Posts Tagged ‘2011’

Community Gardening and Its Impact on Seniors

Wednesday, July 17th, 2013

 Community Gardening and Its Impact on Seniors

In continued celebration of NJFA’s 15th Anniversary, we’d like to share with you a guest blog from a former grantee, The Camden City Garden Club, Inc.

The Camden City Garden Club, Inc. (CCGC) operates several programs, which provide Camden residents of all ages access to fresh, locally-grown healthy food.  The CCGC’s Community Gardening Program enables 1000s of Camden families to grow their own food in community gardens, close to residents’ homes and promotes fellowship among neighbors.  The Camden City Garden Club provides plants, seeds, fertilizers, fencing, supplies and tips to its members for a small membership fee.

Through the Community Gardening Program, the CCGC works with the community to fight hunger and obesity in Camden, NJ, which is the one of the poorest, most dangerous US cities and also one of the “Top 9 Food Deserts”, according to the USDA. In 2013, the CCGC celebrates 29 Years of the Community Gardening Program, which is “perhaps the fastest growing in the US,” according to University of Pennsylvania study.  Today, CCGC has created and supports over 120 community gardens, 100 family gardens, and 12 school gardens.  The CCGC is helping more than 12% of Camden residents to eat fresh food from these gardens, producing an estimated $2.3 million in fresh produce each year, according to the report by University of Pennsylvania.

CCGC PROGRAMS ARE ASSISTING NJ SENIORS

With support from foundations like the NJ Foundation for Aging(NJFA), the CCGC has increased community gardening with seniors at Camden senior residence facilities.  CCGC and NJFA have also established a Senior Citizen Advisory Council for the Garden Club to improve services to encourage seniors to garden.  The Council has been operating successfully with 10 members, who represent various communities in the City of Camden.  Council members serve as teachers, mentors and guides to advance community gardens in Camden, addressing the particular needs of senior citizens and their families.  They provide the CCGC with advice on the needs of seniors and serve as mentors for those wishing to start-up new gardens and improve their gardening methods.

The CCGC Community Gardening Program is multi-generational and multi-ethnic.  It has a way of bringing together people of different racial, religious and ethnic backgrounds and having them work together to grow food for themselves, their families and neighbors.   The study by the University of Pennsylvania found that Camden gardens were remarkable for the amount of surplus that they produced and their generosity in sharing it with their neighbors.  These programs are especially helpful to Camden’s elderly as they often to not have access to transportation, are on a fixed income and because growing fresh foods is so important to a healthy active lifestyle.

GARDENING AT SENIOR HOUSING & GROWING FELLOWSHIP

Since its founding, senior citizens have always been a cherished part of the Garden Club.  Many of the members were older people who were interested in gardening since the time they were young children.  Garden Club senior gardeners include African Americans who grew up on farms in the South, some from Mexico, Puerto Rico and others who remember gardening with their parents and grandparents on small backyard gardens. 

Through support from the NJFA, the CCGC has been able to expand their services for seniors.  The Club supports large gardens at Northgate I and Northgate II, senior housing developments that accommodate over 50 gardeners.  There are several other community gardens throughout the City of Camden which are led by and cultivated by the CCGC’s active gardening senior.  Some outstanding gardens have been attributed to senior gardeners:  Paul Williams has an extensive garden – both have been focal points of their neighborhoods and a source of a surplus of healthy food.   The CCGC has supported the extensive community garden called the “Men’s Garden” because of the large number of senior men who garden there, as well as, their utilizing the outdoor space as a meeting place. 

INTERGENERATIONAL GARDENING & LEARNING

CCGC’s Community Gardening Program also offers opportunities for intergenerational learning.  Seniors have the opportunity to mentor the Camden teenagers who work as part of Youth Employment and Job Training Program,.  In addition, CCGC hosts AmeriCorps volunteers, young people who are part of the program CCGC hosts who come to volunteer in Camden, help seniors with some of their gardening work in return for learning from them about gardening, food and life.  Hundreds of Camden school children participate annually in the CCGC’s GrowLab Program.  Many of these children have community gardens in their neighborhoods at home, so they often teach their families and neighbors what they learned in school.  The seniors enjoy working and teaching the children what they know about gardening and preparing healthy meals also! 

