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  • 18May

    2015 marks the 50th anniversary of Medicare, Medicaid, and the Older Americans Act, as well as the 80th anniversary of Social Security. It also marks the year of the next White House Conference on Aging. These conferences provide an opportunity to recognize these these key programs and to look ahead at the issues and solutions to help create a healthy landscape for older Americans for the next decade.

    In the past, conference processes were determined by statute with the form and structure directed by Congress through legislation authorizing the Older Americans Act. While Congress has not yet reauthorized the Older Americans Act, the White House is still committed to hosting a White House Conference on Aging (WHCoA) in 2015 (date for the in person part of the conference in D.C. has not yet been set). WHCoA is also hosting several regional forums (such as the one held in Seattle on April 2) and intends to seek broad public engagement and use web tools and social media to encourage as many older Americans as possible to participate. (See the Get Involved section of the WHCoA website to sign up for their email updates and share your story, concerns and ideas.)

    The 2015 White House Conference on Aging has picked 4 top areas of concern and innovation for our country’s older adults. These areas are: healthy aging, long-term services and supports, elder justice, and retirement security. Below is a short excerpt from the WHCoA website on a policy brief on each topic with a link to the full report.

    Healthy Aging Policy Brief

    Older Americans are calling for a shift in the way we think and talk about aging. Rather than focusing on the limitations of aging, older adults across the nation want to focus instead on the opportunities of aging. Older adults are seeking ways to maximize their physical, mental, and social well-being to remain independent and active as they age.

     

    Long-Term Services & Supports Policy Brief

    Despite efforts to stay healthy and prevent disease, many older adults will eventually develop some degree of limitations and need additional paid or unpaid help with basic daily living activities.

    Long-term services and supports help older adults and people with disabilities accomplish everyday tasks such as bathing, dressing, preparing a meal, or managing money. These services include health and social services that may be needed to maximize the independence and well-being of an individual. Individuals of all ages may have functional limitations, but these limitations are most prevalent among adults age 65 and older.

     

    Elder Justice Policy Brief

    As Americans live longer and technology becomes increasingly sophisticated, older Americans face new challenges and opportunities. While technology is helping individuals to live longer and healthier lives, older Americans may be susceptible to financial exploitation and other forms of elder abuse.

    Elder abuse is a serious public health problem affecting millions of older Americans each year, with some studies suggesting that as few as one in 23 cases is reported to authorities. Elder abuse is defined as intentional actions that cause harm or create a serious risk of harm to an older person (whether or not harm is intended). Elder abuse encompasses physical abuse, neglect, financial exploitation, sexual abuse, as well as emotional and psychological abuse.


    Retirement Security Policy Brief

    Americans are living longer than ever before. In 2012, life expectancy at birth in the United States reached a record high of 78.8 years. A 65 year-old man can expect to live another 17 years and a 65 year-old woman another 20 years. As a result, older Americans have more time to help grow the economy, enrich their communities, and enjoy their families. But longer lives can also challenge older Americans’ financial security, increasing the risk of outliving their assets.

  • 15May

    Did you know that since 1900, the percentage of Americans 65+ has more than tripled (from 4.1% in 1900 to 14.1% in 2013), and the number has increased over 13 times (from 3.1 million to 44.7 million)? Did you know that as of 2013, 44.7 million Americans are 65 years of age or older, representing 14.1% of the U.S. population. This is about 1 in every 7 Americans and is an increase of 8.8 million or 24.7% since 2003, compared to an increase of 6.8% for the under-65 population. That’s a huge growth in our elder population, and many more people eligible for Medicare. In fact, each day for the next 17 years, 10,000 new people become eligible for Medicare. This is one of the reasons CHA is dedicated to providing premier education and advocacy on behalf of California’s growing beneficiary population both in the areas of Medicare and long-term care. In the coming months, we’ll be looking more closely at the larger socioeconomic and political issues around long-term care and advocacy for the care and wellbeing of our older adults and society at large.

    Below are links to the Administration on Community Living/Administration on Aging’s report, A Profile of Older Americans: 2014 and a few more interesting facts taken from that report.

