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We are dedicated to making Medicare's program work well for all beneficiaries. Your feedback from your own or your client's concerns and experiences with Medicare, will guide our Medicare advocacy efforts with key policy and decision-makers in both California and nationally with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and Congress.

  • 11Sep

    Open enrollment in Covered California begins soon – Oct 1 to be exact. While people with Medicare do NOT need to purchase anything through the health care exchange, as they are considered covered, many other Californians will have the opportunity to buy affordable health care. Over 2.7 million non-Medicare eligible Californians will be able to sign up for help with purchasing their health coverage. Also, in January 2014, an additional 1.4 million low-income adults will be newly eligible for Medi-Cal.

    If you have clients who are not yet eligible for Medicare and are asking about the open enrollment this fall and help in choosing their coverage, you may be interested in joining one of the events below, A New Era of Coverage: Maximizing Participation in the ACA. The events will provide updates on:

    • The state’s outreach and enrollment efforts
    • How local organizations are reaching and educating communities of color about their coverage opportunities
    • Best practices for enrolling special populations, such as immigrants and Limited English Proficient communities

    The California Pan Ethnic Health Network (CPEHN) and other local organizations engaged in outreach and enrollment efforts are putting on these events in 4 cities across the state.

    See their registration page for more info. Below are a list of the dates and locations of the events.

    Fresno – October 3, 2013
    10:00 am to 2:00 pm
    United Way of Fresno County
    4949 E. Kings Canyon Road
    Co-hosts: ACT for Women and Girls, Asian and Pacific Islanders California Action Network, California Latinas for Reproductive Justice, California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation, Centro Binacional para el Desarrollo Indígena Oaxaqueño, Centro La Familia, Fresno County Democratic Party Central Committee, Fresno Interdenominational Refugee Ministries, Fresno Metro Ministry, Vision y Compromiso

    Oakland – October 8, 2013
    10:00 am to 2:00 pm
    The California Endowment
    1111 Broadway, 7th Floor
    Co-hosts: ACCESS Women’s Health Justice, Asian and Pacific Islanders California Action Network, Asian Health Services, California Latinas for Reproductive Justice, Korean Community Center of the East Bay, Monument Crisis Center, Street Level Health Project, Vision y Compromiso, UC Berkeley Center for Public Health Practice, Young Invincibles

    Los Angeles – October 15, 2013
    10:00 am to 2:00 pm
    The California Endowment
    1000 North Alameda Street
    Co-hosts: Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Los Angeles, Asian and Pacific Islander Obesity Prevention Alliance, Asian and Pacific Islanders California Action Network, Black Women for Wellness, California Latinas for Reproductive Justice, Community Health Councils, Korean Resource Center, Orange County Asian and Pacific Islander Community Alliance, St. John’s Well Child & Family Center, Vision y Compromiso, Young Invincibles

    San Diego – October 16, 2013
    10:00 am to 2:00 pm
    Sherman Heights Community Center
    2258 Island Avenue
    Co-hosts: Asian and Pacific Islanders California Action Network, California Latinas for Reproductive Justice, Council of Community Clinics, Foundation for Change, Mid-City CAN, San Diego Black Health Associates, San Ysidro Health Center, Vision y Compromiso

  • 02May

    The Institute for Healthcare Improvement offered a free webinar looking at an innovative approach to keep elders in the community, prevent isolation and unnecessary hospitalizations and make the community a safe, fun and compassionate environment to age-in-place. The webinar highlights a network of 6 organizations in Ontario, Canada that have created a web of resources called Home for Life. It’s a volunteer-driven program focused on services for its over 65 population with the goal of creating one of the healthiest communities in Canada. It uses a 211 system to initiate and engage services, and a “back to the village” vision that includes employing a buddy system and training elders on computers and new technologies. Sharon King, one of Home for Life’s creators, believes Home for Life should be studied, measured, and monitored for its effectiveness. She’s hopeful they’re on to something in Canada that can be adapted elsewhere.

    Check out the webinar and maybe their program will provide a model of success for Americans as we create healthy, community-centered solutions for caring for our aging population and enabling elders to stay in their communities and age-in-place.

  • 11Jun

    Poisoning from medications happens all to frequently, and people 65 and older are especially at risk. In fact, each year there are nearly 100,000 adverse drug-related emergency hospitalizations in the U.S. for adults 65 or older. The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) has a Take Your Medications Safely program designed prevent these emergencies by training older adults and their caregivers about medication safety and the Poison Help’s toll-free helpline (1-800-222-1222) and extensive free services. Poison Help’s helpline also

    Below is an excerpt of some good prevention tips from Poison Help. These tips, along with other info can be downloaded from their 7-page PDF booklet, Safe Medicine Use and Poison Prevention Tips.

