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2014 State of Hispanic Older Adults: Stories from the Field
November 14th, 2014

Dr Yanira Cruz at NHCOA 2014 Capitol Hill Briefing

Older Americans are living longer, not better

For many seniors across the country, aging in dignity is not possible because they cannot meet their basic needs. While Americans are living longer, statistics show that we are experiencing more chronic conditions, less economic security, and less food security. Older and aging Americans – especially Hispanic older adults – are facing unthinkable choices between eating meals and buying needed medications. Many need to return to the workforce to make ends meet, and many are living in poor housing. Today, more than ever, addressing aging issues is vital.

The thought of a senior stocking up on cat food instead of tuna is truly appalling.

Yet, during our 2014 Promoting Communities of Success Regional Meetings in Florida, Texas, and in California, we were confronted with a troubling reality: seniors are going to bed hungry.

Many seniors, who depend on their Social Security checks shared that their fixed incomes weren’t enough to pay rent, buy food, and purchase their medicines. And then, a participant spoke the unimaginable: “Food is so expensive here that I know some seniors are eating cat food to make ends meet and not starve.”

Giving older Americans a much-deserved voice

On Thursday, November 13, NHCOA released its latest report, Status of Hispanic Older Adults: Stories from the Fielda data and testimonial-driven status report with policy recommendations that captures the hardships and challenges shared by seniors during the regional meetings arising from the lack of policies, programs, and strategies to address the aging and diversification of our U.S. population.

Participants:

  • U.S. Representative Raul Ruiz, M.D. (D-CA)
  • U.S. Representative Michelle Lujan-Grisham (D-NM)
  • U.S. Representative Tony Cardenas (D-CA)
  • Cindy Padilla (NHCOA Board Member)
  • Kate Lang, Staff Attorney, National Senior Citizen Law Center
  • Dr. Jaime R. Torres, President, Latinos for Healthcare Equity
  • Jose Perez, Executive Director, Senior Community Outreach Services (McAllen, TX)
  • Francis Rizzo, Community Advocate (Dallas, TX)
  • Harry Paraison, MPA, Executive Director, DH Perfil Latino (Milville, NJ)
  • Elizabeth Jimenez, Director Senior Programs, Mexican American Opportunity Foundation (Los Angeles, CA)
  • Ariel A. González, Esq., Director, Federal Health and Family Advocacy, AARP

NHCOA 2014 State of Hispanic Older Adults Report Release

Read the report and click on the photo above for more photos from NHCOA’s Capitol Hill briefing to release its latest report State of Hispanic Older Adults: Stories from the Field.

 

 

 


NHCOA Encourages Latinos to Commit to End AIDS
October 15th, 2014

nlaad-logoTo end AIDS, commit to act.

This is the theme for the 11th annual National Latino AIDS Awareness Day (NLAAD), which is observed yearly on October 15 at the end of Hispanic Heritage Month.

This awareness day was created in response to the impact of HIV/AIDS on the U.S. Latino community, including the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, and this year the call action is centered around three main messages:

Get the Facts About HIV

Myths, stigma, and lack of targeted education makes Latinos less aware of how to protect themselves from the virus. This is concerning because Hispanics are disproportionately affected by HIV: Latinos represent 16% of the U.S. population and 21% of all new HIV infections.

Get Tested for HIV

1 in 6 people living with HIV in the U.S. do not know they are infected, which contributes to the rates of new infections. Further, studies show that one in 36 Latino men and one in 106 Latina women will be diagnosed with HIV at some point in life.

Get Into and Stay in Medical Care if you are HIV+

The best way to fight against HIV if you are infected is to get into what is called the HIV care continuum or treatment cascade— a model that agencies at every level use to identify issues and opportunities related to improving the delivery of services to HIV+ positive patients who are receiving treatment.

“HIV is a serious matter for the entire country, especially the Hispanic community, which is disproportionately affected. That is why NHCOA committed to doing our part in ending AIDS. Through our work with the CDC’s Act Against AIDS Leadership Initiative, we are helping to reduce the rates of HIV in hard-to-reach and diverse communities,” said Dr. Yanira Cruz, NHCOA President and CEO.

“While our focus is on the Latino senior population, we cannot begin to address the issue of HIV without looking at the big picture: Hispanic older adults’ families and caregivers. This intergenerational approach allows us to understand what the most effective practices and strategies are when it comes to reaching hard-to-reach seniors, as well as promote cross generational dialogue and education.”

