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Benefits QuickLINK

AARP Foundation’s new Benefits QuickLINK connects you to the 15 most important public benefits for older Americans and for families with children.
Benefits QuickLINK is powered by BenefitsCheckUp, a service of the National Council on Aging

1. Go to www.aarp.org/ct and click on “Benefits QuickLINK”
2. Answer a short list of questions
3. Download fact sheets & applications for energy assistance, Medicaid, prescription drugs, children’s health insurance, food assistance and more


Medicare News 
Medicare Beneficiaries Will Not Lose Their “Lifeline” If Funding Is Cut For Medicare Advantage Plans

Introduction

Congress has begun debating what to do about overpayments to the Medicare Advantage plans offered by private insurance companies under Medicare Part C. As a result, it is likely that scare tactics about what will happen to beneficiaries if funding is reduced to levels closer to the costs of traditional Medicare will increase as well. One such tactic is to insist that payment cuts would result in “the end of a lifeline” for beneficiaries.

Contrary to what private insurance companies tell their enrollees, the general public, and Members of Congress as part of these scare tactics, Medicare beneficiaries will not be left without any health care coverage if funding is cut for Medicare Advantage plans. All Medicare beneficiaries will still receive coverage under Medicare, without filing another application and without going through a waiting period for pre-existing conditions. The traditional Medicare program never abandons beneficiaries. It is the real “lifeline.”

Congress included provisions in the Balanced Budget Act of 1997 (BBA) to help ensure that Medicare beneficiaries have a seamless transition in their health care coverage if private insurance plans decide to stop contracting with Medicare, regardless of the reason for this business decision. If a private insurance company decides to eliminate its Medicare Advantage plans as a result of possible changes to the Medicare Advantage funding structure, beneficiaries will be able to take advantage of these protections.

BBA Protections

Medicare beneficiaries can return to traditional Medicare or choose another Medicare Advantage plan if their Medicare Advantage plan leaves Medicare.

Coverage under a Medicare Advantage plan that is terminating its contract with Medicare continues until the end of the calendar year when the Medicare contract ends.

The traditional Medicare program will continue to be available to all Medicare beneficiaries.

Beneficiaries who return to traditional Medicare can choose, and enroll in, a Medicare Part D prescription drug plan without paying a late penalty.

Those who wish to purchase a Medigap policy have specific rights protecting their ability to do so.

Beneficiaries will continue to receive services for pre-existing conditions without having to go through a waiting period.

Beneficiaries, including those with End Stage Renal Disease (ESRD), may join another Medicare Advantage plan if another plan is offered in their region.


Medicare beneficiaries make their decision about how to receive their health and drug coverage during the next annual enrollment period, which runs from November 31-December 31.

Beneficiaries are automatically returned to traditional Medicare unless they choose a different Medicare Advantage plan. They do not have to file a separate application for traditional Medicare.

Beneficiaries who decide to enroll in a different Medicare Advantage plan must enroll by December 31.

Beneficiaries who decide to return to traditional Medicare and who want prescription drug coverage must choose, and enroll in, a Medicare Part D prescription drug plan by December 31.

Coverage under the new Medicare Advantage plan or in traditional Medicare and a prescription drug plan become effective January 1.


Medicare beneficiaries aged 65 and older may purchase a Medigap policy.


Beneficiaries aged 65 and older whose Medicare Advantage plan terminated service are guaranteed issuance of Medigap Plans A, B, C or F.

Beneficiaries must purchase a Medigap policy within 63 days of the termination of their Medicare Advantage plan.

Some states have additional provisions that give beneficiaries age 65 and older more choices of Medigap policies or that extend protections to Medicare beneficiaries younger than age 65.


Conclusion

Beneficiaries, their families and their advocates should not be fooled by cries that a reduction in overpayments to private insurance plans will leave older people and people with disabilities without any health care coverage. The traditional Medicare program worked for decades without any interference from private insurance companies. All Medicare beneficiaries enrolled in Medicare Advantage plans currently have this traditional, uniform, and stable Medicare program as its reliable option for coverage. That might not be the case if Congress continues to pay Medicare Advantage plans more money, thereby hastening the projected insolvency of Medicare.

