Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Medicare Hospice Benefit

Monday, February 1st, 2016

Medicare Hospice Benefit

Hospice and other end of life issues are not things we often want to talk about. However, being prepared and knowing all your options is a good idea.

We should start by describing hospice. Hospice is a program of care and support for people who are terminally ill. The focus is usually on providing comfort instead of treatment. It is a choice a patient needs to make with their doctor and family. Hospice programs also offer assistance and services to family members during the process of caring for the patient.

If you have Medicare it will cover hospice services. The Medicare hospice benefit covers your care and you shouldn’t have to go outside of hospice to get care (except in very rare situations).

Once you choose hospice care, your hospice benefit should cover everything you need. All Medicare-covered services you get while in hospice care are covered under Original Medicare, even if you were previously in a Medicare Advantage Plan (like an HMO or PPO) or other Medicare health plan.

Medicare Part A (Hospital Insurance) covers Hospice care if you meet these conditions:

Your hospice doctor and your regular doctor certify that you’re terminally ill (with a life expectancy of 6 months or less).

You accept palliative care (for comfort) instead of care to cure your illness.

You sign a statement choosing hospice care instead of other Medicare-covered treatments for your terminal illness and related conditions.

Palliative care means that the medical team will focus on relieving the patient’s pain and any other symptoms, including mental stress. Only your hospice doctor and your regular doctor can certify that you’re terminally ill and have 6 months or less to live.

To start the process you meet with your doctor to discuss all options. Medicare covers a one-time only hospice consultation with a hospice medical director or doctor to discuss your care options and management of your pain and symptoms. This one-time consultation is available to you, even if you decide not to get hospice care.

Medicare will cover the hospice care you get for your terminal illness and related conditions, but the care you get must be from a Medicare-approved hospice program.

Hospice care is can be given in your home. Although depending on your needs and wishes, there are also inpatient programs available. That is one of the things you will discuss with the hospice program (and your loved ones). Together you will create a plan of care that can include any or all of these services:

Doctor services

Nursing care

Medical equipment (like wheelchairs or walkers)

Medical supplies (like bandages and catheters)

Prescription drugs

Hospice aide and homemaker services

Physical and occupational therapy

Speech-language pathology services

Social worker services

Dietary counseling

Grief and loss counseling for you and your family

Short-term inpatient care (for pain and symptom management)

Short-term respite care

Any other Medicare-covered services needed to manage your terminal illness and related conditions, as recommended by your hospice team

You can find out more information at medicare.gov or by calling them at 1-800-Medicare. Hospice specific information and resources are available at https://www.medicare.gov/coverage/hospice-and-respite-care.html

You can also talk to your physician about your options and care available in your area.

This information is meant to inform you of coverage available to you should you need it. Don’t be afraid to talk openly with your family about end of life decisions.

 

Medicare Coverage

Tuesday, January 12th, 2016

Medicare coverage

What does Medicare cover? It’s a common, but also complex question. Medicare has 2 basic parts, Part A, which is known as hospital insurance (we’ll define that in a minute) and Part B, which covers services, such as lab tests, doctor visits, etc. Part A and Part B together are known as Original Medicare.

Medicare recipients also have the choice to enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan (also known as Part C) which is delivered by an HMO. This coverage differs from Original Medicare not only in the delivery of benefits but also what is covered. There are many different plan options under Medicare Advantage and you can learn more at medicare.gov

When it comes to Original Medicare, coverage works like this:

Medicare Part A (Hospital Insurance) covers inpatient hospital stays, care in a skilled nursing facility, hospice care, and some home health care. To sum it up, Part A covers:

  • Hospital care
  • Skilled nursing facility care or Nursing home care (as long as custodial care isn’t the only care you need)*
  • Hospice (provided by a Medicare approved program, either at home or an inpatient setting)**
  • Home health services

**Keep a look out for a blog post on Medicare Coverage of Hospice Services coming soon.

*This is where some of the complexity of Medicare comes in. When a patient is sent to a nursing home/rehab facility for rehabilitation, Medicare covers your stay on a short term basis. Medicare does not pay for “long term care” or “custodial care”. If needed, Medicare will cover your rehab stay for 20 days at 100%, on day 21 (should you still need to be there) you will be responsible for a 20% copay. The maximum amount of rehab time Medicare will pay for is 100 days, so from day 21 to day 100 you would pay 20% of the cost. If you or a loved one are in a situation where you have to be in a rehab facility for more than 20 days, you should definitely be thinking about your options and what your plan for long term care is. At that point you should have already had a meeting with the discharge planner if not an interdisciplinary team at the facility.

