Webinar: Marketplace Outreach for Diverse Populations – Thurs. Sept. 25 at 2pm EDT

cms                    DEC Logo enclosed

When: Thursday, September 25, 2014 at 2:00pm EDT

Webinar Link: https://webinar.cms.hhs.gov/marketplacedp92514/

Call in number: 1-877-267-1577        Meeting ID: 995 471 476

No advanced registration is required.

Speakers:

  • Jeanette Contreras, MPP, Outreach Lead – Partner Relations Group, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS)
  • Jonathan Tran, California Policy and Advocacy Manager, Southeast Asia Action Resource Center (SEARAC)
  • Patrick Aitcheson, Interim National Coordinator, Diverse Elders Coalition

Who should attend? Advocates. Policy makers. Older adults. Funders. Anyone interested in learning more about ACA enrollment as we approach the start of year 2, especially lessons learned for enrolling and supporting typically difficult to reach populations such as Southeast Asian Americans, Hispanic Americans, American Indians & Alaska Natives, and LGBT Americans.

What: Please join CMS and the Diverse Elders Coalition for a webinar that will highlight ACA Marketplace Year 2 enrollment guidance for immigrant families and auto-enrollment; Marketplace outreach resources and campaign materials; and lessons learned for reaching older people of color and LGBT older people.

Background: Year one open enrollment for the Affordable Care Act/ACA/Obamacare ran from October 1, 2013 to March 31, 2014. Over 9 million people obtained health coverage via the Marketplace and another 8 million people obtained Medicaid coverage. As year one open enrollment ended, educational needs continued regarding special enrollment periods, immigrant families, health insurance literacy and how to get the most from this new coverage. Year two open enrollment begins November 15. While year one enrollment brought much needed health coverage to many millions of people, not all communities were reached equally well. Language and cultural issues, lack of health literacy, and limited individualized enrollment support were among the barriers faced by certain communities. Many lessons were learned in year one on how to reach hard to reach populations and these lessons need to be shared and followed in order to boost coverage levels among older adults of color and LGBT older adults. This webinar will discuss the challenges and barriers to reaching Southeast Asian Americans, Hispanic Americans, American Indians and Alaska Natives, and LGBT Americans and convey the lessons learned and tips that can be applied to boost year two success.

One last push – Getting the Older Americans Act (OAA) reauthorized in 2014

August in Washington, DC usually means Congressional recess, when all Congress members take a break from Washington and return to their districts. Depending on whom you ask, August in DC could either be a peaceful and quiet time or a time to schedule meetings and diligently prepare for Congress’ return post-Labor Day. For the National Hispanic Council on Aging (NHCOA), it has been the latter. As we enter the last quarter of the year, NHCOA is focusing efforts on scheduling Hill visits to educate Congressional staffers and reiterate how critical it is for Congress to reauthorize the Older Americans Act as they return to Washington from their states and districts this week.

The Older Americans Act (OAA) is one of the most important laws for older adults, and as it nears its 50th Anniversary, it is in need of greater recognition. The programs of the OAA are also extremely important in allowing older adults to age in place, with dignity, and in the best possible health, as it authorizes a wide variety of programs focused on health, nutrition, job training, and caregiver support. The OAA, which expired in 2011, has not been renewed— or reauthorized— since. Each year, the various programs are funded individually through appropriations bills, but this is neither an efficient nor a sustainable method. Reauthorization is urgently needed!

As we’ve written in previous blogs, NHCOA strongly supports a reauthorization of the Older Americans Act—but it must happen before the end of 2014. While a straight reauthorization would be better than none, it would be more effective to have a reauthorization that accounts for the growing size and diversification of the older adult population and one whose needs are ever fluid and changing.

Thus far, there are four bills on record, asking for reauthorization: H.R. 4122 (Rep. Bonamici- Oregon), H.R. 3850 (Rep. Gibson, New York), S. 1562 (Sen. Sanders- Vermont) and S. 1028 (Sen. Sanders). Of these, S. 1562 is the most advanced in the legislative process, having been sent to committee, where it is currently stuck. It is this impasse that has delayed the much-needed reauthorization of the OAA.

Given that it is an election year and a change in the political climate might make it even harder for a committee compromise to be reached, NHCOA and its fellow Diverse Elders Coalition co-founders urge Congress to take action now before all the hard work put forth in the past year is lost and millions of America’s older adults lose access to programs and services which currently allow them to age in place and remain engaged and active members of their communities.

We ask Congress to take into account the millions of baby boomers who cannot wait for another year of political in-fighting and who urgently need these services in their local communities. While we understand that the list of urging and pressing matters awaiting Congress is long, it is important to highlight that OAA is equally as important to those whom it affects most, and through compromise and strong Congressional leadership, this Act can be reauthorized within the few legislative days left.

In the meantime, NHCOA and the DEC will continue to fight for the OAA on behalf of the millions of diverse seniors who rely on the services, programs, and funding this law provides.

Dr. Yanira Cruz is the President and CEO of the National Hispanic Council on Aging. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Diverse Elders Coalition.

Related Older Americans Act posts:

Working Successfully with diverse older adult populations: Get to know the individual and build trust

By Alula Jimenez Torres

Even though different racial and ethnic minority groups have unique issues, they also face common challenges. To successfully work with these populations, providers must get to know the people they are serving. These were the key takeaways from “Working Successfully with Diverse Older Adult Populations,” a presentation by the National Aging Resource Consortium on Racial and Ethnic Minority Seniors at the 2014 n4a Conference and Tradeshow. Read More

Quyen Dinh and SEARAC – Giving voice to the Southeast Asian American community and its economic security concerns

Quyen picA conversation with Quyen Dinh, Executive Director of the Southeast Asian Resource Action Center (SEARAC)

May was AAPI Heritage Month and this year’s theme was “I Am Beyond.” It is a phrase meant to evoke the rich and complex diversity of the Asian American and Pacific Islander community. What does AAPI Heritage mean to you personally and as the ED of SEARAC?

