Category Archives: Money

Pennsylvania Launches Website to Help Seniors and People with Disabilities Find Services Near Home

Harrisburg, PA – Yesterday, Governor Tom Wolf announced the launch of the Pennsylvania Link to Community Care website, which connects older Pennsylvanians and individuals with a disability or behavioral health need to services and support available in their community.

The Pennsylvania Link to Community Care website provides users with a wide variety of resources including a home care directory and an information referral tool.

“We have been working hard to help individuals with a disability and older Pennsylvanians to live where and how they choose, just as any of us would want,” Governor Wolf said. “This new website is a tremendous tool to help you or your loved one make the best and most informed decision about care and services.”

The website is a collaboration between the departments of Aging (PDA) and Human Services (DHS), and serves as an extension of PDA’s Aging and Disability Resource call center. With this online resource the commonwealth is adding to its continuing efforts to help Pennsylvanians locate and get the best use of services at the local level.

“Our capacity to link seniors and their families with community resources is critical to helping them live and age well at home,” said Secretary of Aging Teresa Osborne. “Today’s launch empowers older Pennsylvanians and their caregivers to proactively explore the service options that are available to them as they seek to remain independent and age in place.”

The site features 12 service and support categories, including Advocacy, Behavioral Health, Employment, Finance, Health Care, Housing, In-Home Services, Legal, Meals, Protection from Abuse, Support Groups, and Transportation.

Users can find information about organizations, services, and programs within these categories. One major component to the site is its home care directory, which connects individuals to in-home services available in their county. More than 350 in-home service providers appearing on the searchable directory may offer personal care, assistance with activities of daily living, companionship services, respite care, and/or habilitation services.

“We are committed to serving Pennsylvanians where they want to be – in their homes and communities,” said DHS Acting Secretary Teresa Miller. “This website is a great resource to connect an individual to the services they need to provide a choice in where they live.”

Following the launch of Pennsylvania Link to Community Care, the departments of Aging and Human Services will continue to enhance the website using data and feedback from users, and expand the resources and information provided throughout the site. If you are a provider licensed by the Pennsylvania Department of Health, and would like to appear on the home care directory, you may submit your information by navigating to the footer of the site and clicking on “Apply.”

To learn more about the Pennsylvania Link to Community Care website, or to find information on resources available in your county, visit www.carelink.pa.gov.

Social Security Announces 2.0 Percent Benefit Increase for 2018

Monthly Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits for more than 66 million Americans will increase 2.0 percent in 2018, the Social Security Administration announced recently.

The 2.0 percent cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) will begin with benefits payable to more than 61 million Social Security beneficiaries in January 2018. Increased payments to more than 8 million SSI beneficiaries will begin on December 29, 2017. (Note: some people receive both Social Security and SSI benefits) The Social Security Act ties the annual COLA to the increase in the Consumer Price Index as determined by the Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Some other adjustments that take effect in January of each year are based on the increase in average wages. Based on that increase, the maximum amount of earnings subject to the Social Security tax (taxable maximum) will increase to $128,700 from $127,200. Of the estimated 175 million workers who will pay Social Security taxes in 2018, about 12 million will pay more because of the increase in the taxable maximum.

Information about Medicare changes for 2018, when announced, will be available at www.medicare.gov.

The Social Security Act provides for how the COLA is calculated. To read more, please visit www.socialsecurity.gov/cola.

Here is a fact sheet showing the effect of the various automatic adjustments.

“Drug Companies Make Eyedrops Too Big — And You Pay for the Waste” – ProPublica

“The makers of cancer drugs also make vials with too much medication for many patients. The excess drugs are tossed in the trash — another reason health care costs are so high.”

eyedrops-waste-3x2Gregory Matthews, who is partially blind because of glaucoma, uses eyedrops every day to preserve his remaining sight. (Matt Roth for ProPublica)

by Marshall Allen

“If you’ve ever put in an eyedrop, some of it has almost certainly spilled onto your eyelid or cheek.

“The good news is the mess doesn’t necessarily mean you missed. The bad news is that medicine you wiped off your face is wasted by design — and it’s well-known to the drug companies that make the drops.

