Posts Tagged ‘seniors’

Aging Greatness: Great Achievements by Older Adults!

Thursday, October 18th, 2018

As a culture we tend to praise accomplishments as if there were an age limit. We like to focus on achievements made by people under a “certain age” as if we think “The younger, the better!” But achievements, major accomplishments, even fame and fortune, don’t have a cut-off age.

There’s nothing wrong with celebrating accomplishments and great deeds done by a specific age, but we’d like to take time here to point out that major accomplishments are achieved regardless of age. Below is just a sampling of some of the amazing things done by older adults of all ages, arranged alphabetically and in no order of greatness.


Author Harry Bernstein publishes his first book, The Invisible Wall: A Love Story that Broke Barriers—age 96

Paul Cézanne has his first solo art exhibition—age 56

Julia Child begins the long running The French Chef program on PBS—age 51

Jack Cover invents the Taser stun gun to create a nonlethal weapon—age 50

Benjamin Franklin signs the Declaration of Independence—age 70

Cancer survivor Barbara Hillary becomes one of the oldest people, and first black woman, to reach the North Pole—age 75

Edmond Hoyle begins recording the rules of various card games, publishing A Short Treatise on the Game of Whist in 1742—age 70

Kathryn Joosten, Emmy Award-winning actress of Family Matters, Desperate Housewives, and The West Wing, begins TV-acting—age 56

Mark Jordan sets the World Record in 2015 for most pull-ups in 24 hours—age 54

Ray Kroc begins the McDonald’s franchise—age 52

Nelson Mandela is elected president of South Africa—age 75

Famed American Folk painter Anna Mary Robertson Moses, aka “Grandma Moses,” begins painting—age 76

Frank McCourt publishes Pulitzer Prize and National Book Critics Circle Award-winning Angela’s Ashes—age 65

Taikichiro Mori leaves academia for second career in Tokyo real estate, where he would eventually become the most successful person in the Tokyo real estate market and twice become Forbes’s “world’s richest man”—age 55

Leslie Nielsen stars in comedy-hit Airplane!—age 54

Nola Ochs graduates from Fort Hays State University and becomes the oldest person in the world to become a college graduate—age 95

James Parkinson identifies what will later be named “Parkinson’s disease”—age 62

John Pemberton invents Coca-Cola—age 55

Diana Nyad becomes the first confirmed person to swim from Cuba to Florida without a shark cage—age 64

Peter Mark Roget publishes first edition of Roget’s Thesaurus (originally titled, Thesaurus of English Words and Phrases Classified and Arranged so as to Facilitate the Expression of Ideas and Assist in Literary Composition)—age 73

Minoru Saito becomes the oldest person to do a solo circumnavigation of the globe without stopping at any port—age 77

Colonel Harland David Sanders begins the KFC franchise—age 65

Judge Judy Scheindlin begins the now longest-running courtroom TV show, Judy Judy—age 53

Ernestine Shepherd, former world’s oldest competitive female bodybuilder, begins bodybuilding—age 56

J.R.R. Tolkien publishes The Fellowship of the Ring, the first volume of the Lord of the Rings trilogy—age 62

Betty White becomes the first woman to win a Daytime Emmy Award in the category of Outstanding Game Show Host—age 61

Laura Ingalls Wilder publishes Little House in the Big Woods, the first of the Little House books—age 64

 


Whose major achievement are you fascinated by? What are your own accomplishments? Leave us a comment below or send us an email if you’d like us to share them! Whether it’s breaking a record, fulfilling a lifelong dream, standing out in your industry, or just doing something you’re proud of, every day is an opportunity for your own achievement—No matter your age!

It’s That Time of the Year—Medicare Open Enrollment

Thursday, October 4th, 2018

This week’s guest blog is provided by Charles Clarkson, Esq. This article, originally posted in issue #21 of the New Jersey Senior Medicare Patrol (SMP) newsletter Advocate, will cover Medicare Open Enrollment, your options, and information about Medicare scams.


By Charles Clarkson, Esq.

Jewish Family Services of Middlesex County

Project Director, Senior Medicare Patrol of New Jersey

 

 

Every year between October 15 and December 7, a period known as “Open Enrollment,” Medicare beneficiaries can make changes in their Medicare coverage. The Senior Medicare Patrol of New Jersey (SMP), a Federally funded program of the U.S. Administration for Community Living, believes that if you know your options you can avoid being scammed and make the right choices, giving you the best coverage at the least cost.

 

Why make a change?  Whether you have Original Medicare (Part A and/or B), Part D (prescription drug plan), or a Part C (Medicare Advantage Plan,) your plan can change. Premiums, deductibles  and coverages can all change.  Even if they remain the same, your health or finances may have changed. SMP encourages all beneficiaries to re-visit their coverage and decide whether or not to change during Open Enrollment.

