AIDS AND AGING: A REALITY THAT DEMANDS OUR ATTENTION

Maria Eugenia Hernandez-Lane, Vice President of NHCOA

Maria Eugenia Hernandez-Lane, Vice President of NHCOA

The AID Institute’s 7th annual National HIV/AIDS and Aging Awareness Day (NHAAAD) will be observed September 18, 2014 with the theme “Aging is a part of life; HIV doesn’t have to be!” For more information about HIV/AIDS and older Americans or to become involved with the campaign, visit www.NHAAAD.org.

Among diverse communities, the stigma of HIV is a cause of shame, embarrassment, and worse of all, denial and silence. When denial and silence are present, the lack of communication and information lead to myths and misinformation. Worst of all, silence results in increased infections and is inevitably compounded by stigma, which leads to people living with HIV who are undiagnosed and therefore, untreated.

In the U.S. alone, 1 out of 6 persons is unaware s/he is HIV positive. The reality is that older Americans are just at risk of HIV infection as younger age groups are.

[Learn more HIV statistics in the United States]

In fact, adults 55 years and older represented nearly one-fifth of the U.S. population living with HIV in 2010. The CDC estimates that by next year (2015), this number will double, which means that half of the people living with HIV in this country will be 50 years and older. There are several reasons why older Americans who are HIV+ may not be aware of their status:

  • HIV tests aren’t always included as part of the check up routine, and seniors tend to think they don’t know need to ask for one;
  • The signs of HIV/AIDS can be mistaken for the aches and pains of normal aging;
  • Older adults are less likely to discuss their sex lives or drug use with loved ones or a health care provider;
  • Myths and misinformation that lead seniors to believe that they are “too old” to get infected;
  • Lack of targeted public education*.

However, we should not only be concerned with reducing HIV infections among the older adult population.

Medical advances have allowed people with HIV who get treated— and stay in treatment— to lead longer, healthier lives. Yet, the success of these new treatments and the increased longevity of patients have led to new challenges to the proper prevention and care of older Americans living with HIV, especially those who are from diverse communities. There is a lack of research aimed at aging with HIV, as well as few prevention campaigns, clinical guidelines, demonstration projects and training initiatives targeting older adults living with HIV, particularly diverse seniors. While the Affordable Care Act does include provisions to support people living with HIV/AIDS, including older Americans, the public policy landscape is scarce when it comes to seniors and HIV/AIDS.

[Related content: Learn how the ACA is helping older Americans living with HIV.]

Older Americans with HIV are often excluded from major legislation, policy initiatives and programs— from the White House Conference on Aging, to the Older Americans Act and the Ryan White CARE Act, to the Medicaid expansion, and more.

Left unaddressed, generations of older adults with HIV/AIDS will lack the supports they need to age with dignity and in the best health possible. This is why the Diverse Elders Coalition in collaboration with ACRIA (AIDS Community Research Initiative of America) released 8 recommendations that have the potential of dramatically improving the lives of diverse seniors, and all older Americans, living with HIV.

What you can do on National HIV/AIDS and Aging Awareness Day

* To combat this, NHCOA is a partner of the CDC’s Act Against AIDS Leadership Initiative, which is focused on reducing the incidence of HIV/AIDS among diverse communities. Through culturally and linguistically appropriate, and age sensitive outreach and education, NHCOA conducts HIV outreach and education among Hispanic older adults and families to dissipate the stigma and silence.

Additional Resources

www.cdc.gov/hiv

www.aids.gov

www.hhs.gov/ash/ohaidp

www.aoa.gov/AoARoot/AoA_Programs/HPW/HIV_AIDS

Posted by Maria Eugenia Hernandez-Lane, Vice President of the National Hispanic Council on Aging (NHCOA). The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Diverse Elders Coalition.

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

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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.

