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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

Open Enrollment and Medicare Part D

It’s Time! Medicare Open Enrollment Period Is Fast Approaching

shutterstock_184856234phrma_2012logoIt is that time of the year when beneficiaries review Medicare Plan D prescription drug plan options and ask questions about different plans. For 2015 coverage, the open enrollment period runs from October 15 – December 7, 2014. 

What is Medicare Part D?

Medicare Part D, also called the Medicare prescription drug benefit, is a voluntary federal-government program to subsidize the costs of prescription drugs and prescription drug insurance premiums for Medicare beneficiaries in the United States. The program is administered by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). Private insurance carriers implement the various Medicare Part D plans across the country under the direction of CMS. Because various carriers administer the plans, it is important to compare them in order to get the best value. As of 2012, 37.4 million beneficiaries were enrolled in Medicare Part D.

Why is Medicare Part D important? 

Medicare Part D is a voluntary program. While no one is obligated to enroll into the prescription drug plans, its savings and virtues far outweigh its costs and detriments

Medicare Part D gives older Americans access to prescription drugs at an affordable cost. Additionally, it provides access to the affordable medicines older Americans need and in turn, keeps them healthier –which directly reduces costs to the Medicare system. The Journal of the American Medical Association found that improved access and adherence to medicines through Part D saves Medicare about $1,200 in hospital, nursing home, and other costs in the first two years of the program. That adds up to about $13 billion in total savings.

The downside to not enrolling is that a beneficiary may be subject to a life-time premium penalty when he/she decides to later enroll in a Medicare Part D plan. The beneficiary will be assessed the penalty if s/he does not have some other source of creditable coverage, at least as comprehensive as the Part D benefit, such a retiree coverage through a previous employer. The accrued benefits of having cost savings and access to the proper medicine if/when you need them are far greater than the costs presented.

What are the important dates to remember? 

  • October 1, 2014 – Medicare Part D Prescription Drug plan Marketing Activities can begin for the 2015 Part D plans – At this time you will be able to once again gather information and evaluate the various Part D plan alternatives.

NOTE: no enrollments may be accepted before October 15, 2014 for 2015 plans. 

  • October 15 to December 7, 2014 – Annual Coordinated Election Period – Here is your chance to join a Medicare Part D plan for the 2015 plan year (however your plan will not take effect until January 1, 2015). If you already have a Medicare Part D plan, this is your time to look back over 2014 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. 

HOWEVER: If you do nothing, and do not enroll during this period, your next chance for coverage is January 2016. 

  • January 1, 2015 – Your new Medicare Part D plan becomes effective and you will be able to begin using your Part D benefits (your old plan will automatically be discontinued).
  • January 1 to February 14, 2015 – Members of Medicare Advantage Plans may Dis-enroll from their Medicare Advantage Plan returning to Original Medicare and select a stand-alone Medicare Part D plan.
  • January 1 to December 31, 2015 – Persons turning 65 can enroll in a 2015 Medicare Part D Plan. Medicare beneficiaries also enrolled in Medicaid recipients can enroll or change their enrollment in a 2015 Medicare Part D Plan and individuals who become eligible because of a disability may enroll over the course of the year.

Where can I get more information? 

NHCOA encourages you to consider reviewing your Medicare drug or health care plan, but it is not mandatory. For more information, visit www.medicare.gov or call 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227).

Download a one-page FAQ here.

A Special Wish on the FMLA’s 21st Birthday

By Dr. Yanira Cruz

Today, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) turns 21 years old, and as a daughter, mother, caregiver, and worker I couldn’t be more thrilled. For more than two decades, the FMLA has provided workers the ability to maintain their jobs while they take care of their own health or that of a loved one, including myself. But we are the lucky ones. There are still many Americans who have to negotiate between their responsibilities as a worker and their duties within their households. Sadly, this negotiation is never a win-win situation.

Currently, 40% of workers do not have access to paid sick leave. This means that not every worker who needs time off to take care of a medical or health condition can’t afford it because they will receive partial or no pay during their leave of absence. A 2012 study from the Department of Labor showed that almost 5% of those without access to FMLA needed to take time off for medical or health reasons and couldn’t. Of those, nearly half said they couldn’t take the time off because they couldn’t afford it.

