Posts Tagged ‘NJFA’

It’s That Time of the Year‚ÄîMedicare 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.

Staying Active—Go4Life Month

Thursday, September 27th, 2018

Did you know September is Go4Life month? Go4Life month is, “an exercise and physical activity campaign from the National Institute on Aging at NIH…designed to help you fit exercise and physical activity into your daily life.” Inspired by Go4Life month, we’d like to share with you some of our tips for getting into (and sticking with) a regular exercise and physical activity regimen. Below are 4 common reasons people often don’t get enough physical activity, and how you can combat them. As always, you should consult a doctor before engaging in a new exercise program, especially if you have any health concerns or medical conditions.

1. Always Feeling Too Busy
Do you always feel like you have too much going on? Like you don’t have time to be physically active? Instead of trying to fit in longer exercise and physical activity periods, try working in smaller periods of activity or working physical activity into your already scheduled activities.

Short exercise intervals have many of the same benefits as longer intervals.

Exercising as little as 10-minutes at a time has real health benefits. Try to set aside a few 10-minute intervals throughout the day to exercise. To get the maximum benefits for your body, try varying your exercises throughout the day. For instance, take a brisk walk in the morning and then do some body weight strength training in the afternoon. In the evening you could do some balancing exercises and a few good stretches for flexibility before bedtime. If you still find yourself unable to squeeze in dedicated exercise time work with the time you do have. If you have only a few minutes, use that time to exercise.

In addition to exercise, recent studies show we also need to be more physically active throughout the day. Being inactive for lengthy periods risk the potential to undo many of exercise’s benefits and can contribute to heart disease, high blood pressure, obesity, increased risk of falls, and feelings of depression and anxiety. There are many ways to get more physical activity into your daily life without disrupting your regular activities. Here are some to try:

Remember to move throughout the day.

• Take the stairs instead of the escalator or take the escalator instead of the elevator and try to walk at least a few steps if you’re able to do so safely.
• Clean your house
• Set yourself an alarm to get up and move for at least 3 minutes every 30 minutes, or at least 5 minutes every hour.
• Walk or bike ride to your errands or to work when possible.
• Have walking meetings and walking lunches at work.
• When meeting with friends and family, center things around some kind of physical activity, you’ll be a great amount of physical activity while you create wonderful memories.
• If you need to spend long periods of time sitting consider investing in a foot/hand elliptical machine that will keep you physically engaged while you sit

2. Motivation
Whether it’s lack of interest or physical limits getting in the way, it’s not always easy to be motivated to exercise or be more active. There are, however, several ways you can work around this and increase your motivation and your physical activity.

Do What You Find Fun
Not into running? Try recreational swimming. Tennis doesn’t interest you? Sign up for some dancing lessons. You love team sports? Why not look into local baseball, basketball, and bowling leagues?

If you haven’t found an activity or exercise yet that really engages you, don’t give up! Keep trying new activities until you find the one that fits your needs and desires. Maybe your local park or community college has a tai chi or yoga class, you could start a neighborhood team sports or running league, and the internet is a great place to search for local groups looking to meetup for a variety of activities for all ages and abilities. And while you’re trying new things and finding the right activity for you you’ll be doing yourself a double-service—learning and trying new things keeps your body and brain active!

Having an exercise-buddy is a great way to stay motivated!

Use the Buddy System
Exercising alone can be hard. That’s where having an exercise friend(s) can come in handy! There are a variety of ways to make sure you have the social motivation to exercise—you can have a regular meeting with a friend to exercise together, you can join a local league or group of exercisers, or you can sign up for a fitness class that gives you a standing commitment each week.

If you prefer to exercise alone, but still need the motivation of a friend, that’s no problem! Having an exercise partner to motivate you can be as simple as checking in with each other on a regular basis to make sure you’re meeting your exercise and activity goals. The best part about the “buddy system” is it not only motivates you, it motivates both of you.

Set a Reminder
For many people, getting into an exercise and activity routine is as simple as scheduling it. Download a fitness tracker on your phone or print an exercise calendar from online (you’ll find hundreds for free if you search “exercise calendar” or “fitness calendar”). Decide what activities or exercise you’ll do on which days and log them. Finally, set yourself reminders or put your calendar in a place where you’ll see it often. You’ll be surprised at how much more active you become!