SUPPLEMENTATION DELIVERED

To help supplement the food grown in the community gardens, the CCGC also operates a successful mini farm stand at the Camden Children’s Garden, which sells produce to seniors to supplement what they are able to grow themselves, with items like seasonal apples, blueberries, peaches and corn.  The Fresh Mobile Market will sell quality fresh vegetables and fruit at low prices.  Some of the produce will be grown at the CCGC’s Urban Farm on 3rd and Beckett Streets in Camden, NJ.  CCGC Board member and supporter, Duffield’s Farm in Sewell, NJ, will also supply produce.  In addition, the newly launched Fresh Mobile Market Program will bring fresh foods even closer to the homes of elderly residents, with a special focus on senior housing.  This program was launched May 2013 at a senior living facility Mickle Towers, along with the Fresh Mobile Partners, including the NJ Department of Agriculture, NJ 5th Legislative District, Camden County Freeholders, City of Camden Mayor, City of Camden Council, Duffield’s Farm, Holman Ford Lincoln, Walmart Corporation, Whole Foods Markets.  Also, the CCGC’s “Camden Grows”, the USDA Entrepreneurial Gardening Program, will enable Camden Community Gardeners to make a profit by selling their surplus of crops to the Mobile Market Program. 

POPULATION SERVED

The target population for the NJFA grants were low income senior citizens.  Throughout the year, CCGC estimates that at least 1,400 senior citizens (20% of CCGC’s 7,000 gardeners have been served).  CCGC has exceeded their goals for Senior Community Gardening and will continue to work with seniors as an integral part of the garden program. 

In conclusion, seniors are important leaders in the CCGC, providing inspiration and direction to gardeners of all ages throughout the city.  There is a great excitement about CCGC’s Community Gardening Program in Camden and senior citizens are an important reason for that.

To learn more about the Camden City Garden Club go to http://camdenchildrensgarden.org/about.html

 

 

Medicare Open Enrollment Period

Monday, August 29th, 2011

Medicare Open Enrollment

Medicare Open Enrollment is October 15, 2011 – December 7, 2011

Did you know new prescription drug and health plan coverage choices are offered every year? Every fall, all people with Medicare should review their current coverage.

During the Fall Open Enrollment you can change how you receive your health coverage and add, change or drop drug coverage. You can make as many changes as you want. Changes made during the Fall Open Enrollment take effect January 1, 2012. If you don’t want to make any changes you don’t need to do anything, your current coverage will stay the same.

What you can do:

  • Change from Original Medicare to a Medicare Advantage Plan.
  • Change from a Medicare Advantage Plan back to Original Medicare.
  • Switch from one Medicare Advantage Plan to another Medicare Advantage Plan.
  • Switch from a Medicare Advantage Plan that doesn’t offer drug coverage to a Medicare Advantage Plan that offers drug coverage.
  • Switch from a Medicare Advantage Plan that offers drug coverage to a Medicare Advantage Plan that doesn’t offer drug coverage.
  • Join a Medicare Prescription Drug Plan.
  • Switch from one Medicare Prescription Drug Plan to another Medicare Prescription Drug Plan.
  • Drop your Medicare prescription drug coverage completely.

Medicare Advantage Disenrollment Period 2012: January 1, 2012 – February 14, 2012

During the Medicare Advantage Disenrollment Period (MADP) you can switch from a Medicare private health plan (also known as a Medicare Advantage plan) to Original Medicare. Regardless of whether the Medicare private health plan had drug coverage, you can join a stand-alone prescription drug plan, but you are not required to. For example if you have a Medicare Advantage Plan with drug coverage you can change to Original Medicare and a prescription drug plan or Original Medicare and no drug plan.  Changes made during the MADP go into effect the first day of the following month.

What you can do:

  • If you are in a Medicare Advantage Plan, you can leave your plan and switch to Original Medicare.
  • If you switch to Original Medicare during this period, you will have until February 14 to also join a Medicare Prescription Drug Plan to add drug coverage. Your coverage will begin the first day of the month after the plan gets your enrollment form.
    Note: During this period, you can’t do the following:
  • Switch from Original Medicare to a Medicare Advantage Plan.
  • Switch from one Medicare Advantage Plan to another.
  • Switch from one Medicare Prescription Drug Plan to another.
  • Join, switch, or drop a Medicare Medical Savings Account Plan.

