Seniors Receive $250 Economic Recovery Payment

Most seniors who receive Supplemental Security Income or Social Security benefits will enjoy a $250 check in May as a result of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, which was recently signed by President Obama. 
But for some seniors, the money raises more questions than answers. It is important to communicate with them and make sure they understand that no action is required on their part.  Caregivers can assist by reviewing the information provided here and making sure seniors understand when to be looking for this payment to arrive.
Take a minute to review a dozen of the most commonly asked questions about the economic recovery one-time payments, as identified by Social Security Online, the official Web site of the U.S. Social Security Administration:
1) Who will receive a one-time economic recovery payment from Social Security?  Nearly 55 million Social Security and SSI beneficiaries will receive the payment.
2) When will the payments be received?  The government expects to process the checks at the end of May and also seniors should receive their payments the first week of June, 2009.
3) How will seniors receive their one-time economic recovery payment?  The payment will be made in the same way they currently receive their Social Security or SSI benefit.  If that payment is normally delivered by check, the stimulus payment will be sent the same way and if it is normally a direct deposit or debit card payment then that is how it will be delivered.
4) Are individuals who receive more than one benefit (Social Security and Veterans or Railroad Retirement benefits) entitled to more than one $250 payment?  No, individuals may only receive one payment.
5) If my spouse and I both receive Social Security or SSI benefits, will we each get a $250 payment?  Yes, each individual qualifies for the economic stimulus payment of $250.
6) If a senior became eligible for Social Security benefits in February, 2009, will they receive the $250 economic recovery payment?  No, only seniors who were eligible for Social Security, SSI, Veterans or Railroad Retirement benefits at any time during the months of November 2008, December 2008 and January 2009 are eligible for the one-time payment.
7) Do seniors need to do anything in order to receive the one-time economic stimulus payment?  No action is necessary.
8) Will seniors receive the one-time economic recovery payment if they have a delinquent federal debt?  The law requires the Treasury Department to offset the one-time payments to collect delinquent child support and debts owed to state and federal agencies.  The government will apply the payment towards the senior's debt to the government if they already owe a debt to a state or federal agency.
9)  Will the one-time economic recovery payment change the amount or delivery date of a senior's regular Social Security or SSI benefit?  No, the one-time $250 payment will have NO effect on the regular Social Security or SSI benefits and will be delivered as a separate payment.
10)  Will the one-time economic recovery payment count as income for SSI?  No, it will not.
11) Will the one-time economic recovery payment count as income when determining eligibility for Extra Help with Medicare Prescription Drug plan costs?  No, it will not.
12) What should a senior do if someone calls or e-mails them asking for personal information to process their one-time stimulus payment? Seniors should not provide personal information to anyone requesting it to process the one-time economic stimulus payment of $250.  To verify any phone calls from someone claiming to be a Social Security employee, you may call 1-800-772-1213 and you may always report suspicious activity involving Social Security programs and operations to the Social Security Fraud Hotline website or by calling:  1-800-269-0271.
You may visit the Social Security website for additional information about the economic stimulus and to have real time updates emailed to you.
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Medicare Senior Caregivers

This is a question which constantly comes up when a senior needs care services:  Does Medicare pay for a caregiver to provide senior care services in the home?

The reason there is much confusion around this is because Medicare will sometimes pay for what is called "skilled care", provided by a Registered Nurse (RN), Physical Therapist (PT), Occupational Therapist (OT), Speech Therapist (ST).  And Medicare will provide these skilled care providers to visit a senior in their home.  A doctor must approve and prescribe the services and for the care to continue, the senior must show improvement (the idea is that this is short-term therapy to improve a condition, especially after a stroke or hip replacement, for example).

The services may be for as many as 3 visits per week but usually a R.N. is only approved if there is an open wound or medications such as shots must be managed and performed by a R.N.

Medicare's skilled home care does not provide for a Certified Nursing Aide or Companion Caregiver.  These services must be paid for privately or through long-term care insurance, unless a senior has started hospice care, which can provide for a Certified Nursing Aide to visit. , ,

Computerization of Health Records Benefits Seniors

President Obama's stimulus bill has passed and now we must hope that it is implemented with some oversight and accountability (the same accountability we want the banks and others receiving bail out dollars to uphold).