On the other hand, those who did take unpaid leave or partial paid leave were not better off. The DOL also reports that workers who took leave without FMLA had to seek alternative ways to make ends meet, such as borrowing money, using savings, putting off paying bills, limiting spending, or signing up for public assistance. And, if we look at low-income workers, the data and numbers are even more dismal.

Given that households are becoming increasingly multigenerational— particularly in the Latino community— we must continue the path our fellow advocates forged in 1993 with the passage of the FMLA. That is why as President and CEO of the National Hispanic Council on Aging (NHCOA), I have made paid sick leave and paid family and medical insurance a key legislative issue for the organization.

When workers are healthy, businesses are healthy. And when family members are healthy, communities thrive. Over the past couple of years, we have worked with closely with advocates in California and New Jersey to inform and educate Latinos, who tend to be working family caregivers, about the FMLA and paid sick leave so that they understand their rights as workers.

Today, on behalf of NHCOA, I renew our support for the FMLA and urge Congressional action on two pieces of legislation Congress is currently considering related to paid sick leave and family and medical insurance, the Healthy Families Act (paid sick days) and the FAMILY Act (paid family and medical leave insurance). Both pieces of legislation would help eliminate the choice people face between their health and family and their economic security.

I am also making a wish in honor of the FMLA’s 21st birthday. I wish for swift, bipartisan action on the Healthy Families Act and the FAMILY Act this year because being a good worker should not come at the expense of caring for one’s family and health.

Wish the FMLA a happy 21st birthday by tweeting this wish:

Let’s build on the success of the #FMLA and support workers by passing the #FAMILYAct and #HealthyFamilyAct this year. #FMLA21

This is part of the Family Values at Work blog carnival on the FMLA anniversary—read all the posts there

Health Care in President Obama’s 2013 State of the Union address

Amongst the issues of education, job creation, gun control, immigration, and tax reform, the rising cost of health care stood out to many Americans in President Obama’s 2013 State of the Union address.

Undoubtedly, we cannot put the burden of high cost health care onto seniors, for most are retired. Instead, we need to implement reforms that lower the cost of all health care.

“The biggest driver of our long-term debt is the rising cost of health care for an aging population. And those of us who care deeply about programs like Medicare must embrace the need for modest reforms. Otherwise, our retirement programs will crowd out the investments we need for our children and jeopardize the promise of a secure retirement for future generations,” said President Obama

Hispanic older adults, especially, are feeling the burden of high cost health care programs. For Hispanic older adults, the standard of living is at a very challenging state. According the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2009 the median income for Hispanic households of all ages was $38,039, compared to $49,777 for all households. Many Hispanic older adults have far more modest incomes. In fact, over 18% of Hispanic older adults lived in poverty in 2011, according to the report Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2011.

For this reason, Hispanic older adults rely on Social Security benefits, for it is a major source of income for most elderly in the United States. If social security benefits are cut, seniors will struggle in keeping up with the rising costs of prescriptions and anything needed for their overall health. The Hispanic population as a whole contributes continuously to the role of Social Security and Medicare. According to the report Labor force projections to 2020: a more slowly growing workforce, Hispanics make up 14.78% of labor force, and their payroll tax dollars help pay for the benefits of current retirees.

NHCOA advocates to make sure Hispanics are receiving the proper funding and best quality for health care. Putting our concentration on the disparities in health care for a fast growing community is necessary to protect current and future seniors.

 

Resources:

To receive more information on health care options, click here.

Click here for more information on Medicare coverage.

Click here for the official Obama-Biden plan on social security, and for general social security facts, click here.

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 HealthCare.gov.

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 HealthCare.gov 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, HealthCare.gov 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 HealthCare.gov 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.

