This Could Change Life For A Lot of People

CMS signs off on Ky. plan for Medicaid work requirements

The CMS said Friday it has approved Kentucky's request to require Medicaid beneficiaries to work, get employment training or perform community service, making Kentucky the first state in the US to be allowed to reshape eligibility around employment requirements. The state will require most able-bodied Medicaid recipients ages 19 to 64 years to participate in at least 80 hours of "employment activities," per month, and it will also require premiums from those whose incomes qualify and lock those who do not pay out of the program for six months

A very good article about choosing the right Medigap Plan

Medicare is confusing.  It is complex.  It is also very important to make the best decisions after getting fully informed about your rights, options and entitlements.  I am a AHIP trained and certified Medicare planner and can help you put all of the pieces of the Medicare puzzle together.  This is a very good article.,amp.html

Trump's drug price 'remedy' expected to be industry friendly

Candidate Donald Trump made rising drug costs a signature issue during his campaign and beefed up his criticisms after the election, saying in January that the drug industry was "getting away with murder."

The comments unnerved drug executives, but six months later, the industry is no longer in a state of panic.

The administration is not proposing, as Trump did on the campaign trail, that the government negotiate drug prices or allow the importation of cheaper drugs from abroad. At a meeting Friday, top Trump administration officials reportedly made little progress on even on more modest goals that are said to be an executive order on drug prices, which the White House is pushing to release.

The meeting which was led by OMB Director Mick Mulvaney and included top leadership of U.S. health agencies, trade officials and senior Trump advisors like Gary Cohn and Reed Cordish, ended with little agreement.

A White House spokesperson said only that the meeting is "part of the ongoing discussions to reduce the burden of the high cost of drug prescriptions and unleash a wave of innovation to develop cures and treatments for patients."

The bickering among top officials comes amid already low expectations that the White House is willing to take steps that might anger the powerful pharmaceutical lobby.

With Trump still pushing for a quick populist win, some anticipate the administration could take a smaller step next week, such as announcing the FDA will speed generic drug approvals — a move that would spur competition among these cheaper copycats of branded medicines. FDA-centric policies are the one area where there has been more consensus, sources close to the process said.

The administration is not discussing taking “broad action to curb drug pricing," analyst Terry Haines who follows Washington politics for investment bank EverCore ISI said Friday.

“If anything, the limited scope of the discussions should be good news for the pharmaceutical and bio industries and investors because nothing like sweeping action to curb drug prices is under discussion and the industry probably will not view the subjects of the Trump discussions … negatively. “

There are even some signs the administration proposals under discussion may help -- rather than harm the drug industry.

"Our industry sources indicate that pharma expects it has successfully shifted the dialogue from the high price of innovation to transparency and other parts of the supply chain,” Wells Fargo analyst David Maris wrote in a note to investors Thursday evening. “As such, several drug company executives have expressed the belief that Trump's drug price approach will not include drug re-importation and Medicare negotiation of drug prices."

The industry's growing confidence comes in part from the presence of key allies in the White House: Joe Grogan, OMB's director of health programs, is working on the executive order, according to multiple sources inside and outside of the government. Grogan spent the last five years as the head of federal affairs for Gilead Sciences — the drug company that helped ignite the drug pricing debate in 2013, when it set the price of a new hepatitis C treatment at more than $80,000.

Grogan does not have a White House ethics waiver, meaning that under a policy implemented in January, he is supposed to recuse himself from issues he lobbied on in recent years.

He's not the only administration official who doesn't see eye-to-eye with Trump on drug pricing.

HHS Secretary Tom Price was part of the congressional effort to kill the Obama administration's last-ditch attempt to tackle drug pricing last year through a Medicare pilot that would have paid doctors less for some high cost drugs — such as some cancer treatments — administered in physician’s offices.

The White House may decide to do a "check-the-box" type of exercise, said several sources close to the discussion, for instance, issuing an order that calls for FDA, Medicare and Medicaid and other federal programs to work on drug pricing measures. That would demonstrate Trump's commitment to the issue while more nuanced policies are crafted.

If the order goes into more specifics, most expect it will include a directive for the government to allow agreements between insurers and manufacturers that tie payment for a drug to how well it works.

It's an idea long promoted by the drug industry itself.

Other ideas floated in an OMB list drafted earlier this spring and seen by POLITICO include policies that read like gifts to the drug industry.

One would allow the drug industry to sell products at lower prices to the U.S. territories without having to offer these discounts to Medicaid programs in all 50 states, which is the current requirement.

