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Celebrating 50 Years of Medicare with 50 Highlights from the Past
July 28th, 2015

On July 30th 1965, the health care landscape was forever changed for Hispanic older adults. Medicare was signed into law, providing access to guaranteed health benefits for Hispanic aging. Now in its 50th year, Medicare is credited with lifting millions of Hispanic seniors from poverty by ensuring access to health care for those who would otherwise lack coverage. Today, 8% of Medicare beneficiaries are Hispanic but also 70% of Hispanic Medicare beneficiaries have annual incomes. below 200% of the federal poverty line.

Over the last five decades, Medicare has established itself as the gold standard for coverage, quality, and innovation in American health care. While the program’s successes are undeniable, challenges remain. Most Hispanic older adults with Medicare live on very low and modest incomes. Also, 30.7% of Hispanic older adults lack health insurance, and many spend decades waiting to become eligible for Medicare. Half of all Medicare beneficiaries have annual incomes of $24,000 or less. Despite their low incomes, people with Medicare spend a significant amount on health care. On average, Medicare Hispanic households spend nearly 14 percent of their annual income on health care costs, compared to about 5 percent among non-Medicare Hispanic households. Health care spending increases among those in poorer health and with advancing age, and spending as a share of income is greater among those with lower incomes.

While this landmark anniversary represents an important opportunity to celebrate the remarkable successes of the Medicare program, it also provides a chance to identify ways to make Medicare even better for Hispanic older adults over the next 50 years. Looking ahead is the cornerstone of our latest online campaign, “50 Years: 50 Highlights from Medicare’s Past.” We are counting down to Medicare’s historic 50th anniversary by publishing a timeline with Medicare’s highlights over the past 50 years. Some highlights involve big changes, while others target small improvements.

Thinking ahead to the next 50 years, it is critically important for lawmakers to advance global changes to modernize benefits in both Original Medicare and private Medicare health plans. But it is equally important for policymakers to press forward on seemingly small fixes to improve how Medicare Hispanic beneficiaries navigate their coverage day-to-day. With this in mind, our top 10 highlights cover the waterfront, including filling long-standing benefit gaps for dental, hearing, vision, and long-term services; strengthening notice and education for people new to Medicare; and improving overall affordability.


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STD Prevention
July 27th, 2015

Do I need to practice safe sex, even though that I am older? Yes! People of all ages should know how to practice safe sex. Why? Any person that is in an intimate relationship is at risk of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).

Sexually transmitted diseases are infections transmitted through sexual contact, and are caused by bacteria, viruses, or parasites. Some common STDs are:

  • Bacterial Vaginosis (BV)
  • Chlamydia
  • Gonorrhea
  • Hepatitis B, C
  • Herpes
  • HIV/AIDS

Of all STDs, HIV is of particular concern because it can be fatal if left untreated. Approximately one-fifth of people living with HIV/AIDS are older adults. Thousands of older adults get HIV every year. You may ask yourself how is that possible? Well let’s use some examples to illustrate common cases.

First example, a 55 year man that has been in a monogamous relationship most of his life, and then he becomes a widow or gets divorced. After a while, he finds a new romantic interest and starts a new sexual relationship with a new partner and doesn’t use condoms. Then he is unexpectedly diagnosed with HIV.

Second example, a postmenopausal woman just started a new sexual relationship, and she feels that she doesn’t need to use condoms because at this point in her life she can’t get pregnant and her partner is a “nice person”. Then, in one of the regular visits to her doctor she is told she is HIV positive.

As you can see, simple cases like these are some examples of how can you get HIV or any other type of STD.

How can I prevent STDs?

  • Use condoms consistently and correctly
  • Limit the number of people with whom you have sex
  • Limit or eliminate drug and alcohol use before and during sex because it may impair your judgement
  • Talk with your doctor and ask whether you should be tested for STDs and HIV and if you are a good candidate for Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP).

Note that these are ways of preventing STDs but the only way to fully prevent getting an STD is abstinence.

Communication is part of the key, talk with your doctor about the risk and how to protect yourself. Also, talk with your partner to know more about their sexual history. Remember that you are never too old to be at risk of an STD.


