Posts Tagged ‘increase’

Robo-Call Scams

Tuesday, April 28th, 2015

Robo-Call Scams

Here at NJFA, both Grace and I (Melissa) have received calls on our cell phones claiming to be from “Cardholder Services”. The recorded voice does not specify the credit card company but urges you to contact them about your account.

We’ve also heard recently from others who have received similar calls, as well as calls from people posing as the IRS. The most recent call I received even came from a local phone number and not a 1-800 number. Apparently there is technology that allows the scammer to change how the # they are calling from appears on your caller ID, so it may look legitimate.

I checked the Better Business Bureau (BBB) website and found that the call I got is a well known scam. The voice on the recording identified herself as “Rachel from cardholder services”. The article on the BBB’s website was from 2014 and indicated that this scam had already been going on for years.

The concept of this scam is no different from the others, the caller wants you to either pay for a “service”, or provide personal information (like account numbers or Social Security Numbers). You should not do either. If the caller claims to be from your bank or credit card company, hang up, look up the correct contact information for your bank or credit card company and call that # to verify any account concerns.

It is also important to remember that the IRS, Social Security, and most government agencies are not going to call you. The IRS specifically will always send you a letter first about any money owed. The current IRS scam involves a caller identifying themselves as an IRS employee and demanding immediate payment via a wire transfer or pre-paid debit card. If the victim refuses to cooperate, they are then threatened with arrest, deportation or suspension of a business or driver’s license. In many cases, the caller becomes hostile and insulting.

With any scam, the request for a pre-paid debit card should be a red flag. This is the scammers preferred way of getting your money. The IRS, and most likely any legitimate entity will not demand payment via a specific method, such as pre-paid debt cards or wire transfers.

You should report all incidents to your local authorities, in addition you may find these helpful as well:

Internal Revenue Service (IRS) phishing@irs.gov or 1-800-366-4484.

Better Business Bureau at http://www.bbb.org

Federal Trade Commission https://www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov/#crnt&panel1-1

NJ Division of Consumer Affairs 1-800-242-5846 or www.njconsumeraffairs.gov

Medicare Billing Issues- Be Informed

Thursday, October 25th, 2012

Medicare Billing Issues

 In the August/September issue of Renaissance magazine (http://www.njfoundationforaging.org/Ren_AugSep_WEBa.pdf), NJFA featured an article on observation status at the hospital versus being admitted. The article talked about how this can not only mean that seniors would see a bill for the time spent at the hospital, but that it also affected Medicare’s coverage of post hospital treatment at a rehab facility.

Medicare Part A is your hospital insurance and covers inpatient admissions to the hospital. There have been a few articles and news stories about these instances where a hospital changes a patient to observation status and therefore Medicare A does not cover the stay consequently, the patient is left with a bill. Furthermore, if that patient might benefit from a stay in a Skilled Nursing Facility for rehabilitation, then Medicare will not cover that either as a 3 day inpatient hospital admission is required in order for Medicare to cover an inpatient rehab stay.

Another issue recently cited in a New York Times article is that the Federal Government is concerned with inaccurate billing and coding by hospitals due to the new electronic record system. They feel there may be “upcoding”- increasing the severity of a patient’s condition or treatment as a means of profit. The Federal Government is also concerned about “cloning”- where information about one patient is repeated in other records.

Certainly there are many advantages to electronic medical records, both in cost and efficiency. However there needs to be tight guidelines and monitoring of these practices to make sure that fraud or abuse are not taking place in the system. The Federal Government issued a letter to several National hospital associations indicating that they are concerned about accurate billing in use of the electronic medical records system.

What does this mean for Medicare recipients? Make sure you talk to your doctor and anyone treating you in the hospital. Being an educated patient is your best defense; asking the hospital staff what you are being tested for; having open communication about your status and asking if they’ve communicated with your primary physician. It is also important to review your Medicare statements when they come and if you see anything that you feel  is incorrect to report it.

Know your resources. You can contact the following organizations with assistance understanding or navigating your Medicare coverage, as well as report possible fraud or abuse or other concerns, such as appeals.

Medicare- http://www.medicare.gov or 1-800-MEDICARE

Medicare Rights Center- http://www.medicarerights.org/ or 1-800-333-4114

SHIP (Statewide Health Insurance Assistance Program) 1-800-792-8820

Senior Medicare Patrol- 887-SMP-4359

County Office on Aging- 1-800-222-3737

Heat and Energy Assistance

Thursday, November 10th, 2011

According to the federal government (US Energy Information Administration), heating bills are expected to increase slightly this season compared to last winter. Those who heat their homes with oil can expect to see an average of about $220 or 12% more this winter. Those households that heating with natural gas are expected to spend an average of $27 or 4 % more. While those heating their homes with electricity can expect to spend an average of $18 r 2% more than last winter.