Choosing Medicare coverage can be confusing, but understanding the different parts of Medicare and your Medicare coverage choices can help.  You can use the Medicare Plan Finder https://www.medicare.gov/find-a-plan/questions/home.aspx to help you make a decision about the best plans for you.

 If you would like assistance with this process please contact a State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP). To find a SHIP program in your area visit: http://www.state.nj.us/health/senior/sashipsite.shtml

Tips for Caregivers

Thursday, August 4th, 2011

Tips for Caregivers

A critical part an older adult remaining in the community is support from family and friends. Some of that support comes in the form of a family caregiver. We know that many sons, daughter, grandchildren, nieces/nephews or siblings are taking on the role of a caregiver to a loved one.

A recent report from AARP about the value of caregivers states that in 2009 42 million Americans provided care to an older adult family member with limited daily abilities. Furthermore, they found that 65% of those caregivers were female and many worked a job in addition to providing care. The report also states that the typical caregivers provides approximately 20 hours a week of unpaid care.

While, caregiving is a job and does require the caregiver to make sacrifices, many report that they appreciate the relationship between themselves and the care recipient. Providing care for a loved one can be a rewarding activity, even if it is challenging at times. Some say the bond they make with the care recipient enhances their life, such as a daughter caring for her mother may bring them closer and allow them to share thoughts and feelings that they did not before.

The relationship between the caregiver and the care recipient can become stressful, in most cases the family member is providing care that may be uncomfortable for one or both parties. Not to mention, the older adult care recipient may also be having difficulty with the change in their abilities and routine. Parents may be reluctant to share financial or personal information with children, which could make assisting with bill paying difficult.

Not only are there aspects of caregiving that stressful, but also time consuming. Tasks such as shopping, food preparation, laundry, transportation and physical care for another individual leaves little time to care for oneself.

There are of course many resources available, below are some tips we’ve found that may be helpful, as well as a list of resources.

Tips:

  1. Ask questions. To avoid an argument with the care recipient, make sure you ask specific questions about situations or decisions that need to be made. Ask their advice before making a decision for them, perhaps it is something they’ve already thought about or made arrangements for.
  2. Organize documents. Keeping important documents all in one place is a practical strategy. Create categories like personal, medical, financial, and keep them all in a binder or file. Also, keeping a list of medications and doctors can be helpful too.
  3. Take time for yourself. Utilize other family members, neighbors or local community services to provide care so you can take a break. Caregivers should not feel guilty about needing a break, taking an exercise class, reading a book or just taking care of you is necessary to assure you are taking good care of your loved one.
  4. Take advantage of local services. Contact the Eldercare Locator, a service offered by the US Administration on Aging, which helps people find services for older adults. There you can find adult day centers, rehab and nursing services in your own town, as well as, your county and municipal aging programs.

A list of County Office on Aging can be found at http://www.njfoundationforaging.org/services.html

To find a Senior Center in your area visit:

http://web.doh.state.nj.us/apps2/seniorcenter/scSearch.aspx

To get more information from NJ Division of Aging and Community Services visit http://www.nj.gov/health/senior/index.shtml or call 1-800-792-8820.

Eldercare Locator:             http://www.eldercare.gov/eldercare.NET/Public/index.aspx

Utility Assistance

Tuesday, July 19th, 2011

Utility Assistance        

Between these difficult economic times and extreme weather (how’d you like that heat wave?) it is easy to understand why some households may be having trouble paying their energy bills. PSE&G has recognized that many of their customers have fallen on hard times and so they’ve come up with a new program to offer assistance.

The program is called TRUE, Temporary Relief for Utility Expenses and it is designed to help moderate income households who are having difficulty paying their PSE&G bill. The TRUE program provides a one-time grant of up to $1,500 ($750 for gas and $750 for electric) for households that are not eligible for other low income programs.

To be eligible for TRUE customers must meet the following eligibility requirements:

  • Must have an annual income for a one person household of at least $21,672 and not more than $57,120. A two person household income between $29,000 and $69,853. A household of four must have an annual income between $44,112 and $103,034. To see income requirements for other household sizes visit, www.pseg.com/true_guidelines
  • Be 45 or more days past due on their energy bill and/or have received a service discontinuation notice (shutoff notice)
  • Demonstrate that four payments of at least $25 each have been made with the past six months
  • Not have received LIHEAP or USF benefits in the last year.