Congress needs to keep traditional Medicare, the real healthcare lifeline, strong. End overpayments to private plans and increase reimbursements for health care providers under traditional Medicare to ensure uniform, nationally available coverage for our elders and people with disabilities.

For more information, contact attorney Vicki Gottlich

(vgottlich@medicareadvocacy.org) in the Center for Medicare Advocacy’s

Washington, DC office at (202) 216-0028

American the Beautiful - National Parks & Federal Recreational Lands Pass

The National Parks Golden Age Passport has been discontinued. It has been replaced by the America the Beautiful – National Parks & Federal Recreational Lands Pass – Senior Pass – Cost $10. This is a lifetime pass for U.S. citizens or permanent residents age 62 or over. The pass provides access to, and use of, Federal recreation sites that charge and Entrance or Standard Amenity. The pass admits the pass holder and passengers in a non-commercial vehicle at per vehicle fee areas and pass holder + 3 adults, not to exceed 4 adults, at per person fee areas (children under 16 are admitted free). The pass can only be obtained in person at the park. The Senior Pass provides a 50 percent discount on some Expanded Amenity Fees charged for facilities and services such as camping, swimming, boat launch, and specialized interpretive services. In some cases where Expanded Amenity Fees are charged, only the pass holder will be given the 50 percent price reduction. The pass is non-transferable and generally does NOT cover or reduce special recreation permit fees or fees charged by concessionaires. For reference, link onto: www.nps.gov/fees_passes.htm

New Websites for Seniors

There is a new and useful website called www.ctseniorinfo.com presenting senior resources, benefits, programs, financial aid, physical conditions and desired information. The website can assist both upper and lower income individuals. For the lower income, there are Federal and State agencies that have social programs to assist the financially distressed. Second, if you are concerned about benefits there are hyperlinks to Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and other benefits and social programs available to both the elderly and the disabled. Third, many physical conditions that affect the elderly appear on the website. Lastly, under general information there is a hyperlink for crimes and scams that play upon elderly. Other topics include reverse mortgages, long-term insurance, elderly games, elderly work programs, elderly education and more. The website is continuously adding information so log on from time to time to stay informed.

Another good website is sponsored by the Agency on Aging. http://seniorresourcesec.org/

News From Comcast

Comcast offers an income-based senior citizen discount of 10% off Preferred Basic Service. To be eligible, seniors 65 years and older must participate in Connecticut's ConnPACE program. Call Customer Service for full details 1-866-200-6670.

Consumer Law Project for Elders

Connecticut Legal Services, Inc. announced the opening of the new Consumer Law Project for Elders (CLPE). This project uses a hotline format to provide FREE legal assistance to seniors aged 60 or older who need help with all types of consumer problems, including credit card debt, medical debt, abusive or harassing debt collection practices, credit repair, credit discrimination, and identity theft.

Phone lines are open Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 1:00 PM to 4:00 PM. Spanish-speaking staff are available. Seniors can call and speak to a receptionist or, if lines are busy, leave a message for a return call. Hotline legal staff will return the call within 3 business days. If necessary, telephone appointments can be scheduled.

Staff will help seniors resolve problems on their own by offering advice, assistance and encouragement as needed. If a senior has a complex consumer problem, staff can offer representation or appropriate referrals. The CLPE staff has many years of experience working with seniors. In addition to helping with consumer problems, they are in a unique position to spot many other types of legal problems encountered by seniors and to provide referrals to appropriate agencies or legal service providers when necessary.


You May Qualify For Savings on Your Phone Bill

You may be eligible for savings if you participate in any of the following programs:

Aid to Families with Dependent Children
Child Care Certificate
Connecticut Energy Assistance Program
ConnPACE
Food Stamps
Personal Care Assistance
Refugee Program
Rental Assistance
Section 8 Public Housing
State Administered General Assistance
State Appropriated Fuel Assistance Program
State Supplement to the Aged, Blind, or Disabled
Title 19 Medicaid
Transitional Child Care
Supplemental Security Income

Call today for more information: 1-800-453-SNET (7638). For Spanish call 1-866-772-6932. For TTY Service, call 1-800-842-1514.