By the GWAAR Medicare Outreach Team — for reprint
After a long winter, the signs of spring are sprouting up all around us. Now is a good time to focus on your health so you can enjoy all that this season has to offer. Taking advantage of Medicare preventive benefits is the perfect way to spring into better health!
Preventive services can help you prevent illnesses and detect health problems early, when treatment works best. People with Medicare have access to a wide range of preventive tests and screenings, most at no extra cost. If you’re new to Medicare, a “Welcome to Medicare” preventive visit is covered during the first 12 months you are enrolled in Part B. The visit includes a review of your medical and social history as well as education and counseling about preventive services, including certain screenings, shots and referrals for other care, if needed. Once you’ve had Part B for longer than 12 months, you can get a yearly “Wellness” visit to develop or update a personalized prevention plan based on your current health and risk factors. Note: The Wellness visit is not the same as an annual physical exam.
You pay nothing for the “Welcome to Medicare” visit or yearly “Wellness” visit if your doctor or other health
care provider accepts Medicare assignment. If additional tests or services are performed during the same visit that aren’t covered under the preventive benefit, you may have to pay coinsurance, and the Part B deductible may apply.
Medicare also covers screening tests for breast cancer, diabetes, heart disease, obesity management, and osteoporosis, just to name a few. You can find a complete list of Medicare-covered preventive services in your Medicare and You 2021 handbook or on the Medicare website at www.medicare.gov. Talk to your doctor about what screenings and shots are right for you.
For local assistance with Medicare questions or other health insurance counseling, contact the ADRC of Eagle Country, Richland Center office at 608-647-4616
IMPORTANT INFORMATION ABOUT REACHING SOCIAL SECURITY DURING THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC During the coronavirus pandemic, SSA continues to provide help to you and other people in your communities. While offices are not providing service to walk-in visitors, they remain ready and able to help you by phone with most Social Security business. You can speak with a representative by calling your local Social Security office or the National 800 Number. You can find local office phone numbers online by using the Social Security Office Locator at www.ssa.gov/locator. The La Crosse office serves most of Richland County and can be reached at 1-866-770-2345. SSA offers many secure and convenient online services at www.ssa.gov/ onlineservices, where you can:
Apply for Retirement, Disability, and Medicare benefits; Check the status of an application or appeal; Request a replacement Social Security card (in most areas);
Print a benefit verification letter and much more.
Although you can do most of your business with us online, we know that service channel isn’t right for everyone. You can still count on us by phone. If you have a critical situation and we cannot help you with by phone or online, we may be able to schedule an appointment for you. If you need help, please don’t wait until you can be seen in person. Call them now and get the help you need. SSA also understands that getting medical and other documentation can be difficult due to the pandemic, so they are continuing to extend certain deadlines wherever possible
Talk to someone who provides care for their aging loved one and they will tell you what a stressful job caregiving can be. The American Medical Association states that the role of caregiving places demands on the caregiver which leaves them at risk for health problems including serious illness and depression. And according to the American Journal of Public Health, middle-aged and older women caring for their spouses are six times more likely to suffer from depression or anxiety disorders than their non-caregiving counterparts. The result of this decline in health by the caregiver not only affects the person giving the care, but it may also compromise the care they are providing their loved one.
Reading information like this can make caregiving sound very bleak and discouraging. But we also know that caregiving can be a very rewarding job. The key difference between a caregiver who is barely hanging on and one who is managing successfully is having proper support in their role as a caregiver. Healthy and content caregivers not only receive help with the ongoing responsibilities of providing care but they also have found an emotional support network.
The American Medical Association suggests to physicians that “a referral to a support group should be recommended for all caregivers.” Oftentimes, people hear the words “support group” and immediately tune out. They are uncomfortable with the idea of sharing their feelings. Or they think of a support group as a pity party or place to complain about their lives. But support groups are much more than that and the benefits they offer are valuable. Even amidst the pandemic, these groups continue to meet by phone or online.
The definition of a support group is a gathering (in person, by phone or video-conference) of people in similar situations who provide each other moral support, practical information, and coping tips. Here are some of the benefits of attending support group meetings. They provide valuable information that will increase your knowledge of caregiving. One of the best resources for caregivers is other caregivers! They teach coping skills. The information and
advice that the group provides can assist in problem solving the many different challenging situations you may be experiencing. They are a place to share common concerns and joys. Others in similar situations can then offer encouragement and support. They are a safe place to identify and express stressful feelings with people who will understand and offer emotional support. Having this support can improve your mood and decrease feelings of distress. They provide affirmation and advocacy. The group serves as a source of validation and can offer avenues to local resources.