“Specifically, we leverage the strong connections, leadership, and influence Latino seniors have within their families, communities, and places of worship and leisure by offering culturally and linguistically appropriate outreach and education focused on intergenerational storytelling and dialogue to break the silence and eliminate the stigma.”

What you can do on National Latino AIDS Awareness Day (NLAAD)

Get the Facts. Start a conversation at home, or with a loved one, on HIV/AIDS.

Get Tested. If you are sexually active, ask your healthcare provider for an HIV test during annual check ups. [Under the ACA, most new health insurance plans must cover certain recommended preventive services, including HIV testing.]

Join the Conversation. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter with the hashtag #NLAAD to be part of the ongoing conversation. [Need some more information? Check out our 2014 NLAAD materials for inspiration.]


2014 National Latino AIDS Awareness Day Materials
October 15th, 2014

nlaad-logo

Hispanics currently account for 21% of new HIV infections and 19% of people living with HIV in the U.S., but only represent 16% of the total population. This stark reality is the reason why various organizations and activists across the country commemorate October 15 as National Latino AIDS Awareness Day (NLAAD). NHCOA has compiled these resources to help Hispanic older adults, their families, and caregivers, as well as health advocates and professionals to engage their communities in the HIV conversation so more people know the facts, get tested, and get into and remain in medicare care if they do have HIV.

Events

Social Media

Materials

Campaigns

Additional Resources


Medicare Open Enrollment Starts Tomorrow!
October 14th, 2014

Fall is an exciting time of the year — hayrides, crisp weather, and the holiday season is around the corner. As we swap out our t-shirts for pull-overs in preparation for the colder months ahead, the Fall season is also an opportunity for Medicare beneficiaries to reflect on their current health insurance and assess whether or not they should explore other coverage options.
The status of our health can change significant from one year to the next, as can our life situation. For this reason, Medicare offers several options for its beneficiaries to choose that can best suit their needs and preferences. While having a variety of options is necessary given that each person’s condition is unique, it can also be confusing and overwhelming.
Let’s take a look at what Medicare Open Enrollment is and how to take advantage of this yearly opportunity Medicare offers its beneficiaries.

Take advantage of the Medicare Open Enrollment period.

This month review your Original Medicare or Medicare Advantage plan by answering the following questions:
  • Does this plan still meet my Medicare and healthcare needs?
  • Has my health condition changed much since last year?
  • Have I moved to another state or city?
  • Will my plan be available for 2015?
Also, if you already have a Medicare Part D plan, you should look back over your 2014 plan and make an enrollment decision for your coverage for 2015. Should you stay with your existing coverage or make a change? If you make no decision, you will remain in the same plan as you elected in 2014. If you are satisfied that your current plan will meet their needs for next year, you don’t need to do anything. If you don’t have Part D, consider if you should enroll for 2015.

Medicare Open Enrollment is only once a year.

The Medicare Open Enrollment period is October 15 through December 7. During this time period you can review your health care coverage and decide if you need to make any changes for your coverage next year. Conversely, if you are happy with your current plan and it is still being offered next year, you don’t need to do anything.
Medicare consists of four parts: A, B, C and D. The first two parts is what is referred to as Original Medicare (Parts A and B). Original Medicare is offered directly through Medicare and includes hospital insurance (Part A) and health insurance (Part B). Part C is similar coverage, the key difference being that it is offered through private companies. Therefore, a Medicare beneficiary either has Original Medicare or Part C (also known as Medicare Advantage) to cover their hospitalization and health insurance needs. During Open Enrollment a beneficiary can choose to switch from Original Medicare to a Medicare Advantage plan or move from one Advantage plan to another.
Finally, there is Part D, which is a voluntary program that subsidizes the costs of prescription drugs and prescription drug insurance premiums for Medicare beneficiaries. This keeps seniors healthier and ultimately reduces costs to the Medicare system.

Enrollment in Medicare Part D is voluntary.

While Medicare Part D is a voluntary program, the downside to not enrolling is that you may be subject to a life-time premium penalty when you do decide to enroll in a Part D plan. However, the cost-saving benefit and access to the proper medicine if and when you need them are far greater than the penalty.

What if I like my 2014 coverage? What do I do now?

If you are satisfied that your current plan will meet your needs for next year, you do not need to do anything. If you miss the 2014 open enrollment period, your next chance to enroll is October 2015 for coverage in January 2016.

For more information, visit www.medicare.gov or call 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227).


NHAAAD 2014: Shifting Attention and Focus to HIV/AIDS and Aging
September 18th, 2014

Aging is a part of life; HIV doesn’t have to be. 