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Happy 50th Anniversary Older Americans Act!
July 13th, 2015

Today is the 50 year anniversary of the Older Americans Act being enacted. The Older Americans Act supports to this day, quite a range of home and community-based services with the intention of ensuring the dignity of older adults as they age through their golden years. Programs such as meals-on-wheels, in-home services, transportation, legal services, elder abuse prevention and caregiver support are all supported by the Older Americans Act and are essential to help older adults maintain their independence in their homes and communities. Unfortunately, the renewal of the Older Americans Act is much overdue. It was last renewed in 2006 and consequently expired in 2011. In the last Congress Bernie Sanders from Vermont made heroic efforts to get it passed, however its renewal did not gain much traction. That is why today, we urge you to reach out to your Representatives and Senators and encourage them to renew the Older Americans Act in this Congress.


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Promoting Elder Justice to Ensure the Wellbeing of U.S. Seniors
July 10th, 2015

Elder Justice is a critically important issue, made even more urgent by rapidly changing technology that makes elders who are unable to keep up even more vulnerable to scams and fraud.  It is important to protect elders from abuse in all its forms whether it be physical abuse, neglect, financial exploitation, etc. All older adults deserve to age in dignity and grace, and elder justice is vital to ensure that older adults are safe. Despite public censure and investigative efforts, however, scams and other abuses targeting older adults remain common. Medicare fraud is one of the most common avenues for those seeking to scam vulnerable elders.  In the Hispanic community, there are three avenues through which scammers perpetrate Medicare fraud. The first of these is to bill for services and supplies that were not provided, which steals money directly from patients.  Since medical bills are predominantly produced in English, monolingual Spanish speaking older adults are much less likely than non-Hispanics to notice the discrepancies between services and charges. A second method is the theft of beneficiaries’ Medicare numbers with the intention of making false claims. Finally, there have been instances where medical equipment or products were sent to patients who do not need them and are subsequently billed for unnecessary Medicare services. These scams and other abuses of Hispanic older adults are unacceptable. This is one of the issues that the White House Conference on Aging will bring to the forefront of the aging discussion on July 13th. In addition to the statistics cited above, individual stories and experiences will be shared during the Conference, revealing the state of America’s seniors and their access or lack of access to services, as well as what programs have been effective and which have fallen short.


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Enjoying Retirement Security in our Golden Years
July 9th, 2015

Retirement Security is a critical component for older adults to live out their golden years in ease and enjoy their retirement in dignity and tranquility, surrounded by family and friends. Retirement Security is the knowledge that one has sufficient financial resources available to live out one’s golden years in comfort and without worry about bills will be paid or whether there is enough money for groceries or doctor’s visits.  Hispanic older adults, however, have largely been unable to save sufficient funds for their retirement, despite working hard their entire lives.   Most Hispanic do not have access to pension plans and statistically, Hispanics have the lowest amounts in retirement savings of any racial/ethnic group. At 20%, Hispanic older adults experience the highest level of poverty of any other senior population nationwide.  More than half of Hispanic older adults would live below the poverty line if they did not receive Social Security. The root causes of low savings, coupled with nearly nonexistent pension plans and a high dependency on Social Security are threefold. Hispanics have: lower participation rates in pension retirement plans, participate in professions that frequently do not offer pension plans, and are often self-employed, leaving them without access to employer facilitated pension opportunities. As a result of these circumstances, Hispanics are the racial group least prepared for retirement and are almost completely dependent on Social Security. This is an issue that the White House Conference on Aging will bring to the forefront of the aging discussion on July 13th. In addition to the statistics cited above, individual stories and experiences will be shared during the Conference, revealing the state of America’s seniors and their access or lack of access to services, as well as what programs have been effective and which have fallen short.


