A Toolkit for Choosing Health Plan Options

Preparing yourself with the proper tools helps to make any job a bit easier. If you are baking, you need the proper ingredients. When building something, you need hammers, nails and other related items. It’s the same when you are preparing for your Health Plan Open Enrollment session; or if you are a caregiver, for your person’s Medicare Annual Enrollment.

Tax-Aide for Seniors

Tax season is officially under way, and Hawai‘i residents can count on AARP Tax-Aide volunteers to help reduce tax stress. Beginning Feb. 1, AARP-trained and IRS-certified volunteers will be available at 45 locations throughout the state to help taxpayers prepare basic federal and state forms.

March into Medicare

Hawai‘i’s Sage PLUS (SHIP) counselors are often asked, “What is Medicare, and how does it affect me?” Medicare is the United State’s federal health insurance that is available to those 65 years and older, and to people at any age with certain disabilities. You can choose to use the government’s Original/Traditional Medicare, or a commercial Medicare Health Plan or a Medicare Supplement (also known as “Medigap” insurance).

Healthy Heart, Happy Heart: Medicare’s Preventive Benefits

This February share your heart with those special people by using your Medicare Preventive Benefits. As of January 1, 2011, under Original/ Traditional Medicare and Medicare Advantage plans there are no co-pays for preventive benefits. That means if your doctor feels that you could benefit from a cardiovascular screening you will pay nothing out of pocket for the screen.

Medicare and Las Vegas

Now that we have your attention … Medicare is available in all 50 states and territories, including Las Vegas. Now is the time to review your Medicare options for both health and drug plans. Medicare Open Enrollment is November 15th to December 31, 2010, but you can compare options beginning October 15, 2010.

The Donut Hole

On May 29, 2010 my husband and I were enjoying a vacation in the Pacific Northwest when we received a “frantic” call from my sister-in-law who was staying with my 92-year-old mother-in-law. We had ordered a refill of Mom’s medication through her Medicare Part D plan. The plan called to see if it was okay to put a $1,200 charge on my credit card. “But I thought Mom has Medicare Part D prescription drug coverage” my sister-in-law exclaimed. Mom does have a Part D plan but she had reached the “donut hole” or coverage gap in the plan. How did this happen?

Divorced? Youʻre not separated from Social Security

If you are divorced, there are several things you should know about Social Security. A divorced spouse may be eligible for benefits on more than one work record—such as one’s own record and an ex-spouse’s record. This applies to both divorced men and women. If you’ve never asked Social Security about receiving benefits based on your ex-spouse’s work, you should consider it. Some divorced people may get a higher benefit based on their ex’s work.

Using Hawaii Relay Conference Captioning

There’s a service available that can help you feel empowered and stay engaged with individuals or co-workers. Relay Conference Captioning (RCC) is a free* service available to Hawai‘i residents who are deaf or hard of hearing that enables them to actively participate in multiparty teleconference calls or web conferences. The service enables you to participate in teleconference calls or webinars by reading live captions through a web browser on your computer or mobile device. Saving a copy of the RCC transcript is one of the available options.

Solution for Loneliness & Housing Shortage

In response to this epidemic of isolation, a strategy called “home sharing” has been implemented in many U.S. cities for over 40 years. Recently, the nonprofit Hawaii Intergenerational Network (HIN), with funding from the HMSA, Kaiser and Atherton Family foundations, began a project called “Homesharing Hawaii” to offer a similar program in the state that will help seniors safely age in place and secure very affordable housing for low- and moderate-income renters. It is also a cost effective program because it doesn’t require building new housing or providing ongoing rental subsidies.

Leadership is Fun at RYLA

On Feb. 14, Hawai‘i District 5000 Rotary Clubs sponsored 42 island high school students for the Rotary Youth Leadership Awards camp at Salvation Army’s Camp Homelani in Waialua. Activities encourage leadership, citizenship and personal growth. Evidence-based, fun-filled experiences promote community service above self and develop youth empowerment for students who demonstrate potential leadership skills.

