Posts Tagged ‘medicaid’

How to get your Credit Report

Thursday, January 23rd, 2014

We’ve all seen those funny commercials for credit reports and have probably read articles in magazines urging us to get our yearly free credit report. However, have you ever wondered why you need it? Or how to go about getting it? And how to avoid scams posing as free credit report services? Well, let’s try to answer some of those questions.

Knowing your credit score can help guard against identity theft. Identity thieves may use your information to open a new credit card account in your name. Then, when they don’t pay the bills, the delinquent account is reported on your credit report. Inaccurate information like that could affect your ability to get credit, insurance, or even a job. Since your credit report has information that affects whether you can get a loan — and how much you will have to pay to borrow money, you should check it annually to make sure it is accurate

The Federal Trade Commission enforces The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) which requires each of the nationwide credit reporting companies — Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion — to provide you with a free copy of your credit report, at your request, once every 12 months. A credit report includes information on where you live, how you pay your bills, and whether you’ve been sued or have filed for bankruptcy. Nationwide credit reporting companies sell the information in your report to creditors, insurers, employers, and other businesses that use it to evaluate your applications for credit, insurance, employment, or renting a home. You can see why it is important to receive your credit report to monitor these things yourself before applying for a loan, credit card, mortgage or even a new job.

To order your free credit report, visit annualcreditreport.com, call 1-877-322-8228. Or complete the Annual Credit Report Request Form and mail it to: Annual Credit Report Request Service, P.O. Box 105281, Atlanta, GA 30348-5281. Do not contact the three nationwide credit reporting companies individually. They are providing free annual credit reports only through annualcreditreport.com, 1-877-322-8228 or mailing to Annual Credit Report Request Service.

Here’s an important piece to remember– The law allows you to order one free copy of your report from each of the nationwide credit reporting companies every 12 months.

You may order your reports from each of the three nationwide credit reporting companies at the same time, or you can order your report from each of the companies one at a time.

Okay, so here is the part to make a note of to protect yourself from scams. Use only annualcreditreport.com to order your free credit report. That is the only site under the law- FCRA that is mandated to provide your credit report for free. Other websites that claim to offer “free credit reports,” “free credit scores,” or “free credit monitoring” are not part of the legally mandated free annual credit report program. In some cases, the “free” product comes with strings attached. For example, some sites sign you up for a supposedly “free” service that converts to one you have to pay for after a trial period. If you don’t cancel during the trial period, you may be unwittingly agreeing to let the company start charging fees to your credit card.

Some “imposter” sites use terms like “free report” in their names; others have URLs that purposely misspell annualcreditreport.com in the hope that you will mistype the name of the official site. Some of these “imposter” sites direct you to other sites that try to sell you something or collect your personal information. So make sure you type the url correctly and don’t enter your credit card information, exit the site if they ask for this information and then attempt to connect with annualcreditreport.com or call 1-877-322-8228.

The only information that you’ll be asked for to process your credit report is your name, address, Social Security number, and date of birth. If you have moved in the last two years, you may have to provide your previous address. To maintain the security of your file, each nationwide credit reporting company may ask you for some information that only you would know, like the amount of your monthly mortgage payment. Each company may ask you for different information because the information each has in your file may come from different sources.

While your credit report helps determine your credit score, these reports will not give you your credit score. For more information about your credit score visit- http://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0152-how-credit-scores-affect-price-credit-and-insurance#credit

For more details and to learn what steps to take if you do find inaccurate information on your credit report, please visit the Federal Trade Commission and read the article on Free Credit Reports http://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0155-free-credit-reports or call 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357)

 

What do you need to know?

Tuesday, December 10th, 2013

What do you need to know?

Are you looking for information on Veteran’s Benefits? Utility Assistance? Do you have questions about transportation? Are you interested in a new form of exercise? These interesting topics and many more are available by watching, Aging Insights on YouTube. Aging Insights is a ½ hour TV program that is produced monthly by NJFA.  Aging Insights provides programs that are relevant to boomers, caregivers and seniors. The goal is to connect them to community programs to address their unique needs and those of their families. 

In addition to being aired on multiple public access stations, you can view the entire library of 26 episodes on NJFA’s YouTube channel by visiting, www.youtube.com/njfoundationforaging The November program discusses the financial and health benefits available to veterans. However, there are many more informative and entertaining episodes to watch online.

After you’ve checked them out, be sure to visit our website at www.njfoundationforaging.org and click “online survey” to take the Aging Insights survey where you can tell us what you thought of the show and suggest future topics.