Others would curtail the Obama administration’s expansion of programs requiring drug companies to provide steep discounts to hospitals and clinics that serve a disproportionate share of low income patients. One suggests pulling a rule that would force certain drugs to be priced at only a penny to such clinics, for example.

Also on the list of ideas are a proposal that would give companies more flexibility to amend drug patents, which could make it harder – not easier -- for cheaper generics to be sold.

The pharma trade policies the administration is looking at are also expected to be relatively industry-friendly, including taking steps to reward U.S. manufacturing or making a stronger effort to go after countries that violate intellectual property protections on drug pricing.

Even if the Trump team wanted to mount an all-out assault on drug makers, there are limits to what they could accomplish without congressional support. That's particularly true when it comes to Medicare and Medicaid — and there few signs Republicans in Congress want to take any major action against the industry.

But Democrats say that Trump has not only failed to deliver on a key campaign vow, he has caved to industry.

"Another broken Trump promise seems to be in the making, with Medicare negotiation abandoned in favor of Big Pharma's wish list," Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas), who co-chairs the Democrats’ Prescription Drug Task Force, told POLITICO. "In January, two weeks after declaring that drug makers were 'getting away with murder,' Trump was cozying up to pharmaceutical executives at the White House."

Trump administration preparing executive order on drug pricing

The Trump administration is preparing an executive order aimed at lowering drug prices, according to sources familiar with the process.

President Trump is set to meet on Friday with key officials including Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price and White House budget director Mick Mulvaney to discuss the order, which is expected to be issued in the coming weeks, possibly before the July 4 congressional recess, the sources said.

While there had been some concern that the changes would have a negative impact on the pharmaceutical industry, the policies under consideration are not considered to be drastic. The order being crafted could be an interim step towards more comprehensive reforms later. 

Executive orders can’t change or make laws, but they can be used to direct agencies to pursue certain regulatory actions. 


One such policy under discussion could be to direct federal agencies to pursue value-based purchasing contracts for drugs. Value-based contracts require manufacturers and insurers to work together on payment for a drug based on how it performs.

Another policy that is under discussion would instruct agencies to pursue trade policies that would strengthen the intellectual property rights of pharmaceutical companies.

Such industry-friendly policies would be a dramatic departure from what President Trump promised on the campaign trail. During the 2016 campaign, Trump railed against the pharmaceutical industry and its prices, saying they are “getting away with murder.”

Trump also broke with his party in calling for Medicare to negotiate drug prices, as well as for the importation of drugs into the U.S. from abroad. Drug importation was rejected by both the Bush and Obama administrations.

Mulvaney caused a stir in health policy circles recently when he said on a panel at Stanford University that the administration was considering proposing that drug companies give discounts through rebates in Medicare the same way they do in Medicaid.

However, Trump would need action from the Republican-led Congress if he wanted to act on rebates, drug importation or Medicare price negotiations.

Price, though, was resistant to government action on drug prices as a lawmaker and could lead the process down a more traditionally Republican path of more restrained action, some observers think.


How to Keep Health Care Costs Under Control In Retirement

If you’ve been covered by a generous employer group health plan,
you may be in for a rude awakening when you retire. Here are some
tricks for keeping health care costs under control after you retire.

Although the government may subsidize some of your
health care costs under the Medicare program, you will
still be responsible for certain out-of-pocket costs. You
will want to do everything in your power to prepare for
these costs, as well as avoid unnecessary costs like late
enrollment penalties, overpriced private plans, and
superfluous trips to the doctor.

Avoiding late enrollment penalties.

Did you know that there’s a penalty for not enrolling
in Medicare on time? That’s because the only way
the system can work is if everyone — the sick and the
healthy, the young and the old — participate in the
program. If you fail to enroll in Medicare when you
are supposed to, you will be charged a penalty equal
to 10% of the Part B premium for every 12 months
you delayed signing up for Medicare. The penalty is
permanent and must be paid for the rest of your life.
To avoid it, find out when you need to enroll in Medicare
and be sure to sign up during your enrollment period.
If you are retired and covered by a retiree plan, or if you
are working and covered by a plan that covers fewer
than 20 employees, you must enroll in Medicare Part B
no later than the third month after your 65th birthday.
If you (or your spouse) are still working and covered by
a group plan that covers 20 or more employees, you
must enroll in Medicare no later than the 7th month
after your group coverage ends.
Practically speaking, you’ll want to avoid gaps in
coverage by enrolling in Medicare before your employer
coverage ends. But to avoid penalties, make sure you
sign up no later than the end of your enrollment period.

