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Day Two: Take control of your health by getting covered!

Over the next 12 days, we will be sharing daily posts to motivate you to think about your health and well-being during the holiday season. Some posts will focus on handy tips, while others will offer a reflexion. We hope these words will inspire you and we invite you to share them with friends, neighbors and family. 

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You have heard a lot about the Health Insurance Marketplace and the Affordable Care Act, especially this week as we approach the deadline to sign up or re-enroll for coverage starting January 1, 2015. Therefore, it’s important to make a clear distinction: those who review their options and enroll or re-enroll by tomorrow (December 15) will be covered starting the New Year. However, this doesn’t mean that you can’t get covered for 2015.

The Open Enrollment Period runs through February 15, 2015. The difference between enrolling before or after December 15 is the month in which your coverage would start. As previously mentioned, if you enroll by tomorrow, December 15, your health care coverage will kick in January 1, 2015. If you enroll after December 15, your coverage would start in February or March, depending on the exact enrollment date.

This means that you could uninsured for several weeks. This is why we recommend reviewing your options and enrolling by tomorrow, December 15. If you live in Miami-Dade County, FL or Dallas County, TX our federal and state-certified NHCOA Navigators can assist you at no cost. While our Navigators specifically conduct outreach to the Spanish-speaking populations within these two counties, they are bilingual and prepared to guide you through the enrollment process.

You can also get the word out by sharing these Spanish language materials with your social media networks:

Recursos Navegadores NHCOA-03

Help Latino Seniors Protect Themselves from Medicare Fraud on Grandparents Day

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.

 

NHCOA to Discuss Health Reform Advocacy in Diverse Community at AiA14

By Jason Coates, Public Policy Associate

This week, the National Hispanic Council on Aging (NHCOA) will be in San Diego for the 2014 American Society on Aging (ASA) Conference to talk about the importance of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) for diverse communities, including Hispanic older adults.  The presentation entitled Health Reform Advocacy and Engagement in Communities of Color and LGBT Communities will cover lessons learned, opportunities, and challenges within these populations as they seek to lead full, healthy lives through the benefits of the ACA.

Many Latinos struggle to age in good health due to factors such as economic insecurity and cultural and linguistic barriers.  At NHCOA, we see the implementation of the ACA as a tremendous opportunity to improve the health of Latino seniors because many are uninsured.  More than one-in-four Latinos do not have health insurance.  And, although Medicare provides nearly universal coverage, about 5% of Hispanic seniors are uninsured.  The lack of health insurance harms Latinos, who already face high rates of poverty, and makes health care more expensive for them.

By providing subsidies and low-cost health insurance options, the ACA can help Hispanics of all ages become more familiar with the health care system, especially those with limited English speaking ability that are often isolated from mainstream communications.  NHCOA has trained health insurance marketplace navigators to enroll Latinos in health coverage in two counties with high monolingual populations: Dallas County, Texas and Miami-Dade County, Florida.

Even though these navigators are local community leaders who speak Spanish, many people were reluctant to sign up at first because of the confusion and misinformation that is associated with government programs.  One of the main barriers faced when working with a monolingual population is establishing a relationship based on respect and trust.  This takes time and outreach must be conducted in familiar, trusted settings.  The success of NHCOA navigators is rooted in their cultural and linguistic competence and ability to earn the trust of those they serve.  As Hispanic seniors become a growing part of America’s older adult population, effectively reaching and serving this community is becoming increasingly important.

This is just one area we will highlight during the presentation. We look forward to sharing our insights and hope to see you in San Diego! (And if you can’t join us in person, be sure to follow news and comments from the conference with the hashtag #AiA14).

 

Presentation details at a glance:

 Health Reform Advocacy and Engagement in Communities of Color and LGBT Communities

Date: Friday, March 14, 2014 from 1:00 – 2:30 PM
PST

Room: Cortez Hill B (3rd floor, Seaport Tower)

Event Format: 90-minute Workshop

Event Category: Policy & Advocacy — Healthcare Reform

Book Code: FR345

 

Speakers:

  • Introduction from Christine Takada, President & CEO of the National Asian Pacific Center on Aging (NAPCA)
  • Bryan Pacheco, National Coordinator of the Diverse Elders Coalition
  • Randella Bluehouse, Executive Director of the National Indian Council on Aging (NICOA)
  • Robert Espinoza, Senior Director of Public Policy & Communications of Services & Advocacy for GLBT Elders (SAGE)
  • Jason Coates, Policy Associate of the National Hispanic Council on Aging (NHCOA)

