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NHCOA Applauds Confirmation of New U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services

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- released the following statement shortly after the U.S. Senate confirmed Sylvia Mathews Burwell, current Director of the White House Office of Management and Budget, as the new Secretary of Health and Human Services in a 78-17 vote:

“We applaud Sylvia Mathews Burwell’s Senate confirmation today as the new U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services. While the challenges and the pressures of this role are great, we are confident she will make positive in-roads through bipartisan consensus. We look forward to working with her and the HHS staff to continue addressing the health issues most impacting our community, particularly Hispanic older adults.”

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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 Applauds Dr. J. Nadine Gracia for Appointment at Department of Health and Human Services

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— applauds the appointment of Dr. J. Nadine Gracia in the dual capacity of Deputy Assistant Secretary for Minority Health and Office of Minority Health (OMH) Director at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) last week. Dr. Yanira Cruz, NHCOA President and CEO, made the following remarks:

Continue reading “NHCOA Applauds Dr. J. Nadine Gracia for Appointment at Department of Health and Human Services”

Dr. Howard Ko: Thanksgiving and World AIDS Day

This is cross-posted from blog.AIDS.gov. 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 AIDS.gov.

NHSMP: Average 2013 Premiums Announced in Advance of Medicare Open Enrollment

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.

Yesterday, Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, announced that the average basic premiums for 2013 Medicare prescription drug plans are projected to remain at the 2012 level of $30.

These projections are based on bids submitted by drug and health plans for basic coverage during the 2013 benefit year, which are calculated by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Office of the Actuary.

This is important information for Medicare beneficiaries as the annual Open Enrollment period is coming up in a couple of months. Medicare Open Enrollment is the period of time during which Medicare beneficiaries can evaluate their health care coverage and compare it to other plan offerings. While Open Enrollment isn’t mandatory, it is helpful to examine one’s health care situation and have the chance to make any necessary changes to ensure the best coverage is received at the best cost and provides the greatest convenience.

Medicare Open Enrollment runs from October 15, the last day of Hispanic Heritage Month, through December 7. If the beneficiary makes changes to his/her existing plan, new benefits and coverage start on January 1, 2013.

Open Enrollment is an opportune season for Medicare fraud, which is why the National Hispanic SMP (NHSMP) encourages Medicare beneficiaries and their families and caregivers to stay alert and watch out for potential 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

NHSMP: Obama Administration Announces Public-Private Partnerships to Continue Fight Against Health Care Fraud

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.

Yesterday, Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and Attorney General Eric Holder announced the launch of an unprecedented partnership between the federal government, state officials, private health insurance organizations, and other health care anti-fraud groups to fight against health care fraud.

These public-private collaborations, which were designed to share information and best practices in health care detection and prevention, are an additional step the Obama Administration is taking to fight health care fraud and protect taxpayer dollars.

According to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), one of the partners, one potential goal of the partnership is to “detect and stop payments billed to different insurers for care delivered to the same patient on the same day in two different cities.” In addition, a potential long-range goal is the use technology and health care data analytics to predict and detect health care fraud schemes.

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.

 

Vacunémonos: Protecting Your Heart from the Flu

Did you know that having heart disease can put you at high risk for health complications if you get the flu? Heart disease can make your body too weak to fight off the flu, which could cause a heart attack or health complication, such as pneumonia. Therefore, it is important to protect your heart and your health by taking precautions to avoid getting the flu.

Even though it is late in the flu season, those who are at risk of flu complications, including heart disease, should get the flu shot. People with heart disease should follow these guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):

Here’s what you need to know if you have heart disease:

  • Get the flu vaccine, which is the first line of defense against influenza. It is important to note the nasal spray vaccine is not safe for people with heart disease.
  • If you experience flu-like symptoms, you should contact your health care provider right away.
  • If you notice changes in your breathing contact your health care provider or go to an emergency room immediately.

February is American Heart Month. Learn more about the Department of Health and Human Services’ Million Hearts initiative to prevent heart attack and stroke.

 

Vacunémonos (Let’s Get Vaccinated) is a culturally, linguistically, and age sensitive community intervention that aims at increasing adult vaccination rates among Hispanics.