 

 

 

Medicare Open Enrollment ends December 7th

Wednesday, November 27th, 2013

Medicare Open Enrollment ends December 7th

Open Enrollment is coming to a close soon. Every year Medicare gives you the opportunity to review your coverage and make changes. This year the Open Enrollment period is October 15 to December 7.

This is when people with Medicare can change their Medicare health plan and prescription drug coverage for 2014. Information on 2014 plans has been available since the beginning of October. People with Medicare can call 1-800-MEDICARE or visit www.medicare.gov for plan information. If a person is satisfied that their current plan will meet their needs for next year, they don’t need to do anything.

What can you do during Open Enrollment?

From October 15 to December 7 you can

  • Join or switch a Medicare Prescription Drug Plan
  • Join or switch a Medicare Advantage Plan

During this period you should take time to review health and drug plan choices and choose the plan that fits your needs. Coverage begins on January 1, 2014.

Each year, Medicare Advantage and Medicare Drug Plans can change costs and coverage. Plans will mail an Evidence of Coverage/Annual Notice of Change to you. This notice gives details about plan coverage, costs, etc for the next year. Some plans may choose to leave Medicare and no longer offer the plan you have, meaning you’ll have to find a new plan during Open Enrollment. If this is the case your plan would have mailed you a notice of non-renewal.

To learn more about available plans visit- Medicare Plan Finder on Medicare.gov

You can also:

  • Visit your plan’s website
  • Refer to the Medicare & You handbook
  • Call 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227)
  • Or contact your State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP)  at 1-800-792-8820 or http://www.state.nj.us/humanservices/doas/home/sashipsite.html

 

More Money Tips

Wednesday, October 2nd, 2013

More Money Tips

Fraud and Abuse

If you have not done so already, adding yourself to the Do Not Call Registry can limit the number of mail and phone calls you receive from marketers. Contact the Do Not Call Registry at 1-888-382-1222 or visit www.donotcall.gov

For more information on stopping unwanted mail and phone calls visit the Federal Trade Commission online at www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0260-stopping-unsolicited-mail-phone-calls-and-email

You’ve seen many ads and articles stating that a Reverse Mortgage can help you, and for some people it is a wise choice. NJFA’s Renaissance magazine has published articles outlining what you should know when considering a Reverse mortgage. You must be 62 or over to qualify and a counseling session is required.  A reverse mortgage is borrowing against the equity of your home. You must stay current with your property taxes while you live in the home and the money will have to be paid back when you or your heirs sell the home. More information can be found at www.fdic.gov/

Always be on the lookout for fraud. Here are some warning signs to be aware of:

  • An unsolicited phone call, email or other request that you pay a large amount of money before receiving goods and services.
  • An unexpected email or call requesting your bank account number, perhaps one asking you for the information printed at the bottom of your checks.
  • An offer that seems too good to be true, like an investment, “guaranteeing” a return that’s way above the competition.
  • Pressure to send funds quickly by wire transfer.

Protecting your important documents is important. Keeping them in a safe place should also include protecting them from water damage by keeping them in an airtight and waterproof container.

The NJ Division of Consumer Affairs provides valuable information and resources to protect you. Their website features information about cyber fraud, how to determine if an investment opportunity is real and also a way to check if a charity is legitimate and other consumer warnings. Visit them online at www.njconsumeraffairs.gov or call them at 1-800-242-5846.

 

NJ Elder Economic Security Index

Tuesday, September 24th, 2013

In 2009 NJFA released the first NJ Elder Economic Security Index Report. This report provided the cost of living for people over 65 in NJ. Not only did it determine how much seniors need to meet their basic needs in NJ, but also broke down the data for all 21 counties in NJ.

 If you are not familiar with the Index, it breaks down the cost of living for NJ seniors in several categories- Housing, Transportation, Food, Healthcare and Misc. It also looks at these costs for both single elders and those living in a two person household. The Index goes even further to differentiate the costs for renters, homeowners with a mortgage and homeowners without a mortgage. With the release of the report in 2009 this opened the eyes of many policymakers and advocates as to the high cost of living for seniors. It also highlighted the issue of what senior’s income was compared to their cost of living. The accompanying Policy Brief also looked at the benefit programs and public supports that are available

In 2012 NJFA released an Index update. Not only did NJFA update the numbers but the new report also included a demographics study. The demographics study told us how many seniors in NJ were living below the Elder Index, not just in the state of NJ, but in each county as well.

Of single and two person households over 65 in NJ, 42.6% of them live below the Elder Index. Because the Elder Index is based on the costs for either a single elder or an elder living in a two person household, the demographic study misses those who are living in a household with 3 or more people.