I grew up in Orange County, California, and San Jose, California, homes to two of the largest Vietnamese American communities in the nation. Growing up in these communities to me meant seeing a lot of Asian faces everyday everywhere: at school, at the grocery store, at the library, and driving down the street looking at cars passing by. So for me, every day was a celebration of Asian Americans being integrated in local communities. I didn’t know that AAPI heritage month existed. I got to live AAPI heritage month every day if what AAPI heritage means is celebration of AAPI culture and identity. Read More

Medicare & the Windsor Decision: Where do we stand?

By Aaron Tax and Kira Garcia

Last year’s Windsor decision has triggered a series of ongoing changes that impact many of us on a day-to-day basis. For LGBT older adults, Medicare is one of the most critical Federal programs undergoing change. So where do Medicare recipients currently stand? Our Q&A with Casey Schwarz of the Medicare Rights Center answers some important questions.

I live in a same-sex marriage state like Massachusetts, Iowa, New Mexico or one of the other 18 states and the District of Columbia (as of May 19, 2014) that allow for same-sex marriage. What new or increased Medicare benefits am I eligible for as a spouse in a same-sex married couple? Read More

What can we do to honor older Americans? Reauthorize the Older Americans Act (OAA)! (Older Americans Month)

By Aaron Tax, Director of Federal Government Relations at Services & Advocacy for GLBT Elders (SAGE).

May is of course Older Americans Month. And given that it is Older Americans Month, what is one of the most important things we can do to honor older Americans? Reauthorize the Older Americans Act (OAA)! What is that, you ask? It’s probably the most important piece of aging legislation that most people in our country don’t know anything about.

  • Did you know?
    • The OAA originally passed in 1965 as part of Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society?
    • The OAA is one of three big pieces of legislation that form the safety net for older adults in the United States, with Social Security providing income supports, Medicare providing healthcare supports, and the OAA providing the “everything else” that allows older adults to stay at home and age in place in their communities.
    • In fact, the OAA is the primary vehicle for the organization and delivery of social services and supports and nutrition programs for older adults and their caregivers in our country.

Read More

Enthusiasm and Partnerships Overcome the Vastness of Alaska for Healthcare Enrollment (National Minority Health Month)

In recognition of National Minority Health Month, the Diverse Elders Coalition is featuring stories relevant to the health disparities and health issues affecting diverse older adults during April. A new story will be shared every Wednesday with additional posts shared throughout the month. Be sure to visit diverseelders.org regularly during the month of April.

The Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium (ANTHC) has a bold vision: to ensure that Alaska Native people are the healthiest people in the world. By working to ensure that all Alaska Native and American Indians in Alaska have health insurance, the ANTHC is helping to eliminate long entrenched health disparities. ANTHC was formed almost 20 years ago as a nonprofit health organization that offers quality health care services for all Alaska Natives and American Indians. Read More

HHS announces important Medicare information for people in same-sex marriages

Today, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced that the Social Security Administration (SSA) is now able to process requests for Medicare Part A and Part B Special Enrollment Periods, and reductions in Part B and premium Part A late enrollment penalties for certain eligible people in same-sex marriages. This is another step HHS is taking in response to the June 26, 2013 Supreme Court ruling in U.S. v. Windsor, which held section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) unconstitutional. Because of this ruling, Medicare is no longer prevented by DOMA from recognizing same-sex marriages for determining entitlement to, or eligibility, for Medicare. Read More

A Video Review of Native American HIV/AIDS Issues

March 20 is National Native HIV/AIDS Awareness Day (NNHAAD). NNHAAD is a national effort to raise awareness about how HIV/AIDS affects American Indian/Alaska Native (AI/AN) and Native Hawaiian people and to promote testing.

An Overview

  • HIV infection affects AI/AN in ways that are not always apparent because of their small population size.
  • The rate of HIV infection is 30 percent higher and the rate of AIDS is 50 percent higher among AI/AN compared with white Americans, according to HHS’ Office of Minority Health.
  • Compared with other races/ethnicities, AI/AN have poorer survival rates after an HIV diagnosis.
  • AI/AN face special HIV prevention challenges, including poverty and culturally based stigma.

The following five videos give us a window into the HIV/AIDS crisis facing Native Americans. Read More

Aging in America 2014: Health Reform Advocacy and Engagement in Communities of Color and LGBT Communities

Will you be joining the 3,000 engaged aging professionals and experts March 11-15, 2014 in Sunny San Diego for the ASA Aging in America 2014 conference?

Interested in exploring best practices and learning about successful advocacy and engagement tactics to better engage older adults of color and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) elders around the Affordable Care Act and their health?

Yes? Join us Friday March 14, 2014 from 1-2:30pm for a presentation entitled Health Reform Advocacy and Engagement in Communities of Color and LGBT Communities. Leading experts from our nation’s diverse aging organizations will be on hand to share lessons learned, opportunities and challenges within their communities in accessing the benefits of the Affordable Care Act and living full and healthy lives. Speakers include: Read More

Creative Approach Leads to Success in Enrolling American Indians and Alaska Natives in the New Mexico Health Insurance Marketplace

Roxane Spruce Bly

Roxane Spruce Bly

Recently, the National Indian Council on Aging (NICOA) spoke with Roxane Spruce Bly, a member of the Pueblo of Laguna, who has been leading the ACA outreach and enrollment effort for American Indian/Alaska Natives (AI/AN) in New Mexico. Ms. Spruce Bly brings invaluable experience in the field of health policy research, analysis, and development. She is the Director of Healthcare Education and Outreach for Native American Professional Parent Resources (NAPPR), Inc. NAPPR is one of two navigator entities in New Mexico.

She reflects that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) got off to a rocky start but her team turned that barrier into an opportunity to focus on outreach and education. The older Indians they target are those in the 55–64 age group, too young to receive Medicare and yet perhaps ready to plan for their retirement or address a long standing health issue. Ms. Spruce Bly is excited to get the message out about health insurance in New Mexico. Her theory of change is that once people increase their knowledge they will in turn change their behavior. Her initial approach resulted in 441 inquiry calls which led to 269 appointments, culminating in 244 individuals signing up for coverage. Read More

ACA: Vital to Diverse Older Adults – Don’t Be Left Out

With the start of the New Year, people across the country started coverage on insurance plans selected through the Health Insurance Marketplace. For racially and ethnically diverse and LGBT older adults, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and the Marketplace pose both the opportunity for better health and the challenge of possibly being left behind by a new program. The Diverse Elders Coalition (DEC) is now working to improve the health of the populations that it serves and to empower them to fully participate in the ACA.