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Importance of Long-Term Services for U.S. Older Adults
July 9th, 2015

Long-term services and supports (LTSS) help provide the support needed to ensure older adults can live healthy, secure, and independent lives. The assistance incorporated under long term services and supports consists of a comprehensive spectrum of personal care, and paid or unpaid medical aid, which might be needed for extended periods of time. Long-term services and supports encompass nursing facility care, home health aide services, transportation, and adult day care programs, among other services.  As a person ages, it becomes more difficult to manage daily tasks independently such as fixing meals, bathing, getting dressed, or managing their own home. It is necessary that support is provided to older adults who need assistance completing daily tasks. Unfortunately, not everyone in need of long-term services and supports has access to such assistance. Hispanic older adults for example face numerous difficulties in their attempts to access long term care.  Limited access to long term care is very detrimental to the Hispanic older adult population as approximately 34% of them experience difficulty completing one or more daily tasks. Due to financial obstacles, only one in five Hispanics over the age of 40 are confident that they will have sufficient financial resources to pay for long term services and supports. Although Medicare does help cover some medical costs, the government health care program does not pay for the high costs of long-term services and supports and personal care. This ultimately means that Hispanic older adults will have to pay out of pocket for any needed ongoing treatment. This is one of the issues the White House Conference on Aging will discuss on July 13th in hopes to better understand the predicaments older Americans face and discuss what solutions could be implemented to reduce such hardships.


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Happy Fourth of July
July 3rd, 2015

Over two centuries ago, the birth of a great nation unfolded as it gained its independence. This act of courage would be remembered throughout generations that followed as Independence Day. America gaining its Independence did not only put a dent in its history, but would forever change the course of history itself. Throughout that era, it was only a select few, mostly those born into power and privilege that can achieve success and exercise their rights.

Nevertheless, through the sacrifice of brave men and the heroic leadership led by the founding fathers, the United States of America was born. It was indeed a rare moment, especially in that time of history, for there was very few times when the common people could rise against those who oppressed them. As people from Europe, and eventually all over the world heard of the opportunities in America, people from various countries flocked in numbers. This great nation would become to be known as the land of opportunity.

From then on to today, this country continues to be shaped by the dreams of so many. The diverse culture, the fact that we can be there for one another with people that are descendants from all over the world adds to the value of what it means to be an American. It is the work, sacrifice, respect, and most of all the leadership that Americans demonstrate to fight for justice, that makes this country so great. Therefore let’s celebrate with one another our Independence Day. Happy 4th of July!

Over three centuries ago, the birth of a great nation unfolded as it gained its independence. This act of courage would be remembered throughout generations that followed as Independence Day. America gaining its Independence did not only put a dent in its history, but would forever change the course of history itself. Throughout that era, it was only a select few, mostly those born into power and privilege that can achieve success and exercise their rights.

Nevertheless, through the sacrifice of brave men and the heroic leadership led by the founding fathers, the United States of America was born. It was indeed a rare moment, especially in that time of history, for there was very few times when the common people could rise against those who oppressed them. As people from Europe, and eventually all over the world heard of the opportunities in America, people from various countries flocked in numbers. This great nation would become to be known as the land of opportunity.

From then on to today, this country continues to be shaped by the dreams of so many. The diverse culture, the fact that we can be there for one another with people that are descendants from all over the world adds to the value of what it means to be an American. It is the work, sacrifice, respect, and most of all the leadership that Americans demonstrate to fight for justice, that makes this country so great. Therefore let’s celebrate with one another our Independence Day. Happy 4th of July!


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What is Healthy Aging?
June 29th, 2015

Healthy Aging is not simply being old and being healthy. Everyone is aging and healthy aging is about the adoption of healthy behaviors to ensure an individual can enjoy a high quality of life long into their golden years. Healthy aging is also about being productive and feeling that your life has meaning and purpose. Healthy Aging incorporates all aspects of health in order to achieve happiness and delight in current and future endeavors. Everyone wants to age gracefully and in dignity, however not everyone is blessed with circumstances that empower them to do so. Hispanic older adults greatly struggle with this challenge for several reasons. Although, Hispanic older adults live longer, they are not living healthier lives due to high incidence of both treated, untreated, and undiagnosed Alzheimer’s disease and type 2 Diabetes. Another critical factor in healthy aging is hunger. Just over 23% of Hispanic households experienced food insecurity in 2013. Food insecurity is inextricably linked further degradation of health conditions. Thankfully programs like SNAP are available, but Hispanic older adults are underrepresented as SNAP benefit recipients which is concerning because it means more older adults are going hungry. Concerns such as these are just what the White House Conference on Aging hopes to bring to the forefront of the aging discussion on July 13th. Not only problems that older adults face every day, but individual stories and experiences to know where exactly America’s seniors are and are not being served, what programs have been effective and where they have fallen short.