Vaccinations are not just for kids

Maria Eugenia Hernandez-Lane, Vice President of NHCOA

Maria Eugenia Hernandez-Lane, Vice President of NHCOA

August is National Immunization Awareness Month (NIAM), and when it comes to vaccines, it’s important to keep in mind that immunizations are not just for kids – we all need to get vaccinated at different points throughout our lifetimes. That is why it is important for older adults to know what vaccines they may need, where they are administered, and receive encouragement from their trusted health care providers and loved ones to get immunized.

The fact is that the existence of vaccines is the one of the reasons we are able to live longer, healthier lives. Diseases that used to be deadly are now preventable, and NIAM presents an opportunity to highlight the value of immunization across one’s lifespan.

As one of several DEC founding members dedicated to improving the lives of our diverse seniors across the country, the National Hispanic Council on Aging (NHCOA) knows that keeping up with the CDC-recommended vaccination schedule is a key part of staying healthy for all older Americans. Therefore, in commemoration of NIAM, here are five reasons why older Americans should get vaccinated:

1. Vaccines are not just for kids.

Vaccines are an important part of a person’s preventive care at all stages of life, not just childhood.

2. Vaccines are an important step in protecting adults against serious, often deadly diseases.

While it may not seem to make sense, the truth is that vaccinations are necessary throughout childhood and beyond. Every year the CDC issues vaccine recommendations based on the latest research on vaccine safety, effectiveness and patterns of vaccine-preventable diseases.

[Click here to see the 2014 CDC adult vaccination schedule by age group. A Spanish version is available as well.]

3. Vaccines can protect older adults from serious and sometimes deadly diseases.

The CDC recommends older adults get vaccinated to prevent serious diseases such as the flu (influenza), shingles, pneumonia, hepatitis and whooping cough. Many of these diseases are common in the United States and therefore all adults— especially diverse elders—can benefit from immunization.

There are also vaccines that prevent cancer, such as the hepatitis B vaccine. The vaccine prevents chronic hepatitis B, which in turn prevents liver cancer.

The reality is that avoiding vaccinations results in the needless hospitalizations of thousands adults in the U.S., and in the worst of cases, death. However, perhaps the most important function of vaccines is to prevent the spread of certain diseases among those who are most vulnerable to serious complications, which includes diverse seniors.

[Click here to find out which vaccinations are covered by Medicare.]
[The new ACA Health Insurance Marketplace plans cover vaccinations as free preventive services with no copay or coinsurance charges]

4. Most adults have probably not received all the immunizations they need to stay healthy.

The rates of adult immunizations among older adults aren’t as high as they should be, exposing them and their loved ones to preventable diseases. And, although many older adults may consider immunizations to be important, many may be unaware that they need to get vaccinated as well, which is why health care professionals play an important role in informing their patients about the need to get immunized. Seniors should also talk to their health care providers about which vaccines are best for them given their specific health situation.

[Click here to find out your closest vaccination provider]

5. Vaccines are safe.

All vaccines are thoroughly tested before being released to the general public to ensure they are safe for use. While vaccines do have side effects, they are usually minor and temporary. It is possible for some people to have allergic reactions to certain vaccines, but serious and long-term effects are rare.

The week of August 24-30 is dedicated to raising vaccination awareness among adults, including diverse seniors. NHCOA is a proud partner of the CDC in helping inform and raise awareness about getting vaccinated among Hispanic older adults, their families, and caregivers through its signature immunizations program, Vacunémonos (Let’s Get Vaccinated). Vacunémonos is a culturally, linguistically, and age sensitive community intervention that aims at increasing adult vaccination rates among Hispanics. For more information, please visit www.nhcoa.org.

Additional Resources

NHCOA Vacunémonos Pinterest Board [Bilingual]
NHCOA Vacunémonos Immunization Brochure [Spanish]

Posted by Maria Eugenia Hernandez-Lane, Vice President of the National Hispanic Council on Aging (NHCOA). The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Diverse Elders Coalition.

New health coverage? Now what?