    • Persons reaching age 65 have an average life expectancy of an additional 19.3 years (20.5 years for females and 17.9 years for males).
    • There were 67,347 persons aged 100 or more in 2013 (0.15% of the total 65+ population).
    • Older women outnumber older men at 25.1 million older women to 19.6 million older men.
    • In 2013, 21.2% of persons 65+ were members of racial or ethnic minority populations–8.6% were African-Americans (not Hispanic), 3.9% were Asian or Pacific Islander (not Hispanic),  0.5% were Native American (not Hispanic), 0.1% were Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander, (not Hispanic), and  0.7% of persons 65+ identified themselves as being of two or more races. Persons of Hispanic origin (who may be of any race) represented 7.5% of the older population.
    • Older men were much more likely to be married than older women—72% of men, 46% of women – (Figure 2). In 2014, 35% older women were widows.
    • About 28% (12.5 million) of noninstitutionalized older persons live alone (8.8 million women, 3.8 million men).
    • Almost half of older women (46%) age 75+ live alone.
    • In 2013, about 536,000 grandparents aged 65 or more had the primary responsibility for their grandchildren who lived with them.
    • The population 65 and over has increased from 35.9 million in 2003 to 44.7 million in 2013 (a 24.7% increase) and is projected to more than double to 98 million in 2060.
    • The 85+ population is projected to triple from 6 million in 2013 to 14.6 million in 2040.
    • Racial and ethnic minority populations have increased from 6.3 million in 2003 (17.5% of the older adults population) to 9.5 million in 2013 (21.2% of the older adults) and are projected to increase to 21.1 million in 2030 (28.5% of the older adults).
    • The median income of older persons in 2013 was $29,327 for males and $16,301 for females. Median money income (after adjusting for inflation) of all households headed by older people rose by 3.7% (which was statistically significant) between 2012 and 2013. Households containing families headed by persons 65+ reported a median income in 2013 of $51,486
    • The major sources of income as reported by older persons in 2012 were Social Security (reported by 86% of older persons), income from assets (reported by 51%), private pensions (reported by 27%), government employee pensions (reported by 14%), and earnings (reported by 28%).
    • Social Security constituted 90% or more of the income received by 36% of beneficiaries in 2012 (22% of married couples and 47% of non-married beneficiaries).
    • Over 4.2 million older adults persons (9.5%) were below the poverty level in 2013. This poverty rate is statistically different from the poverty rate in 2012 (9.1%). In 2011, the U.S. Census Bureau also released a new Supplemental Poverty Measure (SPM) which takes into account regional variations in the livings costs, non-cash benefits received, and non-discretionary expenditures but does not replace the official poverty measure.   In 2013, the SPM shows a poverty level for older persons of 14.6% (more than 5 percentage points higher than the official rate of 9.5%). This increase is mainly due to including medical out-of-pocket expenses in the poverty calculations.
  • 05May

    Be entertained by our Senior Medicare Patrol superheros in action! As there is a lot of fear, scary news and doom and gloom reports regarding scams, we thought is was time to turn up the joy and fun factor and spread our message with some humor and a dose of silliness. That is where our SMP superheroes come in! Below are 2 short skits highlighting:

    • a common back brace scam that uses large newspaper ads to promote “free, Medicare-covered back braces” to lure beneficiaries to give them their Medicare number
    • a genetic testing and ice cream social scam.

    Our SMP volunteer liaisons help “save the day” in many ways for their clients, sometimes through resolving cases and sometimes just by being the one who listens to their story, gives them peace of mind and a return of wellbeing knowing their situation is being addressed. They are real life superheroes, and help empower their peers to become their own superheroes too. Enjoy the skits and some good laughs! And please share! :-)

    View Back Brace Scam skit script

    View Genetic Testing and Ice Cream Social Scam skit script

    You can also view these and other SMP skits on our website.

  • 23Apr

    With 2015 being Medicare’s 50th birthday, one of our partner advocacy organizations, Center for Medicare Advocacy, has created 50 insights for celebrating Medicare’s 50th. As Congress is currently debating budget proposals that would significantly change Medicare as we know it, it’s important to keep all the good Medicare provides for 52 million people in the forefront of our minds.

    A few of the good highlights pointed out already include:

    • Medicare reduces poverty
    • Medicare saves lives
    • Medicare helps people with disabilities
    • Medicare reflects the heart of American character
    • Medicare beneficiaries are remarkable
    • Medicare helps people with disabilities stay home
    • Medicare helps those with low-incomes have affordable health care coverage

    See their section on Medicare’s 50th Anniversary for more information.

  • 14Apr

    The head of the Institute for Communitarian Policy Studies at George Washington University, Professor Amitai Etzioni, recently released a video relating a sociological view on aging and how to deal with its changes. He uses the analogy of green bananas to point out that when we’re young, we’re often taught to take actions that secure a “good” future. We see things in more of a linear way, taking actions today to secure financial security, or a good home or family life, etc for the future. Once Professor Etzioni became an elder, however, he realized how this linear way of orienting one’s life, activities and goals wasn’t so applicable or relevant. The timeline that extends into the horizon isn’t so long, and more than ever, he is aware that one’s present moment is where the keys to happiness lie. In looking to sociological research, Prof. Etzioni found 3 key actions elders can take in leading happier, healthier and longer lives.