This is the theme for the 7th annual National HIV/AIDS and Aging Awareness Day (NHAAAD), which is observed yearly on September 18.

This awareness day was created to address two distinct truths:

Many older Americans are not getting tested for HIV.

Myths, stigma, and lack of targeted education make this population, especially diverse older adults, less aware of how to protect themselves from the virus. This is concerning because the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that by next year, 50% of the people living with HIV in the United States will be 50 years or older.

Medical breakthroughs have improved HIV treatment, allowing people who adhere to regular and continuous care lead longer and healthier lives.

While this is a positive outcome, we face a shortage of services and support mechanisms for older Americans living with HIV/AIDS. In addition, there isn’t enough research or data about the impact of HIV/AIDS on the normal aging process.

“If we look at the data, the numbers are very clear. There is a clear need to shift attention and focus to older Americans, who face many of the same HIV risk factors that younger age groups do, yet are more likely to receive a late diagnosis,” said Dr. Yanira Cruz, NHCOA President and CEO.

“This is particularly true among diverse seniors, who face many health disparities compared with their White non-Hispanic peers. That is why NHCOA became a proud partner of the CDC’s Act Against AIDS Leadership Initiative to help reduce the rates of HIV in hard-to-reach and diverse communities. While NHCOA serves and represents the needs and interests of Hispanic older adults, we know they don’t live in a vacuum.”

“Through our work with AAALI we leverage the strong connections, leadership, and influence Latino seniors have within their families, communities, and places of worship and leisure by offering culturally and linguistically appropriate outreach and education focused on intergenerational storytelling and dialogue to break the silence and eliminate the stigma.”

What you can do on National HIV/AIDS and Aging Awareness Day

  • Get Tested. If you are sexually active, ask your healthcare provider for an HIV test during annual check ups. [Under the ACA, most new health insurance plans must cover certain recommended preventive services, including HIV testing. Free HIV screening is also included in Medicare Part B.]
  • Advocate. Read the Diverse Elders Coalition’s Eight Policy Recommendations for Improving the Health and Wellness of Older Adults with HIV.
  • Go Viral. Share this blog post and these NHCOA videos with your contacts and raise awareness about HIV/AIDS and aging.
  • Join the Conversation. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter with the hashtags #AIDSandAging and #NHAAAD to be part of the ongoing conversation. Here is a social media guide and memes to get you started.

 


NHAAAD 2014: Shifting Attention and Focus to HIV/AIDS and Aging
September 18th, 2014

Aging is a part of life; HIV doesn’t have to be.

This is the theme for the 7th annual National HIV/AIDS and Aging Awareness Day (NHAAAD), which is observed yearly on September 18.

This awareness day was created to address two distinct truths:

  1. Many older Americans are not getting tested for HIV. Myths, stigma, and lack of targeted education make this population, especially diverse older adults, less aware of how to protect themselves from the virus. This is concerning because the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that by next year, 50% of the people living with HIV in the United States will be 50 years or older.
  2. Medical breakthroughs have improved HIV treatment, allowing people living with HIV/AIDS who stick to regular and continuous care lead longer and healthier lives. While this is a positive outcome, we face a shortage of services and support mechanisms for older Americans living with HIV/AIDS. In addition, there isn’t enough research or data about the impact of HIV/AIDS on the normal aging process.

“If we look at the data, the numbers are very clear. There is a clear need to shift attention and focus to older Americans, who face many of the same HIV risk factors that younger age groups do, yet are more likely to receive a late diagnosis,” said Dr. Yanira Cruz, NHCOA President and CEO.

“This is particularly true among diverse seniors, who face many health disparities compared with their White non-Hispanic peers. That is why NHCOA became a proud partner of the CDC’s Act Against AIDS Leadership Initiative to help reduce the rates of HIV in hard-to-reach and diverse communities. While NHCOA serves and represents the needs and interests of Hispanic older adults, we know they don’t live in a vacuum.”

“Through our work with AAALI we leverage the strong connections, leadership, and influence Latino seniors have within their families, communities, and places of worship and leisure by offering culturally and linguistically appropriate outreach and education focused on intergenerational storytelling and dialogue to break the silence and eliminate the stigma.”

What you can do on National HIV/AIDS and Aging Awareness Day

  • Get the Facts. Start a conversation at home, or with a loved one, on HIV/AIDS. You can get more information here.
  • Get Tested. If you are sexually active, ask your healthcare provider for an HIV test during annual check ups. [Under the ACA, most new health insurance plans must cover certain recommended preventive services, including HIV testing. Free HIV screening is also included in Medicare Part B.]
  • Advocate. Read the Diverse Elders Coalition’s Eight Policy Recommendations for Improving the Health and Wellness of Older Adults with HIV.
  • Join the Conversation. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter with the hashtags #AIDSandAging and #NHAAAD to be part of the ongoing conversation. Here are some sample messages and memes to get you started.
  • Go Viral. Share this blog post and NHCOA videos like the one below with your contacts and raise awareness about HIV/AIDS and aging.

