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.

“Today’s announcement helps to clarify the effects of the Supreme Court’s decision and to ensure that all married couples are treated equally under the law,” said HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. “We are working together with SSA to process these requests in a timely manner to ensure all beneficiaries, regardless of sexual orientation, are treated fairly under the law.”

While Medicare is managed by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), SSA is responsible for determining eligibility for, and enrolling people in, Medicare.

For additional information, please visit: http://medicare.gov/sign-up-change-plans/same-sex-marriage.html.

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Battle Misinformation and Stand Up for the Affordable Care Act (Black History Month)

In honor of Black History Month, the Diverse Elders Coalition is featuring stories relevant to black aging during February. 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 February.

By Angie Boddie, Director of Health Programs at The National Caucus and Center on Black Aged, Inc.

Black history month reminds us that African Americans come from ancestors with a legacy of overcoming obstacles far and wide. Five decades since the oppressive days of Jim Crow, African Americans have a lot to celebrate— achievements in science, business, government, medicine, arts, sports, and a two-term elected president of the United States who delivered on his promise to provide universal healthcare to all Americans.

Affordable_Care_Act_100413Originally written with the premise of putting consumers back in control of their healthcare, the Affordable Care Act required all states to assist its residents by expanding their Medicaid program’s to their residents with incomes below $16,000 ($32,000 for a family of four), with the understanding that the federal government would foot most of the bill.

Upon enactment, opponents took dead aim at the legislation. Coining the Affordable Care Act “Obamacare”, opponents tirelessly worked to repeal and replace the law. After years of heated public bickering, countless rallies, and a Supreme Court decision that finally declared the Affordable Care Act constitutional, but also gave states the option to opt out of expanding their Medicaid programs, southern states such as, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas decided to forgo Medicaid expansion, leaving thousands without healthcare coverage.
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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.

Mrs. Pang, a Chinese grandmother living in Seattle, was worried that Medicaid would not cover her health care costs while visiting her grandchildren in Los Angeles. She was right to be worried because as a Washington State resident, her Medicaid was issued by Washington State and so she had no Medicaid coverage outside of the state.

Mrs. Taduran emigrated from the Philippines with her daughter and her family so she could care for her grandchildren while her daughter and son-in- law worked. Mrs. Taduran had no health insurance because her household income was too high to qualify for Medicaid yet far too low to afford private health insurance premiums. A few years later she began to have blurred vision but didn’t tell anyone since she knew her family couldn’t afford a doctor. Read More Read More

Message from the Director of the Office of Minority Health at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services

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Guest Post by Cara V. James, PH.D.

October 15 marked the start of the Medicare Open Enrollment period.  It will end on December 7, 2013.  During this time, all people with Medicare are encouraged to review their current health and prescription drug coverage, including any changes in costs, coverage and benefits that will take effect next year, and decide whether they would like to change their coverage.

Webinar Opportunity: Please join Dr. Cara James, Director of the Office of Minority Health at CMS on December 5, 2013 at 2:00pm EST for a webinar that will highlight how the Affordable Care Act strengthens Medicare and provide an overview of the Health Insurance Marketplace for older Americans of color: https://12-5acaandmedicare.eventbrite.com Read More Read More

Webinar Recording: Why the Affordable Care Act Matters to Diverse Older People

The health coverage expansions under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) will affect you, your loved ones and your communities. The Diverse Elders Coalition represents millions of diverse older people age 50+ who are among those affected: they include the Health Insurance Marketplace, the Medicaid expansion, new benefits for elders 65+ on Medicare, and a range of protections that make health care more accessible for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) older people and older people of color. The number of uninsured older adults age 50-64 continues to rise—from 3.7 million in 2000 to 8.9 million in 2010. In addition, people of color make up more than half of uninsured people in the U.S.— and research shows that people of color, across the age span, face significant disparities in physical and mental health. Additionally, many people of color delay care because of potential medical costs and out of fear of discrimination or cultural incompetence from medical providers. This webinar highlights both national and state-specific examples on what is being done to ensure that older people know about the changes that are taking place under the ACA and how it affects them.

Speakers: Yanira Cruz, President and CEO, National Hispanic Council on Aging; Michael Adams, Executive Director, Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders (SAGE). Special thanks to our co-sponsors, The John A. Hartford Foundation and The California Wellness Foundation.

Original Webinar date: Wednesday, November 6, 2013.

Watch it at http://www.screencast.com/t/yzeTQbgEze2.