    In addition, the National Coalition on Aging (NCOA) is hosting a train-the-trainer webinar on this information on Monday, June 18th at 3pm EDT.

    GENERAL TIPS

    For using medicine safely, it is important to know as much as possible about your medicines to prevent poisonings.

    Know Your Medicines

    • Know the names, reason for use, and possible side effects.
    • Review all your medicines with your doctor or pharmacist. Do this at least once a year, or when you start using a new medicine.
    • Know how and when to use your medicine, how much to use, and for how long. Never use more medicine than prescribed. Using more does not mean you will get better faster. Also, using too much medicine can poison you.

    Keep a Current Medicine List

    • Bring a list of all the medicines you are using to your doctor’s appointments. This includes all prescription medicines, over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, and herbal supplements.

    Keep All Medicines Locked Up and Out of Children’s Reach

    • No container can promise to be child proof.
    • Store your medicines in a safe place so that children cannot get to them. This will prevent accidental poisonings.

    Call Poison Help (1-800-222-1222) If You Think:

    • A medicine was not taken as directed.
    • Too much medicine was taken by accident.

    TIPS For Using Over-the-Counter Medicine Safely

    Common over-the-counter (OTC) medicines include pain relievers, cold medicines, laxatives to cause a bowel movement, and antacids for heartburn. Many of these can cause problems when used with other medicine. To prevent problems, you should:

    • Read the Drug Facts Label
    • Pay attention to what is listed under Active Ingredients—its name, what it does, and how much is in each pill or teaspoon (5ml). These are parts of the medicine that make it work.
    • For more information about the Drug Facts label, visit www.fda.gov/medsinmyhome.
    • Compare the Active Ingredients
    • Make sure the active ingredients are not the same for two or more medicines that you are using. Too much can harm you.
    • Check With Your Pharmacist or Doctor
    • Know what OTC medicines to avoid using with your prescription medicines.

    TIPS for Caregivers

    • Keep a Current Medicine List
    • This includes all prescription medicines, OTC medicines, vitamins, and herbal supplements.
    • Plan Ahead to Refill Prescriptions On Time
    • Get prescriptions refilled early to avoid running out of medicine. Make sure the right medicine is being used at the right time, in the right amount, and the way it is prescribed.
    • Prevent Bad Interactions Between Medicines
    • Tell health care professionals about all medicines the older adult is using. The information is important to share before a new medicine is prescribed.
    • Work with a pharmacist or doctor to make it safe for older adults to use medicine correctly.

    And remember, if you have questions at any time, you can always call Poison Help’s helpline (1-800-222-1222). They are available 24/7, and will connect you to a nurse, pharmacist, or other expert in your local helpline office. They also offer bilingual and translation services.

    For more information on Poison Help and their Taking Your Medicines Safely program, visit: http://www.poisonhelp.hrsa.gov/resources/safemedicine/index.html.

  • 16Apr

    Medication management and good communication between caregivers and providers are two crucial factors to promoting successful patient recoveries, especially during transitions to and from hospital, long-term care, and home care settings. Caregivers often provide clinicians with valuable information that may not be available from the patient; they also provide continuity for the patient and help that would not be available anywhere else. Because of this importance in drug management and communication, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) and the United Hospital Fund of New York’s Next Step In Care Campaign produced a series of educational podcasts: Helping Patients and Caregivers Take the Next Step in Care: Medication Management. These podcasts are featured on the CMS YouTube channel.

    These free podcasts can be used for provider staff and caregiver trainings, or just played in providers’ waiting rooms. For more information for caregivers and providers, see the Caregiver section of Medicare.gov.

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  • 24May

    The Senate Special Committee on Aging will hold a hearing on Older Americans Act (OAA) reauthorization this Thursday, May 26, at 2 p.m. Eastern Time. The hearing will explore recommendations for strengthening and improving OAA programs, including testimony from Assistant Secretary for Aging Kathy Greenlee, former First Lady Rosalynn Carter, and Max Richtman, chair of the Leadership Council of Aging Organizations (LCAO). The hearing will be webcast live on May 26. See the Senate Special Committee on Aging webpage for the webcast.

    Since passed by Congress in 1965, the OAA has funded numerous essential social and nutritional services that keep seniors independent, in their homes and in their communities. Some of these services include: meals, job training, senior centers, caregiver support, benefits enrollment, transportation and more.

    See the Administration on Aging website for more details on the OAA. The National Council on Aging website also has many resources on the OAA, including a webinar on the history and promise of the OAA.

  • 26Apr

    The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has “Welcome to Medicare” videos in Mandarin Chinese and Vietnamese available on Youtube. These 22 minute videos provide easy-to-understand information about the basics of Medicare, including Medicare Advantage plans, Part D prescription drug plans, Medidare preventive services and the Medicare Savings Programs (MSPs). See the video clips below.