NHCOA Supports HHS’ National Strategy to End Health Disparities

Dr. Yanira Cruz, NHCOA President and CEO, today endorsed the Department of Health and Human Services’ National Stakeholder Strategy (NSS) for Achieving Health Equity, a comprehensive roadmap to help diverse communities and underserved groups reach their full health potential and eliminate health disparities. The NSS strategy, which is a product of the National Partnership for Action (NPA), was announced in an event today at the National Press Club. It incorporates input from thousands of individuals and organizations across the country.

Dr. Cruz’s prepared remarks are below:

“Healthcare truly affects us all— regardless of location, background, or circumstance— and we are grateful to have these champions in our corner, ensuring every American can fulfill this basic and precious need.

“It is a pleasure to be here today, not only on behalf of the National Hispanic Council on Aging and the constituencies we serve – Hispanic older adults, their families, and caregivers– but also on behalf of all diverse communities across the United States as we collectively seek to bring an end to health disparities.

“The goal of achieving health equity has been an ongoing struggle for several decades, and the one prevailing truth is that the key to overcoming these iniquities is through a united, collaborative front.

“NHCOA is confident that the National Stakeholders Strategy for Achieving Health Equity, which is being unveiled today as part of a larger, national umbrella strategy, has developed the roadmap that will lead us to success.

What makes this roadmap unique is that it wasn’t created in a vacuum, but rather pieced together with the input of those who are directly impacted by, and invested in ending, health disparities across the country.

And, more importantly, this roadmap bolsters practices that have already been proven to work and are being implemented as we speak. This strategy isn’t about reinventing wheel, rather building on existing tools and resources and applying them in a coordinated way that ensures maximum impact.

That is why we are proud to endorse and embrace this strategy, as well join these important efforts.

“In particular, I’d like to highlight some key elements of the NSS strategy, which NHCOA considers essential to achieving health equity:

“The incorporation of determinants of health: We can’t address health iniquities without first understanding what factors contribute to health disparities in the first place.

“Health promotion and disease prevention: Rising healthcare costs are one of the greatest concerns for our states. We know that an important way to reduce costs, particularly as it relates to chronic disease management, is through prevention.

“Cultural and language competency: This is absolutely necessary to help close the health disparity gap.

“I would like to share a couple of anecdotes that reflect this reality.

“Both are Hispanic seniors in the late 70s and have lived in this country for decades. They also have chronic illnesses and share deeply rooted fears and misconceptions when it comes to our healthcare system.

“In a focus group, one of the seniors said he doesn’t feel welcome when visiting the doctor. Rather he feels like beggar soliciting services. On the other hand, the other Hispanic elder said she feels rejected by her doctors, and make her feel— in her words— like a ‘dirty animal.’

“This break in linguistic and cultural communication only worsens health outcomes for patients of diverse communities like our Hispanic older adults.

“So, the question now is what can we do to put this strategy to work? NHCOA and its Hispanic Aging Network is already involved in creating age-sensitive and culturally and linguistically competent interventions and evidence-based models that are creating positive health outcomes for Hispanic older adults.

“NHCOA’s Health and Wellness Program is a prime example of such efforts. Through the Health and Wellness Program, NHCOA leverages the influence of cultural bonds by using promotores de salud or lay health educators to empower Latino elders and their caregivers to prevent and manage diabetes, which disproportionately affects Hispanics.

“Looking forward, we see ample opportunity for the aging network to use this strategy as a tool to gauge our response to the new demographic realities and assess the changes and shifts that need to be made to accommodate this landscape.

“Many programs that are still implemented today were crafted decades ago when our population was younger and less diverse.

“Therefore, the NSS strategy lays the groundwork to begin a radical shift that our healthcare system is in dire need of.

“We applaud HHS for their hard work in developing this strategy over the last two years, and we are excited to begin putting the National Stakeholder Strategy to work within our constituencies and the communities NHCOA and its Hispanic Aging Network touches as part of a broader collective effort to achieve health equity once and for all.”

NHCOA’s Salud y Bienestar (Health and Wellbeing) Program is sponsored by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Walmart Foundation. For more information, visit http://elearning.nhcoa.org.