Beneficiaries have these choices:

  1. If you are enrolled in Original Medicare, you can change to a Medicare Advantage plan with or without drug coverage. These plans are private companies approved by Medicare and give you the services of Original Medicare. If you join a Medicare Advantage plan, you do not need (and are not permitted) to have a Medicare supplement insurance plan (also known as a Medigap policy) and if your Medicare Advantage plan has drug coverage, you will not need a Part D plan.
  2. If you are in a Medicare Advantage Plan, you can switch to another Medicare Advantage plan or drop your Medicare Advantage Plan. If you decide to drop a plan and not switch to another plan, you will be enrolled in Original Medicare. You should then consider enrolling in a Medicare supplement insurance plan to cover the costs that Original Medicare does not pay for and enroll in a Part D plan for drug coverage.
  1. If you are in Original Medicare with a Part D plan, you can stay in Original Medicare and switch your Part D plan. Medicare has a Plan Finder on Medicare.gov which allows beneficiaries to compare plans for next year. The new Part D plans should be announced in late September or early October.
  1. If you are in Original Medicare and do not have a Part D plan, you can enroll in a Part D plan. If you join a Part D plan because you did not do so when you were first eligible for Part D and you did not have other coverage that was, on average, at least as good as standard Medicare drug coverage (known as creditable coverage), your premium cost will be penalized 1% for every month that you did not enroll in Part D. You will have to pay this penalty for as long as you have a drug plan. The penalty is based on the national average of monthly premiums multiplied by the number of months you are without coverage and this amount can increase every year. If you qualify for extra help (low income subsidy), you won’t be charged a penalty.

 

Why change Part D plans?

Beneficiaries may want to change Part D prescription drug plans (PDPs) for a number of reasons: (i) the PDP has notified the beneficiary that it plans to drop one or more of their drugs from their formulary (list of available medications); (ii) the beneficiary is reaching the coverage gap (donut hole) sooner than anticipated and may want to purchase a PDP with coverage through the coverage gap, if one is available; (iii) the PDP has notified the beneficiary that it will no longer participate in the Medicare Part D program; (iv) the PDP will increase its premium or co-pays higher than the beneficiary wants to pay and a less expensive plan may be available and (v) a beneficiary is not happy with the PDP’s quality of service or the plan has received low rankings for a number of years. For 2019 beneficiaries in New Jersey can expect to choose from a number of PDPs.

 

Compare plans each year.

Beneficiaries should remember that PDPs change every year and it is recommended that beneficiaries compare plans to insure that they are in the plan that best suits their needs. When comparing plans, keep in mind to look at the “estimated annual drug costs,” i.e. what it will cost you out of pocket for the entire year, from January 1 through December 31 of each year. Plans can be compared at the Medicare web site:  www.medicare.gov. If you do not have access to a computer, call Medicare at 1-800-Medicare to assist in researching and enrolling in a new plan. Medicare can enroll a beneficiary over the telephone.  When you call, make sure you have a list of all your medications, including dosages. Another resource for Medicare beneficiaries is the State Health Insurance Assistance Program (known as SHIP), telephone 1-800-792-8820. SHIP is federally funded and can provide beneficiaries with unbiased advice.  Call SHIP to make an appointment with a counselor. You do not need to use a broker or agent who may not be looking out for your best interest. Brokers and agents are usually being paid to enroll you in certain plans. Beneficiaries can also call the Senior Medicare Patrol of New Jersey at 732-777-1940.

 

Medicare Open Enrollment can also be a time of fraudulent schemes that can cost you money. The SMP wants you to be on the alert for scams. A word of advice:

When you realize that a scammer is calling. Just hang up. Do not be polite and just hang up. Also, let your answering machine do all the work. Never answer any call unless you recognize the number. If no message is left, you know the call is probably a scam or an unwanted solicitation. For any questions about Medicare and to report any Medicare scams, call the Senior Medicare Patrol of New Jersey at 732-777-1940.

National Preparedness Month: Planning Ahead for Disaster…And Staying Safe Because of It!

Thursday, September 13th, 2018

As the last days of a warm and sticky New Jersey summer fade into a cooler fall, we are reminded of all the lovely seasonal changes—the bright green leaves turn to flame-like colors before browning and falling, the lighter summer clothes are changed out for warmer seasonal wear (aka “sweater weather”) and we finally turn off our air-conditioners and hope for a few weeks of respite before we turn on our heaters. We also, however, remember the less happily anticipated changes—the leaves to rake and the gutters to clean, the coming chillier months, and, of course, hurricane season followed by blizzards, ice, and sub-freezing temperatures.

