Prepare Elderly Parents for Their New Medicare Cards

If you are an individual who focuses on personal data security, one of the most surprising things you discover when it’s time to offer support to aging parents is that  Social Security numbers appear right on the front of the Medicare card. Americans are told not to carry their Social Security cards around, but once they begin receiving Medicare benefits, their Social Security numbers are printed on a different card.

medicare card

CMS will be mailing new cards between April 2018 and April 2019.

The good news is that the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) will be sending updated and more secure cards, issuing them between beginning April 2018 and April 2019. Each new Medicare card will have a unique, randomly assigned identification number that has no connection to a Social Security number. A new Medicare number will cut down on fraud and fight identity theft. CMS will begin mailing about 60 million new cards in April 2018 and will take a year to get them all mailed. No beneficiary needs to do or pay anything for a new card — it will arrive in the mail.     Continue reading

We Lost a Son and Brother to Mental Illness: Violence Was Not an Issue

http://Percentage of US Health Expenditures Spent on Mental Health

Percentage of US Health Expenditures Spent on Mental Health Care and Services from upworthy.com

Like everyone else I’ve been glued to my computer, newspapers, and the radio, keeping track of the catastrophic and heartbreaking events that occurred in Newtown, Connecticut. As a parent and an educator, I’ve alternated between tears and anger, prayer and frustration, trying to understand how someone could murder little children and their teachers, and imagining the thought of losing my own child. I’ve been awed by the bravery of the educators at Sandy Hook.

Yet, as I listen to the media, I’m appalled by the reports and conversations equating — intentionally or not — mental illness with violent behavior. You see, my family can imagine losing a son and brother to mental illness, because we experienced it for 24 years. Violence against others was never part of the equation, and it’s not for most people who live with brain diseases. Read the December 17, 2012 New York Times Health section article, In Gun Debate, a Misguided Focus on Mental Illness by Richard A. Friedman, M.D.

From the time my brother, Jeff, was 18 until he took his own life at age 42, he suffered from bipolar brain disease. He was erratic, often upset, and frequently angry with us — his family members. He wanted so much to be like the rest of us, his friends and family, and to get on with his life. Despite all of his problems, however, he was not violent toward people. His most erratic behavior occurred when he overturned a grocery cart in a parking lot next to our car — an attempt to demonstrate how angry he was with my father, who was trying to reason to him.

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Out-of-Pocket Medical Expenses Loom Large Despite Medicare

Adult children who help aging parents should check out the Washington Post article At End of Life, Medicare Beneficiaries Spend Thousands Out-of-Pocket. Reporter Sarah Kliff explains that a recent study, Out of Pocket Spending in the Last Five Years of Life (abstract), published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine, examined the amount of money that aging Medicare recipients spend on health care during the last five years of life. The abstract leads to the first two pages of the study, freely available.

According to the Post article, “The average Medicare beneficiary spent $38,688 out-of-pocket during the last five years of life.” This is in addition to the portion that Medicare covers. The Post article also features two excellent charts.

Click here to learn more about the study.

Researchers studied people who died between 2002 and 2008 using data from the Health and Retirement Study (HRS), based at the University of Michigan. HRS is a large nationally representative study funded launched in 1992 and funded by the National Institute on Aging.

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Avoiding a Return Trip to the Hospital

Dr. Cleary speaks about helping patients stay involved with their medical care.

One out of five hospitalized Medicare patients needs to return to the hospital a second time within 30 days of their first discharge.

A second hospital admission, shortly after the first, is a no-win situation for everyone concerned about an elder parent. Patients are often sicker, they are unnecessarily exposed to other hospital bacteria, and families of the patient have more worries and parent monitoring. Moreover, Medicare spends a lot more money — 17 billion dollars — on these readmissions.

A blog post at The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) website, explains a lot more about preventing Medicare patient hospital readmissions. Written by the agency’s director, Carolyn Clancy, M.D., the post provides links to research, successful hospital readmission prevention programs, and patient guides. Dr. Clancy’s columns are also available at the AARP website.

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Learning All We Can About Assisted Living

Check out 10 Things Assisted Living Homes Won’t Tell You, an August 15, 2012 article over at Smart Money.

These tips for adult children and their families look like common sense suggestions. Often however, when family members seek an assisted living community for an elder parent, they need to make decisions quickly without much time to read all of the fine print and ask the less obvious questions. Sometimes time constraints can put common sense at the bottom of the list.

Check out item number eight in the Smart Money list, “We pay people to put you here.” A family needs to know a lot about the placement service itself before considering its recommendations for an assisted living community.

Our family was most fortunate to discover Chesterbrook Residences in Northern, Virginia, where my husband’s mother lived for nearly two years. Their policies were transparent and clear.

New Health Care Directive Registry in Virginia

Visit the VA Registry site.

In case you missed this news on December 7, 2011, you may want to learn more about the new Virginia health care directive registry. It’s a free service. This article, Virginia Announces Free Online Health Care Registry, appeared on Richmond’s NBC News 12 site and explains more.

The Virginia Department of Health, working in a public-private partnership with Microsoft and UNIVAL (a health information technology company), now provide the registry as a communication tool to help people save and archive their end-of-life wishes and ensure that these wishes are honored by family members and/or caregivers. Personal preferences are saved in an easy-to-access web location so that loved ones can honor a person’s last wishes when necessary. Registered users will receive an identification care  and pin number which can be given to family members.

Individuals can put the following information into the registry.

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