Posts Tagged ‘help’

The New Medicare Cards

Wednesday, February 8th, 2017

The New Medicare Cards

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

In 2015, Congress passed the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act. This law requires the removal of the social security numbers from all Medicare cards by April 2019. This new initiative is referred to as the Social Security Number Removal Initiative (SSNRI.) A new randomly generated Medicare Beneficiary Identifier (MBI) will replace the social security number. When the initiative gets underway all Medicare beneficiaries will be assigned a new MBI and be sent a new Medicare card.

The primary goal of the initiative is to decrease Medicare beneficiaries’ vulnerability to identity theft by removing the social security number from their Medicare cards and replacing it with a new Medicare MBI which does not contain any other personal information.

The new MBI will have the following characteristics:

i. The same number of characters as the current Medicare number, but will be visibly distinguishable from the Medicare number

ii. Contain uppercase alphabetic and numeric characters throughout the new MBI

iii. For providers, the new MBI will occupy the same field as the Medicare number on transactions

iv. Be unique to each beneficiary (e.g. husband and wife will have their own MBI)

v. Be easy to read and limit the possibility of letters being interpreted as numbers (e.g. alphabetic characters are upper case only and will exclude S, L, O, I, B, Z)

vi. Not contain any embedded intelligence or special characters

vii. Not contain inappropriate combinations of numbers or strings that may be offensive

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), the agency that oversees Medicare, has established a transition period during which the Medicare number or MBI will be accepted from providers, beneficiaries, plans, and others. CMS expects the transition period to run from April 2018 through December 31, 2019. After the transition period only the MBI will be used.

Starting around April 2018, CMS will start mailing new Medicare cards. There are approximately 60 million beneficiaries in Medicare. So, CMS will probably mail the cards in phases over a period of time. Remember, as a beneficiary you can still use your current Medicare number during the transition period if it takes awhile to receive your new Medicare card. If a beneficiary is new to Medicare after April 2018 and Medicare has started issuing the new cards, the beneficiary will receive the new MBI. Therefore, healthcare providers must be able accept the new MBIs by April 2018.

Fraud and the new Medicare cards.

The Senior Medicare Patrol of New Jersey (SMP) wants all Medicare beneficiaries to be aware of possible fraud and scams relating to the new Medicare cards. Remember, CMS and Medicare will never contact you by phone or email to ask for personal information relating to the issuance of the new Medicare cards. Any such contact is a scam. Don’t be taken in. Also, there will be no charge for the issuance of the new Medicare cards. Anyone seeking to have a beneficiary pay money for the new card is a scammer. Be especially careful of anyone seeking to have access to your checking account to pay any fee for the new card. Beneficiaries are especially vulnerable if they are isolated, frail or may have cognitive loss. Caregivers should be on the alert for these kinds of scams. The SMP is currently educating beneficiaries at its outreach events of the issuance of the new Medicare cards. CMS will also be conducting intensive education and outreach to beneficiaries to help them prepare for this change.

The issuance of the new Medicare card is a significant change. If a beneficiary or caregiver has any questions about the SSNRI, please don’t hesitate to call the SMP at 1-877-SMP-4359 (1-877-767-4359) or 732-777-1940. A beneficiary or caregiver can also email me at charlesc@jfsmiddlesex.org.

In the aftermath of Sandy

Thursday, November 15th, 2012

In the aftermath of Sandy

Many New Jerseyans were affected by Hurricane Sandy, a number of them seniors. In the past two weeks since then we’ve seen many images of destruction and heard many stories of days without power.

If you are still in need of assistance as you recover from the damage Sandy left behind, here are some important numbers and websites to know:

Dial 2-1-1 or visit www.nj211.org to find out about local resources for food, shelter, transportation, etc.

If you need disaster assistance, apply for FEMA by calling 1-800-621-FEMA (1-800-621-3362) or visit www.disasterassistance.gov Please know that there are deadlines to requesting help and that you need to reach out to FEMA directly, they will not contact you.