While New Jerseyans across the state deal with rain and flooding from tropical storm Gordon and wait to see what Hurricane Florence will bring, now is the perfect time to think about our disaster preparedness. All too often we put off thinking about disaster preparedness until the danger is at our doorstep in the form of a storm, fire or flood. But don’t wait until the next hurricane warning to be prepared! September is National Preparedness Month and it’s the perfect time to make sure you’re ready for disasters big and small that can happen now or any time of year.

 

Displacement

Do you know where you’ll go? During a disaster you may have to leave your home and find temporary shelter. Whether there’s a mandatory evacuation or you’ve just lost power or heat, you may be temporarily forced out of your home. Regardless of why, there will inevitably be lots of stress and chaos going on surrounding a forced relocation even if temporary, so it’s best to have a few planned locations in place.

Do you have local family or friends you could stay with for a short time? For some people this may be an easy solution for some emergencies (e.g., losing heating or power in your home), but may not be suitable for wide-ranging disasters like hurricanes and intense blizzards. If you do elect to stay with family or friends come up with a plan together to ensure you’re all ready for what your disaster preparedness plan looks like, including how you will get to your temporary lodgings, where you will sleep, and whether there are any accommodations that need to be made for you (e.g., keeping animals away or giving yours a place to stay, clearing enough space for you to easily move about the space, and access to bathrooms for people with mobility issues).

If staying with family or friends is not an option, does your community have shelter for emergency situations? Although this may not be available for an emergency such as a house flood, learn about your community’s emergency shelter plan for natural disasters and follow the directions given to you by emergency and rescue personnel. If you don’t know your local shelter or evacuation shelter during an emergency call 2-1-1 or visit www.nj211.org or www.211.org. While local services may be down or you may not know the phone number for local emergency services, you can always call 2-1-1, free of charge, to connect to a person who will help you find help or shelter in an emergency or disaster.

 

Evacuation

What will be your evacuation plan in case of a disaster? Learn your area’s evacuation route and plan with family and friends how you will evacuate if you need to. Coordinate and plan to carpool if possible. If you or someone you know has mobility issues plan with this in mind. Anyone who has or cares for someone with a disability or mobility issue should register at the “Register Ready – New Jersey’s Special Needs Registry for Disasters” here at NJ Register Ready. Registering will help alert residents or caregivers when an evacuation has been ordered and will inform emergency personnel of your needs so they can better serve you during a disaster or other emergency. Please note the website and state still urge citizens to make their own plans for emergencies and disasters and to rely on those plans first and foremost.

In case of a natural disaster prediction like a hurricane or blizzard, don’t wait until the last minute to leave the evacuation area. The longer your wait the more difficult it may be to leave the area as more people evacuate and transportation services and public transit shut down. If you have a car you should plan to have at least three-quarters of a tank of gas in your vehicle before a storm—don’t wait until the lines are long and gas is scarce to fill up your car.

If you have pets make sure to take them with you when you evacuate. If possible, plan in advance where your pets will go if you need to leave your home suddenly. Also, practice evacuating your animals so you’ll be able to move them more easily in a true emergency. Evacuate your pet with leashes/harnesses and/or carriers. Do not bring your pets unleashed and/or uncontained, even if they aren’t at home. And again, always listen to emergency and rescue personnel and follow their directions—in an emergency, following directions helps keep you and emergency personnel safe.

 

Food

During a disaster stores may be closed and you should plan accordingly. The minimum recommended emergency food supplies by FEMA is 3 days worth of food per person. If you can, however, it may be better to keep roughly a week’s worth of food in your home in the event of a major storm or disaster.

Canned and jarred non-perishable goods are particularly good for emergencies. In general, canned foods and many jarred foods take several years (or longer) to be considered inedible and don’t require electricity to stay good, unlike refrigerated or frozen items. Foods to consider might be canned beans, vegetables, fruits, and meats, peanut and other nut butters, nuts, and dried fruit. Don’t stock foods that require cooking as part of your emergency food, because you may be unable to cook during an emergency. Also keep a non-electric can opener handy so you’ll be able to open cans during a power outage.

For those who may find it difficult to purchase a larger quantity of emergency food all at once, start early and build slowly. Add one or two cans of emergency food at a time—this will add cents onto each grocery bill rather than a larger amount of money all at once.

If you’ll be bringing pets with you during an evacuation, make sure to bring your pet’s food with you (as many days’ worth of food as you’ll need for yourself) as well as any leashes/harnesses, medications, carriers, and maybe a toy or two for comfort.

