New Medicare Cards Coming Soon

New Medicare cards are coming soon. Here’s what you need to know about your new card. Plus, how to avoid related scams.

Starting in April 2018, Medicare will begin mailing new cards to everyone who gets Medicare benefits. Why? To help protect your identity, Medicare is removing Social Security numbers from Medicare cards. Instead, the new cards will have a unique Medicare Number. This will happen automatically. You don’t need to do anything or pay anyone to get your new card.

Medicare will mail your card, at no cost, to the address you have on file with the Social Security Administration. If you need to update your official mailing address, visit your online Social Security account or call 1-800-772-1213. When you get your new card, your Medicare coverage and benefits will stay the same.

If your sister who lives in another state gets her card before you, don’t fret. The cards will be mailed in waves, to various parts of the country, from April 2018 until April 2019. So, your card may arrive at a different time than hers. You can check the rollout schedule to get a better idea when you may be receiving yours. (As of 3/8/2018, Massachusetts is expected to start receiving new cards after June 2018)

When you get your new card, be sure to destroy your old card. Don’t just toss it in the trash. Shred it. If you have a separate Medicare Advantage card, keep that because you’ll still need it for treatment.

As the new Medicare cards start being mailed, be on the lookout for Medicare scams. Here are some tips:

  • Don’t pay for your new card. It’s yours for free. If anyone calls and says you need to pay for it, that’s a scam.
  • Don’t give personal information to get your card. If someone calls claiming to be from Medicare, asking for your Social Security number or bank information, that’s a scam. Hang up. Medicare will never ask you to give personal information to get your new number and card.
  • Guard your card. When you get your new card, safeguard it like you would any other health insurance or credit card. While removing the Social Security number cuts down on many types of identity theft, you’ll still want to protect your new card because identity thieves could use it to get medical services.

For more information about changes to your Medicare card go to go.medicare.gov/newcard. And if you’re a victim of a scam, report it to the FTC.

Additional information about possible scams related to new Medicare cards

March 6, 2018. by Lisa Weintraub Schifferle, Attorney, FTC, Division of Consumer and Business Education

Scammers Prepare to Target Seniors as Government Readies New Medicare Cards

From the office of: Congressman Seth Moulton
 
I wanted to flag something that the Medicare division of Greater Boston Legal Services informed our office of last week. They are concerned about potential scams as Medicare prepares to send out new Medicare cards to all 57.7 million Medicare recipients, replacing social security numbers on Medicare cards with unique Medicare ID numbers. As I’m sure you already know, this is an important step Medicare is taking to protect enrollees social security numbers. However, there is potential for new scams as Medicare sends out new cards. I’m reaching out to share some information from GBLS on possible scams to look out for (see blog post here and attached document). I hope this information will be helpful to the populations you serve.
 
Please do not hesitate to reach out if you have any questions or concerns.
 

One Step Forward, Two Steps Back
Scammers Prepare to Target Seniors as Government Readies New Medicare Cards
 
​It seemed like a good idea: Congress passed legislation back in 2015 that required the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to stop using Social Security numbers on seniors’ Medicare cards and start using a new, randomly-generated 11-digit number to identify each Medicare participant. The concept was to deter fraud by getting valuable Social Security numbers off Medicare cards and providing new cards and numbers to every single Medicare participant. All 58 million of them.
 
​Unfortunately, ever-creative and flexible scammers will certainly soon start trying to exploit the switchover to new cards. Scammers have an arsenal of traditional weapons at their disposal but they’re most likely to employ one or more of the following:
  • Make telephone calls masquerading as a government official to “inform” seniors of the card switchover and “explain” that they just need to “update” their information in order for the senior to get the new Medicare card. Reality: CMS will mail new Medicare cards to all Medicare participants automatically—participants need not do anything or pay anything in order to receive their new card.
  • Make telephone calls pretending to be staff at your doctor’s office and asking for the new Medicare number “just to update our records” or “ensure correct billing.”
  • Set up desks at local health fairs and offer “freebies” like nutritional supplements in exchange for seniors’ new Medicare numbers and other personal information.
What’s the harm in providing your Medicare number or other personal information? Simple: scammers can exploit your Medicare number to fraudulently bill Medicare for expensive healthcare equipment they never provided (think power wheelchairs or complex braces and splints). Then if you someday need similar equipment, CMS may refuse to supply it on the grounds that you’ve already received it.
 