 

The Broad Appeal of Leaves that Pay

By Jason Coates, Public Policy Associate

The National Hispanic Council on Aging (NHCOA) supports paid sick days and paid family and medical leave.  These policies support the economic security of families and low wage workers, can help improve public health, and allow working people care for their loved ones.  They appeal to a wide variety of groups – low- and middle-income earners, people in multigenerational households, seniors, and people with disabilities.  The wide reach of these programs means that a diverse coalition can make them law across the country.  The Family and Medical Leave Act and the Affordable Care Act both passed with the support of large and diverse coalitions, and paid sick days and paid family and medical leave laws will need such support as well.

Paid sick days and paid family and medical leave are important for Hispanic communities because the longer than average hours of caregiving they provide take a negative toll on their economic security.  In 2008, 36% of Hispanic households had at least one caregiver.  While the average caregiver in the U.S. spends 31 hours each week providing care, Hispanic caregivers spend 37 hours providing assistance.   In fact, Hispanic caregivers are far more likely to have had to make a major change to their work situation by reducing hours, changing jobs, or stopping work entirely.  Overall, Hispanic households lose wages and economic security from caregiving.  Paid sick days and paid family and medical leave policies would be especially beneficial to Hispanics.

Older adults, both those in the workforce and out, would benefit from the public health and family friendly aspects of paid sick days and paid family and medical leave.  More than one-in-three workers lack paid sick days, and they put the public at risk when they go to work sick.  Older adults are at especially high risk, as the immune system tends to weaken with age.  Working seniors would also benefit from the ability to take time off to care for a spouse with a serious medical condition or to recover from their own serious illness.

Advocates for women and working families are already strong supporters of paid sick days and paid family and medical leave policies, but a larger, more diverse coalition is needed.  Organizations representing Hispanics, family caregivers, and seniors should join the effort to pass federal paid sick and family and medical leave laws.  By providing a diverse perspective, new groups can make these policies appealing to a larger number of people, thus increasing their probability of becoming law.

How the Affordable Care Act Affects Your Medicare

Tomorrow, October 1st, will usher in a new era of health insurance in the U.S. with the opening of the Health Insurance Marketplace. The Marketplace is the result of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which was passed in 2010 and requires most Americans to have health insurance. Through the Marketplace, consumers can find quality health coverage that meets their unique needs.

As with any major change, the ACA has spurred many questions from people, both with coverage and without coverage. Some seniors, who may already be covered by Medicare, have expressed confusion by how the ACA will impact their coverage. As a result, Medicare.gov – the official U.S. Government site for Medicare – created a list of the top five things to know about the ACA for those with Medicare:

  1. Your Medicare coverage is protected. Medicare isn’t part of the Health Insurance Marketplace established by ACA, so you don’t have to replace your Medicare coverage with Marketplace coverage.  No matter how you get Medicare, whether through Original Medicare or a Medicare Advantage Plan, you’ll still have the same benefits and security you have now. You don’t need to do anything with the Marketplace during Open Enrollment.
  1. You get more preventive services, for less. Medicare now covers certain preventive services, like mammograms or colonoscopies, without charging you for the Part B coinsurance or deductible. You also can get a free yearly “Wellness” visit.
  2. You can save money on brand-name drugs. If you’re in the donut hole, you’ll also get a 50% discount when buying Part D-covered brand-name prescription drugs. The discount is applied automatically at the counter of your pharmacy—you don’t have to do anything to get it. The donut hole will be closed completely by 2020.
  3. Your doctor gets more support. With new initiatives to support care coordination, your doctor may get additional resources to make sure that your treatments are consistent.
  4. The ACA ensures the protection of Medicare for years to come. The life of the Medicare Trust fund will be extended to at least 2029—a 12-year extension due to reductions in waste, fraud and abuse, and Medicare costs, which will provide you with future savings on your premiums and coinsurance.

The ACA is important to the wellbeing of Americans, and will transform health care from a privilege into a basic human right. However, some scammers are taking advantage of seniors’ confusion about how the ACA affects their Medicare, resulting in a new crop of Medicare fraud.

