Snowflakes, Seniors and Scams
Around the winter months, like all of us, seniors may be more susceptible to scams that prey on persons needing to stay warm or to protect their health during frigid weather. However, during this time older adults can increase their knowledge about how to avoid being taken advantage of and ensure a safe and warm winter season.
Tips for seniors to avoid scams:
- Always ask for information in writing and read documents carefully before signing. When asked to sign a contract, consider taking the document home and read it without stress. If comfortable with the terms and conditions, return the next day with it signed.
- If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. During the winter months many places offer great bargains on items to keep warm and healthy. Unless it is a reputable, familiar business, stay away from deals that are “too good to pass up” and always read the fine print.
- Protect yourself and your medical and financial information. Do not disclose this information over the phone. This has long been a popular tool used by con artists to gain access to personal information. Financial and medical institutions do not ask for this information over the phone.
- Do your research before working with a new organization or individual. Many community resources exist to help seniors advocate for themselves. Contact your local Agency on Aging, the Better Business Bureau, legal assistance programs or family and friends you trust for more information on an organization. If something makes you uncomfortable, don’t do it.
For other ways to combat fraud and abuse, visit the Senior Advocacy in Action Alert and contact your state Representative about pending legislation.
Public Invited to Share the Love for Seniors
Subaru Donations Include Facebook Campaign Tied to More Funding
Three rural Meals on Wheels programs supported by Grand Rapids-based Area Agency on Aging of Western Michigan have been awarded money from the Meals on Wheels Association of America and Subaru through their ‘Share the Love’ campaign.
St. Ann’s Lake County Senior Services, Ionia County Commission on Aging and Montcalm County Commission on Aging were all awarded grants under the Subaru essay contest. The second round includes getting the most “likes” through Facebook. The essays are posted at http://mowaablog.org. The top organization will win an additional $500 and those placing 2nd through 10th will receive an additional $250.
“The funding from the Subaru, ‘Share the Love’ campaign will help serve seniors in rural counties who may not be able to provide meals for themselves,” says
Each agency plans to provide different meal related services with the funding they received from the Subaru ‘Share the Love’ contest.
The “Share the Love” grant is tied to Subaru’s Share the Love Event. The Share the Love Event will run from November 20, 2010 – January 3, 2011. Subaru will donate $250 to the customer's choice of one of five charities for every new Subaru vehicle sold or leased.
The Area Agency on Aging of Western Michigan, based in
Medicare Donut Hole Gets Smaller
Changes are coming for those with Medicare Part D Prescription Drug coverage. These revisions, brought about by the Affordable Care Act (ACA), include reductions in the donut hole which will cut back on costly medication expenses. The new adjustments will take effect in 2011, but decisions on coverage have to be made between November 15 and December 31.
The Part D coverage gap (donut hole) is like a second deductible in the middle of the year for those with high prescription drug costs. In 2011 individuals will reach the coverage gap after the full costs of their prescriptions for the year reaches $2,840.
In the past, once that amount was reached, individuals would be required to pay the full cost for their prescriptions until they reached the catastrophic level of coverage. In 2011 (because of the ACA changes) beneficiaries who reach the coverage gap will only pay 93% of the cost for their generic medications and 50% for their brand name drugs. Each year this coverage gap will be reduced until it is completely eliminated in 2020.
“These reductions will significantly lower beneficiary’s out-of-pocket expenses,” says Karen Rozelle, Regional Michigan Medicare/Medicaid Assistance Program (MMAP) Coordinator at the Area Agency on Aging of Western Michigan. “There still are costs for the Part D Drug plans and when comparing options, individuals need to factor in medications, co-payments, premiums and other out of pocket expenses.”
MMAP is a free program that utilizes trained volunteers to counsel Medicare beneficiaries and their families with Medicare and/or Medicaid questions. They also provide assistance with the Part D drug program process.
This year there are 35 stand-alone prescription drug plans to choose from for
“Selecting a Medicare Part D prescription drug plan can be an overwhelming process,” says Rozelle. “We encourage seniors to make their health care coverage decisions based on all the facts. Choosing a plan that does not offer the best coverage for their needs can be very costly.”
Once an individual has enrolled in a prescription drug plan, they are under that plan’s guidelines for an entire year, so this is not a choice that should be made lightly. Rozelle recommends consulting a MMAP counselor, who is trained on what to look for and how to help individuals navigate the Medicare Prescription Drug program.
Medicare beneficiaries must consider all the medications they are currently taking. “Each plan provides different prescription coverage and it is important to include all prescriptions to ensure they are covered under the Part D plan. Not factoring in all of their medications could be a costly mistake,” says Rozelle.
Rozelle recommend reviewing your drug plan each year to see if there have been changes. “It never hurts to be informed,” she states. “Taking precautions to ensure you have the coverage you need may help prevent problems or surprises during the year.”