​How to protect yourself against the scammers? Remember a few fundamental rules:
  • Safeguard your Medicare number! Treat your Medicare card and number (both your current and the forthcoming new one) like you would a credit card. Only give them directly to your healthcare providers!
  • Remember that CMS will contact you only through written, mailed letters. CMS won’t call you, much less ask for your Medicare number or other personal information over the phone!
  • Know that anyone requesting your Medicare number over the telephone is probably a scammer. So just hang up!
Credit: Better Business Bureau Consumer Education Blog

SeniorCare & AARP Provide Free Tax Preparation

Download list of tax preparation locations

SeniorCare Inc.’s RSVP Volunteers of the North Shore are proud to partner with AARP and coordinate the AARP Tax-Aide Program, a vital service for elders, enabling them much needed assistance with their taxes. It is the nation’s largest free, volunteer-run tax assistance and preparation service. Across the nation, there are over 34,000 AARP Tax-Aide volunteers who help more than 2.6 million taxpayers file their federal, state and local tax returns each year. SeniorCare’s group of RSVP Volunteer Tax Aides consists of over 40 certified volunteers who contributed more than 3,000 hours of service assisting over 2,500 elders in 2017!

In 2018, from February through April, AARP and volunteers from SeniorCare RSVP will assist taxpayers 60 & older with middle to low income with their tax preparation and filing, providing free tax assistance at over 30 locations throughout the North Shore.

For information on this program, please contact RSVP Program Assistant Theresa Dickson at 978-281-1750 x-568 or theresa.dickson@seniorcareinc.org.

Download list of tax preparation locations

Senior Circuit Breaker Tax Credit

Senior citizens may be eligible to claim a refundable credit on their personal state income tax return. The Circuit Breaker tax credit is based on the actual real estate taxes paid on the Massachusetts residential property owned/rented and occupied as the principal residence.

The maximum credit amount for 2017 is $1,080. If the credit owed exceeds the amount of the total tax payable for the year, the excess will be refunded to the taxpayer.

Who is eligible?

  • Must be a Massachusetts resident or part-year resident.
  • Must be 65 or older by December 31, 2017.
  • Must file a Massachusetts personal income tax return.
  • Must own or rent residential property in Massachusetts and occupy it as your primary residence.
  • For the tax year, total Massachusetts income doesn’t exceed:
    • $57,000 for a single individual who is not the head of a household.
    • $72,000 for a head of household.
    • $86,000 for married couples filing a joint return.
  • If you are a homeowner, your Massachusetts property tax payments, together with half of your water and sewer expense, must exceed 10% of your total Massachusetts income for the tax year.
  • If you are a renter, 25% of your annual Massachusetts rent must exceed 10% of your total Massachusetts income for the tax year.

More information

Celebrate Spring! (2018)

SeniorCare Annual Breakfast Fundraiser for Meals on Wheels
Former Valentine’s Day Event becomes a Spring Celebration!

SeniorCare will hold its annual Fundraiser Breakfast at The Gloucester House, located 63 Rogers Street in downtown Gloucester on Friday, March 16, 2018, from 7:00 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. Tickets are $12 per person and include a buffet breakfast. Breakfast sponsorships are available at a variety of levels. Proceeds from the breakfast will benefit SeniorCare’s Meals on Wheels program.

SeniorCare Inc.’s Meals on Wheels program brings a daily meal right to the door of homebound elders, Monday through Friday. Menus are designed by nutrition experts to meet the needs of older adults and are prepared by a professional caterer. In addition, homebound elders have a daily interaction with the delivery team—sometimes their only human contact that day. SeniorCare currently delivers Meals on Wheels to more than 550 elders each day. Annually, this means 136,216 home-delivered meals and 39,250 meals served at dining sites in Beverly, Gloucester, Essex, Manchester, Rockport, Ipswich, Hamilton, Topsfield, and Wenham.

For information about the breakfast, contact Paula Curley at 978-281-1750 x-560.

 


Thank you to our sponsors!

 

I Have a Dream

This weekend, we remember and celebrate the life of Martin Luther King, Jr.  I recently read the full text of Dr. King’s memorable “I Have a Dream” speech, which he gave in August 1953 in Washington D.C. I had not read this speech since I was a high school student, and it struck me how true it was in 1953 and how it is still true 55 years later.

In this historic speech, Dr. King referred to the Constitution and Declaration of Independence as a promissory note in which “was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

Dr. King had an unshakeable belief that all people should be treated equal. This equality includes all people, regardless of any differences, including age and ability. The civil rights movement encompassed positive changes for Americans aged 60 and over.

The Older Americans Act, which passed in 1965, provides for adequate income in retirement, adequate health care, housing, long-term care, recreation community services, freedom and self-determination, and protection against abuse, neglect, and exploitation for people aged 60 and older. It was the first federal level initiative aimed at providing comprehensive services for older adults

As we age, we are prone to illness, disability and often lower income. All of this creates unique civil rights challenges. The older American act and its subsequent amendments are there to help support the rights of older Americans.