Millions of Americans obtained health coverage through the new Health Insurance Marketplace or through Medicaid. For many of these newly insured individuals and families, this insurance is their first health coverage in a long time or ever. Now what? How can you get the most from this coverage? What do all these terms such as in-network, deductible, co-insurance (and many, many more) mean? How do you find and choose a doctor (“provider”), make an appointment, prepare for a visit and more? The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (“CMS”) has launched an education initiative entitled From Coverage to Care with educational materials and videos available in both English and Spanish to help people make the most of their coverage.

From Coverage to Care roadmaps (48 page information and resource guides):

Roadmap to Better Care – English

Roadmap to Better Care – English

A Roadmap to Better Care – Español

Roadmap to Better Care – Español

 From Coverage to Care videos (11 short videos available in English and Spanish):

HealthCare.gov also answers many common coverage questions. Some of the topics covered include:

  • Understanding your health care coverage: Make sure you start by knowing how your health plan or coverage works. Become familiar with the services that are covered and how much you’ll have to pay. You can also learn what any new terms mean and how they apply to your coverage.
  • Using prevention to stay healthy: Your coverage is designed to serve you beyond just getting sick. At regular check-ups, you can ask questions on the steps you can take to become healthier. After all, prevention is a critical part to staying healthy – and under the Affordable Care Act, many preventive services are covered with no copays or additional costs.
  • Understanding Primary Care vs. Emergency Care: You’ll visit your primary care provider for both routine check-ups and when you feel ill. When you are feeling extremely sick or are in a life-threating situation, you’ll visit the emergency department. You may pay a higher copay or coinsurance for emergency care visits.
  • Following up after appointments: Remember that good care doesn’t stop when you leave your provider. Make sure you follow your health care provider’s instructions, schedule your follow-up appointments, if needed, and fill any needed prescriptions.

If you have questions about your new health care coverage, contact your insurance company directly or healthcare.gov at 1-800-318-2596 (TTY: 1-855-889-4325). Trained representatives are available at the Marketplace Call Center 24 hours a day 7 days a week if you need help. If you have questions about your Medicaid coverage, you can contact your state agency directly for more information.

For American Indians and Alaska Natives (AI/ANs), health coverage under the new Health Insurance Marketplace works a bit differently. Members of federally recognized tribes and Alaska Native shareholders can enroll in Marketplace coverage any time of year. Out-of-pocket costs like deductibles, copayments and coinsurance may not apply based on income levels. AI/ANs can get (or keep getting) services from the Indian Health Service, tribal health programs, or urban Indian health programs as well as using their new coverage to get services from providers on the Marketplace plan or via Medicaid, as applicable. Utilizing your new health coverage when accessing services at Indian Health Services, brings more funding into the IHS and allows IHS to provide more health care to all AI/ANs. More information is available at HealthCare.gov and tribalhealthcare.org.

You have this great new health coverage, learn how to get the most out of it!

Patrick Aitcheson is the Interim National Coordinator of the Diverse Elders Coalition. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Diverse Elders Coalition.

Medicare and Medicaid at 49: Keeping the Generations-Old Promise Alive

While the concept of national health insurance was developed in the early 20th century, President Harry S. Truman elevated the issue during his Administration:

“Millions of our citizens do not now have a full measure of opportunity to achieve and to enjoy good health. Millions do not now have protection or security against the economic effects of sickness. And the time has now arrived for action to help them attain that opportunity and to help them get that protection.”

Twenty years later, his vision was brought to life under President Lyndon B. Johnson with the Social Security Amendments of 1965, which provided millions of older Americans and low-income families with access to healthcare through the Medicare and Medicaid programs. At the time, health insurance wasn’t attainable for older Americans, especially those living in poverty, because of their age and chronic conditions. Private insurance was also out-of-range for low-income families. By providing our most vulnerable populations with health insurance access, over the decades, Medicare has become a game-changer, especially for diverse seniors. The bottom line is that: without it, many diverse elders would have to assume their healthcare expenses, accrue substantial debt, and most likely not receive the care they need. Today, 49 years later, the Medicare and Medicaid programs have continued to fulfill their promise to all of our generations, allowing seniors and families to have access to the quality healthcare they deserve and otherwise, wouldn’t be able to afford.

