Posts Tagged ‘PAAD’

Medicare Advantage- Beware of scare tactics

Thursday, September 20th, 2012

Medicare Advantage- Beware of scare tactics

What is Medicare Advantage? Medicare Advantage plans are private plans offered by insurance companies to replace your traditional Medicare benefits.

An advantage plan provides all the same benefits as traditional Medicare, such as doctor visits and hospital stays. Some plans may offer extra benefits that are not usually covered by Medicare, such as eyeglasses and hearing aids. Medicare Advantage plans come with a monthly premium that differs depending on the company and type of plan. The Federal Government pays the insurance companies to manage your care under a Medicare Advantage plan, instead of them managing it under traditional Medicare.

There have been some efforts to scare seniors into thinking that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) will change or effect their Medicare Advantage coverage. But you need to know the facts. The Affordable Care Act does not change any benefits guaranteed to Medicare recipients. This includes Medicare Advantage plans. What the ACA does change is the way the Medicare Advantage plans are paid. Starting in 2012, Medicare began reducing the extra government payments to insurance companies for Medicare Advantage plans. The reason for these plans have been made to reduce payments is because there is little evidence that better care was given to anyone on a Medicare Advantage plan. Medicare Advantage plans are eligible to receive bonuses if they provide quality care.

Enrollment in Medicare Advantage plans is low, even here in NJ, leaving some to question, what is the real advantage? Some may think having a commercial insurance company’s name on your card carries more weight than a Medicare card, but just like any commercial insurance plan, there are sometimes more hoops (referrals, prior authorizations) to jump through than there are with traditional Medicare.

What the Affordable Care Act does do for consumers who use Medicare Advantage plans is provide some protections. For example, Medicare Advantage plans are not allowed to charge more for services than traditional Medicare does. The ACA also has provisions to reduce out of pocket costs for patients using high-cost services like cancer treatment or dialysis. Under the ACA, Medicare Advantage plans have also been mandated to limit their administrative costs, as well as their profits. This measure is to ensure that the plans spend 85 % of their money on member benefits (that will start in 2014).

Rumors of Medicare Advantage consumers facing cuts to their benefits due to the ACA are rampant and intended to scare seniors. The truth is, every year the insurance companies are offered the choice to continue operating a Medicare Advantage Plan and to change the services offered under that plan (they are only required to cover what traditional Medicare covers). So, any year, not just this year, Medicare Advantage plans could chose to stop providing optional benefits such as eyeglasses.

So what does this all mean to you, the Medicare recipient? Well, if you are currently in a Medicare Advantage plan, your plan must send you a notice of any changes for 2013 by October 1, 2012. Make sure to read it carefully. Even if you are not currently in a Medicare Advantage plan, all Medicare recipients should go to www.medicare.gov to review both traditional Medicare and Medicare Advantage plans to compare and decide what is best for them. Open Enrollment is October 15 to December 7thand during that period you can decide to stay in the same Medicare Advantage plan you have now, change to a different Medicare Advantage Plan or switch to traditional Medicare. If you chose to switch to traditional Medicare, remember that if you had a Medicare Advantage plan that offered prescription drug coverage you will need to also enroll in a Medicare drug coverage plan and/or buy a Medigap supplemental policy.

 Detailed information about Medicare, Medicare Advantage, Medicare Drug coverage, Medigap plans and Open Enrollment can be found at http://www.medicare.gov/.

 For detailed information about the Affordable Care Act and seniors, visit www.ncoa.org/StraightTalk

For more information about the Affordable Care Act in general, you can visit, http://www.healthcare.gov/law/index.html

Boomer Alert: CDC Recommends Hepatitis C Screenings

Monday, August 27th, 2012

Boomer Alert: CDC Recommends Hepatitis C Screenings

The number of Americans dying from Hepatitis C related diseases nearly doubled from 1999 to 2007. And one in 30 baby boomers have been infected and might not even know it. These statistics come to us from the CDC who is now urging that baby boomers get tested for Hepatitis C. Baby boomers are defined as those born between 1945 and 1965.

It is possible that people were infected by blood transfusions, tattoos, piercing, shared razors, toothbrushes, even manicures. Of course other means of infection with Hepatitis C are sharing drug needles and sexual contact. This blood-borne virus can cause liver damage and it may take years for symptoms to appear. In addition to liver damage, Hepatitis C is linked to liver disease and liver cancer. The CDC estimates that more than 15,000 Americans die each year from Hepatitis C related illnesses.

Screening for Hepatitis C used to just be recommended for those at risk, like drug users. According to CDC, risk-based screening will continue, but is not sufficient alone.  More than 2 million U.S. baby boomers are infected with hepatitis C – accounting for more than 75 percent of all American adults living with the virus.  Studies show that many baby boomers could have been infected with the virus decades ago, did not perceive themselves to be at risk, and have never been screened.