The benefits of attending support group meetings can help you feel less alone, give you new strategies to cope with day-to-day stressors and help you feel affirmed in your work as a caregiver. The result will be a healthier, happier you which in turn means better care for your loved one. By taking time to care for your physical and emotional needs, you will discover you can feel more joy and contentment in your caregiving role.
Currently there are dozens of support groups meeting virtually - by phone or video conference. You can find a list of them by visiting http://wisconsincaregiver.org/ virtual-events-for-caregivers or contact the ADRC of Eagle Country’s Richland Center office at 608-6474616.
If you have never attended a support group, give it a try. You might find it to be just the thing you needed to help you through another day or week of caregiving. If you are in need of other caregiver support or resources, please contact the ADRC at 608-647-4616.
Jane Mahoney Older American’s Act Consultant Greater Wisconsin Agency on Aging Resources
This article and more can be found in the Richland Center Office Family and Friends Newsletter.
The pandemic is still taking a toll on every kind of wellbeing we have. The new American Rescue Plan, just signed into law, gets the ball rolling to help out on many people’s financial well-being. Payments will soon be coming by direct deposit, checks, or a debit card to people eligible for the payment. You can learn more about who’s eligible, and the timing, at IRS.gov/ coronavirus. But let me tell you what will NOT happen, so you can spot and avoid the scammers who are right now crawling out from under their rocks.
1. The government will never ask you to pay anything up front to get this money. That’s a scam. Every time.
2. The government will not call/text/email/DM you to ask for your Social Security, bank account, or credit card number. Anyone who does is a scammer.
3. Nobody legit will ever — EVER — tell you to pay by gift card, cryptocurrency, or wire transfer through companies like Western Union or MoneyGram. You know who will tell you to pay like that? A scammer.
The new law also has some language about health insurance, temporarily increasing subsidies for newly laid -off people and many people buying their own health insurance through the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Please re-read #1-3, above, because they apply here, too. Nobody legitimate will ever call, text, email, or message you out of the blue about getting or keeping health insurance coverage, or to demand payment or your account numbers. That will always be a scam.
If you spot one of these scams, please tell the Federal Trade Commission at ReportFraud.ftc.gov. We’re doing our best to stop these scammers in their tracks, and your report will help.
The Drug Enforcement Administration isn’t calling
We’re getting reports about scammers pretending to be Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents. They’re trying to get your money and personal information, and using alarming phone calls to do it.
The DEA is alerting people to the scam. Their message: It’s not the DEA calling.
The scammers use fake names and badge numbers. Sometimes they use the names of real DEA agents and may even text photos of what look like legitimate law enforcement credentials. They may have information about you, like part or all of your Social Security number (SSN). When they target medical practitioners, like doctors and pharmacists, they may have their National Provider Identifier number or state license number.
The scammers’ stories vary, but usually go something like this: They’ve seized a car packed with illegal drugs. It was rented in your name. Or, they found identifying papers with your name in the car, at some drug-linked location, or on a bank account used for money laundering. You’re going to be arrested for drug trafficking and money laundering.
The fake agent comes up with a reason for you to transfer money to him — maybe for safekeeping, to pay a fine, or to prove you’re willing to cooperate. They’ll tell you how to send the money, often by wire transfer or by buying gift cards and telling them the numbers on the back of the cards.
Here’s what you need to know:
• The DEA will never call and ask for your SSN or other personal information. It won’t ask you to pay anything. And it won’t call to say you’re under investigation or threaten you with arrest. • Your caller ID might show a real DEA phone number, but that’s not the real DEA calling. Computers make it easy to show any number on caller ID. Don’t trust what you see there. • Never give your SSN to anyone who contacts you. Don’t confirm the last 4 digits. And don’t give a bank account or credit card number — ever — to anybody who contacts you asking for it. • Anyone who tells you to wire money, pay with a gift card, or send cash or cryptocurrency is a scammer. Always. No matter who they say they are. If you get a call like this, hang up. Tell friends and family members about it. Then, tell us about it too, at ReportFraud.ftc.gov
This article and more can be found on our Prairie du Chien office April Newsletter.
What is a divestment?
A divestment is a gift, sale, or transfer for less than fair market value. A divestment can take many different forms: a cash gift, a sale of a home for less than its current value, adding someone’s name to a property deed, disclaiming an inheritance, or paying on debt the person is not legally obligated to pay for.
Why is it important to know about divestments?
People applying for long-term care Medicaid benefits such as FamilyCare, IRIS, Partnership, Pace, and Institutional Medicaid will be screened to determine if any divestments were made in the five years prior to their application. Note: Divestments are also relevant for eligibility for Supplemental Security Income (SSI), but the penalty is calculated differently.