If in 2012 42.6% of elderly single and two person households were living below the Index in NJ, what does that mean for 2013 and beyond? If we look at the change from 2009 (the first NJ Elder Index) and 2013, some seniors have seen more than a 30% increase in their cost of living. In 2009 the cost of living for a single senior renter in NJ was estimated to be $25,941. In 2013 its $28,860, that’s an 11.25% increase in costs without an increase in income. Some seniors may find it necessary to seek employment in retirement.

Not all seniors will be able to find employment or may not even be able to work. This is where benefit programs enter the picture. Programs like PAAD or Senior Gold can help cut the cost of prescription medications. Lifeline and LIHEAP can help them to pay their utilities bills. SNAP (formerly food stamps), Farmers Market Coupons and other nutrition programs will make it easier to access healthy foods. The highest cost for seniors is their housing. So naturally affordable housing would make the biggest impact for a senior who is below the index. However, affordable housing is difficult to come by. Many seniors are on multiple waiting lists, each kept separately without a way of sharing the information.

This is why NJFA continues to advocate for all services that may benefit seniors. In order to ensure that all of NJ’s seniors can live in the community of their choice, with independence and dignity.

To view the full Elder Index Report, please visit our website at www.njfoundationforaging.org/issues.html

 

 

 

 

 

Money saving tips

Friday, September 13th, 2013

Money saving tips

Here are some great tips for saving money. We gathered these from various sources, to learn more about each follow the links provided or contact a trusted financial advisor. 

Find your pension

To see if you or someone you know has an unclaimed pension-Search.pbgc.gov

Free credit monitoring

Creditsesame.com

Catch-up

If you are 50 or over you can contribute an extra $5,500 to your 401K plan as a catch up contribution in 2013

 Family ties

If adult children or grandchildren live with you it may mean special tax breaks. Ask your tax preparer about claiming dependents for family members you support.

Save on stamps

Paying bills online means not buying stamps

Free credit report

Don’t pay for credit reports. Get a free copy once a year from three companies- Equifax, TransUnion and Experian. Visit annualcreditreport.com

Selling your home?

The best day of the week to list your home for sale is Friday and the worst is Sunday. according to an analysis by a major real-estate brokerage firm. Listings on Fridays sell faster and for more money.

Save money on medications

Ask your doctor for free samples. Drug company reps drop them off all the time.

Skip the ER

If you have a non-life-threatening medical issue, like fevers, cuts, minor burns or headaches. Urgent care centers with walk-in features are more affordable and usually are open 7 days a week.

Grow it

If you put the stub of romaine lettuce in a glass of water and place it in a sunny spot it will grow back, the same is true of celery, spring onions and cabbage.

Weigh your options

If you need only a few vegetables or fruits for a recipe or meal, buying a small amount from the salad bar at your supermarket may be cheaper than buying a bag of precut vegetables.

Check it out

Instead of buying a book, why not visit your local library and borrow it.

Service advisory

If you get your car serviced at the dealer, ask to check for any service advisories. You might save on a repair that is covered.

Compare 401 (k) fees

Financial information company, BrightScope features free 401 (K) ratings directory that compares fees among plans. Check it out at brightscope.com/ratings

Falls Prevention Awareness Week, September 22-29, 2013

Tuesday, September 3rd, 2013

Falls Prevention Awareness Week, September 22-29, 2013

The Falls Prevention Workgroup and Division of Aging Services are promoting the 5th Annual Falls Prevention Awareness Week, September 22-29, 2013. Governor Christie declared September 23-29, 2013 Falls Prevention Awareness week with events happening throughout the state. The fall prevention workgroup is comprised of PTs, EMS personnel, health educators, etc. 

It is reported that more than one third of adults age 65 and older fall each year in the US. In New Jersey, an average of 194 people age 60 and over are treated in the ER or as inpatients due to a fall. Falls are the number one cause of brain injury in adults. as you can tell, falls are a serious problem.

The upside to this is that falls are preventable. And that is what Fall Prevention Week is all about, bringing awareness to the issue and helping people to prevent falls.

First things first, exercise is a good idea. It will increase your strength, flexibility and balance.

Make sure to get important exams, like an eye exam, yearly. Make sure your doctor and pharmacist review your medicines- both prescription and over the counter to make sure there are no side effects or interactions that could put you at risk. Also, there are some medications that can cause dizziness or weakness, so make sure you are aware if you are taking any with those side effects.

Wear the right footwear. You’d be surprised how many falls are due to this. Make sure your shoes fit properly and have non-slip soles.

