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Making a Heart Healthy Resolution

Originally posted by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services on January 25, 2013


Richard Gilfillan, Director, CMS Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation

It’s the New Year, which means it’s time for those annual resolutions, whether it’s eating right or tackling a new skill. But none may be more important than making the resolution to get heart healthy in 2013.

Did you know heart attacks and strokes are the first and fourth leading cause of death in the U.S.? The Million Hearts™ initiative, launched in 2012, is aiming to prevent 1 million heart attacks and strokes by 2017. CMS and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are working with other federal agencies, communities, health systems, non-profit organizations and private-sector partners to help educate Americans on how to make a long-lasting impact against cardiovascular disease.

If you’re at risk for, or are already suffering from, heart disease, now’s the time to practice the “Million Hearts ABCS”:

  • Aspirin for people at risk
  • Blood pressure control
  • Cholesterol management and
  • Smoking cessation

Medicare can help you take control of many of the major risk factors for heart disease. People with Medicare can get cardiovascular screeningscounseling to stop smoking, and blood pressure and weight checks during their yearly wellness visit with their doctor.

Make a New Year’s resolution and give your loved ones one more gift they’ll be sure to treasure—a healthier you in 2013. Help prevent a heart attack or stroke by joining the Million Hearts™ initiative.

HHS: Countdown to Affordable Health Insurance

By Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of Health and Human Services

Reposted from HealthCare.Gov – January 16, 2013

January is the perfect month for looking forward to new and great things around the corner.

I’m feeling that way about the new Health Insurance Marketplace. Anticipation is building, and this month we start an important countdown, first to October 1, 2013, when open enrollment begins, and continuing on to January 1, 2014, the start of new health insurance coverage for millions of Americans. In October, many of you’ll be able to shop for health insurance that meets your needs at the new Marketplace at

This is an historic time for those Americans who never had health insurance, who had to go without insurance after losing a job or becoming sick, or who had been turned down because of a pre-existing condition. Because of these new marketplaces established under the Affordable Care Act, millions of Americans will have new access to affordable health insurance coverage.

Over the last two years we’ve worked closely with states to begin building their health insurance marketplaces, also known as Exchanges, so that families and small-business owners will be able to get accurate information to make apples-to-apples comparisons of private insurance plans and, get financial help to make coverage more affordable if they’re eligible.

That is why we are so excited about launching the newly rebuilt website, where you’ll be able to buy insurance from qualified private health plans and check if you are eligible for financial assistance — all in one place, with a single application. Many individuals and families will be eligible for a new kind of tax credit to help lower their premium costs. If your state is running its own Marketplace, will make sure you get to the right place.

The Marketplace will offer much more than any health insurance website you’ve used before. Insurers will compete for your business on a level playing field, with no hidden costs or misleading fine print.

It’s not too soon to check out for new information about the Marketplace and tips for things you can do now to prepare for enrollment.  And, make sure to sign up for emails or text message updates, so you don’t miss a thing when it’s time to enroll.

There is still work to be done to make sure the insurance market works for families and small businesses. But, for millions of Americans, the time for having the affordable, quality health care coverage, security, and peace of mind they need and deserve is finally within sight.

CMS: Are you ready for 2013? Four questions to ask yourself

This is cross-posted from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. To read the original post, click here.

The new year is fast approaching. Here are a few things to ask yourself to make sure you’re ready for 2013.

1. Do you have the right insurance card to use when you go to the doctor in 2013?
If you changed your health or drug plan during Medicare Open Enrollment and don’t get your new card or welcome packet by January 1st, contact your plan for help. If you need to fill a prescription right away, find out how to fill a prescription without your card.

If you changed from a Medicare Advantage Plan (like an HMO or PPO) back to Original Medicare, use your red, white, and blue Medicare card when you go to the doctor. Get a new card if you lost or damaged yours, or need to update your information.

2. Did you budget for next year’s Medicare Part B deductible?
Don’t forget, if you have Medicare Part B and are in Original Medicare, you’ll have to meet your deductible before your Medicare coverage pays for services and supplies. Next year, the Medicare Part B deductible will be $147. Make sure to plan your health care budget to account for the increased cost of doctor visits for the time that it will take to cover your deductible. Find out more about Medicare costs in 2013.