 

Gathering Your Essentials

In the event of an approaching natural disaster things will be chaotic and it will be easy to get lost in the preparations of trying to have everything done. Before a storm hits and things gets too chaotic, make sure you have a suitcase or backpack ready in one location in case of evacuation, filled with everything you’ll need for at least a few days. Put a luggage tag with your name and phone number on everything you take with you.

Keep any medications or other daily needs (glasses, mobility assistance aids, shoes, etc.) in the same area of your house, preferably by your packed luggage. Make sure the clothes you pack are comfortable and weather appropriate. Keep your medications filled and check with your pharmacist if you’re eligible for an emergency refill before a major storm.

Keep at least 2 flashlights in easily accessible areas (not down in the basement or hidden at the back of a dark closet). Regularly check that each flashlight is working and has fresh or working batteries with backup batteries available. In addition to a flashlight, consider keeping a battery or crank-powered radio on hand. Having a portable radio that doesn’t require an external electrical source is extremely useful to listen to important weather bulletins and updates when you don’t have power (a list of frequencies for NJ can be found at www.nws.noaa.gov).

 

 

Home Safety

Being prepared and ready for disaster isn’t just about natural disasters occurring outside the home. It’s equally important to be prepared for disasters that may occur in the home, such as fire, gas leaks, and flooding.

To help prevent fire, make sure you have a working carbon monoxide detector and smoke alarms for each floor of your home. Test each alarm once a month to make sure the batteries and alarms are both working. Keep a fire extinguisher in your kitchen and learn how to use it. Also make sure your fire extinguisher is charged and up-to-date. Be sure to have it recharged after each use or by the date on the extinguisher—check your fire extinguisher’s gauge (located at the top by the trigger) at least once a month to see if your extinguisher is optimally charged. If your home uses gas for heat or cooking, learn how to turn off your gas in an emergency. If you suspect a gas leak in your home, exit immediately and call the proper services.

To alarm you in case of flooding, consider purchasing a flood detector that will emit a loud beeping noise when it comes into contact with moisture. Remember, flooding and water damage can occur in any home from a burst pipe, leaky roof or just oversaturated ground after a storm, not just those near water!

Power outages and downed electrical lines are another concern and are common after big storms and natural disasters. For many of us this is an inconvenience, but for others who use electrical medical equipment this can be dangerous or even deadly. If you or someone in your home uses electrical medical equipment, contact your power supple company. You may be eligible for priority reconnection in the event of a power outage. In addition, remember to be careful of reduced visibility both outside and in the home during a power outage, and use flashlights instead of candles to minimize risk of fire. Remember to never walk or drive over downed electrical lines and to be careful not to walk or drive through any puddles where an electrical line has fallen.

 

Important Documents

If possible, take any important documents that could be destroyed in a disaster, such as your driver’s license or other photo identification, passport, Social Security card(s), birth and/or marriage certificate(s), insurance, important photographs (both personal and those for insurance purposes), and any other important papers.

In addition to physical copies, take photos or scan your documents and save them to a flash drive or portable hard drive. It’s also a good idea to make a copy and give it to your partner or a trusted family member or friend. Remember to treat your electronic copies just as securely as you would your original documents. Keep your flash drive in an easy-to-find location so you can quickly get it in the event of an emergency.

 

Financial

A disaster can mean a financial hit. Beyond the risk of damaged or lost property, there’s also the risk of interrupted income through disruptions in mail service. But there are ways to prevent financial straits through either damage or an interruption in funds.

To prevent financial repercussions from property damage make sure you know your insurance policies. Check your insurance policies to be familiar with what your policy may or may not cover. This may be insurance for your home, car, or items. Even if you rent and don’t have a car, purchasing insurance for your personal property through renter’s insurance may protect you in the event of a disaster. Know your insurance companies, their phone numbers and your policy numbers.

In the event of a natural disaster mail service may be delayed or interrupted. Even in the event of a personal disaster, such as a house flood or fire, you may have difficulty receiving your mail if you need to temporarily relocate. For those relying on mailed income, such as a pay check or Social Security check, this can cause difficulty in affording immediate daily necessities, with potentially disastrous consequences. Instead of relying on paper checks, consider switching to direct deposit to avoid the risk of being temporarily without funds. Direct deposit is much less likely to be affected by a natural disaster than mail service.

If you have any additional income at the end of the month make sure to put some into an “emergency fund.”  Plan to have some cash or coins ready in the event of a natural disaster, when ATMs and credit card machines may be down. If a disaster occurs you’ll be more secure and less anxious with some emergency funds readily accessible for the immediate and longer term future.