As with all bills that pass the House and Senate, this one too will include many items that cannot please all of us.  But one item I am happy about in the Economic Stimulus bill, and think all seniors and caregivers should celebrate, is this one:

"Making the immediate investments necessary to ensure that within five years, all of America’s medical records are computerized."

Many seniors and their family members have walked into the office of a new doctor - usually a specialist for a new diagnosis such as cancer, Alzheimer's Disease or Parkinson's Disease, only to find they must fill out pages and pages of paperwork to provide information about their medical history and insurance.  And we are the country that invented the internet?  We can drive past a toll booth without tossing a dime into the basket because of technology and we can pay all of our bills with a few clicks on a computer.  But walk into a hospital and they have no way to access your medical records, no way to find out what medications you are taking and no idea what Medicare insurance plan you are on.

It is time for our medical care to get up to speed with technology.  It is possible to do this in a safe and secure way (we transfer millions of dollars a day from one bank account to another via online bill payment).

This seems especially important knowing the senior population will more than double within the next 20 years.  With many industries already communicating information via cell phones, it is time for health care to at least be able to communicate via computers in preparation for a wired society.  This will be a massive benefit for seniors and their family members who often do not live in the same city and need a way to monitor the care.

You may learn more about the health care initiatives included in the stimulus plan on the White House website.  Definitely check in with your local Congressman and Senator to share any concerns you may have with them.  Corporations know that when you track all of your activity, you increase profitability and performance ---- definitely healthcare will benefit in many ways beyond just convenience by the computerization of medical records.

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President-Elect Obama's Positions on Health Care Reform

As seniors analyze their Medicare options before the end of the year, it may also be a good time to learn more about
President-Elect Obama's positions on health care reform.  During the 2008 Presidential campaign, President-Elect Barack Obama announced a comprehensive health care reform proposal and laid out his positions on a number of other key health care issues.
Budget cuts will be necessary with the government's need to budget for the necessary economic booster programs and financial bailouts.  At the same time, President-Elect Obama's team has said they will be eliminating some of the government fat and favors implemented for special interest groups.  Many critics of the Medicare drug program have indicated that the prescription plans were somewhat out of whack because of the drug company's involvement through lobbying efforts (and when you try to understand why anyone would create a program with a "donut hole" as a term needed to explain coverage when a senior is left out of the prescription plan for a window of time, a red flag seems to go up that perhaps seniors best interests were not the only driver of this Medicare program).
Right now, Medicaid pays for long-term care in a nursing home, but not in the home (except in a few small population states which have recently developed home care programs).  Medicare only pays for caregiving in a nursing home and not in the home, yet statistics show most seniors prefer to stay in their homes for long-term care.  And, with the cost of nursing home care being from $150 - $350 per day, and home care costing from $18 - $25 an hour and providing one-on-one care from a caregiver, it may be time to look at how the government is allocating the funds for senior care.

The Kaiser Family Foundation prepared two reports to summarize President-Elect Obama's campaign health care policies and positions. They are based on information compiled from Obama's campaign Web site, speeches, campaign debates and news reports.  Check it out and let your voice be heard.


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Medicare Coverage Plans

Until December 31st, Medicare-eligible beneficiaries have the opportunity to manage costs by signing up or switching their current coverage in Medicare prescription drug plans and Medicare Advantage plans.  During this time, Medicare beneficiaries may either enroll in or switch plans.

Remind your senior relatives to review thier "Annual Notice of Change" advising them about upcoming company-mandated changes to existing plans. 

Educate yourself, too.  There are 4 parts of Medicare.

Part A:  Includes hospital coverage

Part B:  Provides coverage for doctor's visits

Part C:  Medicare Advantage plan which means Medicare pays a private insurance company to provide and administer your Medicare and your plans' benefit

Part D:  Prescription drug coverage

And, remember, Medicare does NOT pay for long-term care, just short stays in a nursing home for rehabilitation.  Long-term care insurance is one solution for care needs, along with private pay.



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