A recent article by Kaiser Health News identifies some of the opportunities and challenges California’s Hispanic population face. The article highlights the tremendous help the Health Insurance Marketplace has been to Maria Garcia, who worked with a community health center to enroll herself and her husband in an insurance policy costing $36 per month after subsidies. The article also describes the need for culturally and linguistically appropriate enrollment assistance. Many Hispanic older adults enrolling in the Marketplace like to enroll with the help of a person that they trust. Health Care Navigators can also help diverse older adults overcome barriers such as lower levels of internet connected home computers and fear of putting personal information online. Read More

The Road Less Traveled: Medicare and the Medicare Savings Programs as a Potential Solution for the Underinsured Immigrant

Every year, the National Asian Pacific Center on Aging (NAPCA) receives over 9,500 phone calls through a national, toll-free, Asian language Helpline from limited and non-English speaking seniors needing help understanding benefit programs for which many are eligible but unable to access.

Mrs. Pang and Mrs. Taduran (not their real names) represent thousands of immigrant seniors in the United States, who are legal permanent residents but have little or no work history in this country and go without adequate healthcare because they cannot access affordable insurance. Many are eligible for Medicare or Medicare Savings Programs but are unaware of their eligibility. Read More

Fighting the Good Fight Against Isolation

As we advance in life it becomes more and more difficult, but in fighting the difficulties the inmost strength of the heart is developed. Vincent van Gogh

W., 66, a former journalist and man about town, entered the meeting on LGBT issues a little late and his gait was slower than usual. When the meeting ended, he asked for a ride to the subway. As we rode, he talked about why he was late: not knowing the bus routes for this part of the city, the bus being late and the neighborhood being less than desirable. He hadn’t been feeling well and almost didn’t come to the meeting. It occurred to me that this African American elder continues to “fight the good fight” to beat the isolation that can plague us as we age and attended the meeting anyway.

Isolation is one of the great robbers of an enriched quality of life for older adults across the spectrum of race/ethnicity, class, religion, national origin, familial status, disability, gender identity, or sexual orientation. Self-imposed isolation related to aging can include an unwillingness or inability to drive, limited transportation options, chronic ailments and disabilities, lack of events for their peer group, the lack of compatriots and a youth oriented culture. Read More

Reminder: One Month Left in Medicare Open Enrollment

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Medicare Open Enrollment is the time of year when beneficiaries can change their Medicare health plan and prescription drug coverage for the following year. Each year Medicare Open Enrollment runs from October 15-December 7. The National Hispanic Council on Aging (NHCOA) encourages you to consider reviewing your Medicare drug or health care plan, and/or assist your loved ones in reviewing theirs. You can use the materials provided in NHCOA’s Medicare Open Enrollment toolkit to assist you in reviewing your options in order to find the coverage that best meets your needs. However, if you and your loved ones are satisfied with your current health plan, no action or change is required.

Medicare is health insurance for people 65 years or older. The U.S. Federal government provides this health care service from revenue collected through payroll taxes. If you’ve paid into Social Security and Medicare for 10 years as an employee, you are most likely eligible for Medicare benefits.

Following the three C’s is a good criterion to keep in mind when reviewing your current plan and making the decision whether or not to make changes. Read More

The Puzzle that is Obamacare. Explained in English, Spanish, Chinese, Korean & Vietnamese

Understanding the new Health Insurance Marketplace can feel a lot like piecing together a puzzle. Despite the setbacks, the Marketplace is up and running.  For community groups and advocates, it’s time to help our communities shop for health coverage that fits their many needs. For older adults, it’s time to get covered.

To make it simple, the Diverse Elders Coalition has created a simple flyer, “Why the ACA Matters to Our Communities,” which offers step-by-step instructions for enrolling in the Marketplace, as well as a rationale for the Affordable Care Act (commonly known as the ACA or Obamacare) and older people of color, LGBT older people and older immigrants.  It’s available in English, Spanish, Chinese, Korean and Vietnamese.

Our member organization, Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders (SAGE)  has also created a special flyer on why the ACA matters to LGBT elders. Download here.

  • Share this flyer with older people—age 50 and older—in your life to effectively explain how they can apply for health insurance
  • Print this flyer for presentations, events or meetings to educate other leaders about why the ACA matters to older people of color, LGBT elders and older immigrants.

For more information on the ACA and its impact on diverse elders, visit diverseelders.org/our-health

Have a question about Obamacare and why it matters to diverse elders? Ask us on Twitter. @diverseelders Read More

Southeast Asian American Elders and the Affordable Care Act

Historically Southeast Asian Americans have faced significant barriers to accessing affordable health insurance and culturally and linguistically appropriate health care. These barriers have contributed to health disparities:

• Southeast Asian American communities experience high uninsurance rates; 26.7% of Hmong Americans live in poverty and 18.3% of Vietnamese Americans lack health coverage.

• Cervical cancer incidence rates are among the highest in the U.S. for Laotian, Vietnamese and Cambodian American women. Factors for this disparity have been attributed to low Pap smear rates, lack of preventive care prior to immigration and a lack of sensitivity by providers.

• Asian American adults aged 65 years and older were 30% less likely to have ever received the pneumonia shot compared to white adults of the same age group.

• One of the greatest health disparities between Southeast Asians and the general population is liver cancer, 80 percent of which is caused by chronic hepatitis B virus infection. Liver cancer rates for Vietnamese men are 13 times higher than rates for White men.

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) has provided many benefits to the Southeast Asian American (SEAA) community, and in particular, its elder population. The positive impacts have continued with the start of Open Enrollment in the Health Insurance Marketplace. The ACA’s benefits include: Read More

Attention Diverse Elders: Medicare’s Open Enrollment Period Starts Today!