In addition to the TRUE program, there are other programs available to help customers pay their energy bills:

  • The Universal Service Fund (USF) (1-866-240-1347) helps make energy bills more affordable for low income customers with a $5 to $150 monthly credit.
  • NJ SHARES (1-866-657-3273) helps moderate income customers not eligible for low income programs to the TRUE program, with up to $300 toward electric bills and $700 toward natural gas bills.
  • NJ Lifeline (1-800-792-9745) helps seniors and disabled adults with a $225 yearly credit towards their PSE&G bills.

 For more information on energy assistance programs or to download applications, please visit www.pseg.com/help or www.pseg.com/ayuda. Applications are also available at all PSE&G walk in Customer Service Centers listed on your PSE&G bill. For access to billing information and payment history, customers can sign up for My Account at www.pseg.com.

Excessive Heat Warning This Week!

Tuesday, June 7th, 2011

Excessive Heat Warning

With Summer in full swing, we are faced with high temperatures and high humidity all week! There is an excessive heat warning for NJ until Thursday June 9th.  Heat and humidity can become a serious health hazard, especially for children, elderly or those with chronic conditions, such as respiratory issues. Please remember to not only follow the above steps to keep yourself safe, but also check on family, friends and neighbors, again paying close attention to older adults, children and those who are ill.

 Conditions caused by excessive heat include dehydration, heat exhaustion and heatstroke. Heat exhaustion is a mild condition that may take days of heat exposure to develop. Someone suffering from heat exhaustion may have pale, clammy skin and sweat profusely. They may also feel tired, weak or dizzy and can suffer from headaches. Heatstroke can take just a few minutes to make someone very ill. A person with heatstroke will have dry, hot skin and a body temperature of 106 degrees or more, they will also have an absence of sweat and a rapid pulse. Someone suffering from heatstroke can become delirious or unconscious and needs immediate medical attention.

Here are some tips for staying cool and safe in the NJ summer heat!

  • Drink plenty of water or other non-alcoholic beverages.
  • Make sure children and the elderly are drinking water, and ensure that persons with mobility problems have adequate fluids in easy reach.
  • If you do not have air conditioning, spend time in air-conditioned places such as libraries, malls or other public buildings during the hottest hours of the day. Check with your municipality to see if cooling centers are available.
  • Wear loose and light-colored clothing.  Wear a hat when outdoors.
  • Avoid any outdoor activity during the hottest hours of the day. Reduce physical activity or reschedule it for cooler times of the day.
  • Don’t leave children, a frail elderly or disabled person, or pets in an enclosed car as temperatures can quickly climb to dangerous levels.
  • Talk to your health care provider about any medicine or drugs you are taking. Certain medications, such as tranquilizers and drugs used to treat Parkinson’s disease, can increase the risk of heat-related illness.

There may be a cooling center in your area or other assistance available for those who need to escape the heat. If you need more information or would like to find a cooling center in your area, Contact information for your County Office on Aging can be found at http://www.njfoundationforaging.org/services.html

To find a Senior Center in your area visit:

http://web.doh.state.nj.us/apps2/seniorcenter/scSearch.aspx

 To get more information from NJ Division of Aging and Community Services visit http://www.nj.gov/health/senior/index.shtml or call 1-800-792-8820.

New Program from NJ Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency to help those facing foreclosure

Wednesday, May 4th, 2011

New Jersey HomeKeeper Program

Many people have felt the impact of the recession due to unemployment or underemployment. You may be asking, what is being done to help? New Jersey Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency has announced a new program to help those at risk of losing their home. The program is called New Jersey HomeKeeper and it will be available starting May 9, 2011.
New Jersey HomeKeeper is a program funded through a federal grant from the United States Treasury’s Hardest Hit Fund awarded to States most impacted by unemployment and underemployment. The HomeKeeper offers help to New Jersey homeowners who may be facing foreclosure as a direct result of unemployment or underemployment.

The Homekeeper Program is designed to assist the homeowner with mortgage assistance payment and/or arrearages to prevent an occurrence of foreclosure on the home. The program provides financial assistance to qualified homeowners in the form of a 0% interest rate, deferred-payment second mortgage loan. The loan proceeds may be used to cover arrearages and/or a portion of the homeowner’s monthly mortgage payment, including property taxes, property insurance, and mortgage insurance. Homeowners may be eligible for up to $48,000 in assistance for a period of up to 24 months.