The National Hispanic Council on Aging’s (NHCOA) National Hispanic SMP (NHSMP) can help older adults and their loved ones during this time of uncertainty. The NHSMP is the only Medicare fraud prevention program that uses culturally and linguistically appropriate tools and resources to close the gap in Medicare fraud education among Hispanic older adults, their families, and caregivers. NHSMP also provides technical assistance to organizations working with older adult populations, so they can more effectively expand their reach to Hispanic seniors, while meeting the demands of our increasingly diverse older adult population. For more information, please visit the NHSMP website.

The Affordable Care Act Prompts New Medicare Fraud

Later this month, Medicare and Medicaid will celebrate 48 years of helping people across the country access affordable health care. While Medicare and Medicaid have helped countless people over the years, scammers have often used these programs as a means of targeting our society’s most vulnerable through health care fraud.

Medicare fraud in particular is not new, and thanks to increased federal and lay vigilance, many scammers and their corresponding schemes have been shut down.  However, scammers are constantly developing new methods to manipulate the system. One common thread in today’s new Medicare fraud schemes is incorporating the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Since ACA passed in 2009, a new crop of scams have popped up and prey on seniors’ uncertainty concerning the legislation’s changes to Medicare.

Among this new generation of Medicare fraud are three common schemes:

1. New federal health insurance card: In this scam, fraudsters call seniors and tell them that they are among the first to be selected to receive a new federal health insurance card under ACA. However, in order for the card to be issued, the senior must provide personal information, such as their social security and bank account numbers.

Reality: There is no national health insurance card. The scammers are using the mandate requiring all Americans to have health insurance as a way to intimidate seniors and scare them into divulging their personal information to receive this fraudulent health insurance card.

2. Telemarketing scams: Fraudulent telemarketers take advantage of Medicare Open Enrollment season coinciding with health insurance exchange enrollment. By using terms such as “Obamacare,” fraudsters prey on seniors’ uncertainty of ACA changes.

Reality: Few changes were made in regards to federal health care for seniors. The insurance exchange does not impact Medicare in any way.

3. Fake websites: Many fake websites proclaiming to sell “Obamacare” are popping up online and asking for seniors’ personal information.

Reality: If you or a loved one needs information regarding health insurance exchange, only use the government’s dedicated website: www.healthcare.gov. Conducting a general internet search may result in a slew of fraudulent websites.

Perhaps most importantly, it’s crucial to always verify the identity of any solicitors before giving personal information, especially during this time of new Medicare scams.

As a result of Medicare fraud, and its disproportionate impact on Hispanic older adults, the National Hispanic Council on Aging developed the National Hispanic Senior Medicare Patrol – a Medicare fraud prevention program that uses linguistically, culturally and age-appropriate outreach and education to help Hispanic older adults to detect, protect and report fraud. If you suspect that you or a loved one has been a victim of Medicare fraud, please call 1-866-488-7379 or visit http://programs.nhcoa.org/medicare/ for more information.

Working Together to Improve Health Among Diverse Communities

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is urging Americans to acknowledge health disparities affecting millions within our racially and ethnically diverse population and recognize the benefits that health care reform will bring to these communities.

Health is a common denominator among every community, and it is one that brings our nation together. As we close the month of April, let it serve as a reminder to all of us that without good health, our overall wellbeing would be extremely affected. NHCOA encourages you to take precaution and start healthy habits to keep yourself from developing chronic diseases.

“Our health is one of the most precious gifts we have. With good health on our side, we have an easier time accomplishing other important life activities. Each day we must work and be intentional about nurturing and loving our mind, body, and spirit to care for one of our greatest assets. Caring for our health occurs in health care settings but even more so in places where we live, work, learn and play, all of which are important to one’s ability to be healthy,” said Dr. Yanira Cruz, President and CEO of NHCOA.

In order to help close the gap on health disparities many diverse communities experience on a daily basis, NHCOA welcomes the recent enhanced Culturally and Linguistically Appropriate Services (CLAS) in Health and Health Care announced by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Office of Minority Health. According to HHS, the CLAS Standards help organizations and health care professionals improve the quality of care and aim to reduce health disparities in diverse communities. The updated CLAS Standards provide guidelines for health care organizations that are culturally and linguistically appropriate for the patients they serve. For example, Spanish language access is crucial for the majority of immigrant Hispanics (61%) who are Spanish-speaking dominant.[1] Additionally, linguistic barriers make economic security during old age difficult for many Hispanics. The new description of the standards’ Communication and Language Assistance provides a rule that for adequate service, health care organizations and providers should communicate with their patients that the option of language assistance is available.