How does a divestment impact eligibility for long-term care Medicaid?
The agency that processes Medicaid applications will calculate a divestment penalty that will render the applicant ineligible for long-term Medicaid for a specific period of time. The current divestment divisor is $303.38 per day (according to Operations Memo 20-27, effective January 1, 2021). To calculate a person’s divestment penalty, take the total amount divested and divide it by $303.38. The result is the number of days that a person will be ineligible for long-term care Medicaid programs.
For example, if a person gave away $100,000, then take 100,000 and divide it by 303.38. The answer is 329.62, which is rounded down to 329. That means this person would be ineligible for long-term care Medicaid for 329 days (approximately 11 months).
What else is important to know about divestments?
Medicaid presumes that family members perform work and provide care to other family members gratuitously. Said another way, Medicaid assumes that the person who is performing the services or providing the care is not expecting to be paid. However, sometimes payment is expected and appropriate. In that case, there must be a signed and notarized contract in place between the two parties prior to the services being rendered and payment made. Otherwise, Medicaid will count those payments to family members as divestments. For more information, read the Medicaid Eligibility Handbook section 17.8.
It is also important to note that sometimes a transaction may appear to be a divestment, but upon further investigation, may not be a divestment at all. For example, someone may sell their home for less than the fair market value, which would seem to be a divestment. However, if there was a fire in the home and it was no longer structurally sound and needed a lot of repairs, it could be sold in “as is” condition for much less than it was previously worth. In those cases, pictures, insurance claim forms, and statements from a realtor can provide verification that the transaction was not a divestment.
Finally, remember that transactions between family members are always highly scrutinized. Keep good records, save receipts, take pictures, and create written agreements to substantiate the understanding of both parties.
This article and more can be found in Our Prairie du Chien Office February Newsletter.
Urgent News Release #1
Public Health Emergency Management
Rose Kohout, Health Officer Darin Gudgeon, Director
(608) 649-5965 (608) 647-8187
For immediate release: February 9, 2021
RICHLAND COUNTY WARMING CENTERS IDENTIFIED
Richland Center, WI: Due to the cold weather forecasted for the next few days, the following Richland County warming centers have been identified by Richland County Health & Human Services Public Health.
The Symons Recreational Complex will serve as a warming center in Richland Center, and will be open for individuals who need a warm place to go during the following business hours:
Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays 5:30AM to 8:30PM
Tuesdays and Thursdays 3:30PM to 8:30PM
Saturdays 7:30AM to 4:30PM
Sundays 1:00PM to 4:30 PM
A warming center will also be available in Viola. The Viola Village Office Building will serve in this capacity. Persons wishing to access this facility for warmth should contact Dana George upon their arrival at the village office. The building is open during the normal business hours of 8:30AM to 4:30PM.
Those seeking relief from the cold in Lone Rock, should call Adam Reno at 608-604-4527.
Listen for updated announcements on WRCO regarding whether a site remains open. Local officials will determine whether warming centers are necessary and safe to be open. The utilization of the sites will be continuously monitored to identify if any additional needs exist.
Please visit the Richland County website at www.co.richland.wi.us select the Emergency Management and Resources tabs for more information on the hours and locations of local warming centers.
Don’t Overlook Depression
Do you feel sad, empty, and hopeless much of the day? Are you having trouble sleeping, eating, or functioning? Have you lost interest in things that you used to enjoy? These are all signs of depression, a medical illness that aﬀects how you feel, the way you think and how you act.
Depression often goes undiagnosed and untreated as people tend to downplay the symptoms or blame them on other things. While it’s normal to feel sad and have a lack of energy occasionally, these feelings shouldn’t persist for more than a few days. Right now, with the cold darkness of winter and the pandemic raging, depression symptoms are on the rise. Depression is treatable and should not be overlooked as a possible cause of feeling sad and hopeless.
Symptoms of depression can vary from person to person, but anyone who has been experiencing ﬁve or more of the following symptoms for more than two weeks should contact their health care provider.
· Persistent sad, anxious, or "empty" mood · Sleeping too much or too little · Change in appetite resulting in weight gain or loss · Loss of pleasure and interest in activities once enjoyed · Irritability, restlessness · Crying too often or too much · Aches and pains that don’t go away when treated · Diﬃculty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions · Fatigue or loss of energy · Feeling guilty, hopeless, or worthless · Thoughts of death or suicide
Caregivers in particular need to be aware of the risk of depression. According to a survey by the Family Caregiver Alliance, caregivers experience depression at twice the rate of the general population. The added responsibility and stress of caring for a loved one, especially during a pandemic, can have a negative impact on a caregiver’s health if steps are not taken to stay healthy. If depression goes untreated it can lead to increased emotional and physical problems as well as aﬀect your ability to care for your loved one.