The CDC estimates one-time Hepatitis C testing of baby boomers could identify more than 800,000 additional people with hepatitis C.  And with newly available therapies that can cure up to 75 percent of infections, expanded testing – along with linkage to appropriate care and treatment – would prevent the costly consequences of liver cancer and other chronic liver diseases and save more than 120,000 lives.

The CDC states that without some intervention the statistics will only get worse and the number of infected and the number of deaths will continue to rise. Another reason the CDC is recommending testing now for baby boomers is that there are two new drugs on the market. Treatment for Hepatitis can vary and after receiving results patients should consult with a physician to decide the best treatment plan for them.

More information about Hepatitis C is available at http://www.cdc.gov/knowmorehepatitis/

Many Considerations Regarding Social Security Benefits, Who Knew?

Monday, August 6th, 2012

Many Considerations Regarding Social Security Benefits, Who Knew?

File and Suspend. Sounds like orders for a top secret spy. But no, it is a term used in the world of Social Security benefits. File and suspend means that someone can apply for their Social Security Retirement benefits but then suspend receiving their payments. Why? Well some people want to delay collecting their Social Security because there is a retirement bonus for putting off collecting your benefits. The reason that some individuals may elect to file and then suspend those benefits is so a husband or wife can collect spousal benefits presently and the individual can still receive the delayed bonus when they unsuspended their benefits at age 70.

Confused? So were we. Upon reading about this in a Social Security advice column in the Trenton Times, we did some research. There is a lot of information online about Social Security benefits and financial advice regarding applying for your benefits. As always, we suggest you start at the source and only trust information from the Social Security Administration website. This page on the Social Security Administration website, http://www.ssa.gov/retire2/suspend.htm tells you about your option to suspend benefits and a few cautions before making your decision.

If you receive Medicare Part B, you will be billed directly by Medicare for that premium which is usually deducted straight from your Social Security payment. If you suspend and are not receiving a Social Security payment but still are enrolled in Medicare Part B you will be billed for your premium for that coverage. The other caution which may affect less people is that if you are an SSI recipient, suspending your Social Security Retirement benefit will make you ineligible for your SSI benefits.

So, if you want to hold off until age 70 to receive your Social Security Retirement benefits and receive  bonus for delaying your benefits, whatever the reason may be, you can do so by using the file and suspend method. If you have questions or need further advice contact the Social Security Administration online at www.ssa.gov, on the phone at  1-800-772-1213, or TTY number, 1-800-325-0778, between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. Monday through Friday. You can also contact your financial advisor.

Be sure to read the next issue of Renaissance magazine for important information on financial planning, social security and more. Don‚Äôt know how to find it? Ask us at [email protected]

Communication

Wednesday, July 25th, 2012

Communication

¬†I recently read an article from the LA Times, that was run in the Living section of the Trenton Times on July 3rd. It was titled ‚ÄúGrandma, you’ve got mail‚Äù and told the story of seniors taking computer classes. The article was very interesting and there were some great quotes from both the student volunteers teaching the courses and the seniors taking advantage of them.

We’ve known for awhile that there is a “digital divide” among the generations. Certainly there are some more mature users of such technology was email, cell phones and even Facebook, gasp! But there are also those older adults that either fear the computer, or just have no interest. One quote from the LA Times piece that really caught my attention was this, “It scares me”, Edythe Eisenberg said of her iPad. “But when I call my kids and grand kids they don’t call me back, so I have to use e-mail.” This really touched me as a sad aspect of our growing reliance on computer technology and non-verbal communication.

I think technology is great and offering seniors a chance to learn how to use and not fear some of these new technologies is also great, if they want them. However, those of us that are caught up in the fast paced world of communicating with our friends and colleagues through mostly email, text or online chats should not forget the seniors in our lives that want to hear from us. Your mother, father, grandmother or grandfather shouldn’t feel forced to use a technology they don‚Äôt like just because it is the only way to hear from you. Pick up the phone and say, ‚Äúhey, how are you today?‚Äù Don‚Äôt miss that chance to learn something, help out with something or just connect, with an actual voice. It will be good for them and for you.

Technology is good for those who like it, but let’s remember to communicate to each other in the best way possible, which sometimes may be using the old fashioned telephone or dropping by for a face to face. But by all means if you grandma wants to be on Facebook, teach her how to get online! Who knows, maybe she’ll log on to match.com!

Are you fierce?

Monday, May 7th, 2012

Are you fierce?

We recently came across an interesting website, www.fiercewithage.com, the site is a call to action for boomers to not fear aging and to resist ageism. The founder of this site is Carol Orsborn, Ph.D. is an author and spiritual advisor.