Shop carefully for private insurance.

Medicare does not cover everything. In order to avoid
coverage gaps for prescription drugs and the portion
of medical services that Medicare doesn’t pay for, you
will need to have private insurance. Whether you buy
a comprehensive Medigap policy plus a standalone
prescription drug plan, or enroll in a Medicare
Advantage plan, you will need to shop carefully to get
the best plan for your needs.
Comparing monthly premiums is just a starting point.
You will also need to pay attention to deductibles,

How to Keep Health Care Costs Under Control in Retirement
J David D. Burt, LUTCF
Financial Advisor
David Burt Financial Solutions
1408 5th Ave SE
Suite 4
Decatur, AL 35601
License #: 4621852Reprint Licensee: J David D. Burt

Drug Crisis is Worsening

Drug crisis is pushing up death rates for almost all groups of Americans

By Joel Achenbach and Dan Keating June 9

The opioid epidemic that has ravaged life expectancy among economically stressed white Americans is taking a rising toll among blacks, Hispanics and Native Americans, driving up the overall rate of death among Americans in the prime of their lives.

Since the beginning of this decade, death rates have risen among people between the ages of 25 and 44 in virtually every racial and ethnic group and almost all states, according to a Washington Post analysis. The death rate among African Americans is up 4 percent, Hispanics 7 percent, whites 12 percent and Native Americans 18 percent. The rate for Asian Americans also has increased, but at a level that is not statistically significant.

After a century of decreases, the overall death rate for Americans in these prime years rose 8 percent between 2010 and 2015.

The jump in death rates has been driven in large measure by drug overdoses and alcohol abuse, according to The Post’s analysis of mortality data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“What it reflects is an out-of-control epidemic right now,” said Josh Sharfstein, director of the Bloomberg American Health Initiative at Johns Hopkins. “It’s affecting the economy. It’s affecting the entire community. This is an absolute call to action for public health.”

Ashish Jha, a health policy professor at the Harvard School of Public Health, added, “These are people who are in the most productive years of their lives — the years where they’re supposed to be raising kids and becoming leaders of the next generation.”

The Post confirmed the contours of the rise in death rates with CDC officials. The rate is adjusted for the nation’s changing age profile, and every five-year age group (for example, 35 to 39, or 40 to 44) showed an increase in mortality.

Preliminary data from the first half of 2016 suggests that the trend is continuing, said Robert Anderson, chief of mortality statistics for the CDC.

“I think we’re in for another steep increase in the drug overdose deaths overall,” Anderson said.

The rash of deaths is a statistical echo of the 1980s and early 1990s, when the combination of the crack cocaine and HIV epidemics took a heavy toll on young Americans.

Many factors are likely contributing to the current spike, but opioids stand out. The widespread abuse of prescription drugs has become a national crisis, with addicts overdosing on prescription opioids, their illegal cousin heroin, and, increasingly, synthetic drugs such as fentanyl and carfentanil, which are far more powerful and deadly.

Alcohol-related deaths also have increased among whites, blacks and Hispanics, the data show. Meanwhile, homicide, the leading cause of death among young blacks, also has risen since the beginning of this decade.

The new mortality spike is occurring in almost every state. The breadth of the nation’s deteriorating health has not been widely appreciated. Academic researchers and the news media in recent years have focused on the most intensely affected regions, such as Appalachia and rural New England, and on premature deaths among white Americans, a trend that began around 1999 and continues unabated.

For more than a century, Americans lived much longer lives because of improvements in medicine, sanitation, control of contagious diseases, nutrition and individual health care. But American mortality appears to have reached an inflection point around 2010, in the immediate aftermath of the Great Recession. Generally positive mortality trends among blacks and Hispanics flattened out, then gradually worsened.

For blacks and Hispanics, the biggest increase in deaths came in 2015, data for which was released earlier this year.

The geography of the epidemic also expanded dramatically. From 1999 to 2010, only seven states showed an increase of more than 10 percent in the death rates of people ages 25 to 44: West Virginia, Kentucky, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, North Dakota, Wyoming and Montana. All have predominantly white populations and few if any big cities.

The data from 2010 to 2015 tell a different story. During that period, 33 states showed death rates rising by at least 10 deaths per 100,000 people in the 25-44 age bracket, including all of New England and the Midwest Rust Belt. The death rate in Indiana rose by 31 per 100,000. Only in Hawaii and the District of Columbia has the death rate continued to decline since 2010.