Your local chapter of the Red Cross (http://www.redcross.org/find-help) and the Salvation Army (http://www.use.salvationarmy.org) can also be of assistance.

If you or someone you know needs help coping with the trauma from the Hurricane you can contact the NJ Disaster Mental Health Hotline 1-877-294-4357.

There have been many reports about the help being offered to Hurricane Sandy victims. Countless organizations and individuals have provided, shelter, food, heat, clothing and comfort to those affected. Unfortunately, during times of disaster, we see some people who would rather take advantage of the situation rather than help. Please be on the look out for scams.

One, price gouging is illegal, to report it call (862) 209-0130 or (973) 220-3474.

There have been a couple of instances of people posing as utility or inspection personnel and then attempting to rob the home once they gain entry. Anyone approaching your home as a utility worker or inspector should have proper ID and have no problem showing it to you or verifying the reason for their visit. Don’t let anyone into your home that you are not 100% sure is who they say they are. Make sure to call the police and report any false attempts to gain access to your home.

There may also be people posing as false insurance programs or other assistance programs. Please make sure to always ask for proper ID and verify that the program or services they are offering are legitimate. Report any problems to your local police department.

And for those of you looking for ways to help, be aware of that there are also scammers posing as charities . The IRS has issued a statement encouraging people to look out for scam artists impersonating charities to help Hurricane Sandy victims. Donate to recognized charities only. Some will even try to use a name similar to a recognized organization so be sure to look closely. Do not give out personal information. There are various ways that these scammers will try to reach you, they may call on the phone, by email or through the use of a phony website set up to mimic that of a known charity. Legitimate charities may also be found on the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Web site at fema.gov.

Call the IRS toll-free disaster assistance telephone number, 1-866-562-5227, if you are a hurricane victim with specific questions about tax relief or disaster related tax issues.

If you would like to volunteer to help those affected by Sandy, you can also contact your local Red Cross or Salvation Army or call the NJ Volunteer Emergency Response Hotline at 1-800-JERSEY-7 (1-800-537-7397)

Recovering from Sandy will be a lengthy process. You may have long wait times for responses from disaster assistance programs, but know that help is coming.

It’s Tax Time- How to Get Volunteer Tax Help

Monday, March 26th, 2012

Volunteer Tax Help

Yes, it is time to think about filing your 2011 tax returns. It’s a job that is never a joy, but could be less of a hassle, if you try using a terrific free service – the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program (VITA). 

 For over 30 years, the VITA force of 2,000+ volunteers has helped more than 2 million households file basic tax forms.  This program offers free tax help to people who cannot afford professional assistance (generally those with incomes under 49,000). Volunteers help prepare basic tax returns in community and neighborhood centers, libraries, schools, and other community locations.

A recent focus of the program is to encourage taxpayers to file their returns, federal and State, electronically. Each year the number of taxpayers that take advantage of this method continues to grow.

 According to the IRS website the following are the items you should bring to have your tax return prepared:

  • Proof of identification
  • Social Security Cards for you, your spouse and dependents and/or a Social Security Number verification letter issued by the Social Security Administration
  • Birth dates for you, your spouse and dependents on the tax return
  • Current year’s tax package if you received one
  • Wage and earning statement(s) Form W-2, W-2G, 1099-R, from all employers
  • Interest and dividend statements from banks (Forms 1099)
  • A copy of last year’s Federal and State returns (if available)
  • Bank Routing Numbers and Account Numbers for Direct Deposit
  • Total paid for day care provider and the day care provider’s tax identifying number (the provider’s Social Security Number or the provider’s business Employer Identification Number)

To file taxes electronically on a married filing joint tax return, both spouses must be present to sign the required forms.

To locate the nearest VITA site, call 1-800-829-1040 or contact your local Office on Aging, you can find the # for your County office by visiting www.njfoundationforaging.org/services.html or call 1-877-222-3737.

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.