Medicare Part B (Medical Insurance) covers certain doctors’ services, outpatient care, medical supplies, and preventive services. Part B covers 2 types of services:

  • Medically necessary services: Services or supplies that are needed to diagnose or treat your medical condition and that meet accepted standards of medical practice.
  • Preventive services: Health care to prevent illness (like the flu) or detect it at an early stage, when treatment is most likely to work best.

Preventive services include screenings such as, mammograms, colonoscopies, bone mass measurements, and other cancer screenings, if your doctor thinks you are at risk. You also get a Welcome to Medicare visit within your first 12 months of enrollment, during this visit you can talk to your doctor about screenings and review your medical history. In addition to the Welcome to Medicare visit, you are entitled to an Annual Wellness visit. You pay nothing for most preventive services if you get the services from a health care provider who accepts assignment.

Part B covers things like:

  • Ambulance services
  • Durable medical equipment (DME)
  • Mental health
    • Inpatient
    • Outpatient
    • Partial hospitalization
  • Getting a second opinion before surgery
  • Limited outpatient prescription drugs

The fourth part of Medicare is Part D, which is prescription drug coverage. With Original Medicare prescriptions are not paid for, therefore you should obtain a separate Medicare Part D plan.

To learn more about all the parts of Medicare and to explore your options, such as, Original Medicare (Part A & B), Medicare Advantage (Part C) and Prescription Drug Coverage (Part D) visit https://www.medicare.gov/ or call 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227).

You can also contact your local SHIP (State Health Insurance Assistance Program) through you County- find their contact information at: http://www.state.nj.us/humanservices/doas/home/sashipsite.html or call the SHIP Information Center at 1-800-792-8820.

 

medicare

Fun Apps to Explore in 2016

Friday, December 11th, 2015

Fun Apps to Explore in 2016

You’ve probably seen articles listing useful apps or the best apps for seniors. You’ve probably even seen such a list in Renaissance Magazine. But what about apps that are just for fun? For those that don’t know, apps or applications are programs available on your smart phone or tablet that aim to make life easier by giving you directions or recipes, as well as making life more fun by offering games and other amusements. Here are some apps that we recently heard about that are just for fun!

ScatAbility (available on itunes) Are you a jazz fan? Have you always wanted to learn how to scat like the best? Well with the ScatAbility app, it’s easy. There are singing exercises, call & response and etudes with great jazz singers. Then practice your own with the backing tracks, and when ready, record yourself and listen back! There are: vocal demos by professional jazz singers, user-friendly. No knowledge of jazz theory (chords, scales, progressions) required, ability to record yourself singing with the backing track, hear it, and export your recording. Learn more at http://www.michmusic.com/product/sample-scatability-app-product/

Yummly (available on itunes, google play and windows store) If you saw the headline and thought “apps” was short for appetizers instead of applications and so now you are hungry, fear not. Yummly is a recipe discovery app that combines beautiful pictures with recipes from around the web. You can filter recipes by the ingredients you have on hand, create different recipe boxes, and build shopping lists for the week based on the recipes you choose. Learn more at http://www.yummly.com/

Figure (available on itunes and windows store) Not into scat or singing, but want to make a cool beat? Try out the Figure app. Technically you don’t really need to be able to read music or play an instrument, but it will help if you at least had a sense of rhythm and a feel for melody and harmony. Figure has three grids, for lack of a better word: one for bass, one for drums, and one for melody. As you touch the different grids, the app generates beats and bass lines and various synth melodies. Drag your finger around on the grids to alter the tones and add various effects. It seems most suited for playing techno or dance music. https://www.propellerheads.se/figure