If diagnosed with depression, treatment usually includes medication, counseling, or a combination of the two. You can also practice these coping mechanisms to relieve symptoms of depression.
· Communicate your feelings with friends, family, a support group, or mental health professional. · Set limits – don’t try to do more than you can handle. Ask for help. · Take care of your body – eat well, get enough sleep, and exercise regularly · Learn ways to manage stress and relax. Schedule time each day to do something for yourself. · Maintain a good sense of humor. Find humor in daily events.
Knowing the symptoms of depression and understanding ways to reduce your risk of depression can help you stay healthy. Don’t overlook the seriousness of depression. If you or someone you know exhibits the signs of depression, seek medical help. Life can be enjoyable! 16
This article can also be read in our Mauston office Newsletter.
This post is from the National Council on Aging (ncoa) and can be viewed at: https://www.ncoa.org/economic-security/money-management/scams-security/top-10-scams-targeting-seniors/
Financial scams targeting seniors have become so prevalent that they’re now considered “the crime of the 21st century.” Why? Because seniors are thought to have a significant amount of money sitting in their accounts.
Financial scams also often go unreported or can be difficult to prosecute, so they’re considered a “low-risk” crime. However, they’re devastating to many older adults and can leave them in a very vulnerable position with little time to recoup their losses.
It’s not just wealthy seniors who are targeted. Low-income older adults are also at risk of financial abuse. And it’s not always strangers who perpetrate these crimes. Over 90% of all reported elder abuse is committed by an older person’s own family members, most often their adult children, followed by grandchildren, nieces and nephews, and others.
Review our list below, so you can identify a potential scam.
1. Medicare/health insurance scamsEvery U.S. citizen or permanent resident over age 65 qualifies for Medicare, so there is rarely any need for a scam artist to research what private health insurance company older people have in order to scam them out of some money.
In these types of scams, perpetrators may pose as a Medicare representative to get older people to give them their personal information, or they will provide bogus services for elderly people at makeshift mobile clinics, then use the personal information they provide to bill Medicare and pocket the money.
2. Counterfeit prescription drugsMost commonly, counterfeit drug scams operate on the Internet, where seniors increasingly go to find better prices on specialized medications. This scam is growing in popularity—since 2000, the FDA has investigated an average of 20 such cases per year, up from five a year in the 1990s.
The danger is that besides paying money for something that will not help a person’s medical condition, victims may purchase unsafe substances that can inflict even more harm. This scam can be as hard on the body as it is on the wallet.
3. Funeral & cemetery scamsThe FBI warns about two types of funeral and cemetery fraud perpetrated on seniors.
In one approach, scammers read obituaries and call or attend the funeral service of a complete stranger to take advantage of the grieving widow or widower. Claiming the deceased had an outstanding debt with them, scammers will try to extort money from relatives to settle the fake debts.
Another tactic of disreputable funeral homes is to capitalize on family members’ unfamiliarity with the considerable cost of funeral services to add unnecessary charges to the bill. In one common scam of this type, funeral directors will insist that a casket, usually one of the most expensive parts of funeral services, is necessary even when performing a direct cremation, which can be accomplished with a cardboard casket rather than an expensive display or burial casket.
4. Fraudulent anti-aging productsIn a society bombarded with images of the young and beautiful, it’s not surprising that some older people feel the need to conceal their age in order to participate more fully in social circles and the workplace. After all, 60 is the new 40, right?
It is in this spirit that many older Americans seek out new treatments and medications to maintain a youthful appearance, putting them at risk of scammers. Whether it’s fake Botox like the one in Arizona that netted its distributors (who were convicted and jailed in 2006) $1.5 million in barely a year, or completely bogus homeopathic remedies that do absolutely nothing, there is money in the anti-aging business.
Botox scams are particularly unsettling, as renegade labs creating versions of the real thing may still be working with the root ingredient, botulism neurotoxin, which is one of the most toxic substances known to science. A bad batch can have health consequences far beyond wrinkles or drooping neck muscles.
5. Telemarketing/phone scamsPerhaps the most common scheme is when scammers use fake telemarketing calls to prey on older people, who as a group make twice as many purchases over the phone than the national average. While the image of the lonely senior citizen with nobody to talk to may have something to do with this, it is far more likely that older people are more familiar with shopping over the phone, and therefore might not be fully aware of the risk.