If a homeowner sells or refinances their home within the first five years of the closing date of the HomeKeeper mortgage loan, the full amount of the loan will be due and payable upon the sale, transfer or refinance of the property (except for a lower rate/term refinance) or, if the homeowner ceases to occupy the property as his/her primary residence. However, after the fifth year, the HomeKeeper mortgage loan amount would be forgiven 20% per year, to be forgiven in full at the end of the tenth year.

You may be eligible for the Homekeeper program, if within the past 12 months, through no fault, decision or personal circumstance of your own, you or your spouse or civil union partner fall into one of the following category:

  • Became unemployed which caused you to fall behind on your mortgage. You are receiving or are eligible to receive unemployment compensation
    benefits and may have at least 12 more weeks of benefits remaining.
  • Became underemployed (a drop in income of at least 25% from prior or existing employment income) which caused you to fall behind on your mortgage.   
  • Became unemployed or underemployed. While you have stayed current with your mortgage payments thus far, you have not yet regained enough income/resources to continue paying on time for much longer.
  • Became unemployed or underemployed.  You have since regained enough income to pay the mortgage but you need help covering the arrearages that accumulated during the unemployment/underemployment period

To apply for Homekeeper assistance you will need to apply online using a computer with internet access.  The online application(available May 9th) contains all of the information that you will need to begin your application for assistance, with step by step instructions and prompts to help you.

If you do not have access to the internet from your residence, public computers can be found throughout many communities at public libraries, educational centers and One Stop Career Centers.

For more information or to apply visit: www.njhomekeeper.gov

Resources for assistance with foreclosures, credit and debt problems

New Jersey Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency

1-800-654-6873

www.nj-hmfa.com

Novadebt – A Garden State Consumer Credit Counseling Agency

1-800-992-4557

www.novadebt.org

Consumer Credit and Budget Counseling, Inc.

1-800-792-0270

www.cc-bc.com

To find a One Stop Career Center in your County, contact your County Office on Aging, see list on our website at www.njfoundationforaging.org/services.html

Affordable Care Act: Fact 4

Thursday, April 7th, 2011

Affordable Care Act (ACA) Facts: Follow this Series

This is part 4 of our ongoing series, so please see Fact # 1 in a post dated, Feb 8, 2011, Fact # 2 in the post dated 2/24/11 and Fact # 3 in a post dated 3/8/11.

There is a lot of speculation and discussion about what affect health care reform legislation, the Affordable Care Act (ACA), will have on seniors and their families.

Fact # 4: The law will improve care for older adults in other ways besides changes to Medicare.

There are improvements beyond Medicare that will help you and your family.  In a previous blog post we discussed the long term care changes that will improve for older adults such as changes to Medicaid that will allow people the choice of home and community based care and regulations that will prevent a spouse from becoming impoverished if their spouse is receiving home and community based care through the Medicaid Program.

There are also measures written in the Affordable Care Act (ACA) that will help early retirees. To help offset the cost of employer-based retiree health plans, the new law creates a program to preserve those plans and help people who retire before age 65 get the affordable care they need. By providing financial relief to businesses that provide health coverage to early retirees, health reform will make it easier for early retirees to obtain health care coverage. Health insurance reform will guarantee that you will always have choices of quality, affordable health insurance even if you retire early and lose access to employer-sponsored insurance. It will create a health insurance exchange so you can compare prices and health plans and decide which quality affordable option is right for you.

The ACA also sets up protections for people with pre-existing conditions. The new law provides affordable health insurance through a transitional high-risk pool program for people without insurance due to a pre-existing condition. The Dept. of Banking and Insurance in NJ as already begun working on the high-risk pool program. Insurance companies will be prohibited from denying coverage due to a pre-existing condition for children starting in September, and for adults in 2014. Insurance companies will be banned from establishing lifetime limits on your coverage, and use of annual limits will be limited starting in September.

And if you are concerned for the young people in your life who may be struggling to find a job in this economy, the ACA didn’t forget them either. According to the Law, young people up to age 26 can remain on their parents’ health insurance policy starting in September of 2011.

Information in this blog was gathered from the Affordable Care Act, Centers for Medicaid and Medicare and the National Council on Aging.