Moreover, a phenomenon most pronounced among whites in small cities and rural areas appears to be spreading to the nation’s suburbs and biggest cities. Before 2010, death rates had been declining for whites, blacks and Hispanics in metropolitan areas of at least 1 million people. Since 2010, the rates are up everywhere.

“The data is very concerning,” said Leandris Liburd, director of the CDC’s Office of Minority Health and Health Equity. “We do not want to see death rates going up for any age, or any ethnic or racial group. The rise in mortality is likely due to multiple factors, and opioids are certainly a part of the problem.”

One clear distinction remains: education level. The only 25-44 group whose death rate is not climbing is people with four-year college degrees.

“People with four-year degrees overall are doing fine in this economy, and everybody else overall is doing pretty poorly,” said Joan C. Williams, a University of California law professor, author and scholar on work and class. “This whole large segment of society is seeing their grip on the American Dream slipping away.”

Deaths from drug overdoses among whites are still more than double the rate for blacks, and are rising rapidly. But the data suggest that this is a contagion that will not recognize boundaries of race or ethnicity.

In Cuyahoga County, which encompasses Cleveland, coroner Thomas Gilson testified in the Senate last month that he has seen deaths double in one year among African Americans from fentanyl, a deadly synthetic opioid, often taken in combination with cocaine.

“With seemingly purposeful intent, cocaine is now being mixed with fentanyl and its analogues in an effort to introduce these drugs into the African American population,” Gilson testified.

“Fentanyl is playing a major driving force in increasing overdose deaths,” said Michael Botticelli, director of the Grayken Center for Addiction Medicine at Boston Medical Center and the former head, under President Barack Obama, of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy. “Fentanyl is much more powerful than heroin or morphine. Often drug users don’t know it’s in their supply. It’s increasingly fast acting. We know that the window of our opportunity to respond and resuscitate people is dramatically shortened.”

Botticelli said dealers make a risk calculation when selling fentanyl or fentanyl-laced drugs: Addicts want the strongest drugs available, even if they are potentially fatal. He said a dealer arrested in Massachusetts had sent a text message to a colleague: “We don’t want to kill them, we just want to bring them to that point.”

The country is beginning to recognize the scale of the crisis, said Sharfstein, and turning to the question of how to fix it. But, he said, a criminal, judgmental or moral approach will block effective solutions.

“A really important barrier is to set aside ideology and say, ‘This is killing our children. What can we do to make a real difference?’,” he said. “In many parts of the country, there is not access to treatment that is effective for people, and in fact there is opposition to treatment that is effective for people. They say people should be put in jail.”

A report in March, the 2017 County Health Rankings, produced by the University of Wisconsin and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, also highlighted a rise between 2014 and 2015 in premature deaths among people ages 15 to 44 and the broad geographic and demographic spread of those deaths.

In modern times, increases in mortality have been rare. One of the most dramatic occurred during and after the disintegration of the Soviet Union, when the economy went into free-fall and anti-alcohol campaigns were abandoned. Life expectancy for men dropped precipitously.

National attention to rising death rates in the United States flared following a November 2015 study by Princeton economists Anne Case and Angus Deaton, who noted that whites in their midlife years (45 to 54) have been dying at surprisingly high rates since the end of the 20th century. Case and Deaton earlier this year said the “deaths of despair” from drug overdoses, alcohol abuse and suicide appear to be associated with the deteriorating labor market since the 1970s among people without a college degree.

Deaton, a Nobel laureate, said the bigger picture for the United States is “catastrophic.” Death rates are supposed to go down, not up, he said. “A society where this is going the wrong way, there’s something very, very seriously wrong with it.”

Baby Boomers Present Opportunity and Adversities

A Look at America's Aging Future


Over the next few decades Baby Boomers will transform aging in the United States, presenting both opportunities and adversities.

In 2017, the United States senior population, 65 and over, quickly rolled past the highest number ever, a historic milestone of 50 million. Looking at the aging in America digital counter, a linear interpolation of the 2015 U. S. Census population estimates, the count will not let up soon. Even earlier estimates by the Census Bureau dating back to 2005 show us crossing the 50 million threshold at the beginning of 2017. Regardless, the gray tsunami has arrived.

It's the baby boomer segment, along with the longer life expectancy, that creates the surge, and it affects each state in the nation for the next several decades. This increase will result in more Medicare beneficiaries and higher Medicare spending, while fewer citizens pay into the system. The significant shift will cause challenges that we must address.

The Data


  • 75 million babies were born between 1946-1964.