 

Create a Plan & Communicate

You know where you’ll go and what you’ll do. You’ve stocked your pantry with emergency food supplies, your medications and documents are in a safe and accessible place, your detectors are working and your flashlights are hanging in an easy-to-find location. What’s next? Letting everyone else know your plan!

Talk with the members of your household, or family and friends, about what you’ll need to do and what you’ll need help with during a disaster. Remember—if you don’t communicate the plan, no one knows the plan!

Coordinate your plan with the rest of your household, family, or friends. Make sure everyone has a written copy of the plan and knows where it is. Know who will be involved, where you’ll go ifyou need to evacuate and who’s responsible for what. Make sure your plan has basic information for every person, such as full name, phone number, address, and any medical conditions you may need to be aware of. Also keep the phone numbers for emergency services in your plan and the number of someone outside the disaster area you can keep up-to-date with your location and any problems you may have. Make sure your plan has a protocol you can follow in a disaster and alternative options in case something goes wrong. Revisit your disaster plan every 6 months to keep it up-to-date.

 

Now you’re ready to go!

We all hope to never need our emergency plan, but don’t wait until you need a plan to make one! Remember, the key to staying safe is being prepared and the key to being prepared is creating a plan and sharing that plan with others. Now go share your plan with your friends and ask them to create their own! By asking others to be prepared we help our friends and our communities in times of disaster.

To learn more about National Preparedness Month, look at Ready.gov’s website at www.ready.gov/september  (available in 13 languages).

 

Important Websites and Phone Numbers

“Register Ready – New Jersey’s Special Needs Registry for Disasters” homepage and registry link: NJ Register Ready

National Preparedness Month homepage: www.ready.gov/september

NOAA Weather Radio All Hazards, NJ frequencies: www.nws.noaa.gov

New Jersey’s 2-1-1 website: www.nj211.org

National 2-1-1 website: www.211.org

Free and confidential 2-1-1 phoneline, accessible 24/7, 365 days: 2-1-1 (phone number)

Let’s Talk About It

Friday, April 13th, 2018

On Tuesday, June 12th NJFA will host it’s 20th Annual Conference. This year’s conference title is Models, Policies and Prescriptions for Healthy Aging. We have an agenda full of great presenters and topics, you can learn more by visiting our website.

NJFA is honored that our Luncheon Keynote will be presented by Dr. Alison Thomas-Cottingham. Please see the article below (click on the image for full article) written by Dr. Thomas-Cottingham from the Fall 2017 issue of Renaissance magazine. We hope that you can join us for this informative discussion and much more on June 12th.

 

Recent Developments in D.C. To Combat Financial Abuse of the Elderly

Thursday, March 15th, 2018

Recent Developments in D.C. To Combat Financial Abuse of the Elderly

by Robert M. Jaworski, Esq.

Financial abuse of the elderly is getting some attention in Washington these days, and, some say, it’s about time.  On February 22, 2018, Attorney General Jeff Sessions and law enforcement partners announced[1] the largest coordinated sweep of elder fraud cases in history.  In addition, it was reported[2] on March 13, 2018, that an elder fraud bill sponsored by Senate Aging Committee Chairwoman Susan Collins (R-Maine) was recently folded into the banking regulation bill (S. 2155) that is expected to be approved by the Senate in the near future.  Details concerning both of these developments are set forth below.

Nationwide Elder Fraud Sweep Coordinated by the Department of Justice

The cases, which include criminal, civil and forfeiture actions, involve more than 250 defendants from around the globe. They are charged with victimizing more than a million Americans, most of whom are elderly.  Of the defendants, more than 200 have been charged criminally.

The actions charged a variety of fraud schemes, including large scale mass mailing, telemarketing and investment frauds, as well as individual instances of identity theft and theft by guardians.  One case alone concerned a scheme that operated from 14 foreign countries and resulted in losses to American victims totaling more than $30 million.

Mass mailing schemes.  In each of the mass mailing schemes, fraudsters sent direct-mail letters to individuals falsely promising them that they had won cash or other valuable prizes.  All they had to do to claim their prizes was to send back a payment for what was represented as processing fees or taxes. The letters appeared to come from legitimate sources, typically on official-looking letterhead, and to have been personally addressed to each recipient. When an individual took the bait and sent the requested fee, the fraudsters simply kept the money.  No victim ever received a promised prize.  Worse yet, when people showed a susceptibility to these scams, the fraudsters repeatedly targeted and victimized them with other scams.