Healthcare Reform information from

The White House:

http://www.whitehouse.gov/assets/documents/Pages_from_Health_Insurance_Reform_PDF-4.pdf

Medicare

http://www.medicare.gov/Publications/Pubs/pdf/11467.pdf

National Council on Aging

http://www.ncoa.org/public-policy/health-care-reform/straight-talk-for-seniors-on.html

Affordable Care Act (ACA) Facts: Fact # 3

Tuesday, March 8th, 2011

Affordable Care Act (ACA) Facts: Follow this Series

There is a lot of speculation and discussion about what affect health care reform legislation, the Affordable Care Act (ACA), will have on seniors and more specifically, Medicare. We decided to do a series of blog posts about the facts; this is part of our ongoing posts, so please see Fact # 1 in a post dated, Feb 8, 2011 and Fact # 2 in the post dated 2/24/11.

Fact: The law will make it easier to receive and pay for long-term care at home.

As we covered in our Medicare Myths post, Medicare does not cover long term care costs. Long term care in a facility or at home is often an out of pocket expense. The Affordable Care Act has some provisions (Section 2401-2403) that allow States to apply for Federal Funding to provide in home services. Some of these programs already exist in NJ and are open to those who have or are eligible for Medicaid. Starting in 2011, the Law allows States to apply for additional funding for these Medicaid programs, often referred to as, Waiver programs.

You may have heard about the new national long-term care insurance program called CLASS (Community Living Assistance Services and Supports). According to the ACA this will become available in 2013. Full and part-time workers with salaries of at least $1,200 per year will be eligible to participate in CLASS and may choose to have the premiums deducted from their paychecks. Non-working retirees are not eligible for the program. After you have participated in CLASS for at least five years and you can no longer perform basic activities (such as eating, dressing, or bathing, or if you have Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia), you are eligible to receive a daily cash benefit. This cash benefit is expected to average $50 per day and can be used to pay for anything that will help you stay at home. Examples of things it will pay for include, home care services and equipment.

Beginning in 2014 the ACA specifies that more regulations be put in place to protect spouses of those who are receiving home care services. Sometimes referred to as, “Spousal Impoverishment” rules, some states, including NJ already have these in place for those who have a spouse living in a nursing home who needs to apply for Medicaid. What the regulations do is protect the money that the other spouse needs to remain living in the community, the ACA states that this should be extended to spouses that have an ill husband or wife at home who is in need of Medicaid services.

Information in this blog was gathered from the Affordable Care Act, Centers for Medicaid and Medicare and the National Council on Aging.

For more information:

A brochure from Medicare:

http://www.medicare.gov/Publications/Pubs/pdf/11467.pdf

Webpage from the National Association of States United for Aging and Disabilities (NASUAD):

http://www.nasuad.org/affordable_care_act/nasuad_materials.html

Answers from the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging (n4a):

http://www.n4a.org/advocacy/health-care-reform/

Straight Talk for Seniors from the National Council on Aging:

http://www.ncoa.org/public-policy/health-care-reform/straight-talk/

Details about the law at Heathcare.gov

http://www.healthcare.gov/law/about/index.html

Affordable Care Act (ACA) Facts: Part 2 in a Series

Thursday, February 24th, 2011

Affordable Care Act (ACA) Facts: Follow this Series

There is a lot of speculation and discussion about what affect health care reform legislation, the Affordable Care Act (ACA), will have on seniors and more specifically, Medicare. We decided to do a series of blog posts about the facts; this is our second post, so please see Fact # 1 in a post dated, Feb 8, 2011.

Fact # 2 The ACA will reduce Medicare spending growth, extend Medicare solvency and is projected to reduce the budget deficit.

While Medicare spending will continue to grow, over the next 10 years the healthcare law will slow the overall rate of growth. Average spending per person will grow at about 2% per year, according to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) this is compared to the current rate of 4% per person per year. This slight decrease will be a result of reductions in waste, fraud and abuse.  The CBO also projects that the ACA will save Medicare about $400 billion over 10 years and will extend the solvency of the Medicare Trust Fund until 2026.

What you need to know:

In 2011, the ACA will slow payment increases that are made to Medicare providers such as, hospitals, nursing homes and home health agencies. Please note that doctors are not included in that group. The ACA does not reduce payments to your primary care doctor.