  • If all the seniors in the U.S. held hands; they'd wrap the world twice.

  • 36,924,413 baby boomers will turn 65 over the next decade.

  • The number of U.S seniors will climb from just over 50 million in 2017, to 83 million by 2050.


Expected Senior Population Growth in Cities


  • Austin, TX - ↑ 8%

  • Seattle, WA - ↑ 8%

  • Charlotte, NC - ↑ 7%

  • San Jose, CA - ↑ 7%

  • Houston, TX - ↑ 5%


What the Experts Predict

The sheer number of aging baby boomers will transform our economy and our services. To get a better understanding, I asked the Aging Council at, "What industries will be affected most by the large segment, and explain how?"


"The wellness industry has a need for gyms specifically designed for boomer and seniors. And the food industry faces a big issue, food insecurity. Getting seniors to eat correctly will be both a challenge and an opportunity."

-Anthony Cirillo, CEO,


"Health care, home care, attendant care, assisted living, skilled nursing facilities, incontinence products. Finding qualified people to provide direct service to aging seniors is going to be a problem due to low wages and poor working conditions. It is also hugely expensive to get the care one might need, which could compromise the savings that seniors have squirreled away."

-Donna Schempp, Eldercare Advocate


"Most people know the critical impact that the population will have on healthcare and the housing industry. We do not have enough affordable and accessible homes in the major cities, and developers and builders are not paying attention to the trends."

-Nikki Buckelew, Founder, and CEO, Senior Real Estate Institute


"The industries affected most include skilled nursing facilities, hospitals, rehabilitation, memory care, etc., the pharmaceutical industry, and the medical device industry, especially assistive medical devices."

-Betsie Sassen, Advisor, Capitol Consulting, LLC


"The suburban model of single-family homes is too much for older adults to maintain. Living in suburbia will put a great strain on them and their independence. Co-housing options is a better choice for those in need of care."

-Margo Rose, President,


"Older adults apply massive demand across all services - from mental health, practitioners and providers, drugs, therapy, etc. Consumer Packaging: Smaller, lighter and easy to open/hold containers will be important design features. And of course, transportation – better public/private transport options are needed."

-Michelle Jeong, Vice President Marketing,


"Demand for LTSS (long-term care support and services) will increase, with attendant trickle-down effects (e.g., the rise of "silver industries" like geriatric care managers, senior relocation specialists, senior concierge services, and certified aging-in-place specialists). Baby boomers demand high-quality residential care, with an emphasis on privacy, personalization, luxury and access to integrated recreation and mental health."

-Stephen D. Foreman, (CLTC), Senior Vice President, Long-Term Care Associates, Inc.


"Technology - while many seniors have embraced it, others have not. Technology needs to adapt to those who aren't that adept and who have vision and hearing loss."

-Kaye Swain, President,


"The caregiving industry will experience significant growth as more people choose to age in their homes. It includes in-home medical care professionals & non-medical caregivers that provide aid in daily tasks. Tech companies that help seniors stay independent will grow, as more seniors & family caregivers adopt tech to give peace of mind and confidence to the senior."

-David Inns, CEO, GreatCall, Inc.


"The insurance industry will change, specifically health, life and long-term care. Insurance companies must do a better job of addressing health issues and promoting healthy living. Insurance actuaries need to do a better job calculating for longer life spans and more chronic conditions."

-Admond Fong, Co-Founder,


"The obvious answer: Hospitals, rehabs, and doctors are overwhelmed. The senior housing industry will be challenged to add services. Home care agencies will need to find other services to deliver at an affordable cost over the traditional minimum hourly contracts."

-Caryn Isaacs, Patient Advocate,


"Financial advisors will see a significant number of clients selling off their stocks and bonds to pay for retirement. Apparently, the medical profession will see a shift in elder care needs. The travel industry needs an overhaul."

-Ben Mandelbaum, COO,


"Government: Social Security remains unsustainable due to sheer numbers. We’ve long outgrown it. Healthcare: We are unprepared, and yet we continue to treat and suspend entire industries on the focus of youth and longevity. We lost quality to quantity. Marketing has fed and shaped our culture, and sadly they may prevail. Housing: again we are behind the eight ball in planning and access."

-Nancy Ruffner, CEO,


"In particular, aviation. There will be a global shortage of pilots over the next 20 years. In 2009, the FAA raised the mandatory retirement age of airline pilots from 60 to 65 to help with the decrease. Low starting salaries and rising costs of licensing has contributed to the shortage. Airline profits skyrockets."