    These videos are also available on DVD — for free! You can go to the CMS Product Ordering site to register and order on-line.

    If you need more than 25 copies, please email Anne Avery at CMS’ Baltimore office at SHIP@cms.hhs.gov and she will mail them to you. Please be sure to include the following information when you send your order in:

    • Chinese or Vietnamese (or both)
    • Name of organization and point of contact
    • Address
    • Email and phone number
    • Quantity

    See Medicare.gov for publications in other languages as well.

    Below are the youtube video links:
     

  • 05Apr

    Saturday, April 30 is the 2nd National Prescription Drug Take Back Day from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.  Sponsored by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), this event gives people the opportunity to turn in unused or expired medications for safe disposal. People can find a disposal site near them on the National Take Back Initiative website.

    The first event on September 25, 2010 was a huge success, with people across the nation turning in more than 121 tons of pills, and over 3,000 state and local law enforcement agencies nationwide participating in the event.

    Safe disposal of unused or expired drugs addresses both an important environmental and public health concern. According to the 2009 Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration’s National Survey on Drug Use and Health, more than 7 million Americans (adults, teens and kids) abuse prescription drugs, and a majority of these are obtained through family and friends, including the family medicine cabinet.

    See the event website for more details, and please pass on the information.

  • 17Aug

    Health care reform changes are vast and include many changes that will affect Americans now and in the future. While we’ve focused several articles on the changes affecting Medicare and Medicare beneficiaries, this article below, focuses on those affecting Californians old and young. Excerpted from the Passages HICAP Recap July-August 2010 newsletter (PDF), this article lists some of these changes and explains some of the immediate benefits impacting Californians.

    Small business tax credits

    503,000 small businesses in California could be helped by a new small business tax credit that makes it easier for businesses to provide coverage to their workers and makes premiums more affordable. Small businesses pay, on average, 18% more than large businesses for the same coverage, and health insurance premiums have gone up three 3 faster than wages in the past 10 years. This tax credit is just the first step towards bringing those costs down and making coverage affordable for small businesses.

    Closing the Medicare Part D donut hole

    Last year, roughly 382,000 Medicare beneficiaries in California hit the donut hole, or gap in Medicare Part D drug coverage, and received no extra help to defray the cost of their prescription drugs. Medicare beneficiaries in California who hit the gap this year will automatically be mailed a one-time $250 rebate check. These checks began being sent to beneficiaries in mid-June and will be mailed monthly throughout the year as new beneficiaries hit the donut hole. The new law continues to provide additional discounts for seniors on Medicare in the years ahead and completely closes the donut hole by 2020. (See our past blog article, Are You Eligible for the Part D Rebate: Q & A for more info.)

    Support for health coverage for early retirees

    An estimated 430,000 people from California retired before they were eligible for Medicare and have health coverage through their former employers. Unfortunately, the number of firms that provide health coverage to their retirees has decreased over time. On June 1, 2010, a $5 billion temporary early retiree reinsurance program started to help stabilize early retiree coverage and help ensure that firms continue to provide health coverage to their early retirees. Companies, unions, and state and local governments are eligible for these benefits.

    New consumer protections in the insurance market beginning on or after September 23, 2010

    • Insurance companies will no longer be able to place lifetime limits on the coverage they provide, ensuring that the 19 million California residents with private insurance coverage never have to worry about their coverage running out and facing catastrophic out-of-pocket costs.
    • Insurance companies will be banned from dropping people from coverage when they get sick, protecting the 2.7 million individuals who purchase insurance in the individual market from dishonest insurance practices.
    • Insurance companies will not be able to exclude children from coverage because of a preexisting condition, giving parents across California peace of mind.
    • Insurance plans’ use of annual limits will be tightly regulated to ensure access to needed care. This will protect the 16.2 million residents of California with health insurance from their employer, along with anyone who signs up with a new insurance plan in California.

    Health insurers offering new plans will have to develop an appeals process to make it easy for enrollees to dispute the denial of a medical claim. Patients’ choice of doctors will be protected by allowing plan members in new plans to pick any participating primary care provider, prohibiting insurers from requiring prior authorization before a woman sees an ob-gyn, and ensuring access to emergency care.

    Extended coverage to young adults

    Beginning on or after September 23, 2010, plans and issuers that offer coverage to children on their parents’ policy must allow children to remain on their parents’ policy until they turn 26, unless the adult child has another offer of job-based coverage in some cases. This provision will bring relief to roughly 196,000 individuals in California who could now have quality affordable coverage through their parents. Some employers and the vast majority of insurers have agreed to cover adult children immediately.