Colorfy (available on itunes, amazon and google play) Are you interesting in the coloring trend, but don’t want to accumulate all the coloring books and colored pencils? Then the Colorfy app may be for you. It’s coloring therapy on your phone or tablet. This free app is the secret against anxiety. Choose your favorite color and give your special touch to lots of beautiful drawings. Let the colors fill your mind in a relaxing painting experience. In this app you can color beautiful florals, animals, mandalas, and more. You can choose your favorite color combinations, it’s easy to use, simply tap to paint and pinch to zoom. You can even share your creations with all your friends. http://colorfy.net/

We hope you explore these fun apps and have blast! We’ll keep searching for more entertaining things and share more with you soon!app photo

In the Fight Against Cancer: Is Collaboration Really a Conflict of Interest?

Tuesday, December 1st, 2015

Guest blog from NJFA Board Member: Dr. Rick Martinez

In the Fight Against Cancer: Is Collaboration Really a Conflict of Interest? 

Rick A Martinez. M.D.

These days, the collaboration between academic inventors and the pharmaceutical industry (where I used to work) is the reason for my hope.

Richard Nixon was President of the United States when the U.S. government declared its ‘war’ on cancer and now we are reading more about targeted therapies, good news for the 4500 Americans diagnosed everyday with cancer.

Last year I became one of them.

After my befuddlement, fear and tears passed, I wanted action and the right action requires experts.
I found my experts last September when I spent 17 hours on an operating room table for a procedure that removed a malignant tumor from my hip.

Our nation’s resolve to beat the disease was strengthened by the 1971 National Cancer Act which directed money to academic centers that encouraged graduate students to pursue research careers in medicine, biochemistry, molecular biology and genetics.

While cures remain elusive I personally encountered the fruits of this scientific progress a few months after my surgery when the tumor re-occurred and there wasn’t much else my doctors had to offer me, except one–a meeting of the minds called a ‘tumor board’.

The tumor board is a regular convening of the hospital’s cancer specialists and other experts in pathology, surgery and oncology. In my case they recommended that my surgeon perform genetic testing on my tumor.

Today, genetic testing of tumors is becoming increasingly routine.  I just understood that I have a disease that had no clear treatment; no “standard” therapy existed because the so- called evidence base to guide my physicians is shockingly meager.

As a former NIH (National Institute of Health) physician-researcher I have been an advocate of clinical trials for my entire career.

And during much of my research career I remember countless editorials and books written by critics of pharmaceutical companies and the academic inventors who worked with industry.  I joined the industry as a researcher and grew concerned that a focus on conflicts of interest had trumped a rational dialogue about the rights of contract between academic inventors and industry—the meetings of the mind are crucial to progress.

Here is what I believe: an exchange of ideas between industry and academia is the reason why I am able to participate in this clinical trial with a molecule that may be saving my life.

That tumor board and others like it throughout the USA are part of the legacy of the National Cancer Act and today the nation is the beneficiary of a coherent legal, regulatory and ethical environment that over the past four decades fostered the careers of countless graduate students and academic-industry collaborations that resulted in the birth of America’s biotechnology industry.  The ‘transfer’ of academic ideas into testing and development works well.

As a result, today the US is a global laboratory of innovation.

And should anyone reading this get a disease that has no standard treatment, you will want the advice of an expert— a clinician with work experience inside of academia and a participant in federal and industry-sponsored clinical research.

I am thankful for my doctors who recruited me to participate in the genetic testing and clinical trial.

I am thankful for the scientists at the pharmaceutical company who discovered the molecule that created my hope.

Today, the modern medical miracle happening with little fanfare is that cancer chemotherapies are slowly being replaced by so called genetic therapies with more ‘targeted’ effects.

I am thankful for today’s generation of experts working today in cancer research and the collaborations fostered by the National Cancer Act, Bayh-Dole Act and others.  The coherent legacy of this legislative history is the reason why hope is real for me and no longer stuck in a test tube on a laboratory shelf. Some call this a conflict of interest. I call it progress.

 

MEDICARE OPEN ENROLLMENT: WHAT ARE YOUR CHOICES?