According to the Department of Health and Human Services, 1 in 5 people over the age of 60 are in some way serviced by the Older Americans Act. There is now an infrastructure across the United States known as the national aging services network. This network’s key service includes information and referral services. Regardless of where you live in the United States if you need homemaker or personal care services, home delivered or congregate meals, caregiver support, preventive health service, job training, transportation, legal assistance, or elder abuse prevention resources you can find that information at your local Area Agency on Aging (AAA). SeniorCare Inc. is the local AAA for nine towns on the North Shore– Beverly, Essex, Gloucester, Hamilton, Ipswich, Manchester-by-the-Sea, Rockport, Topsfield and Wenham. Our neighboring communities are served by Elder Services of the Merrimack Valley, North Shore Elders Services, and Greater Lynn Senior Services.

While older Americans are not recognized as a constitutionally protected class, additional legislation has been passed throughout the years to further protect the vulnerabilities of aging. The 1967 Age Discrimination in Employment Act protects applicants and employees 40 years of age and older from discrimination on the basis of age in hiring, promotion, discharge, compensation, or terms, conditions or privileges of employment.

As we contemplate Martin Luther King Jr.’s fight for fairness and equality this weekend, let’s not forget that equality, love, support and compassion are of the same family. We must ensure that all Americans are treated with respect and dignity.

Let’s remember Dr. King’s closing in 1953 “When we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, ‘Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!’”

The full text of Martin Luther King, Jr. “I Have a Dream” speech is available online at www.archives.gov.

 

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

I write this column on Tuesday and Wednesday of each week. As I am writing this edition, we’re just ending a long, bitter cold-spell and we’re looking at a significant snow storm. The grocery stores are mobbed as everyone picks up items to make it through 24-36 hours of being home-bound and possibly without electricity. By the time this article appears in the Gloucester Times, we will be cleaning up after the storm. Sometimes I wonder why we live in New England!

I grew up in the southwestern U.S.—Southern California, Hawaii, and Arizona—and never experienced four seasons. My childhood seasonal experience was a mild winter and a long hot summer. The only time I saw snow was when our church youth group went camping in the Arizona mountains. I never saw autumn burst into color or learned to appreciate the appearance of the first crocus in spring. I never once had a snow day off from school. I didn’t own a pair of winter gloves, scarf or hat until I was 18 years old.

Growing up, I never experienced the winter blues or knew anyone dealing with Seasonal Affective Disorder.

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a form of clinical depression that was first identified and named by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) in the early 1980s. More severe than merely the “winter blues,” signs of SAD can include a loss of energy, changes in appetite and sleeping habits, irritability, and loss of interest in socializing and other activities. There are a variety of treatments available, including medication, psychotherapy, vitamin supplements and light therapy.

For the elders in our lives, falls and hypothermia are typically what we focus on during the icy winter months, but seniors are also at risk for SAD. When conditions are slippery and cold outside, many seniors choose to stay home rather than risk a fall or other cold injury. By decreasing their time outdoors during the sunlight hours, they increase their chances of depression. If there is pre-existing depression then the condition is often aggravated further in the winter months.

A few suggestions to help avoid SAD are:

  • Daily walks in the outdoors should the weather permit.
  • Let in as much light as possible by opening blinds and curtains.
  • Exercise regularly, even if it is indoors.
  • Find suitable company and wile away the hours in social activities when you cannot go outdoors.
  • Eat a healthy diet as vitamin deficiencies are sometimes an underlying component in depression.
  • Spruce up your home with winter plants and even opt for brighter colors on walls to distract from the gloomy conditions outside.

So, you might wonder why I live in New England. I moved to Gloucester in the mid 1980s. Gloucester is so different from the world where I was raised. It took a while to adjust and acclimate to the changes. But, now Gloucester is my home. I have a full and wonderful life here. And, that life includes winter—with all of the difficulties it can bring.

But, the winter brings its own charm. I love the laughter of children playing in the snow. I love cuddling up on the sofa with the cat, a warm blanket, a cup of hot cocoa and a good book. I love that initial blast of cold on your face when you first leave a warm building. I love the comradery that we all share as we deal with whatever nature throws at us.

Winter can be hard and we have to remember to be smart in cold and icy weather. But, winter is also a time of hope and renewal. Why else would we get such a thrill from seeing those tiny, brave little crocuses poke up through the snow?

Older Adults with Developmental Disabilities

According to the Family Caregiver Alliance (www.caregiver.org), there are an estimated 641,000 adults aged 60+ with cognitive and other disabilities (e.g., cerebral palsy, autism, epilepsy, traumatic brain injury). This number is projected to double to 1,242,794 by 2030, as the Baby Boomer generation continues to age.

