California Launches Effort to Combat Senior Isolation & Keep Seniors Safe

The California Department of Aging and the California Health and Human Services Agency recently announced a new effort, encouraging residents to continue to stay home to protect the most vulnerable and also to check in with older neighbors to make sure they feel connected and offer to help them obtain food, medication, or other supplies to keep them home and safe from COVID-19. 

The campaign includes a pledge and a statewide hotline — 833-544-2374 — in coordination with the non-profit local 2-1-1 systems, so that Californians have a one-stop shop to answer their questions and get assistance during this crisis. 

Information provided by Justice in Aging.

Social Security Recipients Will Automatically Receive Economic Impact Payments

The CARES Act that was signed last week included the issuance of “economic impact payments” or stimulus checks to people who earn under a certain threshold.  It previously required Social Security beneficiaries (who are not typically required to file tax returns) to file an abbreviated tax return to ensure that they would receive these payments. 

It has since been amended to not require Social Security beneficiaries to file tax returns.  Instead, Social Security recipients will receive these payments as a direct deposit or by paper check, just as they would normally receive their benefits.  Note that this also applies to Railroad Retirement Board beneficiaries. See here for the press release from the Treasury: https://home.treasury.gov/news/press-releases/sm967

Medicare and Coronavirus: What You Need to Know

By Seema Verma

Administrator, U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services

Since older Americans are particularly vulnerable to coronavirus (COVID-19), I wanted to let you know the steps we’re taking to help our Medicare beneficiaries cope with the pandemic.

We’re warning Medicare beneficiaries that scammers may try to use this emergency to steal their Medicare number, banking information, or other personal data.

Unfortunately, scammers come out of the woodwork during times of uncertainty and change. So make sure you give your Medicare number only to your doctor, pharmacist, hospital, health insurer, or other trusted healthcare provider.

If someone calls you on the phone, says they’re from Medicare, and asks for your Medicare number or other personal information – just hang up.

Remember: Medicare never calls its beneficiaries to ask for or to “verify” Medicare numbers.

My agency finished removing Social Security numbers from all Medicare cards last year in order to reduce fraud and protect Medicare beneficiaries from identity theft. Even with this change, you should guard your Medicare card. Treat it like a credit card. Be sure to check your Medicare claim summaries for errors and questionable bills.

If you suspect Medicare fraud, please report it by calling Medicare’s toll-free customer service center at 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227), or by visiting www.medicare.gov/fraud.

I also want to inform you what Medicare covers with regard to coronavirus.

If your doctor orders a COVID-19 test for you, Medicare covers all of the costs. You should not have any cost-sharing.

Medicare also covers all medically necessary hospitalizations. This includes extra days in the hospital for in-patients who were on the verge of being discharged, but were diagnosed with COVID-19 and had to stay longer under quarantine.

There’s no vaccine for COVID-19 at this time. However, if one becomes available, Medicare will cover it.

If you have a Medicare Advantage Plan, you have the same benefits as people with Original Medicare. Medicare Advantage plans are now required to have the same cost-sharing for COVID-19 lab tests as Original Medicare: zero.

Medicare also recently expanded its coverage of telehealth services to enable beneficiaries across the country to receive a wider range of healthcare services from doctors without having to travel to a healthcare facility.

These changes allow beneficiaries to communicate with their doctors without having to physically go to a healthcare facility, thus cutting their risk of acquiring or spreading the virus. And frontline clinicians will be better able to stay safe themselves while treating people with Medicare.

Doctors, nurse practitioners, clinical psychologists, and licensed clinical social workers can deliver telehealth services via phone and video chat. Medicare beneficiaries can receive telehealth services in their home as well as in any healthcare facility, including a physician’s office, hospital, nursing home, or rural health clinic.

Telehealth services include routine office visits, mental health counseling, and preventive health screenings for cancer and other illnesses.

By helping healthcare institutions across the nation offer medical services remotely, telehealth helps free up hospital emergency departments and doctors’ offices to deal with the most urgent COVID-19 cases. For example, you can talk with a doctor about your diabetes management or prescription refill without having to go to his or her office.

During this emergency, Medicare will pay for telehealth services at the same rates as in-person services, giving doctors and other clinicians an incentive to use this alternative and reserve their offices to treat those who truly require in-person care.

We know many Medicare beneficiaries are concerned about the spread of coronavirus and the threat it poses to their well-being. That’s why we’ve taken these rapid steps to ensure that the Medicare program continues to protect our beneficiaries while maintaining trusted access to care in these uncertain times.

LAS Annual Conference on Elder Abuse POSTONED

With the guidance and orders that have been put in place throughout the state and locally, LAS has made the decision to postpone the Elder Abuse Conference set for May 12th. While this is a disappointment for the agency, it is clearly necessary and required to ensure everyone’s safety. 

While we are hopeful that we will be able to reschedule the Conference to a later date, we can’t confirm that that will be possible at this time.  Although we hope that attendees will bear with us, we are happy to issue refunds now to anyone who has registered so far. You can request a refund through Eventbrite or by sending an email to conference@lashicap.org.   

We will be sure to keep you updated in the coming weeks, to let you know either way whether we have been able to reschedule the Conference.  If you are not already on our mailing list and would like to receive updates about the Conference, please email conference@lashicap.org and include your preferred name.

Thank you for your understanding and patience in this process!  LAS is committed to the safety of older adults and the community that serves them.

Thank you to The Rotary Club of Oakland!

Thank you to The Rotary Club of Oakland and especially to their Community Services Committee, for a $2,500 grant awarded on March 6 to Legal Assistance for Seniors (LAS)! Funds will be used to purchase laptops for improving the Medicare counseling provided by LAS’ Health Insurance Counseling and Advocacy Program (HICAP).

Rotary Club of Oakland Donation

New App Displays What Original Medicare Covers

Today, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) launched a new app that gives consumers a modernized Medicare experience with direct access on a mobile device to some of the most-used content on Medicare.gov.

The new “What’s Covered” app lets people with Original Medicare, caregivers and others quickly see whether Medicare covers a specific medical item or service. Consumers can now use their mobile device to more easily get accurate, consistent Original Medicare coverage information in the doctor’s office, the hospital, or anywhere else they use their mobile device.

The What’s Covered app is available for free in both Google Play and the Apple App Store. The app is available in Google Play at: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=gov.medicare.coverage, and is available in the Apple App Store at: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/whats-covered/id1444143600?mt=8.

See the Medicare website for more information.

LAS News Article

LAS makes the front page of the East Bay Times and The Mercury News. To read the incredible story of help and hope, click here.
Thank you to the partnership of the Bay Area News Group and the Contra Costa Crisis Center for making this possible through the annual Share the Spirit program.