Medicare’s Open Enrollment period is October 15 – December 7. This is when ALL people with Medicare can change their Medicare health plan and prescription drug coverage for 2014. You can find information on 2014 plans by visiting the Medicare Plan Finder. People with Medicare can call 1-800-MEDICARE or visit www.medicare.gov to learn all about Medicare. If a person is satisfied that their current plan will meet their needs for next year, they don’t need to do anything.

The Diverse Elders Coalition (DEC) knows well that large numbers of older people of color and LGBT elders nationwide face financial difficulties, making Medicare critically important to their health and economic well-being. Did you know? 46% of Latinos, 43% of Asians, 52% of African Americans over the age of 55 and 92% of American Indians and Alaska Natives are covered by Medicare (based on different studies); and according to a national health study of LGBT older people, almost all (97%) had some form of healthcare insurance coverage, primarily through Medicare. Without Medicare, many older people of color and LGBT elders would be required to pay for health expenses on their own, accrue enormous debts, and likely not receive the health care they need. The Affordable Care Act has further strengthened this vital program.

HOW DOES THE AFFORDABLE CARE ACT AFFECT MEDICARE?

Your Medicare coverage is protected. Medicare isn’t part of the Health Insurance Marketplace established by ACA, so you don’t have to replace your Medicare coverage with Marketplace coverage. No matter how you get Medicare, whether through Original Medicare or a Medicare Advantage Plan, you’ll still have the same benefits and security you have now. You don’t need to do anything with the Marketplace during Open Enrollment. Read More

Open Letter to Health Reform Advocates: Pay Attention to Discrimination

The harms inflicted by discrimination reveal themselves in our bodies as we age — as people of color, as poor and low-income people, and as lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people. The symptoms manifest as higher rates of high blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes, heart disease, HIV/AIDS, depression, social isolation and more. In medical charts throughout the country, our bodies record what it means to survive a life shaped by perpetual poverty, higher concentrations in low-wage jobs with no health insurance, thin retirement options and inadequate protections in the workplace. They depict our fractured relationships to health care — from cultural and linguistic barriers to overt bias and discrimination from health and aging providers, to a long-held, hard-earned distrust of medical staff internalized through years of differential treatment.

Our bodies confirm vividly the geographic dimensions of structural inequality, which can predict long-term health as early as childhood, based largely on where a person is born. We inhale the poison of inequality throughout our lives, and it inflames in our later years as a dismal diagnosis, a medical crisis or a preventable death. Yes, severe illness will surprise many of us at some point in our lives, and death is indiscriminate, but as empirical fact, poor health affects certain demographics disproportionately at earlier and higher rates, often the same people with no health coverage to manage the repercussions.

Oct. 1 aims to begin reversing these conditions. The health insurance marketplace established through the Affordable Care Act (ACA) offers opportunities to shop for state health insurance plans and begins improving coverage for the 47 million uninsured people in this country. Millions of people work in jobs with no health coverage, cannot afford insurance on their own and fall through gaps in public support that leave them uninsured or underinsured. Without insurance, people accrue unmanageable debt, delay health care and in turn watch their health worsen over time — a trajectory most often experienced by people of color, LGBT people and low-income people. These hardships intensify for older people who must also contend with age-related bias in the workplace and the challenges of paying for out-of-pocket expenses with meager incomes. An all-inclusive vision of health reform must incorporate the realities of aging as early as age 50. Read More

Hey California! New Health Insurance Options in 9 days!

In just 9 days, individuals across the nation will be able to begin enrolling in the new Health Insurance Marketplace as part of the Affordable Care Act.

Webinar - Don't Miss California's ACA Enrollment Bus

Webinar – Don’t Miss California’s ACA Enrollment Bus

Please join SEARAC for a webinar so you and your organization are prepared to help community members access health insurance on DAY ONE! This webinar will be California-specific and will focus on what you need to know about the INDIVIDUAL MANDATE and how to get your organization ready to help community members with ENROLLMENT into Medi-Cal and Covered California. To register for the webinar, please click here: http://tinyurl.com/SEARACenrollmentbus

What: Webinar – Don’t Miss California’s ACA Enrollment Bus

When: Thursday, September 26; 1pm – 2:30pm Pacific Time

National HIV/AIDS and Aging Awareness Day

September 18 marks the annual National HIV/AIDS and Aging Awareness Day, a day to shine a spotlight on HIV/AIDS and its impact on the aging body. The Diverse Elders Coalition and our member organizations know well that this disease greatly affects our nation’s older people. In fact, adults 50 years of age and older make up the fastest growing population with HIV, and by 2015, more than half of Americans living with HIV/AIDS will be over 50.

While individuals with HIV/AIDS are living longer lives, older adults have more than three other (usually chronic) health conditions in addition to HIV versus their age peers without HIV. As a result, they have a host of health and services needs that neither HIV nor aging services providers are fully prepared to meet. Yet older adults have rarely been targeted in HIV/AIDS prevention and awareness campaigns. As a result, many do not realize that their behaviors can put them at risk for HIV infection. Additionally, health care providers may mistakenly assume that older patients are no longer engaged in high risk behaviors, and therefore do no initiate conversation about the importance of using protection and getting tested regularly.

This is why representatives from our member organizations SAGE (Services & Advocacy for GLBT Elders) and NHCOA (National Hispanic Council on Aging) are at Capitol Hill today for a briefing, reception and hearing to highlight the needs and challenges of older adults with and at risk for HIV. You can follow what happened and get live updates by following @nhcoa and @sageusa on Twitter. Read More

Give Your Medicare Part D Coverage an Annual Checkup

October is an important month for adults needing to secure insurance coverage. Not only is October 1st open enrollment for the Health Insurance Marketplace, but October 15th is the beginning of the Medicare Part D Open Enrollment period. Once enrolled in a prescription drug plan, it’s easy to forget the importance of checking annually to make sure your current plan is the most appropriate and cost effective.

The lack of in-language assistance available to Asian American and Pacific Islander elders makes it challenging for many to understand and to complete the enrollment process for important benefit programs such as Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. The National Asian Pacific Center on Aging was founded to ensure that Asian American and Pacific Islander seniors were able to effectively access the programs, services, and benefits that are available to all older adults. Thirty-four years later, NAPCA operates federal employment programs, promotes healthy aging initiatives, and assists limited English speaking elders to better navigate federal programs such as Medicare.