3. Have you made appointments to get any preventive tests or screenings?
Medicare covers many preventive services to keep you healthy and screenings to check for health problems. Many of these services are covered each year at no cost to you. Ask your doctor when you should schedule your wellness visit and other screenings. You can also use to track your visits and make a calendar of preventive services.

Talk to your doctor about these covered preventive services to find out what’s right for your health needs.

4. Does your drug or health plan meet your needs?
If not, Medicare has a way for you to get the coverage you want instead of having to wait for the next Open Enrollment. At any time during the year, you can switch to a Medicare Advantage Plan or Medicare Prescription Drug Plan that has a 5-star rating.

Plan ratings are based on member surveys, information from doctors and health care providers, and other sources. The plan ratings are scores that show the quality and performance of the plan, on a scale of 1 to 5 stars, with 5 being the highest rated plans.

You can make this change once per calendar year. Find 5-star health and drug plans in your area.

Remember to check for the latest Medicare news and information, and have a healthy 2013.

Working Together for an AIDS-Free Generation by Getting the Facts, Getting Tested and Getting Involved

By Dr. Yanira Cruz, NHCOA President and CEO

The statistics on HIV/AIDS in the U.S. tell us that while we have made great strides in reducing the incidence of the virus, we have more work to do to achieve an AIDS-free generation. The good news is that this goal is now within our reach. That is why numerous entities from the public and private sectors are working together to make this a reality for our communities, regions, country, and world.

To this end, NHCOA has been partnering with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)’s Act Against AIDS Leadership Initiative to share the message of HIV/AIDS awareness within the Latino community, especially among Hispanic older adults.

That is why I leave you with an important message on World AIDS Day: the lack of HIV/AIDS awareness and dialogue affects the rates of infection. Therefore, HIV/AIDS is a family affair as it affects both our youth and older populations disproportionately.

While Hispanics represent approximately 16% of the U.S. population, they account for an estimated 19% of those living with HIV. Latinos also account for nearly 20% of new HIV infections every year. In fact, about one in 50 Hispanics will be infected with HIV in their lifetime, and Latino seniors are at a disproportionate risk. The rates of HIV/AIDS among people ages 50 and over were fives times higher among Hispanics compared to non-Hispanic Whites.

NHCOA invites you to join us in acting against AIDS on World AIDS Day by establishing a dialogue with your loved ones. Let’s leverage the respect, love, and influence we have as grandparents, heads of family and mentors to correct myths and eliminate stigma regarding this ageless, faceless, and genderless disease. Also, let’s get tested following the CDC’s indications. By getting tested routinely, you could help lower new HIV infection rates. Currently, nearly one of our five people living with HIV in the United States is unaware of his/her status. If HIV is detected, entering and adhering to treatment can prevent you from developing AIDS. To find the nearest testing center, visit or send a text message with your five-digit zip code to KNOWIT (566948).

NHCOA is one of three proud Hispanic/Latino partners of the Act Against AIDS Leadership Initiative, an initiative of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). For more information visit

Dr. Howard Ko: Thanksgiving and World AIDS Day

This is cross-posted from Click here to see the original post.

By Howard K. Koh, M.D., M.P.H., Assistant Secretary for Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Dr. Howard KohThanksgiving is a day of gratitude for what matters in our lives. In that spirit, Thanksgiving also marks the lead-up to World AIDS Day (December 1). World AIDS Day prompts us to reflect on how far we’ve come in responding to HIV and to cherish the contributions of so many who are working to create an AIDS-free generation.

Today, I want to honor all those who are making a difference in the course of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. That group includes: people living with HIV and their partners, friends, and families; service providers; medical professionals and scientists; advocates and policy makers; and our colleagues from across the U.S. Government — including Federal staff at HHS, HUD, Justice, Labor, and VA — and so many others.

In 10 days, World AIDS Day will once again offer an opportunity to make a difference. The observance inspires us to redouble efforts for education, for supporting HIV testing, and for linking people to sustained care.

I hope you will join all of us in observing World AIDS Day! You can get more information about activities and events for the day at

Medicare Open Enrollment: Be a smart shopper

Click here for original post on the Medicare Blog.

By: Jonathan Blum, CMS Acting Principal Deputy Administrator and Director, Center for Medicare

In today’s world, we’re all a little more conscious of costs. Maybe we clip a few more coupons, eat out less, or compare ads to find the best price on something before we buy. Cost is an important factor in any purchase, and health care is no different. We know you want to get the best value possible from your health care coverage. Wouldn’t most of us like to get more and pay less for things that are important to us?