Friday, November 13th, 2015

MEDICARE OPEN ENROLLMENT: WHAT ARE YOUR CHOICES?

By Charles Clarkson, Esq.
Project Director, Senior Medicare Patrol of New Jersey

Every year Medicare beneficiaries have a choice. Between October 15 and December 7, a period known as “Open Enrollment,” Medicare beneficiaries can switch their current Medicare coverage.

Why make a change? If you are in Original Medicare (Medicare Part A and/or B), and have a prescription drug plan, Medicare Part D, or if you are in a Medicare Advantage Plan, Medicare Part C, your plan can change how much it costs and what it covers. Even if they remain the same, your health or finances may have changed. The Senior Medicare Patrol of New Jersey encourages all beneficiaries to re-visit their coverage and decide whether or not to make any changes during Open Enrollment. The choices beneficiaries have are as follows:

1. If you are enrolled in Original Medicare, you can join a Medicare Advantage plan with or without drug coverage. These plans are private companies approved by Medicare and give you the services of Original Medicare. If you join a Medicare Advantage plan, you do not need (and are not permitted) to have a Medicare supplement insurance plan (also known as a Medigap policy) and if your Medicare Advantage plan has drug coverage, you will not need a Part D plan.

2. If you are in a Medicare Advantage Plan, you can switch to another Medicare Advantage plan or drop your Medicare Advantage Plan. If you decide to drop a plan and not switch to another plan, you will be enrolled in Original Medicare. You should then consider enrolling in a Medicare supplement insurance plan to cover the costs that Original Medicare does not pay for and enroll in a Part D plan for drug coverage.

3. If you are in Original Medicare with a Part D plan, you can stay in Original Medicare and switch your Part D plan.

4. If you are in Original Medicare and do not have a Part D plan, you can enroll in a Part D plan. If you join a Part D plan because you did not do so when you were first eligible for Part D and you did not have other coverage that was, on average, at least as good as standard Medicare drug coverage (known as creditable coverage), your premium cost will be penalized 1% for every month that you did not enroll. You will have to pay this penalty for as long as you have a drug plan. The penalty is based on the national average of monthly premiums multiplied by the number of months you are without coverage and this amount can increase every year. If you qualify for extra help (low income subsidy), you don’t be charged a penalty.

Why change Part D plans? Beneficiaries may want to change Part D prescription drug plans (PDPs) for a number of reasons: (i) the PDP has notified the beneficiary that it plans to drop one or more of their drugs from their formulary (list of available medications); (ii) the beneficiary is reaching the coverage gap (donut hole) sooner than anticipated and may want to purchase a PDP with coverage through the coverage gap, if one is available; (iii) the PDP has notified the beneficiary that it will no longer participate in the Medicare Part D program; (iv) the PDP will increase its premium or co-pays higher than the beneficiary wants to pay and a less expensive plan may be available and (v) a beneficiary is not happy with the PDP’s quality of service or the plan has received low rankings for a number of years. For 2016 beneficiaries in New Jersey they can expect to choose from a number of PDPs. A list of plans can be found online at the State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP) website:
http://www.state.nj.us/humanservices/doas/services/ship/.

More information can also be found in the 2016 Medicare & You booklet https://www.medicare.gov/Pubs/pdf/10050.pdf

Compare plans each year. Beneficiaries should remember that PDPs will change every year and it is recommended that beneficiaries compare plans to insure that they are in the plan that best suits their needs. When comparing plans, keep in mind to look at the “estimated annual drug costs,” i.e. what it will cost you out of pocket for the entire year, from January 1 through December 31 of each year. Plans can be compared at the Medicare web site: www.medicare.gov. If you do not have access to a computer, call Medicare at 1-800-Medicare to assist in researching and enrolling in a new plan. Medicare can enroll a beneficiary over the telephone. When you call, make sure you have a list of all your medications, including dosages. Another resource for beneficiaries on Medicare eligibility and enrollment is the State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP) at 1-800-792-8820. SHIP counselors provide one-on-one counseling, free of charge. You can also call the Senior Medicare Patrol of New Jersey at 732-777-1940. In addition, remember that using generic drugs whenever possible will save you money and usually you can save even more money if you buy your medication by mail if your plan has a mail order option. Some plans will deliver tier 1 generic medications free of charge.