Young Ko is a Korean Helpline representative for NAPCA. (Nelson Tang/NAPCA)

Young Ko is a Korean Helpline representative for NAPCA. (Nelson Tang/NAPCA)

Read More

HHS awards $67 million to Navigators and recognizes the DEC member organizations as Champions for Coverage

According to a news release from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Secretary Kathleen Sebelius today announced $67 million in grant awards to 105 Navigator grant applicants in Federally-facilitated and State Partnership Marketplaces. These Navigator grantees and their staff will serve as an in-person resource for Americans who want additional assistance in shopping for and enrolling in plans in the Health Insurance Marketplace beginning this fall. Also today, HHS recognized more than 100 national organizations and businesses who have volunteered to help Americans learn about the health care coverage available in the Marketplace.  Read the full release here.

The Diverse Elders Coalition (DEC) is pleased to announce that its member organizations, the National Hispanic Council on Aging (NHCOA), Services & Advocacy for GLBT Elders (SAGE), and the National Asian Pacific Center on Aging (NAPCA) were among those organizations recognized as a Champion for Coverage. These champions pitch in to help consumers understand the coming options for quality, affordable coverage. The DEC will officially be recognized as a Champion for Coverage in the coming weeks. Click here to learn more about organizations participating in Champions for Coverage.

The coalition also congratulates NHCOA who were among the 106 Navigator awardees. NHCOA will deploy Navigators in Dade County, Florida, and Dallas County, Texas, to enroll the uninsured Hispanic population in these two counties with a focus on members of this population that are socially isolated due to cultural and linguistic differences. Click here for a list of Navigator awardees or more information about Navigators and other in-person assisters.

Be sure to continue coming back to diverseelders.org to stay updated on the health insurance marketplaces and their impact on diverse elders.

Language, Idioma, 語, ភាសា: Speaking limited English can pose unique challenges for older people

Map of people that speak Spanish at home.  Source: Badger, Emily, “Where 60 Million People in the U.S. Don’t Speak English at Home,” The Atlantic Cities

Map of people that speak Spanish at home. Source: Badger, Emily, “Where 60 Million People in the U.S. Don’t Speak English at Home,” The Atlantic Cities

According to the Census Bureau, about 20% of people speak a language other than English at home. That’s 1 in 5 people! And over the years, this number has only grown. The Census Bureau has developed a map that shows in which parts of the country these people live. What the map shows is that there are people whose preferred language is not English in all but the most sparsely populated parts of the country. Language access is a civil right, and these rights are reflected in federal law. It is also becoming more common to see instructions on packages, advertisements, and other messages translated into languages other than English, as well. When it comes to language access, the policies of the United States promote inclusion.

Despite these efforts at inclusion, accessing many government programs poses unique challenges for older adults with limited English speaking ability. Programs like Medicare Part D (the prescription medication program) and the Affordable Care Act’s health exchanges rely on consumers to choose the plans that will balance value and health coverage. However, there are multiple studies from the implementation of Medicare Part D that state consumers do not choose the most economically efficient options. Most people, particularly those who prefer to speak in a language other than English, could benefit from learning more about their health care options. Read More

Happy Anniversary, Medicare—Our Diverse Communities Need You

On July 30, Medicare turns 48. And for those 48 years, the program has been a lifeline for many older people across the United States, giving them access to necessary healthcare they might have otherwise not been able to afford or go without.

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It was President Lyndon Johnson who signed Medicare into law on July 30, 1965. Before the enactment of Medicare, only 50% of older people age 65+ had health insurance and 35% of Americans over 65 lived in poverty, compared to 17% of those under 65. Medicare was the solution to ensure that no older American would be denied quality healthcare despite an inability to pay or at the expense of losing a lifetime of savings. Without the financial burden of paying healthcare costs for an older family member, Medicare also allowed families to save and invest in their own futures.

The Diverse Elders Coalition (DEC) knows well that large numbers of older people of color and LGBT elders nationwide face financial difficulties, making Medicare critically important to their health and economic well-being.  Did you know? 46% of Latinos, 43% of Asians, 52% of African Americans over the age of 55 and 92% of American Indians and Alaska Natives are covered by Medicare (based on different studies); and according to a national health study of LGBT older people, almost all (97%) had some form of healthcare insurance coverage, primarily through Medicare. Without Medicare, many older people of color and LGBT elders would be required to pay for health expenses on their own, accrue enormous debts, and likely not receive the health care they need. Read More

Financial Literacy for Elders

When it comes to financial fraud and scams, elders are particularly vulnerable targets. In fact, USA Today reported that while people 60 and older make up 15 percent of the U.S. population, they account for 30 percent of fraud victims.

It’s such a problem that the FDIC and Consumer Financial Protection Bureau last month launched “Money Smart for Older Adults,” a literacy curriculum for elders with tips on how to prevent identity theft and other common scams and how to prepare financially for life events. This blog post from NerdWallet has financial literacy tips aimed at seniors. Many other tools targeting seniors abound on the internet.

SEARAC Financial Literacy for Elders Breakout Session

SEARAC Financial Literacy for Elders
Breakout Session

But as I considered the tips and tools offered, it was hard for me to imagine a senior from the refugee and immigrant communities that the Southeast Asia Resource Action Center (SEARAC) serves using these tools. In addition to the many reasons that already make elders easy targets for financial fraud and scams, many immigrant and refugee elders are even more vulnerable because of their lack of English proficiency. Southeast Asian American (Cambodian, Lao, and Vietnamese) elders also come from societies where they often don’t trust government or financial institutions because of long histories of war and political instability in those countries. Read More

iPad prevents Isolation?

Watch out, kids — don’t assume you can do things online without your grandma finding out. In fact, if you live in Ward 2, Grandma might be doing things online that you’ve never thought of,  reads The Washington Post.

Harriet Carter-Brown, 63, of Washington, D.C., smiles as she looks at photos of lighthouses on her iPad during the twice weekly Connect to Community class in the basement of Shiloh Baptist Church in Washington, D.C., on July 9, 2013.