The good news is the health care law has gone a long way toward lowering overall costs in the Medicare program. Average premiums for prescription drug coverage and Medicare health plans will stay around the same in 2013. People who are in Medicare’s prescription drug coverage gap (“donut hole”) will continue to save money in 2013 with big discounts on brand-name prescription drugs. Since the health care law was enacted in 2010, more than 5.5 million people with Medicare have saved nearly $4.5 billion on prescription drugs in the donut hole.

But you still need to make smart choices to get good value out of your health insurance.

There may be dozens of Medicare plans in your area, all with different costs and levels of coverage. Ask yourself:

  • How much are each plan’s premiums and deductibles?
  • How much will I pay for the benefits and services I’m likely to use?
  • Is there a limit on what I’ll have to pay out-of-pocket for the year?
  • Does the plan cover the drugs I take?
  • How much will my prescriptions cost under each plan?

Only you can determine what mix of benefits and costs will work best with your needs and budget. Shopping around can make a huge difference, and we want to help. Use the Medicare Plan Finder to look at all of the health and drug plan options in your area.If you still need help comparing, call 1‑800‑MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227). TTY users should call 1-877-486-2048.

Whether it’s groceries, health insurance, phone plans or anything else, we all want the best value for our dollar. Make sure you have the most up-to-date information out there and be a smart shopper during Medicare Open Enrollment – which ends on December 7.

Henry Cisneros: U.S. Should Make ‘Life-Long Homes’ A Priority

Provided by Kaiser Health News

By Judith Graham, Kaiser Health News

What will it take for Americans to age successfully in place? This question has immediate importance for policymakers and families as an estimated 10,000 Baby Boomers turn 65 years old every day. It’s the subject of a new book, “Independent for Life: Homes and Neighborhoods for an Aging America,” authored by more than a dozen leading aging and housing experts and co-edited by Henry Cisneros, a four-term mayor of San Antonio and former secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.




Former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Henry Cisneros speaks at the Center for American Progress in Washington in 2009 (Photo by Pablo Martinez Monsivais/Associated Press)


Cisneros, who now runs a company specializing in urban real estate, spent an hour discussing his thoughts about aging in place with reporter Judith Graham. That interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Q. You start this book talking about your elderly mother.  Tell me about her.

A. My mom and dad bought the home across the alley from her mother’s home in 1945.  It was a lower-middle-class neighborhood of civil service workers — all Latinos. It had the feeling of a Norman Rockwell picture, only all the faces were brown.

My dad passed away in 2006 at age 89, having had a stroke some years before. But my mom, 87, lives there still. The house is essentially the same as it was, with some adjustments. We put a ramp on the side of the house leading to a deck. We raised the toilet, lowered the sinks, created a walk-in shower.  Changed the lighting in the den so my dad could read. Put in window guards, an alarm, and outdoor lighting for my mom because the neighborhood is somewhat in decline.

Q. Do you see her often?

A. I try to visit her about every second or third day, but I talk to her every day by phone.  She is a classic case of a person aging in place. She’s a healthy, lanky, tall woman who’s always been physically strong.   But in recent years she’s started to slow down. She manages all her own affairs. I don’t think there’s a tractor strong enough to pull her from that house.

Until recently, on three sides, all her neighbors were her age or older. The lady to the left died this year at 97. The lady to the right went to a nursing home and died in her late 80s. And the lady across the street died at 90-plus. All stayed in their homes until very late. Aging in place in that neighborhood means older women living on their own.

Q. What lessons do you take from your mom’s experience?

A. Seniors fear being unable to communicate, being lonely, feeling insecure.  Especially people who all their lives have had other people around them — family, neighbors — and now they go entire days and never see anybody.

Imagine being older, a step slower, a bit more fragile. Add to that being lonely, edging to depression, and unsure about how you’re going to get everything done that you used to do. But wanting above all to stay in your own home and keep on being independent. That’s hard.

Q. What kinds of policies do you think are needed?

A. First, I’d like to see us commit as a nation to creating lifelong homes. Only 4 percent of the 65-plus population goes to a nursing home. Most are at home for a long, long time. We should make this a priority, just as we did with creating more energy efficient homes.

This could involve certifying a package of age-related home improvements — the kinds of things we did for my parents — and coming up with public and private strategies for financial support.

