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5 Common Challenges to Conducting Medicare Fraud Outreach Among Hispanic Older Adults

In order to get Hispanic older adults to report Medicare fraud, we must first be able to reach them effectively. Detection is the best way for seniors to protect themselves from scams and fraud. This is why breaking away at, and tearing down barriers, that prevent them from receiving reliable, trustworthy information regarding Medicare fraud is key.

Here is a look at 5 common challenges or barriers to conducting effective Medicare fraud outreach among Hispanic older adults and tips to address each one. 

Language barriers

Most Hispanic older adults speak more Spanish than English. They rely on their children, grandchildren, or friends to understand documents or other information they may encounter on a daily basis. The inability to fully understand causes many to feel frustrated and give up. While Latino seniors may be more comfortable speaking Spanish, they may encounter difficulties reading and writing. This is due to low levels of education and the reliance on jargon, slang and “Spanglish” (the combined usage of Spanish and English words to communicate). Therefore, even if the information is written in Spanish, many might have a hard time understanding certain wording and phrases they are not familiar with.

Reaching Hispanic older adults through a variety of culturally and linguistically appropriate communication channels is critical to eliminate the language barrier (i.e., local Spanish language radio PSAs, local Spanish language TV interviews). 

Misinformation

The propagation of myths within the community is frequent and wide-scaled, ranging from old wives tales to urban legends. Older adults, who are mostly homebound and have little contact with the outside world, are especially susceptible to blending facts and information with myths and taboos. And, even if they receive correct information, it can be difficult and confusing to retain. As we age, being introduced to new concepts and facts can be overwhelming, especially topics such as Medicare, which is complex in nature.

Constant reinforcement is key to fighting misinformation and is best achieved through one-on-one and group discussions in culturally and linguistically appropriate settings (i.e., community centers and places of worship).

Difficulty Navigating the Medicare System

These days technology plays a big role in our  healthcare system, especially the enrollment process. For an older adult who is used to handwritten paperwork and face-to-face interaction, it is difficult — and seemingly impossible to them— to use the internet and virtual assistance to process an application, enroll or report fraud. While online services are great and helpful to many, Latino seniors are a generation behind in terms of technology and access.

For Hispanic older adults to use the Internet to access and manage their Medicare accounts, in-person bilingual assistance is critical. 

Isolation

Seniors may not always go to a senior center or community center. In fact, if they do not have caregivers or family to take them, or go with them. They may not leave their home at all. As they reach their golden years, most of them stop driving and cannot walk, bike, or take public transportation as easily as when they were younger. This causes isolation and for the most part prevents them from receiving valuable information about Medicare and Medicare fraud. Even when they attend a senior center or community center, most times the seniors do not have the opportunity to attend informative events or fairs due to lack of transportation.

Sending culturally sensitive bilingual volunteers to make home visits or go to places Hispanic older adults frequent (places of worship, grocery stores, etc) can help bridge the isolation gap many Latino seniors experience as they age. 

 

The National Hispanic SMP (NHSMP), an off-shoot of the Senior Medicare Patrol (SMP) initiative, 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. The NHSMP program was launched in Rio Grande Valley, Texas in 2005 and expanded into southern Florida in mid-2011. 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. 

How to Refocus Your Hispanic Volunteer Recruitment

Volunteer recruitment can be challenging, especially when it’s within a diverse community as language, cultural nuances, and even gender, greatly impact these efforts. The Hispanic community is no different. While Latinos are volunteer-oriented, many Hispanic older adults don’t relate to, and perhaps don’t understand, the concept of volunteerism. Rather, they “help”, “assist”, and “support.” They also don’t relate to the concept of “signing up” to volunteer because giving time to help one another is more than second nature — it’s part of their DNA.

Therefore, targeted strategies are needed to effectively recruit ad retain Latino volunteers, especially Hispanic older adults. That is NHCOA, with the support of the Administration on Aging (AoA), developed the National Hispanic SMP (NHSMP). The NHSMP is an off-shoot of the Senior Medicare Patrol (SMP) initiative, which empowers seniors through increased awareness and understanding of healthcare programs. Because Medicare fraud fraud is so prevalent in the Hispanic community, one of the functions of the NHSMP is to help state SMPs across the country connect with, recruit, retain, and support Latino volunteers. While the needs and challenges may vary from state to state, there are five main concepts that any organization seeking to recruit Hispanic volunteers should take into account:

1. Understanding the cultural context of volunteerism for Latinos

A Hispanic volunteer doesn’t consider him or herself a volunteer. Growing up, Latinos are taught that it is polite and correct to help others, including neighbors and community members who are in need. For example, carpooling to the supermarket because the neighbor’s car broke down, giving a donation to a family who doesn’t have enough money to pay for their loved one’s funeral expenses, or a Hispanic senior who offer to take care of her neighbor’s children when they have a scheduling conflict. Essentially, volunteerism is about stepping up and taking action to ensure that the harmony and balance of the community is preserved.