3. Safety
It’s always important to be safe when being active. Whether you’re in perfect health, recovering from a setback, or dealing with a chronic condition, it’s crucial to be safe while still being active. Here are a few tips to keep you safe while you stay active:

Don’t Push Too Hard, Too Fast
If you’re new to exercise or if you’re coming back to an exercise regimen after a break, take it slow and be careful. Working out too vigorously can cause injury and further derail your fitness plans.

Listen to Your Body
Exercise is about finding the appropriate level of activity for your body, not pushing yourself to an extreme. Speak with a medical profession to talk about what activities are appropriate for you. Track improvements in your health and fitness and use those to judge whether or not your exercise and physical activity is too much. And if you’re experiencing pain due to your exercise routine stop and seek advice from a health professional.

Paying attention will keep your activity goals on track.

Be Aware of Your Surroundings 
Whether you’re inside or outside, make sure you pay attention to your surroundings as you’re staying active. Check the weather before you go outside and pay attention to changes in weather, insect activity, and pollen levels.

If you’ll be going outside, know the route you plan to take and how long you’ll be gone. If you’re going alone tell someone else your plans (or carry a cell phone) so they can be alerted if you need to call for help. And if the weather is cold make sure to wear layers—sweat cools off a body rapidly and can chill you after your body cools down from exercising. Watch out for cracks in pavement, fallen branches, or holes that could trip you or cause you to lose your footing. If you’re exercising indoors make sure you clear enough space for the activity you’ll be doing. Clean small objects off the floor you may trip over, and don’t exercise near furniture.

4. Expense
Money is a common concern and many people don’t have the money (or desire) to buy exercise equipment. They can’t afford monthly gym passes and may think they “can’t afford” to exercise. In reality, though, anyone can exercise, regardless of income! You may not be able to sign up for a membership at a fancy new gym, but there are ways to exercise and be active within any budget, including these:

Small free weights or dumbbells (like those above) are usually relatively inexpensive. You can also fill an empty water bottle or milk jug with water, sand, or pebbles for a free, adjustable weight!

Use Your Body
The freest and most available exercise equipment is your own body. You can take a walk or a run, practice yoga or tai chi, or strength train using your own body weight (think push-ups, squats, etc.). Of course, if you have equipment already, like a bicycle, go for a bike ride, or engage in other sports. If going outside isn’t a good option, walk around your house or engage in an activity like mall walking.

Cheaper Alternatives to Fancy Equipment
Another alternative is to look for cheaper equipment. Jumping rope is a very effective workout for your whole body, and jump ropes can be purchased for only a few dollars. You can also look at local used sporting goods stores and thrift stores or the web for used exercise equipment. You can even make your own weights out of soup cans and water bottles!

Less Expensive Ways to Learn
Check your local offices on aging, senior centers, and libraries to see what, if any, fitness programs they may provide and if any are available for free. If you have health insurance or Medicare check with your provider to see if you’re eligible for any free or reduced-cost gym memberships, fitness programs, or other health initiatives.

Other low-cost ways to learn an exercise are buying a fitness DVD or book, or checking one out from your local library. You can also look at websites like YouTube, which carries hundreds of fitness and exercise videos in a wide range of activities for people of all abilities, for free.

Get Going!
Increasing your physical activity and exercise isn’t always easy. There can be obstacles or setbacks, but the he benefits of physical activity and exercise are numerous: increased fitness and well-being, relief and improvement of many chronic conditions, improved mental health, social engagement, and beyond! Thank you for reading, now take a break from all this reading and get moving!

To find your local Area Office on Aging, call the toll-free number at: 1-877-222-3737

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:

  • ‚ÄúLottery phone scams,‚Äù in which callers convince seniors that a large fee or taxes must be paid before one can receive lottery winnings;
  • ‚ÄúGrandparent scams,‚Äù which convince seniors that their grandchildren have been arrested and need bail money;
  • ‚ÄúRomance scams,‚Äù which lull victims to believe that their online paramour needs funds for a U.S. visit or some other purpose;
  • ‚ÄúIRS imposter schemes,‚Äù which defraud victims by posing as IRS agents and claiming that victims owe back taxes; and
  • ‚ÄúGuardianship schemes,‚Äù which siphon seniors‚Äô 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‚Äôs 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 ?¢‚Ǩ?ìOpen Enrollment,?¢‚Ǩ¬ù 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”¬ù 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 ?Ǭ†2018.?Ǭ† 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.?Ǭ† 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.