Second, we ought to be thinking about how we accessorize communities for an aging population. Today, we build parks for children. Imagine a park where older people would have stations for exercise. Think about age-appropriate recreation facilities. Think about how we make transit available, so people who no longer drive can get to the doctor.

As we build new communities we should focus on walkability — making sure that older people can walk to facilities they need, like groceries and pharmacies.

Q. Can you point to examples?

A. There are communities that are now rethinking zoning policies so that granny flats can be built on the same lots as larger size homes. Davis, Calif., has rethought its zoning codes with that in mind.

There are places using the high school library as the community library. So, elderly people can work there or volunteer there and interface with the next generation.

I think we’ll be recycling older communities in many parts of the U.S. — clearing away obsolete buildings and reconfiguring them as elderly housing. The recession has created a lot of sites that are no longer economically viable. Strip centers, even regional malls are being remade with housing for the elderly in mind.

We also need to generate prototypes for new age appropriate homes for people who are leaving McMansions and looking for a smaller home.

Q. What about affordable housing?

A. We need to double down on very successful programs that have produced affordable housing for the elderly. Low-income housing tax credits — we need more. And HUD’s Section 202 (supportive housing for the elderly) program — we need more of that. In some respects, this is the least problematic area because we know what to do — we just need to do more of it.

What we don’t know how to do very well is help people who are middle-class but who are about to fall off the dual cliff of aging and frailty while living on fixed incomes and aging in place.

Q. Yet, this is an era of budget cuts. How do you make the case for more financial assistance for programs of this kind?

A. As a country, we owe it to our seniors. It’s the right thing to do. It is unacceptable to leave a large segment of the population on their own at the most frail time of their lives. I also think we can make the case that cost savings can be achieved by keeping people living independently as long as possible instead of going to assisted-living or nursing home facilities.

Q. What about the suburbs?

A. The baby boomers are the first American suburban generation. But the suburbs are the worst place to age because they’re so unwalkable and totally dependent on the automobile. Living in a cul de sac is really hard when you lose access to your car. So these communities have to think of new strategies.

Q. One of the authors in your book writes about his personal longevity plan.   Do you have one?

A. I turned 65 this year and I do have a plan that involves daily exercise and fitness. My personal role models are people who don’t think about retirement but have created either businesses or activities that will allow them to be active until the very end.

I will always be based in San Antonio.  I live in my grandfather’s old house, which I refurbished, one mile away from where I grew up and one block away from our neighborhood church. When you give this much to a place it becomes part of you and there are a lot of things you don’t want to abandon.

NHCOA Wishes You a Happy Older Americans Month!

By Dr. Yanira Cruz, President and CEO

NHCOA is committed to enriching the lives of older Hispanic adults. As we celebrate Older Americans Month, we invite you to explore the different ways NHCOA is working to improve the lives of thousands of U.S. Hispanic older adults, their families, and caregivers. Below are some examples of our work in the areas of health, economic security, leadership development and empowerment, and housing.

As NHCOA continues to find new ways to better serve Hispanic older adults, their families, and caregivers, we thank you for everything you do in your families, communities, cities, and states. We also invite you continue joining our efforts to ensure that our most cherished and vulnerable population can age with dignity, economic security, and in the best possible health.

In commemoration of Older Americans Month, here is a look at some of the work we do at NHCOA:

Leadership Development & Empowerment

Leadership and empowerment, one of NHCOA’s top priorities, is at the core of any successful advocacy work. As part of its work in this area, NHCOA convenes key community grassroots leaders, including Hispanic older adults, their caregivers, advocates, and professionals to connect, network, and gain culturally and linguistically competent advocacy tools.

Through NHCOA’s Empowerment and Civic Engagement Training (ECET), grassroots leadership is cultivated by helping participants develop a strong, collective voice to speak on behalf, and represent our Hispanic older adults at all levels of government and community. This year, NHCOA will train a second generation of ECET leaders across the country and drive voter registration.

Economic Security

Health care fraud is one of the most pervasive types of fraud targeting seniors. Given that harder-to-reach populations, such as Hispanic older adults, are disproportionately victimized, NHCOA in conjunction with the U.S. Administration on Aging is working to fight Medicare fraud within the Hispanic community through the National Hispanic SMP (NHSMP).