 

2. Family ties (familismo) are the foundation of Hispanic volunteerism

The reason why Latinos tend to be aware of, and focus on meeting the needs of their communities is because they consider them as extended families. This also includes places of worship and employment. For example, Hispanic worship groups and ministries or company-sponsored soccer teams. This tendency stems from the fact that many Latinos grow up with extended family (although they don’t refer to these relative as such), particularly grandparents, aunts, and even family friends.

 

3. Latinos connect to causes through people, not issues

Because of the family-centered values that are central to the Hispanic community, the best way to engage Latinos in volunteer efforts is to explain how their efforts will help community members rather than how it will impact the issue. For example:

With your help, we can protect ourselves and our grandparents from Medicare fraud.

Sign up to join the fight against Medicare fraud in your community. 

Giving weight and importance to how the issue affects people will help you connect directly with potential Hispanic volunteers, as well as make them feel that you understand them and empathize with them.

 

4. Influence, trust, and respect are the building blocks of volunteer outreach among Hispanics

In order for a volunteer recruitment strategy to be effective among Latino seniors, it will take time and effort. It requires relationship-building skills and patience so good rapport and eventually, trust, can be established. Partnering with, or being vouched for by a well-known, respected, and influential community figure will help speed the process up. Because of factors including language barriers and social isolation, engaging with Hispanic older adults can be difficult at first. However, once a relationship is established in which they feel useful, helpful, and appreciated, they will your cause’s biggest fan and supporter.

 

5. Appreciation goes a long way

Hispanic older adults, just like all older Americans, offer a wealth of wisdom, experience, and knowledge, which they are eager to share and pass along. Allowing Latino senior volunteers to be actively engaged will not only strengthen their ties to your cause, but their feedback will help improve your reach and influence within the Hispanic community. One way to encourage engagement is by showing Hispanic older adults appreciation for their volunteerism. Small gestures, such as certificates, pizza party, or even a hug and warm ‘thank you’, can mean the world to them. Beyond feeling appreciated, they will treat you and your cause as their extended family— and that brand of loyalty is priceless.

For more tips on recruiting and retaining Latino volunteers, click here.

 

The National Hispanic SMP (NHSMP), an off-shoot of the Senior Medicare Patrol (SMP) initiative, 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. The NHSMP program was launched in Rio Grande Valley, Texas in 2005 and expanded into southern Florida in mid-2011. 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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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 MyMedicare.gov 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 www.medicare.gov for the latest Medicare news and information, and have a healthy 2013.

NHSMP: Always Be Aware of Medicare Fraud

By Dr. Yanira Cruz, President and CEO

Today I was interviewed by Univision America radio host, Helen Aguirre Ferré, on her nationally broadcast show, Zona Política (Political Zone), and as we talked about the fiscal cliff and its impact on Hispanic seniors, Medicare came to the forefront. Particularly, she asked me about Medicare fraud, referring to Miami– where she based– as the Medicare fraud capital.

Helen’s  observation was exactly on point, and the extent of Medicare fraud within this area, as well as other cities with dense Hispanic populations is a tremendous concern to NHCOA. That is why we work closely with the Administration on Aging through the National Hispanic SMP to help Latino seniors, their families, and caregivers effectively protect, detect, and report Medicare fraud.

One of the questions Helen asked was how Medicare fraud plays out on a daily basis, and there are a couple of scenarios, which are most common:

  • Scammers charge Medicare for services or products which were never received.
  • Scammers steal beneficiaries Medicare numbers.
  • Scammers send beneficiaries durable medical equipment or products they don’t need and then charge them to Medicare.

As I told Helen, the community is the best defense against Medicare fraud, which is we all need to get involved in the fight to protect Medicare. The National Hispanic SMP can help Medicare beneficiaries protect, detect, and report Medicare, but it also trains beneficiaries, their family members, and caregivers to teach others within the community about Medicare fraud. For more information, call us 1-866-488-7379. Se habla español.