NHCOA Hosts Capitol Hill Briefing to Discuss Health Care Access Among Hispanic Older Adults

Washington, DC- The National Hispanic Council on Aging (NHCOA)- the leading national organization working to improve the lives of Hispanic older adults, their families, and caregivers- today hosted a Capitol Hill briefing to shed light on the issue of health care access and its impact on older Americans, particularly Latino seniors. As quality and access to care become increasingly important for the entire U.S. population, the Latino community and Hispanic older adults are particularly impacted.
Continue reading “NHCOA Hosts Capitol Hill Briefing to Discuss Health Care Access Among Hispanic Older Adults”

5 Things You Should Know Before This Week’s Capitol Hill Briefing on Health Care Access

This Thursday, December 13, NHCOA will host a Capitol Hill briefing to discuss access to health care among Hispanic older adults. Here are five things you should know:
  1. National data shows that Hispanics are less likely to report receiving regular checkups and don’t have a regular source of care.
  2. High rates of poverty among Latino seniors forces tough decisions like choosing between buying groceries or paying for prescriptions.
  3. Hispanic older adults are underserved my Medicare, including Part D.
  4. The lack of access to regular care increases the risk of developing a chronic condition. Chronic conditions are already impacting Hispanic older adults at higher rates: Between 2000 and 2010, the prevalence of two or more chronic conditions among those aged 65 and over increased 18% for non-Hispanic black, 22% for non-Hispanic white, and 32% for Hispanic adults.
  5. There will be two panels of experts will be speaking about health care access at the briefing, and members of Congress will be present.

Join us to learn more about why these issues are impacting Hispanic older adults and what we should do at the policy-level to solve these issues. For RSVP information, time and location click here.

NHCOA Statement on National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month & National Family Caregivers Month

The number of Latinos suffering from Alzheimer’s could increase 600% by 2050

Washington, DC—Dr. Yanira Cruz, President and CEO of the National Hispanic Council on Aging (NHCOA)— the leading national organization working to improve the lives of Hispanic older adults, their families, and caregivers— made the following statement regarding National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month and National Family Caregivers Month:  “Dementia has become an increasingly growing public health crisis in the Hispanic community, yet we have barely scratched the surface to begin to understand the complexity of the situation, and much less how to effectively address it.

“The Alzheimer’s Association estimates that the number of Hispanic Alzheimer’s patients will increase six-fold by 2050. Therefore, we must act quickly, and collectively, to ensure that all seniors have access to early detection tools and screenings.

“We also need to conduct linguistically and culturally appropriate outreach to ensure older adults and caregivers are aware these resources exist and are available.

“Moreover, as the Affordable Care Act continues to be implemented, we all have a role to play so that Latinos with Alzheimer’s, their families, and caregivers are aware of new health benefits and become active participants of the health care coordination that Patient Centered Medical Homes (PCMH) promises to deliver.

“Given that families and caregivers are a crucial part of discussion surrounding Alzheimer’s and dementia, it is appropriate that both awareness for the disease and the recognition of family caregivers are commemorated this month.

“There are nearly 15 million Alzheimer’s and dementia caregivers in the country, who combined dedicate billions of hours to care for patients, many of which are family members and loved ones.

“NHCOA salutes these dedicated individuals who bring comfort and care to some of the most vulnerable people in our communities. We are working to increase the volume of research on Alzheimer’s disease by conducting a study to understand the attitudes, level of stigma, level of knowledge, and challenges within the Hispanic community as it relates to caregivers and health care providers.

“It is our hope that the findings will serve as the basis for interventions designed to ensure early detection of Alzheimer’s in the Hispanic community.”

MARIA EUGENIA HERNANDEZ: Strengthening Our Community Through Health Control and Prevention / Fortaleciendo Nuestra Comunidad a Través de la Prevención y Controles de Salud

I recently visited a NHCOA Hispanic Aging Network member in Houston, TX that is implementing our signature Health and Wellbeing (Salud y Bienestar or SyB) program to prevent and/or control diabetes among Hispanic older adults and their families.

ProSalud is in a unique position to empower its clients and protect the future of their health by raising awareness about the benefits of prevention and early detection of diseases like diabetes. This may help prolong and save many lives while bringing down the overall cost of our healthcare system.