Harriet Carter-Brown, 63, of Washington, D.C., smiles as she looks at photos of lighthouses on her iPad during the twice weekly Connect to Community class in the basement of Shiloh Baptist Church in Washington, D.C., on July 9, 2013.

Last week, I posted about the benefits of older adults getting online.  The Washington Post just published an article about a program called Connecting to Community that teaches older adults in Washington, DC how to use an iPad and go online.  The program has been successful at reducing isolation and will expand to other parts of Washington next month. Read More

Why Getting Online Matters for Diverse Older Adults

Who doesn’t have a smart phone these days? Mobile technology is one of the fastest growing of the new technologies out there. And for many young and middle aged adults, it seems like the laptop is the technology of “yesteryear.” Yet many older adults, especially those over 65, may not own or know how to operate a computer. There’s a large divide between who is “plugged” in and who is not.

Across racial and ethnic groups, young people are more likely to use new technologies than older adults.  For example, even though Hispanic households with middle- and high incomes have high rates of internet usages, older Hispanics are far less likely to use the internet.  Overall, just 35% of Hispanics aged 65 and over own a computer, compared to over 70% of Hispanics overall.

We know diverse older adults endure economic insecurity, hunger, health inequities, and isolation.  We also know that any one of these issues can make life difficult in general.  Is the digital divide not something to be as concerned about?  It is.  The internet is a tool that can also offer solutions. The details of issues like economic insecurity and hunger are not frequently discussed and not well known among those that have not experienced it for themselves. However, the internet (specifically social media) is one way for older adults to expose their shared experiences to a larger audience.  It also allows older adults to escape isolation by finding community online and staying connected to friends and family, even if many miles away.   Read More

Addressing the Needs of LGBT Hispanic Older Adults in the U.S

Two Older LGBT Hispanic men at a SAGE 2011 health fair

Two Older LGBT Hispanic men at a SAGE 2011 health fair

With the rapid growth of our diverse population, our country is becoming more beautiful than ever. But unfortunately, there are still some groups that are not well understood by the nation’s service providers, or by local, state and federal governments. One of those groups is lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) older adults. And in order to better understand the reality of this diverse community, the National Hispanic Council on Aging (NHCOA) conducted an analysis through a literature review, focus groups (one was held at The SAGE Center; SAGE is fellow member organization of the Diverse Elders Coalition) and in-depth interviews with LGBT Hispanic older adults, including the service providers who work with them. Read More

Alzheimer’s Disease Among Hispanic Older Adults

Over the past several months, the National Hispanic Council on Aging (NHCOA) has conducted focus groups to learn about what Hispanic older adults and caregivers know about Alzheimer’s disease (AD).  We found that people have a wide variety of beliefs about what causes the condition and how to prevent it.  We also heard the insights of caregivers for people with AD.  While there is no known cure or prevention measure for AD, caregivers can pass on advice and teach other caregivers how to cope with the stress of providing care.

 “I would have her tested to be able to help her better, and have a better life for me and all of those who live at home.”

“The doctor told me that she didn’t have Alzheimer’s-she said, who was I to tell her that? After examining her, the doctor admitted that she had early signs of Alzheimer’s.”

“For those of us who love our family members, I believe we have to give them a hand, take them to a doctor, have tests done-because in its early stages, maybe life is better for those who take care of them.” Read More

Immigration Reform: Key Issues for Older Adults and People with Disabilities

The National Hispanic Council on Aging (NHCOA) works with many organizations advocating for immigration reform.  However, not many advocates are considering the effect reform could have on older adults.  I am happy that NHCOA was able to partner with the National Council on Aging and Caring Across Generations to develop the issue brief Immigration Reform: Key Issues for Older Adults and People with Disabilities.  Aging advocates have a large role to play in immigration reform and this resource will help inform them on the varying issues faced by older people and people with disabilities.

Read the full issue brief here.

And don’t forget to come back on Wednesday April 10, right here on diverseelders.org as NHCOA’s president Dr. Yanira Cruz will blog about Immigration Reform and Politics in an Aging America.

A Gay Son and His Dad: “Why I am an Aging Advocate”

How my dad supported his gay son

There was a time in my life, around 11 years old, when I often skipped school because I was being bullied and harassed. It was obvious to my classmates that I was “different” and they targeted me because of it.  At lunch, there was a boys table and a girls table, but I was relegated to the “other” table.

I hated waking up for school. Sometimes I would put my head over the toaster to create a “fever” and ask my mother if I could stay home. Sometimes it worked. Sometimes it didn’t.  Those days that it didn’t, I would put on my uniform, grab my lunch and deliberately slam the front door to our apartment. The loud noise signified to my parents that I was on my way to school.

What I really did was tip toe back to my bedroom and hide in the closet. Inside, I would carefully listen for my family to leave for the day. Once they were gone, I would breathe a huge sigh of relief as it meant I could turn on the TV and relax—I was free from my bullies!

One Monday, the school administration called my mother to inquire why I hadn’t been attending. It just so happened my father was home that day and my mother demanded that he check to see if I was there.  As he called my name, my heart was pounding and I put my hand over my mouth to hide my breath as I hid in the closet. Read More

The Re-launch is here!

Two weeks ago, we announced that we would be re-launching the Diverse Elders Coalition Blog.  Read here to find out more.

We are thrilled that this day has finally come. As we previously promised, in addition to our regular contributing bloggers, we will have exciting guest bloggers.  We will also display our content in a variety of different ways (e.g., pictures, videos, interviews, Top 5 columns, etc.) And much more! Have a suggestion? Contact us.

You can bookmark this page or subscribe to our RSS feed to stay updated. Check back on Wednesday to read our latest post, courtesy of National Hispanic Council on Aging (NHCOA). Until then, enjoy some highlights from the blog’s history:

1) Watch Our Story

2) The Unique Needs of Asian American and Pacific Islander Elders

3) 10 Considerations for Working with the Diversity of Older LGBT Latinos

We are Re-launching On March 18!