Other Schemes.  Other examples of elder financial exploitation schemes prosecuted by the Department of Justice include:

  • “Lottery phone scams,” in which callers convince seniors that a large fee or taxes must be paid before one can receive lottery winnings;
  • “Grandparent scams,” which convince seniors that their grandchildren have been arrested and need bail money;
  • “Romance scams,” which lull victims to believe that their online paramour needs funds for a U.S. visit or some other purpose;
  • “IRS imposter schemes,” which defraud victims by posing as IRS agents and claiming that victims owe back taxes; and
  • “Guardianship schemes,” which siphon seniors’ financial resources into the bank accounts of deceitful relatives or guardians;

The Department of Justice indicates that it has partnered with Senior Corps to educate seniors about these types of scams and prevent further victimization.  Senior Corps is a national service program administered by an independent federal agency, the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS).  You can access information on Senior Corps’ efforts to reduce elder fraud by clicking here.  If you suspect that you are a victim of a scam, you can file a report with the Federal Trade Commission by clicking here.  Finally, remember that the best way to avoid becoming a victim of a scam is to be skeptical of anything that sounds too good to be true.  It probably is too good to be true!  Check it out first.

Senator Collins Elder Fraud Bill

This bill, Senate Bill S-223[3], which is called the “Senior$afe Act of 2017,” strives to prevent elder financial abuse by encouraging financial institutions (including credit unions, insurance agencies, banks, investment advisers, and broker-dealers) and their employees to sound an alarm bell whenever they suspect that an elderly person is being financially exploited.  The bill seeks to accomplish this objective by immunizing these institutions and employees from potential liability in any civil or administrative proceeding for disclosing such suspicions.

This immunity, however, is subject to the following conditions:

  • The disclosure is made only to a State or Federal banking or securities regulator, a State insurance regulator, a law enforcement agency, and/or a State or local adult protective services agency.
  • The disclosing employee must be a supervisor or compliance officer employed by the financial institution at the time of the disclosure and have made the disclosure in good faith and with reasonable care.
  • The disclosing employee must have previously received training from the financial institution, appropriate to the employee’s job responsibilities, concerning (1) how to identify and report suspected exploitation of a senior citizen internally and, as appropriate, to government officials or law enforcement authorities, including common signs that indicate the financial exploitation of a senior citizen, and (2) the need to protect the privacy and respect the integrity of each individual customer of the financial institution.

Interestingly, New Jersey already has a similar law on the books, which dates back to 1998.  The New Jersey Foundation for Aging helped to educate concerned individuals and agencies about that law following its enactment.

 

Mr. Jaworski is a member of the NJFA Board of Trustees and an attorney with the law firm Reed Smith, LLP.  He specializes in providing banks and other financial institutions with advice and assistance concerning their responsibilities to comply with applicable federal and state laws and regulations, including, in particular, consumer protection laws and regulations.

 

 

 

MEDICARE OPEN ENROLLMENT

Wednesday, October 25th, 2017

MEDICARE OPEN ENROLLMENT

ARE YOU AWARE OF YOUR CHOICES?

Charles Clarkson, Esq. Jewish Family Services of Middlesex County, Project Director/VP, Senior Medicare Patrol of New Jersey

 

Every year between October 15 and December 7, during a period known as “Open Enrollment,” Medicare beneficiaries can make changes in their Medicare coverage. The Senior Medicare Patrol of New Jersey (SMP), a Federally funded program of the U.S. Administration for Aging, believes that if you know your options you can avoid being scammed and make the right choices giving you the best coverage at the least cost.

Why make a change?  Whether you have Original Medicare (Part A and/or B), Part D (prescription drug plan), or a Part C Medicare Advantage Plan, your plan can change.  Premiums, deductibles  and coverages can all change.  Even if they remain the same, your health or finances may have changed. SMP encourages all beneficiaries to re-visit their coverage and decide whether or not to change during Open Enrollment.

Beneficiaries have these choices:

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

Why change Part D plans?

Beneficiaries may want to change Part D prescription drug plans (PDPs) for a number of reasons:  (i) the PDP has notified the beneficiary that it plans to drop one or more of their drugs from their formulary (list of available medications); (ii) the beneficiary is reaching the coverage gap (donut hole) sooner than anticipated and may want to purchase a PDP with coverage through the coverage gap, if one is available; (iii) the PDP has notified the beneficiary that it will no longer participate in the Medicare Part D program;  (iv) the PDP will increase its premium or co-pays higher than the beneficiary wants to pay and a less expensive plan may be available and (v) a beneficiary is not happy with the PDP’s quality of service or the plan has received low rankings for a number of years.  For 2018 beneficiaries in New Jersey can expect to choose from a number of  PDPs. The plans are announced in late September or early October, 2017.

Compare plans each year.