NHCOA believes that health promotion and disease prevention is key not only to improving the lives of Hispanic older adults, but of their families and caregivers as well. It is said that we are only as strong as our weakest link, so we need to ensure we are all strong. What was clear during my evaluation activities was that ProSalud is actively moving toward that goal of making its community members strong links.

I met with medical students, promotoras de salud (lay health promoters), ProSalud Executive Director Dr. Peggy Goetz, board members, staff, Hispanic older adults, caregivers, and family members. Everyone I talked to about the program said they found it effective because it has a comprehensive approach that goes beyond awareness and stimulates behavior change with interactive tools and easy-to-understand materials. As one promotora told me, the Salud y Bienestar program motivates the participants and invites them to be an integral part of the solution.

Moreover, the Salud y Bienestar program is ProSalud’s first experience working directly with the Hispanic older adult population, and this experience has helped them meet their capacity building goals. It has even brought together diverse audiences with common goals– promotoras and medical students– who want to learn more about cultural competency and effectively serving the Hispanic community. There is never a better confirmation of a program’s effectiveness then when it not only reaches its goals, but also contributes to the betterment of the organization and its surrounding community.

NHCOA is proud to work with ProSalud’s wonderful staff and Executive Director, Dr. Peggy Goetz, as part of a larger network of Salud y Bienestar initiatives that has been established in four key regions throughout the country. As we continue to search avenues to replicate this model at the national level, we are encouraged and strengthened by the work ProSalud and its regional partners are doing to improve the lives of Hispanic older adults, their families, and caregivers. We also are proud to connect their work to a broader effort spearheaded by the Department of Health and Human Services to end health iniquities and achieve health equity through the National Partnership for Action.

Recientemente visité un miembro de la Red Hispana de NHCOA en Houston, TX que implementa nuestro programa llamado Salud y Bienestar (SyB). Este programa fue creado por NHCOA para prevenir y/o controlar la diabetes entre los adultos mayores hispanos y sus familiares.

ProSalud se encuentra en una posición única de informar a sus clientes y de proteger el futuro de su salud individual al concientizarlos sobre los beneficios de la prevención y detección temprana de enfermedades como la diabetes. Esto ayudará a prolongar y salvar muchas vidas a la vez que bajemos el costo general de nuestro sistema del cuidado de salud.

NHCOA cree que la promoción de salud y la prevención de enfermedades son clave no solo para mejorar las vidas de los adultos mayores hispanos, sino también las de sus familiares y cuidadores. Se dice en inglés que somos tan fuertes como el eslabón más débil por lo que tenemos que hacer todo lo posible para que todos estemos en la mejor condición de salud posible. Lo que quedó claro en mis actividades de evaluación es que ProSalud está bien encaminado hacia esa meta.

Me reuní con estudiantes de medicina, promotoras de salud, la directora ejecutiva de ProSalud Dra. Peggy Goetz, miembros de la junta directiva, personal, hispanos adultos mayores, sus cuidadores y familiares. Con todos los que hablaba sobre el programa, decían que lo hallaban efectivo porque tiene un enfoque panorámico que va más allá de concientización para estimular cambios de comportamiento utilizando herramientas interactivas y materiales que son fáciles de entender. Como me dijo una promotora, el programa de Salud y Bienestar motiva a los participantes y los invita a ser una parte integral de la solución.

Además, el programa de Salud y Bienestar es la primera interacción directa de ProSalud con la población de adultos mayores hispanos, y les ha ayudado a lograr sus metas para desarrollar su capacidad institucional. Tanto así que ha logrado reunir audiencias diversas— promotoras y estudiantes de medicina— con las metas compartidas de conocer más sobre la competencia cultural y cómo servir a la comunidad hispana eficazmente. Esto señala que la efectividad de un programa no solo se mide en el cumplimiento de sus metas sino cómo prospera a la organización y su comunidad alrededor.