    Affordable insurance for uninsured with preexisting conditions

    $761 million federal dollars are available to California starting July 1 to provide coverage for uninsured residents with pre-existing medical conditions through a new transitional high-risk pool program, funded entirely by the Federal government. The program is a bridge to 2014, when Americans will have access to affordable coverage options in the new health insurance exchanges and insurance companies will be prohibited from denying coverage to Americans with pre-existing conditions. If states choose not to run the program, the Federal government will administer the program for those residents.

    Strengthening community health centers

    Beginning on October 1, 2010, increased funding for Community Health Centers will help nearly double the number of patients seen over the next 5 years. The funding could not only help the 1,049 Community Health Centers in California but also support the construction of the new centers.

    More doctors where people need them

    Beginning October 1, 2010, the Act will provide funding for the National Health Service Corps ($1.5 billion over 5 years) for scholarships to help the 1,049 Community Health Centers in California but also support the construction of new centers and loan repayments for doctors, nurses and other health care providers who work in areas with a shortage of health professionals. This will help the 9% of California’s population who live in an underserved area.

    New Medicaid options for states

    For the first time, California has the option of Federal Medicaid funding for coverage for all low-income populations, irrespective of age, disability, or family status. For more information on health care reform issues visit: www.healthcare.gov.

    Also see our article, What Does Health Care Reform Mean for Beneficiaries? Summary of Key Provisions.

  • 11Aug

    The CLASS Act, part of the recent health care reform legislation, establishes a national voluntary cash benefit long-term care (LTC) insurance program.  Many of the program details, however, such as when and how people will be able to enroll, what premium amounts will be charged, which federal government agency will administer the program, etc. have yet to be figured out. Because these gaps leave a lot of ambiguity, we created a Frequently Asked Questions about the CLASS Act section on our website to answer some common questions and clarify what we know for certain now and what questions will be answered and by whom in the near future.

    Some of the FAQs include:

    • Who is eligible for the CLASS Act LTC insurance program?
    • If I need long-term care insurance now, should I buy it or just wait for the CLASS Act program to begin?
    • What benefit amount will the CLASS Act program pay if I require long-term care?
    • How much will the premiums be and how will they be collected?
    • Do I have to enroll in the CLASS Act program? What if I don’t want to?

    See our FAQs on the CLASS Act.

    See our CLASS Act Summary for more detailed information, and our long-term care section for general information on LTC.

  • 12Jul

    On July 1st, the US Department of Health and Human Services launched a new website (healthcare.gov)  to empower people with information and resources about their health care. The website is organized for 6 groups of users: 1) families with children; 2) individuals; 3) people with disabilities; 4) seniors; 5) young adults; and 6) employers. The site helps people find information on their insurance options, learn tips tailored to their particular condition/age on prevention and how to stay healthy, and understand the various components of the new health care reform laws.

    It also helps people compare hospitals using 44 quality of care measures. This section links to HospitalCompare.hhs.gov, a web tool created by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), HHS, and members of the Hospital Quality Alliance. In the past, this site only had data about the quality of care provided to hospital inpatients. As of July 7, 2010, however, it now has “data on the rates of outpatient MRIs for low back pain, outpatient re-tests after a screening mammogram, as well as two ratios that explain how frequently outpatient departments gave patients ‘double’ computed tomography (CT) scans when a single scan may be all that is needed….[It] also includes new measures that show whether outpatients who are treated for suspected heart attacks receive proven therapies that reduce mortality such as an aspirin at arrival, and how well outpatient surgical patients are protected from infection,” (see CMS press release). In the future, comparison information for nursing homes and dialysis centers will also be added, based on language in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) that requires broader quality of care information to be publicly available.

    The section on health reform is extensive and provides a summary of the legislation, links to the law’s text and major provisions, and detailed information on 7 major topic areas. These areas include: the pre-existing condition plan, how health reform strengthens Medicare, young adult coverage, early retiree coverage, small employer tax credits, the Patients’ Bill of Rights, and the $250 Part D donut hole rebate. This section also provides a timeline for what’s changing and when according to the health care reform law.

    As this is a new website, HHS invites comments and feedback to help make it even better. Some additional website improvements on the way include a full Spanish translation, which will be available at the end of July, and price information for private insurance plans, which will be available in October 2010.

    The website is a first of its kind, providing over 500 pages of information in a user friendly, easily search-able way. In fact, according to White House New Media Director, Macon Phillips, this site’s design was inspired and guided by the question, “How would [a travel website like] kayak.com approach health insurance?” The result is a design with simple, focused searching that allows users to answer a few short questions and quickly find the info they require.

    Questions and suggestions regarding healthcare.gov can be sent to public@who.eop.gov.

    For more information on health reform and Medicare, see our article, “What Does Health Reform Mean for Medicare Beneficiaries? Summary of Key Provisions.”

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