 Dr. Orsborn believes that anti-aging messaging is destructive not only mentally, but that it could also have consequences socially, politically and economically.

 She considers this effort a “consciousness movement” and compares it to fighting for women’s rights. Dr. Orsborn has identified five flags, or things you should avoid saying and beware about others saying them and gently confront them about it.

 The five flags are:

  1. Satire or jokes. Dr. Orsborn cautions against self-deprecating comments that may insinuate that older adults are a burden or that young people are not also forgetful. In particular she references the common phrases, “off our rockers” and “I’m having a senior moment”.
  2. Youth-centric language. Dr. Orsborn states that referring to an older person as “youthful” implies that those traits can only be associated with a young person. She suggests instead using, “vital” and “passionate”.
  3. Separating one out from peers. Here Dr. Orsborn is referring to statements like, “Can you believe I’m 60 years old?!” These type of statements make it seem that any positive characteristics could not be possible for someone that age and that anyone else that age looks worse.
  4. Defining successful aging based solely on attributes normally associated with younger individuals. She cautions that we should be wary of equating strength, exceptional health or mental acuity as successful aging. For example, she refers to people who over reach their personal capacity when exercising and therefore they risk injury. She suggests following your desires and evolving passions.
  5. Romanticizing or sanitizing images of aging. Dr. Orsborn calls attention to the problem of wishful thinking instead of being realistic. While we want to aspire for the best case scenario we need to prepare emotionally, practically and financially for the future.

 These five flags were published in a recent article in the Huffington Post. At the end of the article Dr. Orbsorn asks for a call to action and urges boomers to get involved with a “new consciousness” group.

For more information about that and about Fierce with Age visit them online at www.fiercewithage.com

Learn more, connect with others and get involved.

Tuesday, May 1st, 2012

Learn more, connect with others and get involved.

 Affordable housing, job availability, livable wages, food security these are all key pieces to living and aging well in NJ. A recent article in the Trenton Times highlights the struggle of the homeless in accessing services at three key organizations that provide shelter, food and many other services. In navigating this “triangle” as they call it (due to distance traveled between each organization) some of the homeless in Mercer County have hope of escaping the street and having a home, a job, food, their health.

 Certainly Mercer County is not alone in this problem, throughout the state there are many homeless who find themselves navigating their way through the services available in each area. In addition to the homeless there are those living on the edge of homelessness, they are unemployed, under-employed and living pay check to pay check wondering if this will be the week they end up on the street.

There are many supports available to the homeless and working families, like SNAP (food stamps), SRAP (State Rental Assistance), Family Care (Medicaid/Health insurance) and of course there are many non-profit, charitable organizations that are doing their part to help those in need through various programs and supports. But is it enough?

 There are ways to get involved, to learn more and to connect with other advocates. The Anti-Poverty Network of NJ, a group of like-minded organizations and individuals that meet to strategize on advocacy efforts is holding a summit, Poverty Summit: A Call to Invest in the People of New Jersey on Monday, May 21, 2012 from 9 am to 12:30 pm at the War Memorial in Trenton, NJ. At this summit you will hear statistics on poverty in NJ, you’ll hear from service providers as well as community members who have experienced poverty, but you’ll also here about advocacy efforts and opportunities for you to join in those efforts.

So, please join us to learn more, connect with advocates and get involved. For more details and to register go to http://apnpovertysummit.eventbrite.com/

 PS- You can follow this up by coming to NJFA’s Annual Conference on June 14, 2012 to discuss affordable housing and many other important topics for aging well in NJ! www.njfoundationforaging.org/events.html

May is Older Americans Month

Monday, April 30th, 2012

The theme for Older Americans Month this year is Never Too Old to Play to learn more about this theme and what it means please visit http://olderamericansmonth.org/

 To find out what events might be taking place in your area, contact your County Office on Aging by visiting http://www.njfoundationforaging.org/services.html to find the websites and phone numbers for your county office or call 1-877-222-3737 to be connected to the office in your county.

 To kick off Older American’s Month, May’s episode of Aging Insights is all about the County Office on Aging and their services. NJFA’s Program Manager, Melissa Chalker hosts this episode which features three executive directors of NJ’s County Offices on Aging. Our guests are, Joanne Fetzko of Somerset County, Lorraine Joewono of Bergen County and Jane Maloney of Ocean County. In this episode our three guests tell us about the history of the County Offices on Aging and the services they provide to the community. In addition to addressing the community needs through the core services and what Lorraine labeled, “wrap around” services, many offices have expanded to a new model called ADRC, or Aging and Disabled Resource Connection which makes many of the services available to disabled individuals.