Beneficiaries should remember that PDPs change every year and it is recommended that beneficiaries compare plans to insure that they are in the plan that best suits their needs.  When comparing plans, keep in mind to look at the estimated annual drug costs, i.e. what it will cost you out of pocket for the entire year, from January 1 through December 31 of each year.  Plans can be compared at the Medicare web site:  www.medicare.gov.  If you do not have access to a computer, call Medicare at 1-800-Medicare to assist in researching and enrolling in a new plan. Medicare can enroll a beneficiary over the telephone.  When you call, make sure you have a list of all your medications, including dosages.  Another resource for Medicare beneficiaries is the State Health Insurance Assistance Program (known as SHIP), telephone 1-800-792-8820.  SHIP is federally funded and can provide beneficiaries with unbiased advice.  Call SHIP to make an appointment with a counselor. You do not need to use a broker or agent who may not be looking out for your best interest. Brokers and agents are usually being paid to enroll you in certain plans.  Beneficiaries can also call the Senior Medicare Patrol of New Jersey at 732-777-1940.

Medicare Open Enrollment can also be a time of fraudulent schemes that can cost you money. The SMP wants you to be on the alert for scams involving new Medicare cards.  Back in the spring of 2015, Congress passed the “Doc Fix” bill which mainly dealt with the long standing problem of the Physician Fee Schedule.  At the same time, Congress sought to remedy the problem caused by having Social Security numbers on the red, white and blue Medicare ID cards.

 

The new cards will be rolled out starting in April of  2018.  Since it will take a period of time to mail new Medicare cards to all Medicare beneficiaries, there will be a transition period through December 31, 2018 when beneficiaries will be able to use either card.  All cards should be issued by April of 2019.  You should start using the new Medicare card once you receive it.  Make sure that the Social Security Administration and Medicare have your current address to insure that you get your new card.

 

This card change is both a blessing and a curse for Medicare beneficiaries.  By removing Social Security numbers, the change greatly decreases the financial havoc that a stolen Medicare card can cause, but it opens the door to scammers  presenting a golden opportunity to take advantage of Medicare beneficiaries.  Remember, there is never a charge for the new Medicare card.  Scammers already are calling  and scaring seniors into paying $300 or more for a new Medicare card and asking for their checking account information to pay for the new card’s fee.

What do you do when you realize that a scammer is calling?  Just hang up.  Do not be polite and just hang up.  Also, do not open any emails about the new Medicare cards even if they appear to be coming from a legitimate source, such as Medicare.  They are most likely scams.  Any questions about the new Medicare cards, call the Senior Medicare Patrol of New Jersey at 732-777-1940.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Scammer Lingo

Wednesday, April 5th, 2017

Scammer Lingo

Here on NJFA’s blog we have featured a few posts about scams, we’ve also done articles in Renaissance and posted scam warnings on Social Media. It seems there is always a new scam or the resurgence of an old scam to be on the lookout for.

But that got us thinking… do we really know what all the terms associated with scams mean? The tactics that scammers use come with their own little lingo. In order to be more prepared and aware- we thought, why not share some of the terms most commonly associated with scams? That way you know what we are talking about when you read about a new scam or a warning of a scam to look out for.

Here is a sampling of terms and their definitions.

Pharming: When hackers use malicious programs to route you to their own websites (often convincing look-alikes of well-known sites), even if you’ve correctly typed in the address of the site you want to visit.

Phishing: The act of trying to trick you (often by email) into providing your personal data or credit card numbers, usually a scammer will pose as a trusted business or other entity.

Ransomware: A malicious program that restricts or disables your computer, hijacks and encrypts files, and then demands a fee to restore your computer’s functionality.

Scareware: A program that displays on-screen warnings of nonexistent infections on your computer to trick you into installing malware or buying fake antivirus protection.

Skimming: The capture of information from the magnetic strip on credit and debit cards by using a “skimmer” devices. These skimmers are secretly installed on card-reading systems at gas pumps, ATMs and store checkout counters.

Spoofing: Scammers can use technology to pose as a specific person, business or agency, this technology allows them to manipulate a telephone’s caller ID to display a false name or number, so that it appears they are calling from a legitimate business or from a local number.

Spyware: A type of malware installed on your computer or cellphone to track your actions and collect information without your knowledge.

As a reminder, if you have been the victim of a scam, contact your local Police Department and/or the Federal Trade Commission  https://www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov/#crnt&panel1-1  or the NJ Division of Consumer Affairs 1-800-242-5846 or www.njconsumeraffairs.gov  

 

Income Taxes and Your Social Security Benefits

Tuesday, February 14th, 2017

Income Taxes and Your Social Security Benefits

David Vinokurov, District Manager, Trenton, NJ, Social Security Administration

With tax season upon us, many of you have asked about Income Taxes And Your Social Security Benefits. Some people have to pay federal income taxes on their Social Security benefits. This usually happens only if you have other substantial income (such as wages, self-employment, interest, dividends and other taxable income that must be reported on your tax return) in addition to your benefits.