 


Paid sick leave wins in California and Paterson, NJ
September 10th, 2014

By Dr. Yanira Cruz

On September 9, 2014, Paterson, NJ became the 11th city in the United States, and the 5th in New Jersey, to pass paid sick days (PSD) legislation through a city council ordinance. According to New Jersey Working Families, a nonprofit group that’s part of a coalition of organizations pushing for sick time laws around the state, “more than 4,000 Patersonians signed petitions supporting the initiative.”

The law neither applies to government entities nor to employers that have union contracts in place with their workers. Under this ordinance, employees would be allowed to accrue one hour of sick time for every 30 hours they work. The workers would be allowed to carry sick days from one year to the next, but they would not be able to cash in unused sick days, according to proponents of the initiative.

Similarly, on August 30, 2014, California joined Connecticut as the second state requiring most California employers to provide a minimum of three paid sick days to their workers each year.

Although it excludes in-home care workers, this law, which was signed into law today, September 10, 2014, will cover an estimated 6 million workers, or 40% of California’s workforce.

The fight for paid sick days has gained incredible momentum in recent years, especially in the past year, all thanks to local and state advocacy groups such as National Partnership for Women and Families (NPWF) as well as Family Values @ Work (FV@W).

According to PSD advocates, “workers who do not have access to paid sick days are one-and-a-half times more likely to go to work sick with a contagious illness, putting their co-workers and customers at risk, and costing an estimated $160 billion each year in lost productivity. Delaying treatment for illness can cause conditions to worsen, leading to more emergency room visits and increased costs for public health insurance programs.”

To date, the United States is the only nation in the world that does not offer paid maternity leave and one of a few that does not uniformly require some form of paid sick days.

Despite the introduction of federal legislation, Congress has been slow to act. As a result, states and cities around the United States have taken it upon themselves to pass piece-meal legislation in hopes of creating national discourse and momentum that will force Congress to act and provide a consistent solution to this issue. Given the various victories in the past year, and especially in the past few months, it is clear that this movement is gaining steam and it will hopefully force Congress to act on it in the subsequent months following the November elections.

In addition to Connecticut, and now California, eleven cities have passed similar legislation into law. Five of those cities passed their laws in 2014 alone. Sick-day measures are on at least a half-dozen ballots this November, including in Massachusetts, Oakland, California, and a few cities in New Jersey. At least six more states will take up the issue in 2015, including Colorado, Maryland and Vermont.

NHCOA, a staunch advocate for paid sick days, will continue to work alongside groups such as NPWF and FV@W to ensure that the voices of American workers who would benefit greatly from similar legislation, are heard.


Help Latino Seniors Protect Themselves from Medicare Fraud on Grandparents Day
September 6th, 2014

Many of us have fond memories of our grandparents: hanging out with them on holidays, sharing something sweet to eat, hearing stories of days gone by. They’d greet us with warm hugs and big smiles, spoil us rotten, brag about us to their friends, and we thought they were just the most wonderful people in the world.

Well, many of these wonderful older adults can also fall prey to Medicare fraud because they are so trusting and tend to give people the benefit of the doubt. We all know of those older adults that contribute money to what they think is a worthy cause because someone called them up and tugged at their heart strings. We’ve all heard of those older adults who lose their entire retirement savings to some scam that ended being too good to be true. The same thing happens with Medicare.

Medicare fraud is a multi-billion dollar problem in the United States, and there are all kinds of unscrupulous folks out there waiting to pounce on unsuspecting older adults. In fact, the FBI estimates that Medicare fraud could be as much as $60 billion a year, or about 10 percent of all healthcare expenditures in the country, and it’s expected to go up as the number of older adults increases. That’s money that’s not being used for much-needed healthcare services.

In fact, federal officials call Medicare fraud a crime against healthcare. Did you know that the Affordable Care Act authorizes more jail time if the Medicare fraud involves a million dollars or more? The scammers and unscrupulous people who rip off our older adult population can spend from 20 to 50 percent more time behind bars for scams that involve significant amounts of money. The federal government is serious about catching the fraudsters; we all should be.

