Senior Advocacy in Action Alert
There are a number of issues that are being considered by Congress and the state legislature before the end of the year that will have a huge impact on seniors. Below is urgent information on three of them, and what you can do right now.
Sequestration ( the fiscal cliff)
- Threatens federal funding for older adult programs which help seniors stay in their own homes.
- The Super Committee, comprised of 3 Republicans and 3 Democrats from both the House and Senate, failed to come to a budget agreement, resulting in the automatic budget cuts required by the Budget Control Act of 2011. This is a package of spending cuts and tax hikes that will come into effect on Jan. 2, the first business day of 2013, if President Barack Obama and Congress cannot agree to an alternative measure to cut the deficit. $109 billion will come out of the federal budget every year for the next 10 years. Half, or about $54.7 billion, comes from defense spending, half will come from domestic programs, including Medicare, the federal health care program for the elderly, which will see an $11 billion cut. The sequester cuts roughly 8 percent from all federal discretionary programs, from military spending to food safety to education.
- Click here for sequestration advocacy
Personal Property Tax Exemption
- State level bills that will reduce funding to local senior millages and state municipalities.
- Lt. Governor Calley has been working with the House of Representatives on an alternative plan to replace revenue lost to local entities from the exemption of industrial and commercial personal property tax. This differs from the earlier Senate passed version in that instead of relying on the annual appropriation process to replace the funds with expiring tax credits it proposes to shift funds from the state USE tax out of the general fund to the “Personal Property Tax Reimbursement Fund”. It would require a statewide vote to do so. Funds lost to the general fund would be made up in time from the expiring tax credits, with no indication of where general fund reductions would come from in the meantime.
- Of greater immediate concern to senior programs with millage funding is that the provisions for protecting “Voter-Approved” millages that were in the Senate bills are absent from the new proposal. The exemptions would begin in tax year 2014, and projected replacement revenue would not be available until 2016, and projected at only at 80% replacement, if voters approve the shift of funds from the USE tax.
- The new proposal allows local units of government to have a special assessment on industrial real property for police, fire, and ambulance services, that could help replace lost revenue up to 100%, but have no mechanism for other entities to make up lost funds.
- Click here for Personal Property Tax advocacy
Blue Cross Bills
- These bills will change how Blue Cross Blue Shield is structured and will put seniors and those with disabilities in jeopardy of losing affordable insurance coverage.
- Blue Cross Legacy Medigap policies are the most accessible and affordable policies in the state and must be maintained by keeping current statutory protections in place. If Legacy policies are discontinued, some beneficiaries will be forced to drop coverage altogether, or go on Medicare Advantage. Both have high out-of-pocket costs when you need health care. Some will spend their income and assets on health care bills and be forced to enroll in Medicaid.
- Younger people with disabilities going on Medicare have no legal protections in purchasing Medigap and rely on Blue Cross Legacy policies to supplement Medicare. People with End Stage Renal Disease, ALS, MS, and many other conditions depend on Blue Cross to sell them insurance.
- Click here for Blue Cross Bills Advocacy
Healthy Aging Video Now Available
Healthy Aging classes are a fun way to get fit and meet new friends. Designed specifically for older adults, classes are available throughout West Michigan. Watch the video below to see classes in action, and then find a class in your area!
Medicare Part D Open Enrollment Ends December 7
Navigating through the Medicare Part D prescription drug coverage can be confusing and choosing the wrong plan can be a costly mistake with high out of pocket expenses. So, how do you find the right option? Where do you turn if you simply don’t know where to start?
The Michigan Medicare/Medicaid Assistance Program (MMAP) is a statewide program run by a team of volunteers that have gone through an extensive training on Medicare and Medicaid. MMAP can help individuals determine which plans cover their medications and narrow down their options to see what will work best for them. The decision on which plan to choose is still made by the individual, but they are armed with the information they need to make the decision.
“The options can be a lot to sort through, especially if you are taking multiple medications and need to search for plans that cover specific prescriptions,” says Karen Rozelle, Regional MMAP Coordinator at the Area Agency on Aging of Western Michigan. “So much of the research into which plan is right for you is completed online now, which can be intimidating to some older adults. Our volunteers are trained in how to use the system and they are ready to help.”
This year there are 34 available drug plans in Michigan. Some of the plans that were popular in West Michigan in 2012 have been discontinued for 2013 while other ones have changed portions of the coverage. Experts advise beneficiaries to review their plan each year to make sure it still works for their current needs.
“Plans can change from year to year and if you don’t do the research, you may end up with surprises that are very costly. By doing the research, you can determine if that plan still fits your needs,” says Rozelle. “It’s also possible that someone’s health and /or their health care needs have changed during the year and they will want to take that into consideration. For example, are they going to the doctor more often or are they taking more medications now than before. All of these need to be considered in order to make the most cost effective choice.”
To contact a MMAP counselor in your area, call 1-800-803-7174. To search plans online go to www.medicare.gov