-Scot Cheben, Co-Founder,


"Aging services will be most affected by the growing number of seniors. Demand for medical care for complex cases involving multiple chronic health conditions will grow exponentially. Long-term care needs will also rise dramatically. Healthcare providers need to increase staffing and training in geriatrics. Medicare and insurance companies have to figure out how to pay for this care."

-Connie Chow, Founder,


- By Carol Marak

Carol Marak, aging advocate, syndicated columnist, and editor at She earned a Certificate in the Fundamentals of Gerontology from UC Davis, School of Gerontology. Carol ages alone and shares her experiences with followers via Next Avenue, Huffington Post, and over 40 newspapers nationwide.

Medicare 101 Lunch In Learn Workshop in Decatur AL

We will be hosting a Medicare Lunch n Learn at my office on the following dates.

May 23  11am-noon

May 31st 12pm:-1pm

June 8th 1pm-2pm

Since we will be providing a meal please go to my web site and save your spot.  The web address is   We look forward to providing you with this helpful information and helping you sort through all of your rights, options and entitlements.

Medicare 101 Lunch N Learn Workshop Decatur AL

You are invited to our Medicare 101 Lunch n Learn workshops over the next three weeks.  We will cover the basics of Medicare and your options including Medicare supplements, Megidap plans, Medicare Advantage, Parts A, B C and D.  We will be providing lunch and feel free to bring a friend.  Register on our web site to reserve your spot.  The link to reserve your spot is  The workshop is going to be in my conference room at my office located at 140 5th Ave SE Decatur, AL 35601.  We look forward to visiting with you and to helping you sort through all of the decisions that you have with your health care in retirement. 

Happy Friday

Please watch this short video on a little task that we can perform to enhance our mood and performance.  Until a week ago I had never stepped in front of a video camera.  I was terrified.  I have been reading a book called The 5 Second Rule and each day I employ newly learned techniques to my life and it is making a huge difference.  I hope it can for you as well.  When you, a friend or relative need life insurance, medicare planning, legal assistance plans in the Decatur and Huntsville and North Alabama region give me a call.  

Your Choices Control Your Calendar

Your Choices Control Your Calendar

Your choices are far more powerful than your circumstances. You may not like how complicated your life has become. But with few exceptions, no one is forcing you to keep your life complicated.

You have the power to simplify your life. In fact, God expects us to assume responsibility for our lives and to carefully choose how we spend our time.

You have just enough time to do God's will while you’re here on Earth. You’ve been given just enough time to fulfill your purpose. When you try to do more than God planned for you, it’s only natural that you will find yourself constantly out of time or stressed over your schedule.

My prayer for you is that you will find relief from stress and a new sense of satisfaction as you do only the things God created you to do.

Life is about balance.  Balancing between work and family.  Balance from managing our technology.  Balance between taking care of ourselves vs. taking care of others.  Balancing the dreaded "to do" list.  I recently employed several new principals in my life that I will share.  First. Pick three for four things on my to do list for the day and get those done and marked off of the list.  That deletion sends a message to the brain of accomplishment and the chemical it releases (dopamine) is the same as the chemical as a heroine high!  POSITIVE energy comes as a result of that action.  Another new practice of mine is 5-4-3-2-1 GO!  If I have something I need to do or a decision I need to make I address it immediately if all possible.  In five seconds the brain will give you an option of not dealing with that issue at all which results in procrastination and thus NEGATIVE energy.  Lastly, I do not view or use my phone for personal things until I have had my devotional and planning time for the day.  And I can say that my days have been easier to balance and more productive since implementing these simple changes.  Remember the title of this message.  CHOICE.  Einstein once said that the definition of insanity is doing the same things over and over and expecting a different result.  Go CHANGE a bad habit or implement a good habit today and see the results that follow.  

Medicareful Site

One of the service I offer is my site.  On this site you can get valuable information about your medicare plan options, compare rates of carriers and more.  If you are in medicare or about to enter medicare and need a medicare supplement or medicare advantage plan this is the place to begin your shopping.  Once you have compared plans visit for more valuable information. We want to be your resource for medicare planning.  

Thriving, not just surviving!

I read a book by Joel Osteen every morning while I drink my morning coffee called I DECLARE!  It is a compilation of 31 days of declarations.  I read it every day every month to help jump start POSITIVE energy and thoughts flowing in my brain.  If you get caught up in the world today you can be consumed by negative and I make a decision each and every day not to bath myself in that negative karma.  Here is the declaration for Day 25.  I encourage you to go to Amazon and get this book.  You will not regret it.  My hope is that you will have a blessed day and an even MORE blessed year ahead!