You can do things around the house to make it safer as well. Remove clutter in your hallways and rooms. Make sure any wires or cords are out of the way. Make lights brighter, especially in stairways. Install bath grips or grab bars in your tub or shower. Limiting the use of area rugs is a good idea, but if you use them, make sure they are the kind with non-skid liners.

The best way to make Fall Prevention Awareness Week in NJ a success is by spreading the word.

Learn more at http://www.state.nj.us/humanservices/doas/services/fallprev/index.html

And be sure to check out the 24th Episode of NJFA’s TV Program, Aging Insights, which features exercises that help to promote strength and balance!

www.youtube.com/njfoundationforaging

Aging Insights and You- Fall Prevention

Thursday, August 29th, 2013

                                                           Press Release

Aging Insights and You- Fall Prevention 

Trenton– 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.  The strategies to age well are voluminous.  Consequently, the Foundation uses several outreach and educational tools to highlight resources to age well.  For example, Aging Insights is a ½ hour TV program that is produced monthly by the Foundation.  September is Fall Prevention Month. The September program touches on ways to stay strong and healthy in order to avoid falls as well as other medical ailments.

Over the last two years an expansive range of shows have been produced by the Foundation. Utility assistance will be discussed in October to get folks ready for the winter heat season.  Other topics have included pet health, driver safety, community transportation, fitness, money management, foreclosure prevention and County resources.  Why so many topics?  Grace Egan, the Executive Director indicates “that these are topics relevant to boomers, caregivers and seniors. Our intent is to connect them to community programs to address their unique needs and those of their families”.  NJFA seeks sponsorships to underwrite these community education TV programs that are broadcast more than 300 times a month across NJ. The show is broadcast to an area of more than 6 million residents. Sponsorship opportunities are listed on the NJFA website www.njfoundationforaging.org

NJFA is pleased to announce the release of the 24th episode of Aging Insights, the Foundation’s TV program. This episode, Balance for Body and Mind, will be broadcast in September 2013. The program is available to public access stations and may also be seen on NJFA’s YouTube channel, www.Youtube.com/njfoundationforaging 

This episode is hosted by NJFA Program Manager, Melissa Chalker and she is joined by Siobhan Hutchinson, a Holistic Health Practitioner and Tai Chi Chih instructor and Romy Toussaint, a yoga instructor. Both guests share information about their respective practices, provide tips, as well as discuss the benefits of each. A demonstration of both Tai Chi Chih and Yoga can also be seen in this episode. Please visit NJFA’s website to take the new online survey for Aging Insights. We want to know what you think of the show and what topics you’d like to hear next!

On the set from left to right: Melissa Chalker, Siobhan Hutchinson, and Romy Toussaint

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, its mission is promote policy and services that enable older adults to live in the community with independence and dignity.

###

SCAM Update and Warning about Robocalls

Wednesday, August 7th, 2013

There was recently an article in the AARP Bulletin on that had to do with the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) cracking down on new scams. This made us think we should do a blog update on scams and pass out some new warnings from the FTC.

What’s new? Well, it seems scammers are now impersonating medical alert companies in order to get money or personal information (to steal your identity) from seniors. The scams are coming in the form of phone calls, sometimes with a live person and sometimes an automated or robocall. The calls are either trying to sell you a system, often using very strong tactics to get you to give your credit card or other payment information or they are stating that you (or someone you know) have already ordered the system and demanding payment. They have even been known to threaten legal action if you don’t pay up.

What you should know. Robocalls are illegal. But you may be asking, what is a Robocall? Well, direct from the FTC, here is an explanation of a robocall:

If you answer the phone and hear a recorded message instead of a live person, it’s a robocall. You’ve probably gotten robocalls about candidates running for office, or charities asking for donations. These robocalls are allowed. But if the recording is a sales message and you haven’t given your written permission to get calls from the company on the other end, the call is illegal. In addition to the phone calls being illegal, their pitch most likely is a scam.

So, what should you do if you get a robocall? The FTC recommends that you, hang up the phone. They also say you shouldn’t press 1 to speak to a live operator and don’t press any other number to get your number off the list. If you respond by pressing any number, it will probably just lead to more robocalls.

What else can you do?

• Consider contacting your phone provider and asking them to block the number, ask about whether they charge for that service. Remember that telemarketers change Caller ID information easily and often, so it might not be worth paying a fee to block a number that will change.

• Report your experience to the FTC online at http://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0341-file-complaint-ftc or by calling 1-888-382-1222.

Some other helpful tips:

If you get an unsolicited call, hang up. Don’t even ask for details from someone making a cold call.