“Eyedrops overflow our eyes because drug companies make the typical drop — from pricey glaucoma drugs to a cheap bottle of Visine — larger than a human eye can hold. Some are so large that if they were pills, every time you swallowed one, you’d toss another in the garbage.

“The waste frustrates glaucoma experts like Dr. Alan Robin, whose patients struggle to make pricey bottles of drops last. He has urged drug companies to move to smaller drops — to no avail.”

Click here to read this ProPublica article in its entirety.

 

 

“The Ethics of Adjusting Your Assets to Qualify for Medicaid” – a column at The New York Times

medicaid

Credit Robert Neubecker for The New York Times

by Ron Lieber

“At any given moment, there is a large group of citizens who want nothing more than to make absolutely certain that they are impoverished enough to qualify for Medicaid sooner rather than later. Someday, you might be one of them.

“Welcome to the (perfectly legal) world of Medicaid planning, the plain-vanilla term for the mini-industry of lawyers and others who help people arrange their financial lives so they don’t spend every last dime on a nursing home. Once properly impoverished under the law, then Medicaid, which gets funding both from your state and the federal government, picks up the tab.

“Whatever twists and turns the health insurance debates in Washington take, Medicaid will be at the center, and the program will probably affect you and your family more than you know. After all, if you run out of money in retirement, it is Medicaid that pays for most of your nursing home or home-based care.”

Click here to continue reading this column at The New York Times.

“How we put a price tag on hospitals | The data science that’s helping us crack the code of hospital cost variation.” – Amino

by Sameera Poduri

price on hospitals

“Economists and consumers alike have often observed (and suffered from) extreme cost variation in healthcare, not only based on the service itself and the doctor who performed it, but also determined by the facility where it was performed. Hospitals in particular are known to charge wildly different prices for similar care, and we’ve had little insight into why or how.

“Our first step toward uncovering healthcare costs led us to physician level cost estimates for more than 100 procedures, searchable by the doctor one might choose to perform that procedure. Such granularity can help people stay in network, calculate their out-of-pocket costs ahead of time, and budget for a procedure.

“Today, we’re excited to announce that we’ve put a dollar sign on 45,000 facility-insurer combinations across the country—including hospitals, imaging centers, and urgent care centers—so that people can not only understand the total cost of a procedure, but also know where it might be cheaper (and of the same or better quality) nearby.”

Click here to read this article at amino.com in its entirety.

“Rich American seniors are getting healthier, leaving the poor behind” – The Conversation

HEALTHwealth

“The U.S. has seen substantial improvements in life expectancy over the past century, particularly for those who are better-educated and more affluent.

“Our study, out September 18, looks at the health of older Americans in recent years, using data collected by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services on more than 50,000 seniors age 65 and older. Seniors in 2014 were 14 percent more likely to report that they were in very good or excellent health, compared to seniors in 2000.

“However, a closer look tells a worrisome story: The health divide is widening across socioeconomic groups. Gains in good health primarily went to more advantaged groups.

“Our work reveals a health disparity echoed in reports by others. In 1980, a wealthy 50-year-old man could expect to live an additional 5.1 years longer than a poor man of the same age. Thirty years later, the life expectancy of two similar men differs by more than a dozen years.”

Read this article at The Conversation in its entirety, click here.

“Under ‘Observation,’ Some Hospital Patients Face Big Bills” – The New York Times

observationPhoto: David Plunkert

by Paula Spahn

“In April, Nancy Niemi entered Vidant Medical Center in Greenville, N.C., with cardiac problems. She stayed four nights, at one point receiving a coronary stent.

“Then she went home, but felt faint and took several falls. Five days later, her primary care doctor sent her back to the hospital. This time, her stay lasted 39 days while physicians tried various medications to regulate her blood pressure.

“Though they eventually succeeded, Mrs. Niemi, 84, a retired insurance agent, had grown so weak that she could no longer walk.

“They said, ‘She really needs to go to a skilled nursing facility for physical therapy,’ recalled her son Tom Krpata, 63, who’d come from his home in Holliston, Mass., to be with her.