Webinar. Dec. 5: The Affordable Care Act and Medicare

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When: Thursday, December 5, 2013 at 2:00pm ET

Where: Please register early for the event.

Webinar link:  https://12-5acaandmedicare.eventbrite.com  

Who: Cara V. James, Director, Office of Minority Health, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (Bio below)

What:  Please join CMS and the Diverse Elders Coalition for a webinar that will highlight how the Affordable Care Act strengthens Medicare and provide an overview of the Health Insurance Marketplace for older Americans of color.

Background: October 15, 2013 marked the start of Medicare open enrollment. It will end on December 7. During this time, all people with Medicare are encouraged to review their current health and prescription drug coverage, including any changes in costs, coverage and benefits that will take effect next year, and decide whether they would like to change their coverage.

Key resources to learn more: Medicare.gov and HealthCare.gov/CuidadodeSalud.gov

Presenter Biography: Cara V. James is the Director of the Office of Minority Health at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). Prior to joining the Office of Minority Health at CMS, Dr. James was the Director of the Disparities Policy Project and the Director of the Barbara Jordan Health Policy Scholars Program at the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, where she was responsible for addressing a broad array of health and access to care issues for racial and ethnic minorities and other underserved populations, including the potential impact of the Affordable Care Act, analyses of state-level disparities in health and access to care, and disparities in access to care among individuals living in health professional shortage areas. Prior to joining the staff at Kaiser, she worked at Harvard University and The Picker Institute. Dr. James is a member of the Institute of Medicine’s (IOM) Roundtable on the Promotion of Health Equity and the Elimination of Health Disparities and has served on several IOM committees including the Committee on Leading Health Indicators for Healthy People 2020. She has published several peer-reviewed articles and other publications, and was a co-author for one of the background chapters for the IOM Report Unequal Treatment. Cara received her Ph.D. in Health Policy and her B.A. in Psychology from Harvard University.

Our Issues Entwine: LGBTQ Aging and Economic Justice

MY IMMIGRANT MOTHER sits silently in a room the size of a small kitchen. Earlier this year, she survived multiple failures of the heart, kidneys, and limbs over the course of six weeks. She is seventy-three, uses a wheelchair, and for the first time in her life is surrounded by white people who do not speak Spanish, in the only nearby nursing home my parents can afford. In turn, my father drives through the days confronted by three omnipresent realities: hour-long daily visits with my mother, a night shift to keep him mentally and financially afloat, and a mailbox flooded with health care bills, insurance disputes and the complexity of navigating Medicare, Medicaid, and private insurers. When I speak of health reform, queer rights, or racial and economic justice, he gazes at me solemnly. He survived a lifetime of racial discrimination, fought in two wars and lived through the ensuing decades with a cacophony in his psyche. At seventy-eight, nearly blind and deaf, he will hear nothing of systems and reform. More often than not, these days we sit in silence.

This silence haunts me as an advocate who works at the intersection of aging and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) rights. The aging and LGBTQ advocacy fields often propose policy solutions that are too narrow to address the complexity of how all marginalized people — including heterosexual people of color such as my parents, members of the LGBTQ community, and more — experience the process of aging. We need social transformations that address the intersecting forms of oppression that older people face — and that can make sense of the chaos and silence that shroud my parents. This has become especially clear to me through my work as the director of a national policy program devoted to improving the health and well-being of LGBTQ older people.

A closer look at the lives of aging LGBTQ people reveals how deeply identity politics and class politics are entangled. Here, an older protester rallies for marriage equality in Pasadena, California.

A closer look at the lives of aging LGBTQ people reveals how deeply identity politics and class politics are entangled. Here, an older protester rallies for marriage equality in Pasadena, California.

For the full essay, which originally appeared in Tikkun Magazine click here

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 Read More

WEBINAR: Why Obamacare/the Affordable Care Act Matters to Older People of Color and LGBT Older People

When: Wednesday, November 6, 2013 2-3pm EST
Register Now: http://bit.ly/1c0l5zd
Speakers: Dr. Yanira Cruz, President and CEO, National Hispanic Council on Aging (NHCOA)
Michael Adams, Executive Director, Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders (SAGE)
Who can attend? Advocates. Policy makers. Older Adults. Funders. Anyone interested in learning more about Obamacare and how it affects diverse older people. *There will also be additional information for funders on how they can support both national and state-specific work.

First 30 Minutes: Conversation with Dr. Cruz and Michael Adams about why Obamacare/the Affordable Care Act Matters to diverse older people. Learn about the opportunities, challenges and lessons learned.
Second Half of the Conversation: Dr. Cruz and Michael Adams will take your questions.