If you are interested in a medical alert product, gather the information and ask for documentation of fees up front.

Beware of offers that state your insurance will cover medical alert programs or that you can get them for free. Medicare, Medicaid and most insurance companies will not pay for this service.

Don’t pay for anything that you didn’t order. Hang up and contact authorities to make a complaint if you are threatened.

And again, don’t press any numbers as prompted in the robocall, this could just notify them that this is a live, working phone number and you could become the target of future calls or scams.

For more information from the Federal Trade Commission visit: http://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0259-robocalls

Affordable housing is more important than ever for low income seniors and low income families.

Monday, July 1st, 2013

Affordable housing is more important than ever for low income seniors and low income families.

A recent Appellate Division’s decision provides an important opportunity for municipalities to utilize much-needed housing trust funds to address the chronic shortage of affordable housing for low-income seniors across the state in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. Many of these funds were specifically designated for the development of senior housing in the nine counties hardest hit by the storm. This includes 131 senior units in Monmouth County, 6 special needs unit for the elderly by Cerebral Palsy of North Jersey in Livingston, Essex County; and 5 senior rental by Catholic Charities in Harrison, Hudson County.

The court’s decision comes at a critical time in this state’s history with the high demand for affordable senior housing and the rising cost of living. In just three short years, the cost of living for seniors living in a one bedroom apartment on a fixed income in New Jersey has increased 8 percent, according to data released in 2012 by the New Jersey Foundation for Aging (NJFA).

The cost of living for a single renter over the age of 65 was $25,941 in 2009. That same renter, living in the same one-bedroom apartment, saw her cost of living quickly climb more than $2,000 to $27,960, by 2012. However, there was not a comparable rise in income or Social Security.  Seniors on fixed incomes have been plagued in recent years with rising expenses for housing, transportation and health care. In many cases this has resulted in a rise in senior hunger and even homelessness. Their highest cost is their housing expenses.

Twenty five percent of all seniors in our state rely on Social Security as their only income. So NJ seniors can least afford the trend in rising expenses. The result is a widening of the gap between basic living expenses and their income. The NJ Elder Economic Index details these costs for seniors in each of the 21 NJ counties. These details indicate how seniors are faring in the slow economy. The latest data shows that 250,000 seniors over the age of 65 in New Jersey – representing 42 percent of single and elderly couples living in the community – do not have the money to cover their basic costs. Sixty-four percent of people in this group are women.

The report, known as the NJ Elder Economic Index, indicates that the average Social Security for a woman being $14,848. But average living expenses for a one-bedroom apartment in New Jersey has reached the $27,960 mark. So how can we expect to call these the golden years if elders must choose between food, heat, shelter or prescriptions? Even if a person worked and saved for retirement this rise in costs are unprecedented and these elders are one step from their own ‘fiscal cliff’. The New Jersey Foundation for Aging wants to alert and connect elders to resources in their community that might ease the financial strain they may be feeling each day. 

A woman receiving $14,848 from Social Security as her sole income with the average costs of a one bedroom apartment at $27,960 is only 53% economically secure.  At this income level she would be eligible for several food and nutrition programs, as well utility assistance programs. These programs would improve her quality of life and enable her to use her income to cover more of her basic living costs, but she would still fall short of meeting her costs by 21%. The only public benefit program that would help her to close the gap is affordable housing. 

The most costly portion of an elder’s monthly expenses is their housing. More than 46 percent of their income must go towards their housing, taxes and utilities.  This highlights the need for more affordable housing. The state’s housing shortage has been documented for several decades. And the need for affordable housing in the community for people of all ages has only been further stressed by the recent storms and floods across the state. Public awareness is a key component to help local advocates, state policy makers, municipal leaders and planners address current and future needs. Where you live at age 65 or 70?  Persons over age 75 and older have even fewer income assets. Where will your parents live at age 85?

If these funds are not protected and utilized, Otherwise low-income seniors and low-income families will continue to be displaced by Sandy and homeless for many years to come. Each municipality’s affordable housing trust funds are needed now more than ever for the development of new housing because of the impact of hurricane Sandy. We cannot afford to be silent on this issue. Elders who have been active in their community who want to downsize need affordable housing options; working families who want good schools and safe streets need affordable housing; health care workers who want to be close to their work and patients need affordable housing. A healthy blend of housing types is crucial to nurture a community’s cultural and social vitality as well as its economic base. “NJ Strong” must include affordable housing options to serve it residents and to build back the local economy.

*this was submitted and printed as an op-ed in the Asbury Park Press on 6/19/13 by Grace Egan, Executive Director, NJFA