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Eileen Doherty's blog
Medicare Monday is free and open to the public. Refreshments will be provided. Reservations are not required, but suggested by calling 1-855-293-6911 or Reserve a seat online.
Amid campaign ads, television stories, and political speeches, Medicare has become a topic of conversation in this year’s election. Even though the candidates are talking about changing how Medicare operates and proposing new ways to save Medicare, not much is likely to happen in the very near future. Although changes could come in the next Congress, most changes, if any would not happen in the very near future.
Medicare is here to stay at least for 2013! But Medicare beneficiaries will experience some changes for which they should prepare.
Every day, hundreds of adult children worry about their parents’ health and well-being. Spouses and families must select a nursing home or assisted living. Older adults, themselves, hear the inevitable . . . you can’t be left alone . . . you are not safe . . . you will have to move or have someone live with you. For most people, this is not a happy day. Overwhelmed, families try to sort through the maze of services. At last count, the Colorado Department of Public Health licenses more than 200 nursing homes, over 500 assisted living residences, and almost 475 home care agencies. Understanding how the services will be paid for, qualifying, and completing the application process is similarly daunting. Medicare may pay, other times the individual is eligible for Medicaid. Sometimes the services are paid as part of a health plan or the individual pays privately.
Republicans started the 2012 legislative session committed to reinstating the Senior Property Tax Exemption. With a little bit of luck and an improved economy, the state budget allocates $98 million to help seniors with paying their property taxes.
At the start of the 2012 session, Governor John Hickenlooper favored increasing the eligibility for low income seniors through the Property Tax, Rent and Heat credit program. Rep John Keflas, D-Fort Collins sponsored a bill to expand eligibility standards, but it was not approved by the legislature. Meanwhile Rep Frank McNaulty, Speaker of the House of Representatives, R-Highlands Ranch, was able to maintain funding for education and reinstate the senior property tax exemption.
“You know, working isn’t as much fun as I thought it would be. I wonder why older people do it so much?” says Beaver Cleaver who has endeared himself to hundreds of individuals, young and old, since the age of 2.
The “Beav” is turning 65 this year and making a debut at the Salute to Seniors on May 15, 2013 at the Colorado Convention Center in Denver. Mark Koebrich of Channel 9 will be the host for the day joined by Mayor Michael Hancock who has proclaimed May 15, Salute to Seniors Day. Photos and autograph signing will occur against the backdrop of the Cleaver living room sponsored by Kaiser Permanente and a 1957 Ford Fairlane 500 sponsored by Forney Transportation Museum.
The Colorado House recently passed a House Bill 1121, which will allow patients across our state — many seniors among them — to obtain sophisticated medicines known as “biosimilars.” This legislation focuses on patient safety, and the patient-doctor relationship. While important for all, these two things are critical when it comes to the health of our seniors.
New biological treatments, which are made from living organisms, are often very beneficial for chronically ill patients, especially older adults whose condition has not responded to traditional chemical-based drugs. Thus, the benefit of developing biosimilars can be both humanitarian as well as a cost-saver to the Medicare and Medicaid programs.
Patients may want access to biosimilars because these drugs are generally less expensive than their brand name counterparts. Colorado senators are now considering the legislation that would establish access to biosimilars while also including some patient protections.
Elder abuse is considered to be on the rise in the United States. It is estimated that nationally more than 1 million individuals are victims of elder abuse. In Colorado, during fiscal year 2007, Adult Protective Services received approximately 11,000 reports of adult mistreatment and self-neglect. Approximately 6,400 cases were active during fiscal year 2007.
The Elder Abuse Task Force, appointed by the Colorado legislature, notes the problem is increasing and will continue to do so given the increase in population due to the baby boomers reaching retirement age in the next 20 years. Colorado is only one of three states that do not require mandatory reporting of abuse, neglect and exploitation. Rather individuals are encouraged to report.
The Social Security Administration has recently launched an expanded tool to help Americans manage their Social Security benefits. The 'my Social Security' system allows both current beneficiaries and future Social Security recipients to create accounts that will track their Social Security contributions, payouts (including expected payouts) and eligibility. This service is also available to individuals receiving Supplemental Security Income and Social Security Disability Insurance.
Colorado has hundreds of Medicare beneficiaries who are eligible for help paying the high costs of Medicare premiums, deductibles and co-insurance, as well as prescription drug costs. If you are one of the people who does not have any health insurance other than Medicare and who find yourself getting medical bills that you are not able to pay, you might be eligible for help with some or all of these out-of-pocket expenses. For those who are eligible, the State of Colorado Medicaid program will help with payments for some of these medical bills.
The Medicare Savings Program has three components: The Qualified Medicare Benefit (QMB), Special Low Income Medicare Benefit (SLIMB), and Qualifying Individual (QI-1). Each of these programs has different income and resource requirements. In addition, the Low Income Subsidy Program (LIS or Extra Help) will pay for most of the costs of prescription drugs.
In October 2012, the Social Security Administration announced that Social Security checks are increasing by 1.7% in 2013, not nearly as much as the 3.6% that recipients received in 2012. This is an average of $22 per month for those receiving $1000 per month in Social Security.
In 2013, the earnings limit for workers who are younger than the full retirement age (age 66 for people born in 1943 through 1954) is $15,120. Social Security will deduct $1 from benefits for each $2 earned over $15,120.
The earnings limit for workers turning 66 in 2013 is $40,080 (Social Security will deduct $1 from benefits for each $3 earned over $40,080) until the month the worker turns age 66.
There is no limit on earnings for workers who are “full” retirement age or older (age 66 and over) for the entire year.
Oral health is one of the most important health needs for older Americans, however, dental services are not funded through Medicare and Medicaid. Recognizing the need for good oral health, the Colorado Legislature provided $3 million to fund dental care for hundreds of low income seniors.
To be eligible to receive dental services, individuals must be receiving Old Age Pension or the Medicare Savings Program. Thus single individuals must have less than $1256 per month in income and less than $8580 in resources. Couples must have less than $1702 per month in income and less than $13,620 in resources. The home, car, term life insurance policy and irrevocable burial plan do not count toward your resources.