Families are still the primary caregivers for adults with developmental disabilities and are themselves aging. About 76% of individuals with developmental disabilities reside at home. In 25% of these homes, the family caregiver is over 60 years of age.

As we age, we need to have conversations with our families about our expectations for the future. These can be frightening for some as the reality of our mortality comes into focus.  For families with a son or daughter with intellectual or developmental difficulties, these conversations can become even more difficult, but are critically important.  As a caregiving parent ages, they must consider what will happen to their dependent adult child as that child lives beyond the parents’ ability to be a caregiver.

SeniorCare is pleased to offer a free presentation of the documentary “Mimi and Dona” on Tuesday, January 9, 2018, at 7:30 p.m. at the Cape Ann Cinema, located at 21 Main Street in downtown Gloucester.

“Mimi and Dona” follows the story of Mimi and her daughter, Dona, who must face the reality that Mimi is in her nineties and is becoming unable to care for her dependent daughter, who is in her 60’s. After a lifetime together, both women must adapt to a new life apart. This poignant, heartbreaking and, at times, humorous documentary traces this process through the story of a quirky and deeply connected mother-daughter duo.  The New York Times describes “Mimi and Dona” as “Heart-wrenching. As unflinching as it is beautiful.”

Filmmaker Sophie Sartain says, “This is an untold story happening all around us, with caregivers like my grandmother facing agonizing decisions, often with little support or guidance.”

The Independent Living Center of the North Shore and Cape Ann, the Greater North Shore Link, and SeniorCare offer a variety of services and assistance to adults with disabilities and their families. For more information about resources and services available, call SeniorCare Inc. at 978-281-1750 and ask to speak with one of our Options Counselors. Options Counseling is a free service for people aged 60+ or to adults aged 22+ living with a disability.

The presentation of “Mimi and Dona” is sponsored by The Residence at Riverbend, with additional support from Tufts Health Plan Foundation.

Winter Preparedness

Is it my imagination or did we move straight from summer into winter this year?  A couple of weeks ago, I was running around in a light sweater and now I’m using my heavy winter coat every day.

It’s always hard to predict what conditions winter will bring.  This being New England, we can expect some frigid days in the coming months. When winter temperatures drop below normal, staying warm and safe can become a challenge. Wind with cold air intensifies the potential dangers – heat can leave your body more rapidly and leave you at risk of health problems. Older individuals don’t always feel cold weather shift like younger people. According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, more than half of all hypothermia-related deaths happen in people over the age 65.

Extreme cold temperatures are often accompanied by winter storms, so you may also have to cope with power failures and icy roads. Staying indoors during winter storms can reduce the risks of car crashes and falls on the ice, but you may face indoor hazards. Power failures, inadequate heating systems or the inability to afford the cost of sufficient heat can cause homes will be too cold. When people use space heaters or fireplaces to stay warm, the risk of household fires increases, as well as the risk of carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning.

The American Red Cross offers ten tips to staying safe during the cold winter months:

  1. Layer up! Wear layers of lightweight clothing to stay warm. Gloves and a hat will help prevent losing your body heat.
  2. Remember the three feet rule. If you are using a space heater, place it on a level, hard surface and keep anything flammable at least three feet away – things such as paper, clothing, bedding, curtains or rugs.
  3. Turn off space heaters and make sure fireplace embers are out before leaving the room or going to bed.
  4. Don’t catch fire! If you are using a fireplace, use a glass or metal fire screen large enough to catch sparks and rolling logs.
  5. Protect your pipes. Run water, even at a trickle, to help prevent your pipes from freezing. Open the kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors to allow warmer air to circulate around the plumbing. Be sure to move any harmful cleaners and household chemicals out of the reach of children. Keep the garage doors closed if there are water lines in the garage.
  6. Better safe than sorry. Keep the thermostat at the same temperature day and night. Your heating bill may be a little higher, but you could avoid a more costly repair job if your pipes freeze and burst.
  7. The kitchen is for cooking. Never use a stove or oven to heat your home.
  8. Don’t forget your furry friends. Bring pets indoors. If they can’t come inside, make sure they have enough shelter to keep them warm and that they can get to unfrozen water.
  9. Use generators outside. Never operate a generator inside the home, including in the basement or garage.
  10. Knowledge is power. Don’t hook a generator up to the home’s wiring. The safest thing to do is to connect the equipment you want to power directly to the outlets on the generator.

As we enter the winter of 2018, please stay safe and keep in touch with your older friends and family who may be living on their own. If you find yourself needing information on energy assistance, Action, Inc. in Gloucester is ready to help. You can reach them at 978-283-2131 or online at www.actioninc.org.