Through the NHSMP, NHCOA is committed to being an active player in curbing Medicare fraud by providing assistance and capacity building to local community-based organizations (CBOs) and state SMPs in areas with high concentrations of Hispanic older adults, as well as providing resources for Hispanic older adults and their caregivers.

Health & Well-Being

As part of its work in the area of health and well-being, NHCOA implements a variety of programs, including:

Act Against AIDS Leadership Initiative is a partnership with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)’s Act Against AIDS Leadership Initiative focused on HIV/AIDS education and prevention efforts directly targeting Hispanic older adults, their families, and caregivers.

Vacunémonos (Let’s Get Vaccinated) is a partnership with the CDC to raise awareness among Hispanic older adults, their families, and caregivers about the importance of getting vaccinations through adulthood to protect families and communities from preventable infectious diseases.

Salud y Bienestar (Health and Well-Being) is a national program that educates and informs Hispanic older adults, their families, and caregivers on how to prevent and/or manage diabetes and its complications. Its current expansion is supported by the Walmart Foundation.

NHCOA is also working to increase Alzheimer’s disease knowledge by conducting research to understand the attitudes, level of stigma, level of knowledge, and challenges within the Hispanic community as it relates to both caregivers and health care providers. The findings of this study could potentially serve as the basis for interventions designed to ensure effective management of Alzheimer’s within the Hispanic community.


NHCOA owns and administers low-income senior housing buildings located in Washington, DC and Garden City, KS. As the Latino community has lost significant household wealth, we are working to ensure Hispanic older adults have access to affordable, quality housing so they can age in place and in their communities.

Home Care & Hospice: Key to Better Health Care Outcomes, Increased Savings

By Val J. Halamandaris, President, National Association for Home Care and Hospice

“What we need to do is take care of people till the end of their days, we have the resources, and we have the money. What is at stake is the very future of American democracy and how we are going to be viewed through the prism of history because all great civilizations can be measured by a common yard stick- how did they take care of our vulnerable populations.” President John F. Kennedy

Ensuring the right to be cared for in our homes is America’s last great civil rights battle. Our goal at the National Association for Home Care & Hospice is to help frail, disabled and dying Americans stay independent and happy in the comfort of their homes.

While hospitals do amazing work to save and better people’s lives, they can often be a scarily unfamiliar place and prone to spreading infections. Home care allows people to get well and live to their potential in a comfortable setting. It’s a fundamental shift from the system’s focus on the treatment of disease to the prevention of disease.

Most often, the critically important work of home care and hospice workers is frequently unnoticed by society at large. These incredible professionals provide care day in and day out to homebound, elderly and infirm Americans in the comfort of their own homes. Home care and hospice professionals connect with patients in a more personal, more human way. Beyond simply tending to health care needs, they provide a social interaction, meeting with individuals who in many cases would otherwise be alone and left in the shadows.

The care that is given through home health and hospice is second to none, especially with the advances in tele-health technology. All of this occurs in the comfort of the patient’s own home, at a much reduced cost to Medicare and insurance companies.

As more Americans take advantage of new policies in the recent health care legislation that allow them more access to home care and hospice, the demand for qualified home health aides, registered nurses and other care providers will grow. Job growth in the industry is expected to increase an astounding 48 percent by 2018. In 2009, the average home care visit cost $135.00 per day versus the average hospital visit which cost $1500 a day. Preventive home health care saves Medicare and Medicaid billions of dollars per year.

Today, millions of America’s seniors and disabled citizens depend on home care services to remain healthy, stable, and out of costly traditional settings. For decades, caring for the elderly, disabled and chronically ill at home has provided a dignified and high-efficient method of treatment. Home-based care is also clinically effective, utilizing advanced technologies and helping to cost-effectively manage chronic diseases that account for 75 percent of our nation’s health care spending.

It was a pleasure for me to participate at the National Hispanic Council on Aging’s 2011 National Summit in Washington, DC. Working with other national organizations is vital to solving issues impacting Hispanic older adults, their families, and caregivers.

The National Association for Home Care & Hospice (NAHC) is the nation’s largest trade association representing the interests and concerns of home care agencies, hospices, home care aide organizations, and medical equipment suppliers. Simply put, NAHC is the one organization dedicated to making home care and hospice providers lives easier.
The National Hispanic Council on Aging (NHCOA) thanks Val J. Halamandaris for his contribution to the NHCOA Spotlight. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of its author and do not necessarily reflect those of NHCOA.