opening 2-1 loss to a veteran Rice Memorial High team.

—Mal Boright, Observer correspondent

CVU field hockey team out to resume winning ways

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CVU's Lydia Maitland controls the ball during Friday's game against Essex. (Observer photo by Al Frey)

CVU’s Lydia Maitland controls the ball during Friday’s game against Essex. (Observer photo by Al Frey)

By Mal Boright

Observer correspondent

With a 1-0 blanking by previously winless Mount Mansfield Union Tuesday in Hinesburg, the Champlain Valley Union High field hockey team travels to Mount Abraham in Bristol Thursday (4 p.m.), hoping to end a two-game scoreless string.

Coach Kate McDonald’s 2-1-1 Redhawks return home Saturday to meet South Burlington High at 10 a.m., part of the annual Spirit Day games.

CVU’s last score came Sept. 10 in a 1-0 evening victory at Burlington High. The scoring drought began last Friday, as Essex came to the Hawks’ nest for a zip-zip deadlock.

But Tuesday’s affair was a session of missed opportunities for CVU, which buzzed frequently around the Cougars’ cage but could not get a stick on the ball at the right time.

MMU goalie Julia Preston had six stops, five of those in the first half. In the second half, the Redhawks continued to storm the Mount Mansfield net but while the ball was around the goal mouth on several occasions, the MMU defenders were able to nullify potential shots.

The game’s lone goal came midway through the first half, when an MMU shot bounced high in the air over CVU goalie Tashia Pashby-Rockwood and off the crossbar to the stick of an alert Margaret Thompson who quickly fired the ball into the goal, a shot on which Pashby-Rockwood had no chance.

Lily Schmoker, Kate Burke and Sami Harvey were among Redhawks who had good scoring opportunities thwarted by MMU and bounces.

CVU co-captain Katherine Scotnicki paced a defense that had an edge in territorial play.

Paige Manning, coach of the 1-2-1 Cougars, said her team has been working on finishing off on the offensive end.

All it took was one play for the win.