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

NHMSP: The Day has Arrived – Medicare Open Enrollment Ends Today

Having access to adequate health care is critical for seniors. This is why every year Medicare beneficiaries are given a period of time to review their health care needs and ensure their coverage meets these needs. This period is called Medicare Open Enrollment, and ends today, December 7.

No matter what stage a beneficiary is in the decision process, one thing to always keep in mind is that we always have to be aware for Medicare fraud. Open Enrollment is a prime opportunity for scammers to target Medicare beneficiaries as they may be bombarded with lots of information. While comparing and reviewing Medicare health care and drug plans, keep the following in mind:

  • No one is required to make changes to his or her Medicare plan. If beneficiaries like their current plan, they don’t have to take further action. Their plan will simply continue in 2013.
  • Medicare numbers are private and should be treated like a credit card. Medicare will never ask for a beneficiary’s number, therefore any calls, emails, flyers, etc. that request that information is fraudulent and should be reported.
  • Nothing is free, there is always a hidden cost. Don’t accept “free” products or services from anyone.

Visit www.nhcoa.org/medicare for more information about Medicare fraud and how to get involved with the National Hispanic Seniors Medicare Patrol (NHSMP), or call us at 1-866-488-7379. Also remember you still have a day to take advantage of Medicare Open Enrollment. Call Medicare at 1-800-MEDICARE or visit www.medicare.gov to make an informed decision using the Medicare Plan Finder.

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: We’re All Guilty of This

It’s not a crime but you know you’ve been guilty of this at least some point in your life: waiting until the last minute. Many of us have waited too long to complete a project. Sometimes we miss deadlines.  However, an important deadline is approaching that Medicare beneficiaries should take advantage of.

The Medicare Open Enrollment season ends tomorrow, December 7. This is the period of time Medicare recipients have to change plans, add a plan or choose a plan that fits your needs. You might have waited until now to start thinking about your Medicare options for next year or you might have completed enrollment in October.

If you haven’t been able to look at options be extra alert and don’t fall into a Medicare scam. Medicare scammers are active all year round. But, as the Open Enrollment deadline rapidly approaches, fraud activity could be high this week as scammers try to confuse, intimidate, bombard, and pressure seniors into making uninformed decisions regarding their health.

Remember that nothing is free. Don’t accept “free” items or services from anyone. Also, don’t share your Medicare number or Social Security number and always treat it like a credit card.

Visit www.medicare.gov to compare plans using the Medicare Plan Finder. Also, visit www.nhcoa.org/medicare for more information about Medicare fraud and how to get involved with the National Hispanic Seniors Medicare Patrol (NHSMP), or call us at 1-866-488-7379.

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

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

Caregiving & Medicare Open Enrollment: It’s Time, But Not For Long!

The deadline for Medicare Open Enrollment is this Friday, December 7

As a caregiver, you play a special role in the lives of those you care for. Everyday you encounter unique challenges and decisions. One important decision you should be considering is your love one’s Medicare plan for next year. The December 7 deadline for Open Enrollment is rapidly approaching. In addition to impacting Medicare beneficiaries’ financial and medical needs, Medicare plan options might impact your role as a caregiver. During Medicare Open Enrollment season it is also very important to protect, detect, and prevent for potential fraud.

Will Medicare pay for a home-health care worker if I am unable to continue caring for my loved one? Some home health care services are paid for by Medicare. However, if the only care your loved one needs falls under basic home help or “homemaker services” like bathing, dressing, using the bathroom, shopping, cleaning, and laundry, Medicare will not pay for these services. If a doctor certifies that your loved one is homebound, Medicare will cover the expenses of a home health aid. If your loved one is eligible for this type of care and you are considering using a home health service in 2013, be sure your loved one is enrolled in a plan that will cover these expenses. Click here for more information.

Pharmacy visits are taking up a lot of my time. Will my loved one’s Medicare plan cover prescription drugs delivered by mail? Prescription drug plans vary from state to state. There are options for many Medicare beneficiaries to receive their prescriptions in the mail. To be sure you are enrolling your loved one in a plan that covers mail-order prescriptions, use the Medicare Plan Finder on www.medicare.gov to compare options.

I think my loved one has been targeted by a Medicare scam during Open Enrollment. What should I do? Be sure to keep your loved one’s Medicare information safe. Never share your Medicare number with an unsolicited caller. NHCOA partners with the Senior Medicare Patrol to help protect, detect and report Medicare fraud. Find out more about Medicare fraud by visiting www.nhcoa.org/medicare.