How to Get or Replace a SS Card

Now that your Hawai‘i driver’s license does not have your Social Security number on it, you may need to get an original or replacement card to use as a separate piece of identification. Getting or replacing your Social Security card is a free service. You can use a my Social Security account to request a replacement Social Security card online if you…

Your Hawai‘i State Office of Veterans Affairs

The State Office of Veterans’ Services’ (OVS) motto is “proud to serve those who served their country.” We accomplish our mission by reaching out to eligible veterans and helping them file service-connected disability claims for benefits and entitlements they’ve earned through military service. We have offices on Kaua‘i, Maui, Kona, Hilo, Tripler Army Medical Center and Diamond Head. We travel to Moloka‘i monthly and Lāna‘i quarterly. OVS-accredited counselors work very hard to assist all veterans who are separating or retiring from active service.

Gift of Sound – Free Hearing Aid Program

The Rotary Club of Honolulu is teaming with Miracle Ear Foundation’s Gift of Sound™ program, which provides free hearing aids to those that qualify. The application fee is $150, which includes a hearing assessment, hearing aid fittings and follow-up adjustments. While supplies last, the Rotary Club of Honolulu will assist those who can not afford the $150 application fee through its Can You Hear Us Now? program.

Center Helps Seniors Get Back to Work

Meaningful employment is one of the best ways to keep fit in every way as we age — socially, mentally and even physically. But some of Waikīkī Community Center’s clients had difficulty finding employment. Retirees also found that the way people look for work has changed significantly. Others felt employers didn’t want to hire them due to their age. Many wanted to change career paths entirely. Therefore, WCC started Back-to-Work Force, a free service employment program focused on adults 50 and over.

Get ’Extra Help’ With Medicare Drug Costs

Assistance is available for some people with limited income and assets who may be eligible for a program called “Extra Help.” It’s a Medicare health plan that assists in paying costs related to a Medicare prescription drug plan. This can include monthly premiums, annual deductibles and prescription co-payments. Extra Help is estimated to be worth about $4,900 per year. Many people qualify and don’t even know it.

Service Employment Program in Action

Many seniors approaching retirement age have not built up adequate savings in their Social Security accounts. By finding employment before taking SS withdrawals, seniors can build up accounts and ensure a healthier retirement payments when the time comes. The Honolulu Community Action Program Inc. administers the Senior Community Service Employment Program for low-income seniors who meet the program’s eligibility requirements:

A Support Group for the Caring Giver

Are you caring for someone over 60 who is living at home? Then, Project Dana has a special program just for you, called the “Caring Giver Support Group” or CGSG. Using education and group training sessions, CGSG helps caregivers to better understand their loved ones while learning to care for themselves, as well. Group sessions are also a safe place to connect and talk story about the joys and frustrations of being a caregiver.

Medicare Health Plans & Caregiving

With National Caregivers Month quickly approaching, let’s remember former First Lady Rosalynn Carter, who said it best in 2012—“There are only four kinds of people in the world: those who have been caregivers, those who are currently caregivers, those who will be caregivers and those who will need caregivers.” As a caregiver, what questions should I ask to help me assess the best Medicare Advantage (health plan) possible?

Prostate Cancer Support Group

Most men seem to have little knowledge about prostate cancer, even though it is one of the most common cancers found in men in the U.S. Until diagnosed, most of us tend to ignore the issue entirely. I was no different some six years ago — before I was diagnosed with aggressive prostate cancer. I was in denial, even though I was symptomatic. I convinced myself that I knew better and self-diagnosed what I thought was simply an enlarged prostate. Little did I know I was about to embark upon an adventure and steepen my learning curve on the topic.

Understand Your Medicare Options

Hawai‘i has 268,000 Medicare beneficiaries in 2019 — nearly 19 percent of the state’s total population. About 45 percent of Hawai‘i’s beneficiaries select Medicare Advantage plans. The remaining 55 percent are covered under Original Medicare. Every year during Medicare’s Annual Election Period, Medicare beneficiaries can add, drop or switch plans. Medicare health plans and prescription drug plans can change in cost, coverage and services every year, so look at your plan’s coverage for 2020 and compare it with other plans.

Medicare for All!