The ACA also includes coverage for preventative services and some new benefits to Medicare beneficiaries in 2011 like annual free wellness exams.
MMAP operates statewide so, individuals can call 1-800-803-7174 from anywhere in
For assistance, or to set up an appointment, call MMAP at 1-800-803-7174.
Beware of Census Scams
The U.S. Census Bureau uses a workforce of trained federal employees to conduct the U.S. Census survey; however, the Census Bureau cannot stop or warn against all bogus or false collections of data. Here are some tips issued by the state of Michigan’s Intelligence Operations Center to help protect your personal information.
- Do not give out your full social security number, bank account number, credit card number, usernames or passwords.
- Do not respond to the U.S. Census via the internet.
- The U.S. Census will not send you an e-mail regarding participating in the Census.
- The U.S. Census will not ask for donations.
- The U.S. Census will not send requests on behalf of a political party.
- If a U.S. Census worker comes to your home, ask to see a valid ID badge.
If you receive a U.S. Census e-mail and suspect it may be bogus, do not reply or click on any link or open attachments. Forward the e-mail to ITSO.Fraud.Reporting@census.gov then delete the e-mail.
Please feel free to share this information with family and friends to assist them with determining the validity of Census requests.
Information from the Michigan Office of Services to the Aging
For more information on the U.S. Census in Michigan, visit, www.michigan.gov/census2010
Snowbirds and the US Census
Older adults who travel south for the winter months can fill out census forms when they return to Michigan. Submitting the document with a southern address could cost their home state millions in federal dollars.
“We are encouraging older adults to fill out their forms at home in Michigan,” says Tom Czerwinski, Executive Director of the Area Agency on Aging of Western Michigan. “It is a situation that could be very costly for Michigan’s senior services; potentially reducing funding at a time when state dollars are decreasing and the older adult population is increasing.”
The census information is set to be distributed in February and March, when many snowbirds are already at their southern addresses. The form asks individuals to identify who is living at their address on April 1, 2010. Simply write “usual residence elsewhere” on the document and return it without completing the information.
Those who live in Michigan for six months or more will have a form mailed to their Michigan address. They can fill out that form when they return to their northern home.
Upcoming federal funding to state and local entities will be based on the 2010 census. If snowbirds are not counted it would costs the state millions in federal funding for senior services.
Free Kent Rx Discount Card Usage Soars in Tough Economy
The Free Kent County Rx discount card, sponsored by Kent County and the Area Agency on Aging of Western Michigan (AAAWM), debuted in January 2009 and has seen usage numbers climb steadily over the past year.
There are no enrollment or participation guidelines and it is open to Kent County residents of all ages. Participating pharmacies include CVS, Family Fare, Meijer, Kay, Kmart and Walgreens. Card users can expect to see an average of 30% savings off their prescriptions.
“We anticipated the card would be useful to Kent County residents, and it certainly has been says Jackie O’Connor, Assistant Director at AAAWM. “The last report showed over 1,200 users in October 2009. This is double the 600 individuals reported just after the card debuted.”
AAAWM worked with a number of organizations throughout the county to distribute cards. Individuals can still request a card by calling (616) 988-5081 or by visiting www.aaawm.org or http://www.accesskent.com/OnlineServices/rxcard.htm. Additional savings on eyeglasses, vitamins, pet medications and dental care are also available.
Kent County Administration was the driving force in the inception of the discount card. “This was a great option to give to our citizens without costing the county any money," says Wayman Britt, Assistant Administrator. “It assists Kent County residents who may not have drug coverage and helps individuals and families control skyrocketing prescription expenses.”
Cards have no expiration date and are open to Kent County residents of all ages. Cards can not be used in conjunction with insurance coverage. Depending on the insurance provider, discounts may be better with the Kent County Rx Card.
For more information on how to use the card, click here.
Seniors and the Flu
While all seniors are encouraged to get a seasonal influenza vaccination, experts believe older adults are less vulnerable to the H1N1 strain. Older adults should still discuss H1N1 with their physician.
Kent County seniors age 60-64 who do not qualify for Medicare or Medicaid funded vaccines may be eligible to receive flu or pneumonia shots under the Kent County Senior Millage.
For more information, contact AngelCare Home Health Care at 245-8899 or Catherine’s Health Center at 336-8800.
For up-to-date information on influenza, visit www.flu.gov
Kent County Rx Card
As a resident of Kent County, you and your family have access to a FREE Prescription Drug Card program. Simply download your card and receive savings of up to 75 percent (savings average around 30 percent) at more than 50,000 national and regional pharmacies. Participating pharmacies include the following: Kmart Pharmacy, Meijer, Family Fare, Kay, CVS/pharmacy, and Walgreens, as well as thousands of independent pharmacies.