For those who need assistance the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program or LIHEAP is now available for the coming winter season. LIHEAP is designed to help low-income families and individuals meet home heating and medically necessary cooling costs. This year, the application period is November 1, 2011 to April 30, 2012.  To apply for LIHEAP, contact the authorized local community action agency or community based organization in your area.  A list of these agencies is found at www.energyassistance.nj.gov.  For persons age 60 or over, or who are disabled, applications may be received and returned by mail.  Other households may apply by mail at the discretion of the local agency. People who participated in LIHEAP last year will receive a recertification form in the mail to renew assistance through this program.

To be eligible for LIHEAP benefits, the applicant household must be responsible for home heating or cooling costs, either directly or included in the rent; and have gross income at or below 200% of the federal poverty level.  The chart below gives specific monthly gross income maximums for FFY 2012.  Persons who live in public housing and/or receive rental assistance are not eligible unless they pay for their own heating/cooling costs directly to the fuel supplier.  The amount of the LIHEAP heating benefit is determined by income, household size, fuel type, and heating region.  This year, the medically necessary cooling assistance benefit is set at $160.

For further information on LIHEAP or to locate the nearest application agency, call 1-800-510-3102.  Additional information about LIHEAP, including an application, is also available at www.energyassistance.nj.gov.

  LIHEAP

MAXIMUM MONTHLY GROSS INCOME ELIGIBILITY LEVELS
FFY 2012

Household

Size

USF

Program

LIHEAP

Program

1 $1,589 $1,815
2  $2,146 $2,452
3 $2,703 $3,089
4 $3,260 $3,725
5 $3,817 $4,362
6 $4,374 $4,999
7 $4,931 $5,635
8 $5,488 $6,272
9 $6,045 $6,909
10 $6,602 $7,333
11 $7,159 $7,485
12 $7,716 $7,638
If more than 12, add: $557 for each person $153 for each person

 If you are above the following income guidelines, but still need assistance with your heating or energy bills you may be eligible for assistance through NJ Shares. NJ SHARES provides energy assistance to moderate and fixed-income households experiencing a financial crisis. Eligibility is based on household size and income. Their clients are families and individuals who do not qualify for Federal and State assistance programs due to the household’s income. NJ SHARES Grant amounts can be up to $700 for heating source (gas, oil, propane and electric heat), and can be up to $300 for electric service. Grants must result in continuance and/or restoration of service. Applicants must demonstrate a temporary financial need and a history of good-faith payments to their energy provider.

 Eligibility Guidelines

 Applicants Must:

  • Reside in New Jersey
  • Be experiencing a financial crisis, such as a job loss or illness
  • Be behind on their energy bill, or need a fuel delivery
  • Have income over the limit for Federal programs such as the Low Income Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) and state programs such as the Universal Service Fund (USF).
  • Have an income level that does not exceed 400% of the Federal Poverty Level
  • Have made a good-faith payment of $100 or more within 90 days of applying for NJ SHARES (for gas and electric customers; deliverable fuel customers are excluded from this rule)

Guidelines for Seniors and the Disabled:

  • Applicants 65 years of age or older, with households of one or two members, will be eligible for NJ SHARES if the maximum household income is $80,000 annually or $6,666 monthly. Proof of age is required.
  • Applicants receiving Federal Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits, with households of one or two members, will be eligible for NJ SHARES if the maximum household income is $80,000 annually or $6,666 monthly. Applicants must show proof of Federal SSD benefit.

 Required Documentation for NJ SHARES applications:

  • Documents should be furnished to the intake agency at time of application.

1) Proof of Income (last four consecutive weeks prior to application date)

2) Proof of Identification

3) Most Recent Energy Bill

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

Five Meals, One Chicken- Money Saving Options

Wednesday, April 20th, 2011

In a recent issue of Renaissance Magazine, viewable at: www.njfoundationforaging.org/ren.html, we featured an article and recipe focusing on cooking in a tough economy. The article talked about how to be creative and how to get the most out of money you spend in the store. We thought we’d continue with this theme is our blog and share with you a way to not just get 2 meals out of one chicken, but 5 meals!

Meal #1 – Roast chicken, stuffing and oven roasted vegetables

Take advantage of the fact that the oven is already on to bake the stuffing and vegetables. For this first meal, if you are a two person household you could split one breast and each take a wing.

While you have the cutting board and knife out, dissect the uneaten part of the bird for easier future meals. Take the meat off the second breast, thighs and drumsticks and cube it up for use in upcoming recipes. The yield is several cups of chicken meat. Everything else: bones, cartilage, and skin goes into a storage bag for soup-making (coming up in another meal).

Meal #2 – Chicken pot pies

You can make extra gravy so you will be able to add it with some of the chicken, diced potatoes, peas and carrots to individual pie crusts.