Medicare

Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, the life and solvency of Medicare has been extended with expanded benefits and savings for its beneficiaries. Since the ACA was enacted, over 8.2 million beneficiaries have saved $11.5 billion on prescription drugs, an average of $1,407 per person. The ACA is also successfully closing the “donut hole,” a gap in coverage in which beneficiaries pay the full cost of their prescriptions out-of-pocket, before catastrophic coverage for prescriptions takes effect. Beneficiaries affected by the “donut hole” will receive savings and discounts on brand-name and generic drugs that gradually increase each year until the gap is closed in 2020.

The use of preventive services among Medicare beneficiaries has also increased thanks to the ACA. The elimination of coinsurance payments and the Part B deductible for recommended preventive services, such as cancer screenings, has allowed more beneficiaries to take control of their health by preventing and monitoring health conditions as well as detect health problems in early stages.

Medicaid

Medicaid also provides health insurance for more than 4.6 million low-income older Americans, the majority of whom are concurrently enrolled in Medicare. Medicaid also covers nearly 4 million people with disabilities who are also enrolled in Medicare. This population of “dual eligibles”— those who are enrolled in Medicare and Medicaid— represents 17% all Medicaid enrollees. When the ACA was passed, states were required to expand Medicaid coverage to bring more low-income folks under the insured tent. However, the Supreme Court later ruled it voluntary, which has resulted in states “opting out” of expansion. Due to this, there are seniors whose incomes are too high to qualify for Medicaid under the current rules, yet too low to qualify for help purchasing coverage through the Marketplace.

A Birthday Wish for Medicare and Medicaid

As advocates for diverse elders across the country, our birthday wish for Medicare and Medicaid is two-fold: for these social insurance programs to be protected for future generations, and for the states which “opted out” of Medicaid expansion to reverse their decisions. However, for this birthday wish to come true, it will require less gridlock and resistance and more consensus and bipartisanship. It will require less rhetoric and more action. It will require our communities to speak up and speak out on behalf of those who benefit from these programs, and those who could.

Today, July 30, join the millions of seniors and families Medicare and Medicaid serve each year in wishing these programs a happy birthday. And, here’s to many more!

Take Action

 

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.

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

From Coverage To Care

A message from Cara James, Ph.D., Director of the Office of Minority Health at the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services:

We are excited to tell you about From Coverage to Care: A Roadmap for using your new coverage

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If you’re one of the millions of Americans who recently obtained health coverage through the new Health Insurance Marketplace, or Medicare, Medicaid, Children’s Health Insurance (CHIP), From Coverage to Care materials can help answer questions you might have so you can make the most of your health coverage. Resources are available at marketplace.cms.gov/c2c. Some of the topics covered include: Read More

8 Ways the U.S. Must Prepare for More Seniors with HIV

This article by David Heitz originally appeared on HealthlineNews.com

On the eve of National HIV/AIDS Long-Term Survivors Awareness Day, a new report shows that the median age of Americans with HIV is 58 and that the the United States is woefully unprepared for a growing population of seniors with the virus.

By the end of 2010, more than 630,000 people in the United States had died from AIDS, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). At the end of 2009, more than 1.1 million people in the U.S. ages 13 and older were living with HIV. Some 80,000 of these people have been living with the disease for decades, and they are known as long-term survivors. Thursday, June 5, is National HIV/AIDS Long-Term Survivors Awareness Day. Read More

The NAPCA Helpline: A Critical Lifeline for Limited English Proficient Seniors

Think about the last time you had to call your credit card company to dispute a charge: navigating complex menus, explaining the problem multiple times, answering the customer representative’s questions, providing information to the representative from your nearly indecipherable credit card statement . . . now imagine if the representative spoke a language you didn’t understand and the phone menus and credit card statement were both in that language. Read More

Creating unlikely partnerships to improve the health of diverse older adults

Community Catalyst and the Diverse Elders Coalition (DEC) are thrilled to announce the launch of two new partnerships on the ground in New Mexico and Georgia. The unlikely partnerships will facilitate the ongoing education and enrollment of Native American, Bhutanese and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender older adults (age 50+)—and their loved ones—in these two states.