Day 25

I DECLARE! I will not just survive, I will thrive!  I will prosper despite every difficulty that may come my way.  I know every setback is a setup for a comeback.  I will not get stagnant, give up on my dreams or settle where I am.  I know one touch of God's favor can change everything.  I am ready for a year of blessings and a year of thriving.  This is my declaration.

Here is the commentary.  This book has a daily declaration and follows up with commentary which helps to explain the declaration and give examples of the thought behind the declaration.

Some people lock in to survival mentality instead of a thriving mentality.  They watch so many troubling reports they decide: "It's so bad. How will I ever make it?"

Just like you can be talked into surviving, I want you to be talked into thriving.  I realize we need to use wisdom with what God has given us.  But I don't believe we're supposed to pull back to where we're not pursuing our dreams anymore so that we don't expect increase or favor. I don't think we should just be holding on, or trying to maintain.  That is a survival mentality.

Remember this: as God took the five loaves and the two fish and multiplied it to fee thousands of people, He can multiply what you have.  He can multiply your time and help you get more done.  he can multiply your wisdom and help you make better decisions. 

God is in complete control.  When times get tough don't hunker down and think, Oh, its so bad.  If I can just hold on and make it through another year...

NO, dig your heels in and say, "I'm not just surviving, I will thrive.  I'll prosper despite this difficulty.."

A young lady told me that she had struggled in her marriage for a long time.  She had done her best to keep it together, but it just didn't work our.  She said, "Joel, well, at least I survived."  She was happy to just make it through, but I could tell the wind had been taken out of her sails.  She was a beautiful girl, but she had lost her fire.  She's lost the sparkle in her eyes.

I told her what I'm telling you: You made it through but you can't keep that survival mentality.  God has new seasons in front of you.  He has new doors He wants to open.  He wants the next part of your life to be better than the first part.

A survival mentality will keep you from God's best.  Shake if off and say, "God, You promised what was meant for my harm You would use to my advantage.  I may have been through the fire, through the famine, through the flood, but I know it's time for my favor.  It's my time to see more of Your goodness in my life.

Keep your faith out there.  I want you to start expecting God to increase your in a greater way. Start expecting this to be your best year so far! 

Health Care is always changing-recent amendments. I am sure there are many more to come this year.

HHS Cuts ACA Open Enrollment Period in Half

The Department of Health and Human Services amended a few Affordable Care Act rules in an effort to stabilize the current marketplace.

Among the major changes is a shrinking of the annual open enrollment period and more strict requirements surrounding special enrollment periods.

Open Enrollment

The annual open enrollment period for 2018 will begin earlier, opening November 1 and closing December 15, 2017. The new open enrollment cuts last year’s three-month period in half.

Special Enrollment

Individuals attempting to use a special enrollment period to enroll outside of open enrollment must submit supporting documentation to ensure only those eligible to enroll can do so.

Guaranteed Availability of Coverage

Individuals must pay back past-due premiums before enrolling into a plan with the same issuer the following year.

HHS believes the rule will improve the risk pool by “removing economic incentives individuals may have had to pay premiums only when they were in need of healthcare services, particularly toward the end of the benefit year.” It should also encourage continuous coverage through the year.

Levels of Coverage

Beginning with 2018 plans, insurers now have more actuarial flexibility to create more choices with lower premium options for consumers.

Network adequacy

The federal government will no longer review network adequacy, returning oversight to the states.

Qualified Health Plans must maintain a network that is sufficient in number and types of providers, including providers that specialize in mental health and substance abuse services. HHS will defer to state or HHS-recognized independent  accrediting entities for verification of these reviews.

The new rules will take effect June 19 of this year.



Change Requires Action

This is one of my devotionals for today that I thought was worth repeating.  I have embraced change in a BIG way lately both personally and professionally and while it has had its challenges, I am liking the NEW me.   I am emerging as a more improved, happier, stronger man and I hope this message resonates with you as well.

How to Have Lasting Change in Your Life

If you want to have lasting change in your life, you need to refocus your mind.

Specifically, you need to change your thought patterns from focusing on what you don’t want to focus on to what you do want to focus on. Because whatever you focus on is what you move toward.

Today’s verse gives us the blueprint to change our thought patterns:

• “Do not conform …”How often do we let other people shape our lives? God doesn’t want you to be like someone else; he wants you to be the person he made you to be. So don’t copy, don’t conform, don’t try to be like anybody else.