Note: No one pays federal income tax on more than 85 percent of his or her Social Security benefits based on Internal Revenue Service (IRS) rules. If you:

  • file a federal tax return as an “individual” and your combined income* is
  • between $25,000 and $34,000, you may have to pay income tax on up to 50 percent of your benefits.
  • more than $34,000, up to 85 percent of your benefits may be taxable.
  • file a joint return, and you and your spouse have a combined income* that is
  • between $32,000 and $44,000, you may have to pay income tax on up to 50 percent of your benefits
  • more than $44,000, up to 85 percent of your benefits may be taxable.
  • are married and file a separate tax return, you probably will pay taxes on your benefits.

 

How can I get a form SSA-1099/1042S, Social Security Benefit Statement?

An SSA-1099 is a tax form we mail each year in January to people who receive Social Security benefits. It shows the total amount of benefits you received from Social Security in the previous year so you know how much Social Security income to report to IRS on your tax return.

If you are a noncitizen who lives outside of the United States and you received or repaid Social Security benefits last year, we will send you form SSA-1042S instead.

Note: The forms SSA-1099 and SSA-1042S are not available for people who receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI).

If you currently live in the United States and you need a replacement form SSA-1099 or SSA-1042S, we have a new way for you to get an instant replacement quickly and easily beginning February 1st by:

Withholding Income Tax From Your Social Security Benefits

 

You can ask us to withhold federal taxes from your Social Security when you apply for benefits.

If you are already receiving benefits or if you want to change or stop your withholding, you’ll need a form W-4V from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

You can download the form, or call the IRS toll-free number 1-800-829-3676 and ask for Form W-4V, Voluntary Withholding Request. (If you are deaf or hard of hearing, call the IRS TTY number, 1-800-829-4059.)

When you complete the form, you will need to select the percentage of your monthly benefit amount you want withheld. You can have 7%, 10%, 15% or 25% of your monthly benefit withheld for taxes.

Note: Only these percentages can be withheld. Flat dollar amounts are not accepted.

 

Sign the form and return it to your local Social Security office by mail or in person.

If you need more information

If you need more information about tax withholding, read IRS Publication 554, Tax Guide for Seniors, and Publication 915, Social Security and Equivalent Railroad Retirement Benefits.

If you have questions about your tax liability or want to request a Form W-4V, you can also call the IRS at 1-800-829-3676 (TTY 1-800-829-4059).

 

 

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.

Phone Scams

Tuesday, January 31st, 2017

Here are NJFA, we like to make sure we are keeping folks aware of scams and fraud issues. Our February episode of Aging Insights, is titled, Stop Identity Theft and features two guests that will help viewers to protect themselves. We also want to address a scam that’s been in the news.

Recently, news outlets across the United States reported on a new scam referred to as the “can you hear me?” telephone scam. According to those reports, the scam begins with an unsolicited phone call. After the caller makes contact they ask the recipient “Can you hear me?” to elicit a response of “yes,” and a potential onslaught of unauthorized charges ensues.

The story goes that if you get this call and respond “yes” to the question, “can you hear me?” that the scammer could be recording it and could use it against you. There is the possibility that you could receive a bill for something you did not purchase or agree to and when you go to dispute the bill you will be presented with your own voice saying “yes” on the recording.

The first thing we want to warn readers about is if you don’t know the caller or are suspicious of their intent, you should always hang up. Do not give personal information or engage the caller in conversation if you have doubts about the legitimacy of the call. You should also contact the appropriate authority to report any issues or to verify any information you are given on the call. For example, if the caller claims to be from your utility company, call the # on your monthly statement to verify your account status or any issues.

After some additional research, we’d also like you to know what some investigators have discovered about this scam. According to the fact-finding website, Snopes, “we haven’t yet been able to identify any scenario under which a scammer could authorize charges in another person’s name simply by possessing a voice recording of that person saying “yes,” without also already possessing a good deal of personal and account information for that person, and without being able to reproduce any other form of verbal response from that person.” That doesn’t mean it cannot happen, just that the reports thus far only support the threat and not any actual monetary charges.

The Snopes article adds, “In all the news reports we found, interviewees merely reported having been asked the common question (“Can you hear me?”) but did not state that they themselves had fallen prey to scammers.”

That being said, we still advice you to use caution when receiving unsolicited phone calls, hanging up is ok. And if you have any scams or crimes to report, contact your local police, the Federal Trade Commission (www.ftc.gov/complaint or 1-877-438-4338), and/or your local Better Business Bureau.

 

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