 

medicare

 

NJFA Founding Trustee Given National Recognition

Thursday, October 1st, 2015

NJFA Founding Trustee Given National Recognition

Trenton— The New Jersey Foundation for Aging (NJFA) is pleased to announce that founding trustee, Carl West was recently recognized by the National Association of States United for Aging and Disabilities (NASUAD). In honor of the 50th Anniversary of the Older American’s Act, NASUAD honored more than 50 advocates who are dedicated to Aging and Disability Services. Carl West, who is a Founding Trustee and first Board Chair of NJFA, is also the former Executive Director of the Mercer County Office on Aging.

The honorees that were selected are featured in a publication from NASUAD titled, Celebrating 50 Years with 50+ Fabulous Older People, which is available online at http://www.nasuad.org/. Carl was recognized for his advocacy both in New Jersey and nationally. At the time of his retirement, Carl was the longest serving area agency on aging director in the country. In addition to being a founding member of NJFA, Carl has also been involved with and founding member of numerous other organizations. Locally, Carl was an integral part of the NJ Association of Area Agencies on Aging, serving as founding director, legislative chair and president. Nationally, Carl has been a long-standing board member of the National Caucus and Center on Black Aged, where he served as the Chairman of their National Board.

Even in his retirement, Carl continues to be involved, following important proceedings, such as the recent White House Conference on Aging. NJFA joins, NASUAD in saluting Carl for his dedication to the aging network, older adults and caregivers.

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Prescription Drug Disposal Day- Don’t Crush or Flush!

Wednesday, September 2nd, 2015

Prescription Drug Disposal Day- Don’t Crush or Flush!

When you open your medicine cabinet, are you confronted by outdated prescriptions that you are no longer taken but haven’t gotten rid of either? Do you wonder how you can safely dispose of them?

Perhaps you have painkiller from a previous injury or surgery. Maybe your doctor changed a routine medication and you don’t know what to do with the old one. Well, there is help.

Saturday, September 26, 2015 is National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day. Programs will be hosted across the country, including here in NJ. Local authorities will partner with the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to bring the programs to local communities.

At these events residents will be able to bring unused and expired medications for proper disposal. This will ensure responsible disposal of the medication and also serves to educate the community about potential abuse of medications. If you have unused medications lying around children or young adults could get into them or if you just put them in your regular garbage, they could fall into the wrong hands. Also, flushing them in a sink or toilet will result in contamination of the water supply.

To find out about an event in your area visit this website– https://www.deadiversion.usdoj.gov/NTBI

Local law enforcement agencies will run the local event so you can also call the non-emergency number for your local law enforcement agency to inquire about the location and time of any events in your community.

 

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Social Security Facts

Thursday, August 20th, 2015

Social Security Facts

Recently, NJFA Deputy Director, Melissa Chalker sat down with two representatives from the Social Security Administration for a taping of our half hour TV program Aging Insights.

Given all of the extensive information they shared, we thought it was time to do a blog about Social Security benefits and what you need to know. Be sure to tune into the show in September, in the meantime, here are some facts.

Social Security is a family insurance program. It is meant to be additional income for those who are retired, disabled, widowed, etc. Eligibility for retirement benefits is based on your work history (the # of credits you earned while working and paying into the Social Security system) and your age. Depending on the year you were born, your retirement age could be anywhere between 65 and 67 years of age. You can receive your benefits starting at age 62, however it will be a reduced benefit because you are choosing to receive it early. Reduction amounts are calculated based on when your official retirement age should be.

All of this information and more is available at sss.gov or by calling 1-800-772-1213. You can start a my social security account online, look up information about Social Security and/or Medicare benefits and even apply for benefits online. A my social security account is available for anyone over 18 who is working, it helps you to track your Social Security record, estimate your benefit and much more. Social Security’s website is safe and secure, be sure to sign up for your account and create your own user name and password to protect your identity.