Aging Insights is available to public access stations. The show can also be seen on NJFA’s YouTube channel, http://ping.fm/UJr1r

NJFA 14th Annual Conference- Hot Topics- June 14, 2012

Monday, April 16th, 2012

NJFA is proud to be hosting our annual conference for the 14th year. We work hard every year to bring new and pertinent topics to the professionals who attend. And this year is no different.

We will feature a session about hoarding that is going to look at the ethical and clinical aspects of the condition. Our panel includes Steven Majewski and Mary Anne Ross of COPSA, Barbara Goodman a moving specialist and Kelli Dixon at the Ocean County Board of Social Services. Together they’ll inform the audience as to what hoarding is, what is looks like, how it affects different aspects of a client’s life and they’ll also share real life stories and possible solutions.

We’ll also be exploring some legal issues that are currently affecting seniors. Gwen Orlowski of Legal Services of NJ, Elizabeth Speidel of the Office of the Institutionalized Elderly and Judy Millner of Jewish Family and Children Services will take the audience through some examples of legal issues that seniors are facing in the area of health care. We know Medicare can be a complex web to untangle, these presenters will give the attendees new information to help guide their clients through the system.

These are just two sessions that will be offered at our day-long conference on Thursday June 14, 2012. The day will also feature two keynote speakers, one discussing affordable housing over breakfast and they second discussing “second adulthood” over lunch. Stay tuned to this blog for more details.

Visit our website at www.njfoundationforaging.org/events.html to view the online brochure and register. Questions? Call us at 609-421-0206 or email questions to [email protected]

Register Online! NJFA’s 14th Annual Conference

Monday, April 2nd, 2012

Register Online! NJFA’s 14th Annual Conference

 NJFA’s 14th Annual Conference, “Addressing the Needs of Diverse Populations” will be held on Thursday June 14th at the Crowne Plaza Monroe.

 And you can register online at https://secure.americanweb.net/njfoundationforaging/

 In addition to our two keynote speakers, Linda Couch of the National Low Income Housing Coalition and Suzanne Braun Levine nationally recognized author, we have a full day of great sessions!

 To read more about our keynote speakers, see our blog post from 3/12/12 http://blog.njfoundationforaging.org/?p=183

 The various breakout sessions are offered in both the morning and the afternoon. Topics range from managing chronic disease, to addressing the needs of LGBT seniors. NJFA has found many qualified panelists to share with you new data, evidence based practices, and practical solutions. Attendees can chose to attend a session on hoarding and learn how to identify it, what the ethical implications are and learn some solutions. Or, they can chose to attend a session where they’ll learn about new and innovative ways for seniors to stay active through the Move Today program.

 Want to know more? See our brochure online at: http://www.njfoundationforaging.org/NJFAConfBro_web.pdf

 Registration will begin at 8 am with a continental breakfast and after two keynotes and morning and afternoon breakout sessions, you’ll be on the road home by 3 pm!

You can register on our website, via email or by fax (609-421-2006)

 Questions? Give us a call at 609-421-0206 or visit www.njfoundationforaging.org

It’s Tax Time- How to Get Volunteer Tax Help

Monday, March 26th, 2012

Volunteer Tax Help

Yes, it is time to think about filing your 2011 tax returns. It’s a job that is never a joy, but could be less of a hassle, if you try using a terrific free service Рthe Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program (VITA). 

 For over 30 years, the VITA force of 2,000+ volunteers has helped more than 2 million households file basic tax forms.  This program offers free tax help to people who cannot afford professional assistance (generally those with incomes under 49,000). Volunteers help prepare basic tax returns in community and neighborhood centers, libraries, schools, and other community locations.

A recent focus of the program is to encourage taxpayers to file their returns, federal and State, electronically. Each year the number of taxpayers that take advantage of this method continues to grow.

 According to the IRS website the following are the items you should bring to have your tax return prepared:

  • Proof of identification
  • Social Security Cards for you,¬†your spouse and dependents and/or a Social Security Number verification letter issued by the Social Security Administration
  • Birth dates for¬†you, your spouse and¬†dependents on the tax return
  • Current year‚Äôs tax package if¬†you received one
  • Wage and earning statement(s) Form W-2, W-2G, 1099-R, from all employers
  • Interest and dividend statements from banks (Forms 1099)
  • A copy of last year‚Äôs Federal and State returns (if available)
  • Bank Routing Numbers and Account Numbers for Direct Deposit
  • Total¬†paid for¬†day¬†care provider and the day care¬†provider’s¬†tax identifying number¬†(the provider’s Social Security Number or the provider’s business Employer Identification Number)

To file taxes electronically on a married filing joint tax return, both spouses must be present to sign the required forms.

To locate the nearest VITA site, call 1-800-829-1040 or contact your local Office on Aging, you can find the # for your County office by visiting www.njfoundationforaging.org/services.html or call 1-877-222-3737.