Posts Tagged ‘Gov. Christie’

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/

Medicaid Myths in Long Term Care

Monday, January 17th, 2011

You may have heard a friend, family member or neighbor tell a story about an elderly relative that had “all their money taken by a nursing home” or “the state took all their money when they went into the nursing home”.  This is another one of those myths regarding coverage of long term care, like the one we covered in the last blog about Medicare.

Unlike Medicare, Medicaid does cover long term care, but you have to qualify. Medicaid both in the community and in a nursing facility is a program for low-income individuals who must qualify by meeting the income guidelines. When it comes to paying for nursing home care, you have to meet the medical criteria showing that you need the physical assistance, as well as, showing that you have no more than $4,000 is assets and no more than $2,000 in monthly income.

When someone states “the nursing home took all of my mother’s money”, most likely the Medicaid guidelines were not properly explained to them or it was oversimplified by the person explaining it. Often when someone is admitted to a nursing home for long term care, the nursing home must look at their financial records to see how they will pay for the care, they will counsel the person and /or their family on how much care at the facility costs and should help them determine if and when they will need to apply for Medicaid. When a person has enough money to pay, but knows they may run out in six months to a year, they call this a “spend down period” which means you pay the nursing home the monthly rate and when you’ve “spent down” your funds to the Medicaid eligibility level, you can apply for Medicaid.

There may be people who are under the false impression that Medicaid or some other program, will automatically cover you when you need nursing home care, similar to the false belief that Medicare covers long term care costs. We pay for goods and services all the time, but when it comes to long term care there is much confusion and false assumptions.

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

Shared Sites

Tuesday, July 27th, 2010

At NJFA’s June 10th Conference, Donna Butts from Generations United presented a keynote on Shared Sites, serving diverse groups. Shared Sites are defined as “programs where older adults and young people receive services at the same site and both generations interact during regularly scheduled intergenerational activities.” Generations United refers to these centers as, “Intergenerational Shared Sites”. NJFA thought this was a timely topic as the use of space for intergenerational services is also a cost savings for many municipalities that are facing tight budgets.

Donna stated that Generations United feels the needs of children, youth and older adults can be meet and improved by sharing resources through shared sites. Intergenerational services also address the social implications of an increasingly age-segregated society. Some of the benefits of shared sites:

  • enhance quality of life for all participants
  • provides needed services to the community
  • increases cost savings & opportunities to share resources
  • enhances employee benefits for programs with on-site care (day)
  • attracts additional funding & positive public relations
  • improves attitudes about different age groups

Generations United also notes that children benefit from interpersonal relationships with persons from a different age group and report that they have “higher personal/social development scores than preschool children involved in non-intergenerational programs.” Likewise, studies show that seniors involved in intergenerational programs have positive health gains. Some of the services that may be included in a shared site are: childcare center, before/after school programs, early childhood programs, schools, youth recreation programs, camps, adult day services, assisted living/residential care settings, senior centers, and community recreation programs. Some examples include; Adult day program and child care program in same site, senior center located in a public school, after school programs held at a senior center or community/multigenerational center with programs for both generations.

In the powerpoint presentation that Donna shared in the breakout session at the conference, she highlighted the value of shared sites, including:

  • Best opportunity to build relationships and share resources between generations
  • Physical and financial resources used most effectively, maximizes grant investments
  • Significant local public and private appeal
  • A strong sense of place, create community focal points for service delivery
  • Incubators for new program development
  • Improves sustainability of programs

Donna’s keynote presentation was very motivating, feedback from attendees was positive and many attendees stated that they found her remarks inspirational. During the presentation, Donna gave many examples and talked about successful programs, also noting how to create a successful program. NJFA would like to again thank Donna Butts for joining us at the conference and providing such valuable information to all who attended.

For more information about Shared Sites or Generations United visit their website:

http://www.gu.org/

2010 Conference Session: Ethical & Legal Response: Identifying and Reporting Elder Abuse

Thursday, July 15th, 2010

At NJFA’s 12th Annual Conference on June 10th we were pleased to offer a workshop titled, “The Ethical and Legal Response: Identifying and Reporting Elder Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation”. This session featured, David Ricci, State Coordinator of Adult Protective Services; Pat Bohse, Manager, NJ4A; Linda Murtagh- Social Work Supervisor, Ocean County Board of Social Services; and Vincent Olawale- Human Services Division Manager FOCUS, Hispanic Center of Community Development, Inc. The presenters advised the group on how to identify elder abuse and the different forms it takes. Elders can experience abuse in many ways, physical, mental/emotional, financial and also through neglect. 

Also in the discussion was NJ Laws regarding elder abuse and reporting, as well as, the states rules and regulations regarding referrals made to Adult Protective Services. The law regarding Adult Protective Services applies to any “vulnerable adult”, meaning anyone over 18 years of age or older who resides in a community setting and who, because of a physical or mental illness or disability, lacks sufficient understanding or capacity to make or carry out decisions concerning his or her well-being. When reporting elder abuse, you should provide the name and address of the adult and as much information as possible about the concern and the person responsible for any abuse. The report should be investigated within 72 hours according to NJ State Law. Depending on what is found, the adult protective services worker may refer the older adult to services and may contact other Departments, such as the Office on Aging or Division of Developmental Disabilities.

