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Educate Your Friends and Family about Enrollment for the ACA

Open enrollment for the Affordable Care Act will last from November 1 through December 15 this year.  We’ve just learned the following, courtesy of the National Association for Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA):

The Trump administration plans to shut down the federal health insurance exchange for 12 hours during all but one Sunday in the upcoming open enrollment season. The shutdown will occur from 12 a.m. to 12 p.m. ET on every Sunday except Dec. 10. The Department of Health and Human Services will also shut down the federal exchange — healthcare.gov — overnight on the first day of open enrollment, Nov. 1. More than three dozen states use that exchange for their marketplaces. HHS officials disclosed this information Friday during a webinar with community groups that help people enroll. The Trump administration has come under attack from critics who say that it is intentionally undermining the Affordable Care Act, through regulatory actions. It shortened the enrollment period, withdrew money for advertising and cut the budget for navigator groups, which help people shop for plans. And now HHS is closing the site for a substantial portion of each weekend — for maintenance, officials said. That is the same time that many working patients — the prime target group for ACA insurance — could be shopping for their insurance, critics noted.
 

Accordingly, we should all tell our friends and family to “get on the stick” about enrolling this year.

Tips for Avoiding Charity Scams

 

(This article comes courtesy of Council on Aging, a wonderful organization in Nashville.)

As people all over the world try to help survivors of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma with donations of food and water, clothes, shelter and money, we want to remind you to be aware of charity scams. Scammers will use any method to manipulate your generosity.

Here are a few tips to keep in mind in the aftermath of the recent hurricanes:

  • Chose a trusted organization. Avoid new agencies that have been established for the specific crisis.  Be cautious of organizations with names similar to well-known charities.
  • Be on the lookout for phony emails, phone calls, social media accounts and crowdfunding requests. That includes email attachments from familiar contacts.
  • Evaluate the charity. If you are unsure about a particular organization, ask for the official name, phone number and website. Then you can verify the agency via reputable websites like the Better Business Bureau, Charity Navigator, etc. (see list below). A legitimate nonprofit will be happy to give you time to verify their mission.
  • Understanding crowdfunding requests. Some examples of crowdfunding websites are GoFundMe, YouCaring, Kickstarter, etc. Most of these sites do very little vetting in regards to donation requests. In some instances, scammers start donation requests for a “friend” or “family” that actually have nothing to do with that person. Unless you know the person personally and can verify that the funds will go to them, forgo that donation.
  • Avoid giving cash. Cash can be lost or stolen. A check or credit card record is helpful for tax purposes. DO NOT give out your credit card/bank information to a solicitor. If you write a check, make sure it’s made out to the organization NOT a person soliciting on behalf of the agency.
  • Ask questions. How will the money be spent? What percentage of donations go to the people and how much goes to overhead or fundraising? You may want to compare these costs between different nonprofits before making a decision. You also have the right to make your donation a “designated donation”, which means the organization can only use your donation for what you designate. Just make sure you notate that in writing.

 

You may report suspected fraud to The National Center of Disaster Fraud at 1-866-720-5721 or email to disaster@leo.gov. This line is staffed 24 hours a day.

 

Verification Websites for Nonprofits

 

Sources: Better Business Bureau, Charity Navigator, TexasAttorneyGeneral.gov and the U.S. Dept. of Justice

 

Celebrate the Tenth Anniversary of Falls Prevention Awareness Day

Friday, September 22, is the tenth anniversary of Falls Prevention Awareness Day.  Celebrate by learning the six steps for preventing falls:

1.Find a good balance and exercise program.

2.Ask your health care provider to assess your risk of falls.

3.Review your medications with your doctor or pharmacist on a regular basis to make sure you understand side effects that could cause falls.

4.Get your hearing and eyesight checked annually and update your eyeglasses.

5.Keep your home safe.

6.Talk to your friends and relatives about the risk of falls.

Every 11 seconds a senior is seen in an emergency room for a fall related injury.  Make sure it’s not you.

New Legislation Will Improve Access to Hearing Aids

Hearing aids are expensive, they are not covered by many health plans, and are used by only a small percentage of those who need them. New legislation signed into law last week aims to make the medical devices cheaper and more widely used by ensuring high-quality products are available over-the-counter and without a doctor’s involvement. Under the law, the Food and Drug Administration must propose regulation for over-the-counter hearing aids in the next three years to make sure the products are safe and effective. The over-the-counter products are specifically for adults with mild-to-moderate hearing loss. More than 35 million Americans have some degree of hearing loss, and the numbers are only expected to grow as the U.S. population ages. The price of a hearing aid — more than $2,000 on average, with some people needing two — has long been a bone of contention. Though much of hearing loss is age-related, Medicare doesn’t cover hearing aids, nor do many private health insurers. The process of obtaining a hearing aid can also be bulky and complicated, involving trips to up to several doctors; hearing aids can also only be bought through licensed sellers. The over-the-counter hearing aid bill was proposed by Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Maggie Hassan (D-NH) and Johnny Isakson (R-GA). It was signed into law as part of the FDA Reauthorization Act, which extends agreements with industry that fund regulation of drugs and medical devices and allows the agency to continue operating for the next several years.