Meal #3 – Chicken soup

Boil down all the bones with onions, garlic, carrots, celery and spices for a couple hours until all the meat that was left on the bones falls off and the bones have released their collagen (the gelatinous protein) and you’ve got homemade chicken stock. Strain it, pick out the chunks of chicken, add more ingredients like noodles or rice and new vegetables and you’ve got a pot of chicken whatever soup.

Meal #4 – Chicken Tetrazinni

This is a simple dish to prepare by stirring cubed chunks of chicken into cooked spaghetti noodles with a Parmesan cheese sauce, you can use a store bought jar and even opt for a tomato based sauce if cheese sauces aren’t your thing.

Meal #5 – Chicken quesadillas

Mix shredded chicken with a bit of salsa, spread over tortillas and sprinkle with Cheddar cheese. Fold over and heat on a griddle until the cheese melts.

There you have it: one chicken, five meals! It’s frugal in terms of money and it’s also frugal in terms of time. You cooked one “big” meal which gave you the ability to make four additional meals more easily than if you had to cook more chicken each time. By varying the types of dishes, it seems less like “leftovers” and more like a different meal each time. These are just some ideas for making the most of a whole chicken. Another great tip is to freeze your leftovers, if you will not be eating your Chicken Pot Pies right away, or want to save your left over chicken to do something with it a week or 2 weeks from now, throw it in a freezer safe container and freeze it until you are ready to use it!

What recipes would you use?

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/

Weatherization Programs

Friday, August 6th, 2010

The Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) through the NJ Department of Community Affairs, helps low income families, seniors and disabled residents permanently reduce their energy bills by making their homes more energy efficient and comfortable year-round. Making changes to your home that make it more energy efficient you could save as much as 20 to 30 percent on your energy bill. In addition to these savings, energy efficient homes also help the environment and improve your quality of life.

What is weatherization? Weatherization makes sure that your home holds heat or air conditioning in, while keeping cold or hot air out. Weatherizing your home will improve heating efficiency, conserve energy and decrease utility bills. Some examples of assistance with weatherization are insulation, caulking, weather stripping, carbon monoxide detectors and assistance to repair or replace windows, furnace/boiler, appliances, etc.

Eligible applicants must meet the following gross annual income limits:

Family size                         Annual Household Income

1 person                              $21,660

2 person                              $29,140

3 person                              $36,620

4 person                              $44,100

5 person                              $51,580

6 person                              $59,060

If you are eligible based on the guidelines above, you must fill out an application to receive services. To find out more information about the Weatherization Assistance Program in your county or to apply you can contact 1-800-510-3102 or visit, http://www.state.nj.us/dca/divisions/dhcr/offices/wap.html

It’s getting hot out there!

Wednesday, July 7th, 2010

It’s getting hot out there!

We are experiencing extreme temperatures all over New Jersey and surrounding areas this week. Here are some tips for staying cool and safe.

  • 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.

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.

With temperature reaching over 100 this week, it is important to look for signs of heat related problems for yourself and your loved ones. It is also important to take action to prevent them, such as following the tips above.

 If you need more information or would like to find a cooling center in your area, please contact your municipality or your County Office on Aging.

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 information about changes to the Food Stamp Program (SNAP)

Monday, April 12th, 2010

Press Release

Released  on April 6, 2010                                                                                                    

New information about changes to the Food Stamp Program (SNAP)

Trenton- New Jersey’s Food Stamp Program, also known as SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) has raised its income limits. Previously the income limit was at 130% of the FPL (Federal Poverty Level) and it has now been increased to 185% of the FPL. In some cases, assets such as checking or savings accounts, will not affect eligibility. These two new changes will allow the Food Stamp Program to help more people. During difficult economic times, more people are in need of help to buy food for their families.

As of April 2010, 185% of the FPL means that to be eligible for Food Stamps an individual’s gross monthly income would be $1670 or less and that a couples gross monthly income would be $2247 or less. For larger household add approximately $577 per each additional person.

“These changes are significant for families and seniors who live on the edge of poverty” according to Grace Egan, Executive Director of the NJ Foundation for Aging. “Seniors are under enrolled in this vital community program. We are interested in getting the word out that these changes mean many seniors will now qualify for this program”.

You can find an application for SNAP (Food Stamps) online at www.njfoodstamps.com or at www.njhelps.org, where you can use an online screening tool. For more information or to find your local SNAP office call 1-800-687-9512.

 To learn more about the work of the Foundation visit www.njfoundationforaging.org or call 609-421-0206.

The New Jersey Foundation for Aging was established in 1998 to create ongoing financial support for aging services in New Jersey.  Its mission is to expand innovative approaches in the delivery of services that enable older adults to live in the community with independence and dignity.

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