My loved one gets mail about Medicare services, Open Enrollment notices from other insurance companies and other mail that I don’t know what to do with.  Where can I find out more about these notices we’re receiving? All beneficiaries receive mail about their Medicare benefits. Click here for information regarding pieces you receive in the mail, when you should respond to notices and how to update an address.

What should I do before the December 7 Open Enrollment Deadline? Talk with your loved one about their Medicare plan. Review your options for the coming year. Discuss different medical and financial needs that will impact your family in 2013. Call 1-800-MEDICARE or visit www.medicare.gov to get detailed information about plan options or to complete Open Enrollment information. If your loved one wants to keep their current plan, then no further action is required. Your loved one will be automatically re-enrolled for 2013.

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

It’s time! Medicare Open enrollment ends December 7!

The National Hispanic SMP urges beneficiaries to be aware of Medicare fraud during Medicare Open Enrollment season

Medicare Open Enrollment is period of time between October 15 and December 7 when Medicare beneficiaries can evaluate their health care needs and review plan options to determine whether they should keep or change their health care or drug plan for 2013. Given that the Open Enrollment period is quickly approaching, let’s review some common questions regarding Medicare Open Enrollment:

Do I have to enroll in a different plan? 

No, Medicare Open Enrollment is completely voluntary. If you do nothing before December 7, your Medicare health care or drug plan coverage will remain the same through 2013.

Why would I look at other plans? 

Each year plans change what they cost and what they cover, which is why it is helpful for beneficiaries to evaluate their health needs and compare plans. When thinking about your health needs, some things to consider include:

  • Do you have a new medical issue that isn’t covered by your current plan?
  • Has your budget changed and your current co-pay,deductible, or prescription drug costs are too expensive?

Where should I go to compare Medicare plans and what should I look for? 

Visit the Medicare Plan Finder on the Medicare website to find a plan that fits your needs. You should look out for the three Cs:

  • Cost: Evaluate your current health care costs and find the coverage that works with your budget.
  • Coverage: It’s important that the services and care you will need in the coming year are covered by the plan you choose.
  • Convenience: Make sure the plan you choose fits your lifestyle.

What if I live in a state impacted by super storm Sandy and I can’t complete my enrollment information before the deadline? 

Medicare beneficiaries that are experiencing special circumstances due to the recent storm can enroll after the deadline. Benefits for your new plan will begin the following month. For example, if you enroll in a new plan on January 10, your 2013 plan will begin February 1. For more information, call Medicare at 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227). TTY users should call 1- 877-486-2048.

What should I do if I think I’m being targeted for Medicare fraud? 

Medicare Open Enrollment is a prime time for scammers targeting seniors. Always be vigilant and remember to treat your Medicare number like a credit card number. Don’t share this information with anyone! We all have to part play in protecting, detecting, and reporting Medicare fraud, and the National Hispanic SMP (NHSMP) is available to help. If you want to report Medicare fraud or learn how to become an NHSMP volunteer leader and fight Medicare fraud, call 1-866-488-7379.

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

 

Medicare Open Enrollment for 2013 is Around the Corner

Medicare beneficiaries are reminded to be alert for Medicare fraud

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— is reminding Hispanic Medicare beneficiaries that Medicare Open Enrollment is closely approaching.

Medicare Open Enrollment is the period of time between October 15 and December 7, 2012 during which beneficiaries can make changes to their current health care or drug plan. Each year plans change what they cost and what they cover, which is why it is helpful for beneficiaries to evaluate their health needs and compare plans.

While Open Enrollment presents an opportunity for beneficiaries to ensure they are getting the best costs, coverage, and convenience from their drug or health care plan, it can be a prime chance for Medicare fraud to take place.

That is why the National Hispanic SMP (NHSMP)— a program that informs and empowers Hispanic older adults, their families, and caregivers to protect, detect, and report Medicare fraud— encourages beneficiaries to be alert and watch out for potential fraud.

“Medicare Open Enrollment is a wonderful opportunity for Latino beneficiaries to assess their health needs and compare health care and drug plans to ensure they are receiving the best possible coverage at the best possible cost that is most convenient for them,” said Dr. Yanira Cruz, NHCOA President and CEO. “We encourage Hispanic older adults, their families, and caregivers to make an informed decision regarding their health and to remember to protect themselves so as to not fall prey to Medicare fraud.”

Everyone plays a role 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.

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.