    They are:

    • Invest in friends
    • Volunteer, mentor, find ways to give back in your community, and
    • Maintain or develop your spiritual practice

    While having good, quality health insurance coverage and care certainly contributes to one’s peace of mind and quality of life, these 3 actions also enhance people’s happiness and health. Watch the short video below as Prof. Etzioni expands on these actions.

     

  • 09Apr

    One way to make a change is to get people laughing! This is what an acting troupe of seniors do…traveling and performing comedy as a way to educate their peers on senior scams. Based in southern California, Stop Senior Scams Action Program is comprised of a lively, humorous, youth-filled group even as their ages span from 65 to 96 years. They visit nursing homes, temples, churches, senior housing units and senior centers and put on their skits about IRS scams, sweet heart scams, financial and health care scams. They even have their own hit tune called “Just Hang Up!” – to the tune of “Don’t Hang Up” (a big hit 53 years ago). Options for skit material are endless as they can draw from their own personal experience.

    This group’s vision of using humor and laughter to spread awareness and empower seniors reflects the same vision our Senior Medicare Patrol (SMP) Thespians Society, which also uses funny skits to highlight fraud schemes, how to detect and report them, and ways to prevent them. See our fraud video page for our comedic skits on mail-order scams and new Medicare card scams. With so many alerts and scary news out there, having some comic relief and a good belly laugh are a welcomed and effective way to get one’s message across! :-)

    Below is a short video highlighting this traveling acting troupe and their “Just Hang Up!” hit!

     

  • 01Apr

    On Thursday, April 2, the 2015 White House Conference on Aging will host a Regional Forum in Seattle, Washington to engage with older Americans, their caregivers, advocates, community leaders and others on the key issues affecting older Americans. It will be a dynamic and important dialogue and you can listen in and participate via the internet. Below is an announcement from the White House Conference on Aging with the details.

    The 2015 White House Conference on Aging will highlight the contributions of older adults today and help inform the landscape of aging policy for the future.

    The Seattle Regional Forum is an opportunity to hear directly from you on key issues such as ensuring retirement security, promoting healthy aging, providing long-term services and supports, and protecting older Americans from financial exploitation, abuse and neglect.

    Working in collaboration with the AARP and the Leadership Council of Aging Organizations, a coalition of more than 70 of the nation’s leading organizations serving older Americans, we want to ensure that your voice is part of our work.

    The event is invitation only, however we will be live webcasting the event. So please visit www.hhs.gov/live-3 at 8:30 am MST on April 2 to view the live stream.

    We also have set up a mechanism on our website for individuals, organizations, coalitions and others to submit comments, share stories, and provide thoughts about the issues. We value the input and ideas of older adults, their families, stakeholders, and others, and we think it is an essential part of the Conference process. Please visit our website here to learn more: http://whitehouseconferenceonaging.gov/blog/forum/page/white-house-conference-on-aging-seattle-wa-regional-forum.aspx

    Webcast Agenda

    8:30 a.m. Program Begins

    9:45 a.m. Administration Keynotes

    10:15 a.m. Overview of the White House Conference on Aging and the Day’s Objectives

    10:25 a.m. Break

    10:35 a.m. Panel Discussion: Healthy Aging/Long-term Supports and Services

    11:20 a.m. Panel Discussion: Retirement Security/Elder Justice

    12:15 p.m. Live webcast ends

    All times are Pacific Daylight Time (PDT)

  • 25Mar

    California Health Advocates supports a final and long-term solution to the physician payment formula known as the Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR). This is a long-time broken system that has needed to be repealed and replaced for years, but instead Congress has put in 17 temporary fixes. If no agreement is met by the end of the week, doctors will see a 21% cut in their payments from Medicare due to this outdated SGR.

    Democrats and Republicans in both the House and Senate and our President are eager to find a permanent solution, yet funding this “fix” should not fall on the shoulders of beneficiaries. Under current proposed legislation half – $35 billion – of the $70 billion cost over 10 years is slated to come from the pockets of elders and people with disabilities. It’s proposed to come in the form of increased Part B premiums, an added deductible to future sold Medigap plans, and additional means-testing premiums for higher income beneficiaries. Yet, as pointed out from our advocacy partners, none of the $70 billion cost is slated to come from the pharmaceutical or health insurance industry. Medicare and our taxpayers are already overpaying these industries, yet those most able to afford the bill, are strangely absent from contributing to the cost of this legislation.

    For example, if one item of the President’s 2016 proposed budget that addresses inappropriate overpayment of Medicare Advantage plans due to upcoding were adopted, that alone would save $36 million in 10 years. This would eliminate the need to make the above mentioned changes that shift the costs to beneficiaries.