Many people don’t know that Social Security benefits are also for family members of a retired person. If a retired individual has minor children, disabled children and/or a spouse caring for a minor child, those family members may also be eligible for a monthly benefit. More information about those benefits are available by contacting Social Security or creating a my social security account to see what benefits you and your family could receive.

Information about benefits for spouses, survivors, disabled individuals and more is available at ssa.gov or by calling 1-800-772-1213 (Mon- Fri).

 

NJ seniors and providers have their say!

Friday, August 7th, 2015

NJ seniors and providers have their say!

The NJ Foundation for Aging (NJFA) seldom works alone. A recent example of this joint learning and teamwork resulted in the three regional forums in NJ to address the themes of the 2015 White House Conference on Aging. NJFA was joined by the NJ County Offices of Disability, NJ Association of Area Agencies on Aging, NJ Association of Senior Center Directors, Association of Jewish Family Service Agencies, NJ State Association of Jewish Federations and AARP. This steering committee coordinated three regional forums to gather consumer and provider input on this year’s themes. The four themes of the 2015 WHCoA are

  • Retirement and Economic Security: Protecting Social Security, Work & Employment, Public Benefits
  • Healthy Aging: Age-Friendly Communities, Preventive Care & Chronic Disease Management, Housing
  • Long-Term Services & Supports: Caregiver Supports, Workforce Capacity, Managed Long-Term Services & Supports
  • Elder Justice: Fraud Protections, Scams, Family Exploitation and Neglect.

More than 218 people registered to join the conversation throughout May and June. Providers, caregivers and seniors alike affiliated with our partners on the steering committee were well positioned to generate recommendations to these important topics.

Advocates’ and stakeholders’ experiences inspired the final recommendations. These included the need for more affordable housing, preservation of Social Security Benefits and the need to promote education on other savings tools, the importance of community transportation to reduce isolation and the key role of more towns age-friendly communities for all. Participants discussed the impact of elder abuse and exploitation which can occur in community settings as well as in facilities.

Recommendations stressed the need to better educate the public as well as first responders to recognize signs of abuse and let them know where to report these crimes.

The first White House Conference on Aging (WHCoA) was held in 1961, with subsequent conferences in 1971, 1981, 1995, and 2005. These conferences have been viewed as catalysts for development of national aging policy over the past 50 years. The conferences generated ideas and momentum prompting the establishment of and/or key improvements in many of the programs that represent America’s commitment to older adults and caregivers.

To see the full set of NJ’s recommendations go to www.njfoundationforaging.org/policy-reports

The WHCoA has a website where policy briefings, comments and archive sessions may be viewed. To learn more go to www.whitehouseconferenceonaging.gov

The New Jersey Foundation for Aging (NJFA) is a public charity with the primary goal to empower elders to live in the community with independence and dignity.
 

Elder Index Data Sheets Available

Wednesday, June 24th, 2015

Since 2008 the New Jersey Foundation for Aging (NJFA) has been working on the NJ Elder Index. With the first official release in 2009 the Elder Index tells us what it cost a person over 65 to live in NJ. And not just statewide average, but a cost of living index for all 21 counties. The Index incorporates the costs for housing, food, transportation and healthcare.

Subsequent reports in 2012 and 2014 have been done and include not only the cost of living index, but also a demographic study to give us a profile of which seniors are living below the index in all 21 counties.

This has given us an understanding of the plight of seniors in NJ. For instance we know that 30% of NJ’s elders rely solely on Social Security for their income and that 43% of seniors in a one or two person household live below the index. We also now know that from 2009 to 2014 a single elder renter’s cost rose 13.5%, meaning her cost of living went from $25,941 to $29,436- an almost $4,000 increase! Yet, that renter likely did not see a rise in income.

The NJ Elder Index is a valuable tool for helping seniors. Service providers and policy makers can use the data to plan for serving NJ’s seniors, older adults, boomers and their families can use it to plan for retirement. It also helps community agencies and government to measure how public supports are helping seniors. To that end, NJFA would like you to know that Fact Sheets are available on our website for all 21 counties. This includes the cost of living data and the demographic study.

You can find this information at http://www.njfoundationforaging.org/policy-reports/