• “… any longer …”There are a lot of things you start off doing by copying others, but then they turn into a habit.

• “… the pattern of this world.”Pattern means the model of everything you’ve learned in life. If you want to change, you have to change your pattern or model of living that you learned in your life. You need to replace the old, unhealthy pattern with a new one modeled after the life of Christ.

• “Be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” “Transformed” is the same as the word we use for metamorphosis, the process a caterpillar goes through to become a butterfly. In the same way, God wants to transform you into a completely new person by renewing your mind.

How does this happen? The Bible tells us in Ephesians 4:22-24: “Put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; be made new in the attitude of your minds; and … put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (NIV).

This means you are going to have to do some putting off and you are going to have to do some putting on — and the putting off has to happen before the putting on. It’s just like trying on clothes in a department store. Before you can try on the new stuff, you have to take off the old stuff.

You’re going to have to let go of the old attitudes, the old thought patterns, the old images that you’ve been living with so you can put on the new garments God has for you.

Staying the Course and Trusting

The following story could one day be my story.  Keep serving.  Keep trusting and following God and my dreams....


By Tj Todd on April 17th, 2017

Categories: U Can Lead

Tags: dad faith Glory goals husband Journey Ladder Lead Leaders Mentor Path Progress provider relationship Road role model ServeSociety Success time uncommen wife

In an age when it sometimes seems like everyone is starting a business or making money online, we simply couldn’t. We were a one income family looking to make extra money desperately. In 1998, I wrote a book on Christian Internet Ministries and how to begin that process with your church. As I work with dozens of churches today, I see that I was a little ahead of the game as some churches are still not always on board with using the internet to spread the Gospel. 


I tried starting an eBay store, and it just got drowned out by the noise of everyone else. Back in the day, I collected comics, and I ran across one in person that was a great buy and hard to find. I purchased 4 of them at $4.00 each and went home to put them online. When I got home, I could find these listed what seemed like all day long at .99 cents.

So, I decided just to keep learning more about the web and learning skills I didn’t have before, hoping one day that it would pay off. We were out west after the Hurricane Katrina event, and my Dad said, “why don’t you just go into business for yourself?”. I said, “Dad, it’s not as simple as that. I’d need clients and income and…and…”. There seemed to be no shortage of excuses, and I had all those failed attempts in the back of my head. I couldn’t risk providing for my family for some dream I had.

When we moved back to the Southeast, I picked up a couple of freelance projects. During the transition of our move, I worked on a couple of websites, and I figured that would all go away once we got settled in Charlotte. While working on a couple of projects, I went on a couple of interviews, and they always seemed to turn into contract work rather than a 40 hour a week job. I came home one day from an interview and told my wife, “ I might as well just open my own business.” She said, “why don’t you?” I felt like Ralph Kramden from the Honeymooners as internally my brain was saying, “homina…homina…homina.” I ran out of reasons to say no to the idea of starting our own business.

April 1st, 2007, Studio490 Creative Services was established in Charlotte, NC. We offered Graphic Design, Web Design, and Marketing. I was ready for business. In my head, I’d hope the virtual doors would fly open, and clients would be waiting to come inside. They didn’t. I placed my one, and only ad on Craigslist and our first client came on board. It was a large client that served as our platform to build from. I’d like to say this happened due to all of my great skills and business prowess. However, we bathe this business in prayer daily. To this day, I always say that God is in charge of bringing clients to us, we are in charge of serving them.

I was told 98% of businesses fail within the first two years and 98% of the remaining 2% fail within five years. April 1st, 2017 we turn ten years old, and we give God all the glory and praise for it. It wasn’t the straight path that you think would be the case for a business, but it’s the one that most businesses have. The only difference was, I was on God’s path the whole time. I just didn’t always know it.

Challenge: If you are asking yourself, “how can my work tie into the glory of God,” I would say, “be open to where God wants to take you and be ready when it’s time to go.” 

PS – If you’re asking yourself what the “490” stands for, I’ll give you a hint – Matthew 18: 21-22

Tj is the CEO and founder of Studio490 Creative Services. He runs this business with his wife, Dana. You can see what God has started at

Happy Easter!

I would personally like to invite you to Celebrate Easter with us at EPIC Church.  Our service times are tonight at 6pm and Easter Sunday at 9 and 11 am.  We will also be having a service at our new EPIC Athens campus at 11am at Athens High School. We would be honored to have you join us in this Celebration!!