The Diverse Elders Coalition (DEC) was founded in 2010, and in July 2012 we launched our official website, which also serves as a news and commentary blog on the social, political and economic issues affecting the growing yet vulnerable demographic of elders who are Black, Hispanic, Asian/Pacific Islander, American Indian/Alaska Native, and lesbian, gay, bisexual and/or transgender (LGBT).In the last eight months, we have put out numerous posts on the issues that affect our communities and the creative ideas and best practices to address them. In the summer of 2012, we also released Securing Our Future: Advancing Economic Security for Diverse Elders, a resource that describes the issues facing elders of color and LGBT elders, who together will represent a majority of older adults in the United States by 2050.

In this time, we have received some wonderful comments on our work, as well as helpful feedback from our readers (all of you) on how to improve the site to better meet your needs—and we listened to you. Members of the Diverse Elders Coalition came together and crafted an exciting plan for moving forward by implementing many of your ideas, which you’ll see starting with our blog re-launch on March 18.  Here are some of the improvements to look forward to:

  • In addition to our regular contributing bloggers, we have some exciting guest bloggers scheduled!
  • Content displayed in a variety of ways (e.g., pictures, videos, interviews, Top 5 columns, etc.)
  • More news and original content from coalition members
  • And more!

 

As we look forward to March 18, please like us (and tell a friend!) on Facebook to stay updated on the events surrounding the launch and the latest news affecting diverse elders. If you have any questions about DEC or would like to submit an idea for a blog post, please contact us.

See you on the 18th!

To learn more about DEC members, click here.

SAGE Wants to Hear from more Communities of Color

Services & Advocacy for GLBT Elders (SAGE) is working on our next strategic plan to help guide the organization for the next few years, and we need your help. SAGE has a long history of listening to the many audiences we work with, and we would like to hear your thoughts on our work on behalf of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) older adults. Read More

LGBT Older Americans Cannot Afford to Go Over the Fiscal Cliff

The following is a guest post by George Stewart, SAGE constituent.

Not long ago, the Washington Post reprinted a letter signed by a group of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) millionaires asking Congress to come to a resolution on the “fiscal cliff” by preventing across-the-board spending cuts to federal programs, preserving tax cuts for the middle class and allowing tax cuts for the wealthiest to expire.  As heartened as I was to see some LGBT voices in the public debate on economic issues, I wondered how many people know how the impending spending cuts will impact a vast majority of LGBT older people throughout the country—people like me.

I have spent much of my life looking for where I fit in, while striving to serve my country and my community. I’ve witnessed intolerance in my life, as well as positive change. In the 1950s, I was a black soldier in a segregated Army unit stationed in the South. I found a lot of camaraderie with the soldiers in my unit, but we always felt that we had to go above and beyond—if another outfit shined the tops of their shoes, we’d shine the bottom of ours. I was stationed last in Louisiana, where one of my most vivid memories is being singled out by a policeman because he thought I was sitting too close to a white woman in a public park. When my enlistment ended in Louisiana, I decided that I would move to New York City.  I hoped my move would lead to better things—an opportunity to be an individual in a big city, instead of being viewed as just a black man inappropriately sitting down next to a white woman. Read More

What the Fiscal Cliff Means for Elder Programs

BY DOUA THOR, FORMER EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, SOUTHEAST ASIA RESOURCE ACTION CENTER (SEARAC)

Everywhere you turn these days, it seems that you can’t get away from talk of the “fiscal cliff.” As advocates for elders, we too, are concerned with the impending austerity measures and how, if triggered, they will impact funding for programs for our elder generations.

There’s no getting around the fact that if sequestration is allowed to go into effect in January, the resulting non-defense discretionary cuts in FY 2013 will put programs at risk that currently maintain older adults’ independence, health, and well-being. The Leadership Council of Aging Organizations (LCAO), of which SEARAC is a member, has put together a very helpful issue brief on how sequestration would hurt programs that are authorized by the Older Americans Act (OAA). By the numbers, these are some highlights of how the cuts would affect elder programs (at 8 percent sequestration): Read More

Leaves That Pay

As policy makers gather to discuss the impending fiscal cliff, they will consider many ways to reduce budget deficits and the national debt. This discussion includes the future of health care. Rather than cutting benefits, one of the best ways to lower health care costs is to invest in workers’ health through policies that allow them to take paid time off in event of an illness or to look after a loved one who is sick.

That is why NHCOA has been working across states to raise awareness and empower Latino workers and older adults to advocate for leaves that pay laws at the local and state level. Leaves that pay policies are the best way to ensure that workers don’t have to choose between their family and their job. Job security and steady wages are crucial for the Hispanic community as many workers are also caregivers and heads of households. Read More

10 Considerations for Working with the Diversity of Older LGBT Latinos

Effective outreach begins with a plan and developing a plan requires research. Yet, anyone trying to develop an outreach plan for older lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Latinos can quickly feel as if he or she is hitting one brick wall after another—there is simply a lack of resources dedicated to this community.  Sure, you may be able to find strategies on how-to engage seniors, LGBT youth or the Latino population at large, but these strategies do not speak to the unique experiences and challenges faced by older LGBT Latinos.

For those of you whose organizations are trying to better engage this community, you may simply need a place to start. You may wonder, “What are the most effective outreach techniques to reach Older LGBT Latinos?” As the former Outreach Coordinator for SAGE Harlem (a program for LGBT older adults serving a significant Latino population), I have asked myself the same question. Through trial and error, I have been able to identify the top ten considerations for working with the diversity of older LGBT Latinos.

Read More

A Federal Bill for LGBT Elders

Last week, Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO ) introduced a bill that could improve supports for millions of LGBT elders through the Older Americans Act. SAGE has been working on this issue for almost three years — from raising awareness and producing policy reports, to hosting Congressional briefings and securing support from the influential Leadership Council of Aging Organizations, to working closely with Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO) and various aging groups in DC.