    Over 50% of our country’s more than 52 million Medicare beneficiaries have annual incomes under $23,500 and a quarter live on $14,400 or less.  Most of our country’s elders are on fixed incomes and tight budgets; if health care costs go up, other necessities such as food and housing suffer. While we support a permanent fix to the physicians payment formula, it must be a fix that is beneficial to both doctors and beneficiaries. We encourage Congress to find a solution that supports our country’s elders and does not hurt them.

  • 20Mar

    Great news! The Obama Administration announced on Thursday the recovery of over $3.3 billion in fraudulent health care payments for fiscal year 2014. This amounts to a return of $7.70 for every $1 invested in fraud prevention, detection and investigation efforts in the last 3 years. It also marks the 3rd highest return on investment since fraud prevention efforts began over 2 decades ago, according to a report released by the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Justice.

    These kinds of results show that our fraud prevention and detection efforts are paying off. As the Administration has shorten investigation to arrest times and moved away from a pay and chase model, the results have improved dramatically. For example, the government now uses predictive analysis technology to quickly identify fraudulent or suspicious billing patterns. This led to 469 investigations in fiscal 2013 which identified or prevented $211 million in improper payments — nearly double the amount in the first year of the system a year before.

    In 2014, the Administration also gave the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services the authority to screen providers, remove doctors and other providers with a history of abusive billing patterns. Since that change, CMS has stopped billing privileges for 470,000 and revoked privileges for nearly 28,000 others.

    Medicare estimates it loses about 10% of the money it puts out to fraud each year. As Medicare spent $583 billion in 2013, that’s over $58 billion lost to fraud. While the gains in fraud detection and prevention are great, we have more work to do, and our Senior Medicare Patrol with over 600 volunteers statewide are doing a great job!

    Help us grow these good results and prevent fraud by:

    • Guarding your Medicare card and number, just like you would your credit card.
    • Check your Medicare Summary Notices for any services or items you never received.
    • Beware of people offering “free” services in exchange for your Medicare number. They are not free; that is a red flag. They most likely are charging Medicare large amounts for a service or item you don’t require or may never receive.
    • Do not give your Medicare number or Social Security number over the phone to people who say they are from Medicare or SSA. Medicare and SSA already have your information. They will not call you by phone.

    If you suspect fraud, contact your local Health Insurance Counseling and Advocacy Program (HICAP) at 1-800-434-0222 or our Senior Medicare Patrol at 1-855-613-7080. See our Fraud section for more info on Medicare fraud.

     

     

  • 16Mar

    Both the House and Senate released their budget proposals for fiscal year 2016 in mid March. Both proposals aim to balance the budget within 10 years, repeal the Affordable Care Act, support major cuts to domestic programs including Medicare and turn certain entitlement programs such as Medicaid and food stamps into state-run block grants. The House budget, however, is more intent on overhauling current systems where as the Senate budget does not divulge how the cuts would take place. In terms of Medicare changes, the House budget proposes dramatically restructuring the Medicare program into a voucher system by 2024 where beneficiaries would buy insurance in a privatized market. This is similar to Representative Paul Ryan’s proposal several years ago. It would also combine the Medicare Part A and B deductibles, thus increasing out-of-pocket costs for most beneficiaries. While the Senate does not endorse this radical change to a voucher system, it does call for $430 billion of cuts to Medicare without specifying the details.

    Earlier this year the President also released his proposed budget (see our article Review the Good & Not-So-Good Highlights of the President’s 2016 Budget). We support several aspects of his budget, such as closing the Part D coverage gap 3 years earlier, by 2017 instead of 2020, and requiring drug manufacturers to give prescription drug rebates to beneficiaries with the Part D low-income subsidy that are at least as good as Medicaid rebate levels. Yet we also oppose several proposed items that increase beneficiary costs. This trend of increasing beneficiary costs continues to be seen in numerous proposals, including those on restructuring some of the Medigap plans. While we support viable ways to reduce Medicare spending, such as through fraud prevention efforts and ensuring Medicare pays a fair and negotiated price for drugs, we do not support shifting costs to beneficiaries. Over 50% of our country’s more than 52 million Medicare beneficiaries have annual incomes under $23,500 and a quarter live on $14,400 or less. Most of our country’s elders are on fixed incomes and tight budgets; if health care costs go up, other necessities such as food and housing suffer.

    Please join us and let your Congress people know that shifting costs to beneficiaries is not acceptable or a viable solution for millions of our elders. This year 2015 is Medicare’s 50th anniversary. Let’s celebrate Medicare by staying true to Medicare’s mission/vision and protecting this system of providing quality health care coverage to all beneficiaries.

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