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Taking a Stand on Caribbean-American HIV/AIDS Awareness Day
June 8th, 2015

The effects of HIV on the Caribbean Diaspora and Caribbean-American communities in the U.S. are devastating. Just like other diverse communities, health disparities— including diabetes, cancer, cardiovascular diseases, and HIV/AIDS— as well as access to health care are prevalent in this population. Given that the U.S. Caribbean-American population is also underrepresented in national data and statistics as many are grouped under the African-American demographic, it is important to commemorate yearly events such as the National Caribbean-American HIV/AIDS Awareness Day (NCAHAAD) to promote health education, engagement, and HIV testing among diverse communities.

Every year on June 8, Caribbean-American leaders across the country sponsor an array of activities to promote HIV/AIDS awareness, as well as draw national attention to the health status of Caribbean-Americans in the U.S. In 2008, Caribbean-Americans represented about 240,000 of the people in the U.S. living with HIV and approximately 20,000 new infections every year. As data indicates that older Americans, especially those from diverse communities, are increasingly at risk for HIV infection, it is imperative that the HIV/AIDS prevention and education messages promoted on NCAHAAD and similar awareness days include and reflect this key population.

How We Can Get Involved

There are several ways we can contribute to sharing this important message within all our communities because HIV is an equal opportunity disease that can affect anyone, at any time and any age:

  1. Use intergenerational relationships to talk HIV

Through NHCOA’s work as a partner of the Act Against AIDS Leadership Initiative, we know that many Latino seniors are open to dialoguing with younger generations. (Some even opened up and shared their advice on video.) Leveraging the close relationships many older adults have with their kin, especially grandchildren, is key to eliminating stigma and shame, as well as encourage talking about HIV.

  1. Get tested and encourage others to do as well

If you are sexually active, the only way to know your HIV status is to get tested. This is especially important for older Americans who think they can’t get infected with HIV because of their age. There are many clinics that offer free testing, and recipients of Medicare Original also are entitled to free HIV testing every 12 months as part of their covered tests and screenings.

  1. Get involved with organizations and leaders who promote HIV health education and prevention

Galvanizing the community around issues that impact their health and well-being is a crucial part of ensuring that every person has access to the information and resources they need to make informed health decisions.

  1. Encourage loved ones to get treated if they are HIV positive

HIV awareness isn’t just about preventing the infection, but also supporting and encouraging those who are HIV-positive. Patients who regularly and consistently receive treatment and care can lead longer, healthier lives, managing HIV as a chronic condition. The key is to enter treatment and care— and stick to it— as soon as a person knows they are HIV-positive to reduce the chance of developing AIDS, as well as spreading the infection to others.

  1. Get social and spread the word

Start and engage in conversations through your social media networks to spread awareness using the hashtags #NCAHAAD and #caribaidsday.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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New Resource Guide from WHCoA: Federal Resources for Caregivers
May 20th, 2015

One of the most important and rewarding jobs a person could have is to be a caregiver. Yet, caregivers often feel alone and overwhelmed, especially those who take care of their parents, grandparents, spouses or siblings.

This is why the White House Conference on Aging has compiled a list of federal resources for caregivers from the following agencies:

  • Administration for Community Living (ACL)
  • Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS)
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
  • Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)
  • National Institutes of Health (NIH)
  • HHS Office of Women’s Health (OWH)
  • HHS Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion
  • U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)
  • U.S. Department of Labor (DOL)
  • Office of Personnel Management (OPM)
  • Social Security Administration
  • U.S. Department of Vetarns Affairs (VA)

Check out this comprehensive list of resources here.


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