In both states, partner organizations are working collaboratively to inform their communities about the Affordable Care Act’s benefits. While the Health Insurance Marketplace closed on March 31 for most, enrollment continues year round for Native Americans and those eligible for Medicaid. In Georgia, these new partnerships also serve as additional, targeted support for the state legislature and administration to take up the Medicaid expansion. 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

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. 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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ACA: A Big Help to HIV+ Older Adults

There are only 41 days left until open enrollment begins under the Affordable Care Act’s (“ACA’s”) Health Insurance Marketplace. Starting October 1st individuals can enroll in insurance plans for coverage beginning on January 1, 2014. The Marketplace brings a range of options to HIV+ people for high quality insurance at lower costs.

How the Marketplace Works GIF
All private health insurance plans offered in the Marketplace will offer the same set of essential health benefits. These benefits include areas of significant importance to HIV+ people such as prescription drugs, lab services and chronic disease management. Without the ACA, private insurance options have varied widely from limited or no coverage in some states to very expensive comprehensive coverage in other states. For example, in New York where there are no exclusions for pre-existing conditions such as cancer, diabetes, heart disease or being HIV+, individual HMO coverage with a major insurer currently costs $1,409 per month. This price point can be extremely unaffordable for many HIV+ older adults. As the ACA is implemented in January 2014, “gold” level coverage from the same insurer will cost $688 per month. That’s $721 less a month or $8,652 more a year in an HIV+ older person’s pocket. For HIV+ older people, the Health Insurance Marketplace is yet another major benefit of the Affordable Care Act. Read More

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

The Coalition that Changed the Aging Narrative

Today’s post is from Robert Espinoza, Senior Director for Public Policy and Communications at SAGE. Follow him on Twitter.

In December 2010, I took part in a first-time meeting of national aging organizations working with older people of color and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) elders.

Over time, this group would form a coalition focused on federal policy reform—the Diverse Elders Coalition (DEC)—but what resonated in those initial meetings was a belief that we needed to sort through our individual interests, find multiple points of commonality, and employ a joint advocacy agenda that would profoundly change older people for generations to come.

We knew that a coalition approach was tactically smart; it leveraged our organizational resources and challenged the single-issue orthodoxy that too often shapes the dominant policy rhetoric. This approach also acknowledged our overlapping missions, growing demographics (and societal burdens), and multiple identities. We recognized that our communities shared many of the same political opponents and allies. And our aspirations for joy throughout the lifespan were in many ways similar. We believed that we could both unify and transcend our identity-based politics. 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

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.

The Supreme Court Decision: A Good Day for Medicare, Seniors and their Families

BY FAY GORDON, NATIONAL SENIOR CITIZENS LAW CENTER

On June 28, I joined 1.7 million anxious SCOTUSblog followers, and held my breath until 10:09 a.m. when the words “the individual mandate survives as a tax” appeared on the screen. Cue the applause in the office — health care reform survived!

While we celebrated, I thought of the seniors benefitting from health care reform. Unlike the lawyers and wonks, they were not rushing to print copies of the opinion, or feverishly e-mailing colleagues. They likely carried on with their Thursday morning-working and taking care of families and grandchildren.  In a flashback to the 2010 health care debate, the law’s tremendous improvements for seniors was largely ignored amid the squawking about Obamacare, penalties and taxes. Once again, seniors run the risk of misinformation and myths about the Affordable Care Act (ACA).  This is an ideal time to reflect on the ACA’s positive changes:

Read More