“He agreed, but soon learned one of the brutal truths of Medicare policy:”

Click here to read this New York Times article in its entirety. And be sure to read the comments following the article.

It’s not only in this state | “Many of state’s elderly residents struggle to pay their bills” – The Boston Globe

by Katie Johnson

“Judi Gorsuch has a degree in literature from Michigan State University. She worked as a flight attendant for 19 years, earning up to $40,000 a year, and spent a decade at the Boston Public Library in Copley Square, making $12 an hour before her part-time position was cut.

“Now Gorsuch, 74, lives in public housing near the Prudential Center and relies on her monthly $1,460 Social Security check and $400-a-month pension. Between rent and groceries and medical costs, Gorsuch says she’s lucky if she has any money left at the end of the month. When a new prescription for a bladder condition upped her expenses by $55 a month, she stopped filling it.

“‘I just decided to use Depends,’ she said.”

“Gorsuch, who never married and has no children, is among nearly 300,000 Massachusetts residents age 65 and above whose incomes aren’t enough to cover basic necessities, according to the 2016 Elder Economic Security Standard Index developed at the University of Massachusetts Boston.

living below the line

“New estimates from the 2016 Elder Economic Security Standard Index™ suggest that half of older adults living alone, and one out of four older adults living in two-elder households, lack the financial resources required to pay for basic needs.”

elder economic security standard

Click here to read The Boston Globe article in its entirety.

 

“One Woman’s Slide From Middle Class to Medicaid” – The New York Times

medicare slide“Mike and Marcia Perna at their home in Dedham, Mass. Ms. Perna’s mother, Rita Sherman, died last year at age 94 after a diagnosis of dementia and five and a half years in a nursing home. Credit Erik Jacobs for The New York Times

by Ron Lieber

DEDHAM, Mass. — “A dozen or so years into retirement, Rita Sherman had plenty going for her financially.

“Recently widowed, she had a net worth of roughly $600,000 as of 1998. Her health was excellent, and she dutifully purchased a long-term care insurance policy that would cover three years of nursing home costs should she ever need help. Watching over it all was her daughter, a medical social worker, and her son-in-law, a financial planner.

“By the time she died at the age of 94 last year, however, all of the money was gone after a diagnosis of dementia and five and a half years in a nursing home. Like so many people who never see it coming, she’d gone from being financially comfortable to qualifying for Medicaid.

“This is the same Medicaid that our representatives in Washington are aiming to cut right now.”

Continue reading this article in its entirety at The New York Times.

Wolf Administration Extends Pennsylvania Home Heating Assistance Program Deadline

Harrisburg, PA – Governor Tom Wolf announced today that Pennsylvanians struggling to pay home heating bills will now have until April 7 to apply for financial help through the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP).

The federally funded program was slated to end March 31, 2017, but the Wolf Administration decided that given the unpredictable weather this winter, Pennsylvania would extend the program, giving people extra time to apply for funding.

“Hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvania’s most vulnerable were able to heat their homes this winter because of LIHEAP,” said Governor Wolf. “By keeping the program open longer, we hope to provide additional assistance to those who are struggling to keep their family warm.”

LIHEAP offers assistance in the form of a cash grant sent directly to the utility company or a crisis grant for households in immediate danger of being without heat. Some households are eligible for both types of assistance. Cash grants are based on household income, family size, type of heating fuel and region. In addition to proof of income and household size, applicants must provide a recent bill or a statement from their fuel dealer verifying their customer status and the type of fuel used.

“Everyone deserves a safe, warm home. I encourage Pennsylvanians to apply today to ensure they have the necessary resources to stay warm as the climate continues to be unpredictable,” said Department of Human Services Secretary Ted Dallas.

Individuals can apply for a LIHEAP grant online at www.compass.state.pa.us or in person at their local county assistance office. They may also call the statewide toll-free hotline at 1-866-857-7095 with questions about the program.

For more information about LIHEAP, visit www.dhs.pa.gov.

SOURCE: news release