The new NJ State Law regarding the reporting of abuse that was discussed in this session. The law makes it mandatory for certain professionals to report elder abuse, such as optometrists, psychologists, podiatrists, and physical therapists. The new law establishes mandatory reporting for these healthcare professionals and first responders because they are likely to come in contact with vulnerable adults.

Another part of the presentation included Pat Bohse of NJ4A and Bohse & Associates, showing a video about elder abuse. The video shows professionals, elders and family members talking about specific examples of elder abuse as well as numerous facts and figures about the problem. The point of the video is to raise awareness about the problem of elder abuse and encourage people to report it so that more elders can get help if they are in an abusive situation.

 Evaluations from the session indicate that attendees found the presentation informative and that the speakers were engaging. We’d also like to take this opportunity to again thank our wonderful presenters for taking the time to put together this session on a very important subject.

NJ’s Budget Impact on Seniors

Wednesday, May 26th, 2010

May 26, 2010

New Jersey’s budget is in the midst of a heated debate. Governor Chris Christie has proposed the new budget and made many cuts. There have been many groups affected by the cuts that have reacted with press releases, meetings and rallies. NJFA and its partners have done much research and speaking out about the impact on our most vulnerable populations, including seniors.

Some of the proposed cuts included PAAD, NJ’s prescription drug assistance program, seniors would have been forced to pay a $310 deductible and face a co pay increase for brand name drugs from $7 to $15. Thanks to the efforts of many groups, the message of the impact of these cuts got to the legislators and they were successful in getting Gov. Christie to remove those cuts from the budget and keep the PAAD program the way it had been.

While that victory feels pretty good there are still many issues regarding the budget and seniors. The Senior Freeze program, a property tax reimbursement program, will not be given out in 2011, that is approximately $1,000 that many low to middle income seniors rely on to help make ends meet. Another item in the proposed budget that will affect the low income senior in NJ is the addition of a $5 co pay for medical day care services with a monthly cap of $25 and the elimination of medication administration as a criteria for medical day care attendance. Many caregivers rely on medical day care as part of a senior or disabled persons care plan, this will be a hardship for those who need it most.

A decrease in the provider reimbursement rate for the PCA program, a home care program that services 29,000 disabled persons and seniors, has been a hot topic in regard to Gov. Christie’s budget. The cut, which decreases the rate by approximately $2, has been the subject of budget hearing testimony due to the fact that this will cause many providers to withdraw from this vital service, leaving many clients in need without services.

With the Elder Index NJFA highlighted an issue regarding some of our most vulnerable seniors and that is the NJ SSI State Supplement which is just $31 a month and has been since 1986, a payment that is meant to help disabled persons make ends meet on a fixed income and just doesn’t cut it at that level. Recently a budget item has come to our attention that is equally troubling, the spousal supplement for caregivers of disabled persons is due to be eliminated in the proposed budget. Again, many of the cuts in this budget are affecting seniors, the disabled and their caregivers, many of whom are already living on the edge.

NJFA and many of our partner organizations have put out press releases, op eds and fact sheets, sending them to newspapers, legislators and community groups, hoping to get the word out about the proposed budget cuts and their impact on seniors. NJFA encourages everyone to contact their representatives in the legislature to make their voice heard.

You can find contact information for your local representatives at www.njleg.org

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What the budget cuts mean for NJ Seniors

Tuesday, March 30th, 2010

We are sure you’ve heard all about the proposed budget cuts from Gov. Christie for Fiscal Year 2011. What you may be wondering is how does this affect me? You may ask what it all means to you, your children, your parents, or your community?

NJFA has been looking at the proposed budget and doing some research with some of our stakeholders. What we’ve found is that there will be some significant impact for NJ’s seniors. Especially for those most vulnerable, who may already be living on the edge.

Some of you know that in 2009 we advocated, along with many others, for the change in the eligibility level for the NJ Senior Property Tax Freeze program, making the requirement for time you’ve lived in your home to 1 year instead of 3 years. It was disappointing to learn that among the cuts was a freeze on Senior Freeze (also known as Property Tax Reimbursement Program). In the proposed budget those eligible would not receive a property tax reimbursement in 2011. The average reimbursement payment for this program is $1042. So, NJ’s seniors can add that to their cost of living for 2011.

Another cut that is going to add to a NJ senior’s expenses is the increase in co-payments for PAAD. Those who participate in this program do so to save money on medications, because they have limited income. The proposed increase in co-payments for brand name drugs will go from $7 to $15, When you factor in the deductible of $310 a year this will mean another $430 a year added to their cost of living.

Cost of living for a single elder renter in NJ according the NJ Elder Index =$25,941.

Add on the $1042 they won’t receive from the Senior Freeze program  =$26,983

Add on the $430 due to increased PAAD co-pays/deductible  = $27,413

Will there be some safety net or increase to another program such as senior housing to help offset this increase to the NJ senior’s cost of living?