With no face-to-face interaction, and no paper trail, these scams are incredibly hard to trace. Also, once a successful deal has been made, the buyer’s name is then shared with similar schemers looking for easy targets, sometimes defrauding the same person repeatedly.
Examples of telemarketing fraud include:
The pigeon dropThe con artist tells the individual that he/she has found a large sum of money and is willing to split it if the person will make a “good faith” payment by withdrawing funds from his/her bank account. Often, a second con artist is involved, posing as a lawyer, banker, or some other trustworthy stranger.
The fake accident ployThe con artist gets the victim to wire or send money on the pretext that the person’s child or another relative is in the hospital and needs the money.
Charity scamsMoney is solicited for fake charities. This often occurs after natural disasters.
6. Internet fraudWhile using the Internet is a great skill at any age, the slower speed of adoption among some older people makes them easier targets for automated Internet scams that are ubiquitous on the web and email programs. Pop-up browser windows simulating virus-scanning software will fool victims into either downloading a fake anti-virus program (at a substantial cost) or an actual virus that will open up whatever information is on the user’s computer to scammers.
Their unfamiliarity with the less visible aspects of browsing the web (firewalls and built-in virus protection, for example) make seniors especially susceptible to such traps. One example includes:
Email/phishing scamsA senior receives email messages that appear to be from a legitimate company or institution, asking them to “update” or “verify” their personal information. A senior receives emails that appear to be from the IRS about a tax refund.
7. Investment schemesBecause many seniors find themselves planning for retirement and managing their savings once they finish working, a number of investment schemes have been targeted at seniors looking to safeguard their cash for their later years. From pyramid schemes like Bernie Madoff’s (which counted a number of senior citizens among its victims) to fables of a Nigerian prince looking for a partner to claim inheritance money to complex financial products that many economists don’t even understand, investment schemes have long been a successful way to take advantage of older people.
8. Homeowner/reverse mortgage scamsScammers like to take advantage of the fact that many people above a certain age own their homes, a valuable asset that increases the potential dollar value of a certain scam.
A particularly elaborate property tax scam in San Diego saw fraudsters sending personalized letters to different properties apparently on behalf of the County Assessor’s Office. The letter, made to look official but displaying only public information, would identify the property’s assessed value and offer the homeowner, for a fee of course, to arrange for a reassessment of the property’s value and therefore the tax burden associated with it.
Closely related, there is the potential for a reverse mortgage borrower to be scammed. Scammers can take advantage of older adults who have recently unlocked equity in their homes. Those considering reverse mortgages should be cognizant of people in their lives pressuring them to obtain a reverse mortgage, or those that stand to benefit from the borrower accessing equity, such as home repair companies who approach the older adult directly.
9. Sweepstakes & lottery scamsThis simple scam is one that many are familiar with, and it capitalizes on the notion that “there’s no such thing as a free lunch.” Here, scammers inform their mark that they have won a lottery or sweepstakes of some kind and need to make some sort of payment to unlock the supposed prize. Often, seniors will be sent a check that they can deposit in their bank account, knowing that while it shows up in their account immediately, it will take a few days before the (fake) check is rejected. During that time, the criminals will quickly collect money for supposed fees or taxes on the prize, which they pocket while the victim has the “prize money” removed from his or her account as soon as the check bounces.
10. The grandparent scamThe grandparent scam is so simple and so devious because it uses one of older adults’ most reliable assets, their hearts.
Scammers will place a call to an older person and when the mark picks up, they will say something along the lines of: “Hi Grandma, do you know who this is?” When the unsuspecting grandparent guesses the name of the grandchild the scammer most sounds like, the scammer has established a fake identity without having done a lick of background research.
Once “in,” the fake grandchild will usually ask for money to solve some unexpected financial problem (overdue rent, payment for car repairs, etc.), to be paid via Western Union or MoneyGram, which don’t always require identification to collect. At the same time, the scam artist will beg the grandparent “please don’t tell my parents, they would kill me.”
While the sums from such a scam are likely to be in the hundreds, the very fact that no research is needed makes this a scam that can be perpetrated over and over at very little cost to the scammer.
If you suspect you’ve been the victim of a scam…Don’t be afraid or embarrassed to talk about it with someone you trust. You are not alone, and there are people who can help. Doing nothing could only make it worse. Keep handy the phone numbers and resources you can turn to, including the local police, your bank (if money has been taken from your accounts), and Adult Protective Services. To obtain the contact information for Adult Protective Services in your area, call the Eldercare Locator, a government sponsored national resource line, at: 1-800-677-1116, or visit their website at: https://eldercare.acl.gov.