Latino older adults are especially vulnerable because some have little or no knowledge of English, they are afraid to ask questions, they have low levels of formal education and very low levels of health literacy.  Moreover, many don’t have enough resources to transport and go to places to access information. Others aren’t sure how to navigate a rather daunting bureaucracy and they’re not sure where to turn for help, so when they see someone who they think   might be helpful,  they put their trust in that person.

What can we do about it?  Talk about it.  Spread the word to prevent Medicare fraud.  Sunday, September 7th happens to be National Grandparents Day, and that’s the perfect time to talk to your grandparents or other older adults about Medicare fraud. Besides spending the day with them, taking them out to eat, or just going over for a nice long visit, make sure they know never to lend their Medicare card out to anyone, and to be real careful who they give their personal information to over the phone. Have them look over their Medicare statement to make sure there aren’t any charges that don’t look right. Report any inconsistencies. The National Hispanic SMP, a Medicare fraud prevention program can help you with additional information: 1-866-488-7379.

Everyone benefits when we all come together to fight Medicare fraud. It’s your money. Let’s work together to keep more of it.

 


The Significance of Social Security at 79
August 14th, 2014

Social Security is important to all communities, including Latinos who depend on this social insurance program to make ends meet month after month. What would happen if Social Security didn’t exist?

More than half of all U.S. older adults would live in poverty. 

 

This means that about 1 in 2 seniors is economically insecure, making difficult choices to somehow meet their basic needs. Most times, however, they fall short. They are forced to make unthinkable decisions, sacrificing one basic need to meet another. Older Americans should not have to choose between eating a meal and paying for a dose of medication, but that is the reality many of our seniors face on a daily basis.

For the last several years NHCOA has traveled to different regions of the country with high populations of Hispanic older adults to listen to their stories, which we then use in Washington to advocate on their behalf.

 

Almost all of the stories we hear from Hispanic older adults on these listening tours are related to economic security— or rather, lack thereof. 

 

According to the Social Security Administration, Hispanics have lower median earnings because they tend to work in lower paying jobs:

  • In 2012, the average annual Social Security income received by Hispanic men 65 years and older was $13,295, and for women it was $10,500.
  • In 2012, among Hispanics receiving Social Security, 40% of elderly married couples and 62 percent of elderly unmarried persons relied on Social Security for 90% or more of their income.

How does this data translate into real-world situations? Here is one story from our Los Angeles Promoting Communities of Success Regional Meeting in 2013:

I earn $400 in Social Security and $400 for supplemental. But I pay more than $600 in rent… [and] I have to pay for other bills and food is expensive. I also have to pay for medicines. If Social Security is cut, are we going to end up in the streets?  – Ana Margarita

As we celebrate the 79th year of Social Security’s existence, let it serve as a reminder of its significance to millions of seniors, disabled persons, and families across the country and may we never forget the words of President Franklin D. Roosevelt during the signing of the Social Security Act in 1935:

“This law represents a cornerstone in a structure which is being built but is by no means completed… a law that will take care of human needs and at the same time provide for the United States an economic structure of vastly greater soundness.”

 

 

 

 

 

 


Two More Cities Adopt Paid Sick Leave Policies
July 29th, 2014

Yesterday we were witness to what is one of the most significant wins for working families in recent history: San Diego and Eugene, Oregon became the 8th and 9th cities to adopt paid sick leave laws. These cities are in good company, joining nine cities (Portland, New York City, Newark, Jersey City, San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington, DC) and the state of Connecticut as places that have stood by working families and adopted paid sick day policies.

Despite detractors and critics in both cities, both pieces of legislation passed with ample majority (6-3 vote in San Diego and 5-3 vote in Eugene).

In San Diego, the law would provide full-time workers up to 5 earned sick days per year and prorate part-time workers sick leave based on hours worked, while in Eugene workers would receive one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked with the possibility of accruing up to 40 hours per year.

While there is still opposition and potential legal challenges are in sight, we are hopeful these measures will withstand and more workers and families will have the peace of mind they deserve.

Family Values @ Work’s Executive Director Ellen Bravo qualified yesterday’s events as “historic”:

“Campaigns for paid sick days in Eugene and San Diego involved months of organizing by local workers, small business owners and many partner organizations. Yesterday, their work paid off: no longer will workers in Eugene and San Diego be forced to choose between the job they need and the family that needs them.”

As thrilled as we are about this news, it makes us keenly aware of how many more cities, states and workers—especially Latino workers and families— stand to benefit from paid sick leave legislation. The road ahead to paid family and sick leave for all is long, but working together we can and will improve the lives of all workers and their families.


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