According to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid, more than 59 million people in the United States have Medicare. That number is expected to grow to close to 80 million by 2030. Currently, people 65 or older and younger people with disabilities who meet all other eligibility requirements may qualify. Therefore, it is important to start becoming familiar with Medicare terms and definitions. Here are a few.

Continuing SS Benefits After 19

My child who gets Social Security will be attending his last year of high school in the fall. He turns 19 in a few months. Do I need to fill out a form for his benefits to continue? Yes. You should receive a SSA-1372-BK form in the mail about three months before your son’s birthday. Your son needs to complete the form and take it to his school’s office for certification.

Still Working? Got Medicare?

Our parents may have had an easier time than many of us do now. When they turned 65 years old, they were eligible for full Social Security retirement benefits and Medicare. Today, depending on the year you were born, your full SS may not take effect until you are 67, so you may continue to work and you’re eligible for Medicare. So what should you do?

Changing Lives With Community Action

Maui Economic Opportunity administers more than 40 programs and provides tools to help people and change lives through five departments: MEO Business Development Center, Community Services, Early Childhood Services, Transportation Services and Youth Services. Services for low-income seniors are at the core of MEO programs, administered through MEO Community Services.

Heads up! It’s Upgrade Time!

Most people use new or upgraded versions of cars, phones, appliances and all sorts of gadgets to manage their daily lives. Yet, they seem surprised to learn of a loved one’s, a friend’s or their own need for a medical procedure to maintain or improve functional capabilities. The need for a knee or hip replacement or cataract surgery comes as a shock or a hardship.

Honoring and Protecting Patients’ Rights

Long-Term Care Ombudsmen are advocates for residents living in nursing homes, assisted living facilities, adult residential care homes, expanded adult residential care homes and community care foster family homes. We are NOT the state inspectors and do not write deficiencies or issue fines or citations. Our focus has always been on quality of life and quality of care issues — advocating for all our residents so their rights can be honored and protected.

Workplace Insurance and Medicare

One question that is frequently asked by people about to turn 65 who have health insurance through an employer is: “Do I need to enroll in Medicare?” Good question! If you or your spouse are still working when you turn age 65 and have insurance through your employer you may consider delaying Medicare Part A and Part B until you retire if you have Creditable Coverage, which means coverage as good as Medicare. Or you can choose to elect your Part A, which is premium-free, and delay Part B until retirement. Depending on the size of the group, one plan would be primary while the other would be secondary.

Medicare News!

According to Kathryn Coleman, Director at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS), a final rule issued in April 2018 has redefined the “primarily health related” supplement benefit definition. As a result, CMS expects Medicare Advantage plan sponsors to begin offering services for enrollees needing assistance with Activities of Daily Living (ADL) or Instrumental Activities of Daily Living (IADL).

Parting With Treasured Belongings

Have you heard these questions before: “How do I get my Mom to let go of her things?”, “Why does my Dad not want to get rid of his junk?” and “I’m not making much progress with them, what am I doing wrong?” Most times the answer isn’t black and white, as it really depends on the emotional attachment a person has to those items. Every item has a memory or a story that tugs at their heart, and for those reasons, they can’t get rid of them.

Caregivers Need Support, Too

Many of these supporters dutifully provide care without complaint. Yet, demands may start to take a toll and their own health may be compromised.t’s estimated there are more than 150,000 unpaid family caregivers in Hawai‘i. These valuable helpers are typically women in their early 60s who are caring for their husbands or elderly parents while still working. And that doesn’t take into account those who may occasionally care for their grandchildren, as well.

It’s Never Too Late to Learn

Henry Ford once said, “Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at 20 or 80; anyone who keeps learning stays young.”

Na Kupuna is a program that provides seniors an opportunity to do just that. As a part of the University of Hawaii’s Student Equity Excellence Diversity (SEED) initiative, Na Kupuna opens up college courses to seniors age 60 and older, which they can attend for free. About 650 senior citizens take advantage of this program every semester!

Staying in the Know

In your younger years, you may have been active in community affairs. But now you don’t get out so much. Maybe your caregiving duties keep you at home more. The good news is, you can still be involved in community affairs from the comfort of your own computer. In the...