Also in 2011, payments to Medicare Advantage (MA) will be reduced. Approximately 25% of seniors are enrolled in MA plans, HMOs or PPOs offered by private insurance companies, the other 75% have traditional Medicare. The ACA will gradually lower payments made to MA plans, which on average cost 13% more than original Medicare. Another change that ACA makes to Medicare Advantage (MA) plans is that those plans will not be able to charge you more than what you would pay if you were on original Medicare for services such as kidney dialysis, chemotherapy, or skilled nursing home care.

Because of these laid out in the Law, MA plans may cut some of the extra benefits they offer that are not covered by traditional Medicare and some may increase their premiums. Please note that MA plans cannot cut any basic benefits under Medicare, such as doctor visits and hospital care. You will also have the same right to switch out of your MA plan to original Medicare, the new law will not affect your right to Medicare benefits.

Another way that Medicare savings will occur according to statements in the Affordable Care Act, is for higher income individuals to pay higher prescription drug premiums. This will affect about 5% of Medicare recipients in 2011, single people with incomes above $85,000 and couples with adjusted gross incomes above $170,000.

The ACA states that in 2014 a Payment Advisory Board will be created. This board of experts will recommend specific ways to reduce Medicare costs without cutting benefits or increasing out-of-pocket costs.

Information in this blog was gathered from the Affordable Care Act,  Congressional Budget Office, Centers for Medicaid and Medicare and the National Council on Aging.

For more information check out the following links:

A brochure from Medicare:

http://www.medicare.gov/Publications/Pubs/pdf/11467.pdf

Webpage from the National Association of States United for Aging and Disabilities (NASUAD):

http://www.nasuad.org/affordable_care_act/nasuad_materials.html

Answers from the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging (n4a):

http://www.n4a.org/advocacy/health-care-reform/

Straight Talk for Seniors from the National Council on Aging:

http://www.ncoa.org/public-policy/health-care-reform/straight-talk/

Affordable Care Act (ACA) Facts: Follow this Series

Tuesday, February 8th, 2011

There is a lot of speculation and discussion about what affect health care reform legislation, the Affordable Care Act (ACA), will have on seniors and more specifically, Medicare.

Fact # 1 ACA will not cut your basic Medicare benefits.

There are actually some improvements to Medicare benefits as a result of ACA. One immediate improvement, according to the Law, is more help with prescription drug coverage. In Medicare prescription drug coverage there is something commonly referred to as “the donut hole” which refers to a coverage gap where seniors end up paying 100% of prescription drug costs. The new law helps you pay these costs right away. If you enter the donut hole this year, Medicare will send you a check for $250. You don’t have to do anything to get the check. It will arrive around 45 days after you reach the gap. In 2011, if you enter the donut hole, you’ll pay only half of what your plan charges for brand-name drugs—a 50% discount. By 2020, the donut hole will be slowly phased out and completely eliminated because of the Affordable Care Act.

Also as a result of ACA, a free annual well visit is now available in 2011. The free annual wellness checkup will allow you and your doctor to develop a prevention plan to keep you healthy. And a range of prevention services, such as cancer and diabetes screenings, will be provided free, no more cost sharing.

Another improvement related to the ACA, better care when you get sick! 80% of older Americans, have at least one chronic medical condition such as heart disease, high blood pressure, or diabetes. If you are one of them, you probably see several doctors, who may not always work together. The law will invest in testing new models of care for people with chronic conditions in order to provide better care, better coordination, and more patient-centered services. If you must be hospitalized, the law also will help you return home successfully, and avoid going re-hospitalization, by providing incentives for hospitals to make sure that you get the services you need in your community and by teaching you ways to take good care of yourself.

There are more facts that seniors need to know about how the new healthcare legislation will impact you and your Medicare coverage, stay tuned for more information from NJFA.

The information in this blog was gathered from language in the Affordable Care Act, the Center for Medicare and Medicaid and the National Council on Aging.

For more information check out the following links:

A brochure from Medicare:

http://www.medicare.gov/Publications/Pubs/pdf/11467.pdf

Webpage from the National Association of States United for Aging and Disabilities (NASUAD):

http://www.nasuad.org/affordable_care_act/nasuad_materials.html

Answers from the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging (n4a):

http://www.n4a.org/advocacy/health-care-reform/

Straight Talk for Seniors from the National Council on Aging:

http://www.ncoa.org/public-policy/health-care-reform/straight-talk/