WEBINAR DESCRIPTION
The health coverage expansions under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) will affect you, your loved ones and your communities. The Diverse Elders Coalition represents millions of diverse older people age 50+ who are among those affected by these expansions. They include the Health Insurance Marketplace, the Medicaid expansion, new benefits for elders 65+ on Medicare, and a range of protections that make health care more accessible for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) older people and older people of color. The number of uninsured older adults age 50-64 continues to rise—from 3.7 million in 2000 to 8.9 million in 2010. In addition, people of color make up more than half of the uninsured people in the U.S.— and research shows that people of color, across the age span, face significant disparities in physical and mental health. Additionally, many people of color delay care because of potential medical costs and out of fear of discrimination or cultural incompetence from medical providers. These issues are especially true for LGBT people of color who face challenges on multiple aspects of their identities. The ACA has the ability to create a path to better health by offering more affordable health insurance options, improving services and eliminating the usual obstacles. This webinar will highlight both national and state-specific examples of what is being done to ensure that older people know about the changes that are taking place under the ACA and how it affects them.

This webinar is in collaboration with Grantmakers in Aging (GIA) as part of their “Conversation with GIA” series.

Special thanks to our co-sponsors, The John A. Hartford Foundation and The California Wellness Foundation.

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 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 Read More

National Indian Council on Aging: Then (Creation of NICOA) and Now (The Affordable Care Act – ACA)

The first National Indian Conference on Aging was sponsored by the National Tribal Chairman’s Association (NTCA) in Phoenix, Arizona on June 15-17, 1976. Close to 1,500 American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) people representing 171 tribes came together to speak of their needs and present recommendations for action to improve the quality of their lives. The meeting was coordinated by the National Tribal Chairman’s Association and led by President Wendell Chino.

First members of the National Indian Council on Aging

First members of the National Indian Council on Aging

Then: Creation of NICOA

In his address to the conference attendees Mr. Chino spoke at length about the history of contributions the American Indian/Alaska Native elders have given to this great country. He consistently reminded American Indian/Alaska Native and the US Congressional leaders that American Indians/Alaska Natives have a unique status as they are specifically mentioned in the US constitution. Robert J. Miller author of Native America, Discovered and Conquered: Thomas Jefferson, Lewis & Clark, and Manifest Destiny, explains the following:

American Indian tribes have played a major role in the development and history of the United States and have engaged in official, diplomatic governmental relations with other sovereign governments from the first moment Europeans stepped foot on this continent. Indian tribes have been a part of the day to day political life of the United States and continue to have an important role in American life today. Tribes continue to have a government to government relationship with the United States and they continue to be sovereign governments with primary control and jurisdiction over their citizens and their territories. It is no surprise, then, that the relationship between Indian people, tribal governments and the United States is addressed in the United States Constitution. Read More Read More

Health Exchange Open Enrollment Cannot Come Soon Enough

According to the latest American Community Survey, about 30% of Hispanics lack health insurance. Medicare provides nearly universal coverage, however, so the vast majority of uninsured Hispanics are age 65 and under. In fact, about 35% of Hispanics between the ages of 45 and 54, about 42% between 35 and 44, about 48% between 25 and 34, and about 47% between ages 18 and 24 lack health insurance. Despite making up 16% of the population, Hispanics represent 33% of the nation’s uninsured. Open enrollment for the ACA’s Health Insurance Marketplaces starts October 1st and cannot come soon enough for the Hispanic population.

Health and economic security in old age are not determined solely after one turns 65. Having health insurance and the access to the care that it provides has a strong influence on health throughout life. In addition to the health benefits, having health insurance allows people to become familiar with the health care system, to develop health literacy, and to work with health care providers to develop healthy habits. For many Hispanics, Medicare is the first health insurance policy in which they ever enroll. This coverage often comes decades too late, as small health issues, left untreated for years, can grow into major complications.

The National Hispanic Council on Aging (NHCOA) and the Diverse Elders Coalition (DEC) are eager to support enrollment in the Health Insurance Marketplaces. NHCOA and the DEC will conduct culturally and linguistically appropriate outreach to the populations that we represent in order to help them purchase affordable health insurance. NHCOA will begin targeted outreach soon, but Latinos interested in learning more about purchasing affordable health insurance can go to cuidaddesalud.gov or contact the National Hispanic Council on Aging at 202-347-9733.

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 Read More