Read my recent editorial in The Huffington Post about this bill’s importance to LGBT elders. Read More

Introducing the ‘Improving Services and Activities for Diverse Elders Act’

There are many services and supports for older adults available at no cost. Things like home delivered meals, transportation services, and benefits counseling all help older adults live in their own homes and communities and age in dignity. The Older Americans Act (OAA) is the law that provides these services and supports and creates the nation’s infrastructure for aging. It is an invaluable law that helps millions of people each year. Despite the law’s successes and importance, it faces deep budget cuts and is becoming outdated. Read More

In-Language Assistance and AAPI Elders

BY SCOTT PECK, DIRECTOR OF POLICY, NATIONAL ASIAN PACIFIC CENTER ON AGING

One of the most difficult challenges of low-income AAPI elders is the ability to access programs and services designed for their specific needs.  Critical is the ability to access in-language assistance to elders who are limited-English-proficient (LEP).  Limited English proficiency has profound effects on AAPI elders to access essential services and understand their rights and obligations.

For example:

A 2007 study conducted by the National Senior Citizens Law Center found that foreign language translators that assist with health plan inquiries, as required of health plan sponsors by law, were only able to serve limited English proficient AAPI beneficiaries in their primary language 37% of the time

Read More

Looking to Harlem – Creating a Safe Space for the Older Black LGBT Community

Harlem is undoubtedly one of the most well-known African-American neighborhoods in NYC and the nation. Part of its rich history includes the Harlem Renaissance, a literary movement celebrating black cultural identity in the 1920s and 30’s. It is also home to the Apollo Theatre, a cultural landmark that has hosted influential black icons and leaders such as President Barack Obama, Chaka Khan and Michael Jackson. What might not be as well-known, however, is that there are a number of local black and gay-owned businesses in the community such as Harlem Flo and Billie’s Black, showcasing that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people exist in Harlem.

There is also a significant aging community. One in three Harlem residents are age 50 and older, according to 2006 estimates from The New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. And as an outreach coordinator for SAGE (Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders), I also know well that a significant number of these older adults are LGBT.

Read More

Latino Seniors Describe their Needs

This summer, the National Hispanic Council on Aging (NHCOA) has been traveling to key regions of the country to host its Promoting Communities of Success Regional Meetings.  These meetings allow NHCOA to hear the needs and perspectives of Hispanic older adults, their families, and caregivers and also to empower them to become more civically engaged.

Newspaper articles print grim economic statistics, but in order to learn the true human cost of these numbers, we must listen to real individuals and hear their background and perspective. This information is key in aligning daily needs with meaningful policy solutions. Three common themes we picked up at the Dallas and Miami regional meetings were: (1) Hispanic older adults are still recovering from the economic downturn of 2008, (2) they are uneasy about the future, and (3) despite their fears and concerns, they are eager to be a part of the solution.

Read More

An LGBT-Inclusive Older Americans Act

The Older Americans Act (OAA) serves as the country’s leading vehicle for delivering services to older people nationwide, providing more than $2 billion annually in nutrition and social services. Since its enactment in 1965, the OAA has aimed to ensure that older people have the supports they need to age in good health and with broad community support. It places an emphasis on more vulnerable elders who face multiple barriers that can aggravate economic insecurity, social isolation, and various health challenges related to aging.

Yet strangely, despite ample evidence of their heightened vulnerability and their need for unique aging supports, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) older people are invisible in this landmark law. As the OAA comes up for reauthorization, and as millions of LGBT people enter retirement age, Congress should ensure that the OAA supports all elders, including those who require unique supports. LGBT older adults should be written into the framework of the Older Americans Act.

Read More

The Unique Needs of Asian American and Pacific Islander Elders

BY SCOTT PECK, DIRECTOR OF POLICY, NATIONAL ASIAN PACIFIC CENTER ON AGING

Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) elders are one of the fastest-growing groups of ethnic elderly in the U.S. but remain largely invisible. Each elder faces unique challenges to obtaining a high quality of life in their later years. Unfortunately, AAPI elder needs are not well-researched, their concerns are often not addressed by current public policies, and few programs and services are designed for their specific needs. Language and cultural barriers present difficult barriers to care since programs and services designed for a broader population are often inaccessible to AAPI elders due to limited outreach efforts in their communities. According to the US Census’ American Community Survey, only 41 percent of AAPI elders feel that they speak English “very well.” Limited English proficiency has profound effects on the ability of AAPI elders to access essential services and understand their rights and obligations.

It is important to remember that this inaccessibility is occurring within rapidly changing demographics. AAPI elders are a growing and diverse population – 2.8 million AAPI elders live in the U.S., with significant numbers of AAPI elders living in California, Hawaii, New York, Texas, and New Jersey. Over time, the numbers of AAPI elders will continue to grow. Between 2010 and 2050, the AAPI elder population 65 years and older is expected to grow 466 percent, while the total population of American elders will grow 120 percent.

Read More

‘Elders Support Families in Economic, Emotional, and Spiritual Ways’

BY DOUA THOR, FORMER EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, SOUTHEAST ASIA RESOURCE ACTION CENTER (SEARAC)

My grandmother helped raised almost all of the grandchildren in our family at some point or another. My grandmother had nine children and because my family came to the United States as refugees, most of our parents had to work multiple jobs. My parents, aunts, and uncles were grateful to have her support.  At the federal level, we separate the issues of elders from the rest of the population in policy discussions. Sometimes, those issues are even pitted against each other, and we are made to think that providing for elders means that there is less for young people. On the ground in communities, however, the lives and well-being of elders are closely intertwined to the well-being of communities and families. Like my grandmother, elders support families in economic, emotional, and spiritual ways.  And yet, their contributions are often overlooked and unappreciated.  Southeast Asian American elders, have become invisible to the mainstream.

As they age, many Southeast Asian American elders (who arrived as refugees from Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam) face numerous barriers and challenges to attaining long term care. As a community, over 90% of Southeast Asian Americans 65 and older in California live in family households, as opposed to institutional alternatives.  There are limited services that allow elders to remain in their own homes, and there are even fewer opportunities for culturally and linguistically-specific services that would support the independence and living choices of elders. SEARAC works toward ensuring that there is adequate and stable funding and resources for programs that support elders who choose to maintain independent lifestyles in their homes and their communities and to ensure that provisions of the Affordable Care Act preserve and improve existing community-based and in-home care programs. Additionally, SEARAC works to ensure that aging policies address language access provisions and culturally specific needs of elders so that English language learners have access to vital information and resources.

Read More