NHCOA is hopeful that the enhanced CLAS Standards will help close the health inequities that have been occurring for decades in diverse communities, one of them being obtaining and affording health care. In 2010, one out of three (33.3%) Hispanics between the ages of 18 and 64 lacked a usual source of medical care,[2] and a similar number, 30% lacked health insurance.[3] In addition to the disparities impacting all ages in the Hispanic demographic, Hispanic older adults face particular health challenges of their own. These challenges include access to quality preventive care, like vaccinations, screening for colon cancer and visits to the dentist.

However, thanks to the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) health insurance expansions set to take place in January 2014, Hispanics, who are particularly affected by lack of health care coverage due to linguistic and cultural barriers as well as immigration status, will stand to noticeably benefit from these expansions.

“We urge you to find out what your state is doing as part of the Affordable Care Act.  Keep reaching for your best possible health.  Let us imagine a nation in which everyone – regardless of race, ethnicity, immigration status, gender, sexual identity or income – has an equal opportunity to live a healthy and dignified life,” added Dr. Cruz.

Every day, NHCOA works to close the gap on health disparities in the Hispanic community. NHCOA actively teaches, empowers and raises awareness on the need to improve the lives for one of our nation’s most vulnerable groups.

Find out what you can do to support the wellbeing of our diverse communities: http://minorityhealth.hhs.gov/actnow/

For access and information on the National CLAS Standards, please visit https://www.thinkculturalhealth.hhs.gov/index.asp

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.

Health and Human Services Announces $5.1 Billion in Prescriptions Savings

As the 2012 Medicare Open Enrollment period comes to a close this Friday, December 7, don’t forget to evaluate prescription drug plans as part of your Medicare benefits. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced yesterday that a savings of $5.1 Billion on prescription drugs was made possible through the Affordable Care Act, the new health care law.

What kind of savings does that represent per person? Since January, the average prescription savings per person totaled $677. What would you do with $677? Could you save it? Could you buy healthier foods? Could you donate to a worthy cause? In addition to saving money spent on prescriptions, the Affordable Care Act also helps cover the cost preventative services like your annual flu shot. Full coverage of these preventative services helps keep costs done even more.

This news of prescription savings thanks to the Affordable Care Act should be a reminder to those who have yet to complete their Medicare Open Enrollment research this year.

Remember, Medicare beneficiaries have until this Friday, December 7, to evaluate Medicare benefits. When helping a loved one consider plan options, don’t forget to include prescriptions when discussing Medicare plans for 2013. Visit the Medicare Plan Finder at www.medicare.gov to review and compare plans.

NHCOA is a proud partner of the Administration on Aging in the fight against Medicare fraud. The National Hispanic SMP works to detect, protect, and report Medicare fraud within the Hispanic community. For more information, visit www.nhcoa.org/medicare

NHSMP: HHS Partners With Pharmacies to Inform Medicare Beneficiaries About New Health Benefits

Note from NHCOA: The more informed you and your loved ones are regarding your health, the less likely you are to become a victim of health care fraud. Through the National Hispanic SMP (NHSMP), NHCOA reaches Hispanic older adults, families, and caregivers to protect, detect, and report Medicare fraud in a culturally, linguistically, and age appropriate manner.

This week, Kathleen Sebelius, the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced a number of partnerships with pharmacies to help Medicare beneficiaries about the new benefits available through the Affordable Care Act, the new health care law.

Through these partnerships, Medicare beneficiaries will have access to educational materials on available new preventive services, as well as savings on prescription drug for those with the “donut hole” coverage gap.

In addition, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has created materials so other groups and individuals interested in informing Medicare beneficiaries of new benefits available to them.

Being informed of the changes the Affordable Care Act has made to the Medicare system is important so Medicare beneficiaries can make the best use of their benefits and not fall prey to Medicare fraud.

We all have to part play in protecting, detecting, and reporting Medicare fraud. If you or a loved one suspects being targeted for Medicare fraud, call the National Hispanic SMP immediately at 1-866-488-7379. We need your leadership to fight Medicare fraud!

NHCOA is a proud partner of the Administration on Aging in the fight against Medicare fraud. The National Hispanic SMP works to detect, protect, and report Medicare fraud within the Hispanic community. For more information, visit www.nhcoa.org/medicare