NHCOA se enorgullece de colaborar con el excelente personal de ProSalud y su directora ejecutiva, la Dra. Peggy Goetz, como parte de nuestra red para iniciativas de Salud y Bienestar vigente en cuatro regiones clave del país. Mientras seguimos en busca de recursos para replicar este modelo a nivel nacional, nos alienta y fortalece el trabajo que ProSalud y sus aliados regionales hacen para mejorar las vidas de los adultos mayores hispanos, sus familias y cuidadores. También nos enorgullece conectar esta labor con un esfuerzo más amplio del Departamento de Salud y Servicios Humanos para acabar con las disparidades de salud y lograr la equidad mediante una iniciativa llamada National Partnership for Action.

Diverse Elders Coalition Sends Letter to Congress Opposing FY2012 Budget Resolution

Washington, DC–The National Hispanic Council on Aging (NHCOA), the premier national organization working to improve the lives of Hispanic older adults, their families, and caregivers, today submitted a joint letter to Members of Congress along with fellow members of the Diverse Elders Coalition (DEC) expressing the group’s strong opposition to the FY2012 Budget Resolution approved by the House Budget Committee. The DEC is a group of seven organizations working to improve the lives of racially and ethnically diverse older adults and LGBT seniors by promoting economic security, health equity, and the elimination of health disparities.

Among the points DEC highlighted that would adversely impact diverse elders are the privatization of Medicare, the repeal of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), and shifting the cost of Medicaid to the states. Following, the text of letter:

April 14, 2011

United States House of Representatives United States Senate

Dear Speaker Boehner, Majority Leader Reid, and the Honorable Members of Congress:

The Diverse Elders Coalition (DEC) strongly opposes the Budget Resolution approved by the House Budget Committee for fiscal year 2012. The DEC, a group of seven organizations, works to improve the lives of racially and ethnically diverse older adults and LGBT older adults. Broadly speaking, we work to promote economic security during retirement as well as for health equity and the elimination of health disparities among racially, ethnically diverse, and LGBT communities. Although our work primarily targets select groups, the issues our constituencies face are not limited to their communities; health and economic security in old age are challenges everyone faces. Unfortunately, the FY 2012 budget resolution intensifies, rather than eases, the burdens of aging.

The FY 2012 budget resolution increases the cost of health care for which millions of older adults already struggle to pay:

•    The FY 2012 budget resolution privatizes Medicare. Starting in 2022, seniors will have to purchase health insurance on the open market, with the reformed Medicare providing only a voucher to cover some of the cost of the private insurance premium.

•    Under the current Medicare system, in the year 2030, a 65 year old would have to pay 25% of his or her health care costs. This amount, already a substantial expense for many seniors, would increase to 68% of health care costs under the FY 2012 budget resolution. Additionally, the Congressional Budget Office projects that health care costs will increase faster than the value of Medicare vouchers.

•    Social, economic, and health inequalities present throughout life tend to increase with age, as the effects of lower levels of education, poor employment prospects, and poor health accumulate over the course of life. For this reason the FY 2012 budget resolution is particularly harmful to the communities DEC represents.

•    The FY 2012 budget resolution would repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA). Repeal of the ACA would have an incalculably negative impact on the health of the nation, particularly racially, ethnically diverse and LGBT communities. The ACA offers a variety of programs to reduce health inequities, so repealing it through adoption of the FY 2012 budget resolution would further harm groups that already disproportionately suffer from certain illnesses.

•    The FY 2012 budget resolution changes Medicaid to a block grant program and shifts costs to states. This will force states to find new ways of funding their Medicaid program, such as lowering Medicaid payments to health care providers, which in turn would make doctors less willing to treat Medicaid-receiving patients.

Representative Ted Deutch of Florida described the FY 2012 budget resolution as a “path to the poorhouse.” As the facts above illustrate, this is an apt description. Though the budget proposal may cut federal spending, it does so at the expense of those least able to afford such cuts. The FY 2012 Budget Resolution not only alters Medicare and Medicaid to offer less health care, it also makes that care more expensive. Please consider these facts and the real life impact they have for your constituents. Thank you.

Sincerely,

National Caucus and Center on Black Aged, Inc. (NCBA) National Hispanic Council on Aging (NHCOA) Services and Advocacy for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Elders (SAGE) Southeast Asia Resource Action Center (SEARAC)