Friday, April 25, 2008

Taking A Look at Part D

This week the Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report highlighted a study conducted by the Journal of the American Medical Association on the impact of the Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit.

Two key findings of the study indicated that the overall percentage of seniors who skipped taking medications due to cost issues has decreased since the January 2006 implementation of the Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit. However, the study also showed that there has been no improvement with regard to skipping pills among the sickest participants.

Researchers also found that 60% were unaware their plans had the so-called "doughnut hole" coverage gap. "The new Medicare Part D program provides billions of dollars in new benefits for seniors, but also imposes complex and high levels of cost-sharing," Hsu said in a statement, adding, "The study shows that many seniors have trouble understanding these benefits and that this poor knowledge limits their ability to manage their medication needs and costs" (Dunham, Reuters, 4/22).

For more information about the study please click HERE to visit the Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report or HERE to visit the abstract of the study at the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Comments Please: How have the costs of prescription drugs impacted your life or the lives of your family members?

Friday, April 18, 2008

Continuing the Dialogue

On Wednesday, April 16th, the U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging held a hearing entitled "Caring For Our Seniors: How Can We Support Those On The Frontlines?". The Committee Chairman, Senator H. Kohl (D-WI) led the hearing. During the hearing Senators engaged in dialogue with distinguished panelists including professors of medicine, geriatrics and aging issues as well as practitioners in those fields. The topics discussed included:

[]Improving training and retention strategies for caregivers;

[]Placing a higher value on geriatric medicine;

[] Recruiting more students and creating more incentives for them;

[]Balancing concerns about the Medicare trust fund and concerns about providing adequate geriatric care including wages;

[]Broad-based approaches to caregiving; and

[]Resources for family caregivers.

The other side of the caregiving issue was also discussed – informal care. An ever increasing number of Americans find themselves caring both for their children as well as their parents. According to a National Alliance of Caregivers (NAC)/AARP survey, in November 2006, between 30 million and 38 million adult caregivers provided care to adults with limitation in an activity of daily living. Caregivers provide on average 21 hours of care per week. About half of caregivers contribute financially to their parent’s budget, spending on average $200 per month or $2,400 per year. According to a 2004 NAC/AARP study, about 23% of caregivers say that caregiving is a financial hardship. The findings of this survey illustrate that 1) many seniors are coming up short financially and rely upon their children to help plug the gap; 2) almost one-fifth of workers are informal caregivers; and 3) when caregivers take time off from work and contribute financially to their parents, they come up short in their retirement and so the cycle continues. Policy must be crafted to address the current shortfalls regarding both formal and informal caregiving. At WOW, we are particularly interested in see parity in part-time work for those finding themselves in need of providing informal care. We also feel strongly about providing professional caregivers self-sufficient wages as well as health and retirement benefits. But this is just the beginning; we need to start to think more holistically about the role of the public and private sector when it comes to caregiving. Our economy can no longer afford to rely upon the private support of families to carry the full responsibility of caregiving. The hearing held on this topic is a good first step in the right direction.

For more information about the witnesses or to read testimony, please visit the U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging's website by clicking HERE.

Comments Please: What have you experienced in the caregiving industry or family caregiving? What aspects need to be improved upon as older Americans become a significantly larger part of our population?

Thursday, April 10, 2008

No Easy Way Out for Seniors

In the midst of our struggling economy and whirlwind of home foreclosures, disturbing predatory practices continue to thrive. Opportunistic and suspect characters are already swindling hard working older Americans out of their opportunity to achieve economic security through homeownership!

According to the National Consumer Law Center (NCLC), there are at least three “foreclosure scams” in play today with our seniors as the number one target - Phantom Help, False Bailouts, and Bait-And-Switch. Each of these practices preys upon seniors teetering on economic insecurity and quickly running low on funds and resources. These lopsided strategies often result in older Americans incurring additional debt and/or having to surrender their most important facet of economic security - their homes.

Thankfully policymakers are taking the time to look at the issue specifically from the perspective of seniors. Recently a hearing was held about the impact of foreclosures on the elderly by the Senate Special Committee on Aging. It was chaired by Senator Herb Kohl (D-WI). It seems foreclosure scammers hone in on elders because in comparison to others they have larger equity on their properties. Although, as the title of this blog suggests, there is no easy way out of foreclosure troubles there are appropriate steps that can be taken and help is available. NCLC suggests the following strategies:

[]Get Legal Advice Immediately;
[]Apply for Income Maintenance, Tax Abatement and Public Assistance Programs;
[]Negotiate with the Mortgage Company or Servicer;
[]Refinance the Home Debt;
[]Consider Selling the House Before Foreclosure; and
[]Consider Filing Bankruptcy.

Most importantly advocates and service providers must inform seniors of these predatory practices and steer them clear of the landmine that they are. As the Elder Economic Security Standard Index demonstrates, assets such as homes are extremely critical to an elder’s economic security. Even so, if an elder must return to renter status by selling their home free and clear, that can be a better alternative to getting caught in the web of these foreclosure scams.

Comments Please: Has someone in your family been approached by a suspect individual suggesting they can "save" them from the housing crisis by entering into a new contract with them?

Friday, April 4, 2008

Today the Tax Policy Center (co-directed by The Urban Institute and The Brookings Institution) hosted an event titled "Race, Ethnicity, Poverty, and the Tax-Transfer System" which was a quite interesting discussion. The main topics were Education, Work and Family Incentives, and Social Security as related to tax policy. As one might expect, the EESI team zeroed in on the third topic.

The panelist discussing Social Security was Melissa M. Favreault, a Senior Research Associate in the Urban Institute's Income and Benefits Policy Center. Ms. Favreault brought up quite a few interesting points regarding low-income older Americans and The Social Security system. Among the most notable are the following, many of which are illustrated by the Elder Standard™ Index:

[]Economic status upon retirement is highly cumulative as various disadvantages compound over a lifetime;

[] For the average low-wage worker, their Federal Insurance Contribution Act (FICA) contribution in combination with the shifted burden of the employee contribution (by a reduction in wages), over a lifetime, often exceeds their take home pay;

[] Because Social Security pays benefits in the form of life annuities, those with longer life expectancy can expect to receive larger payouts. As a result, the literature suggests many men and women of color often pay into the system more than they receive in payout;
[] Decoupling supplemental Social Security benefits from marriage and rather directing them toward child care or other dependent care would be the only true way of honoring and compensating caregiving contributions across lines of race, ethnicity and sexual preference;
[] Social Security comprises 90%+ of income for adults 65 and older in the bottom income quintile as compared to just 28% for the middle quintile.

For more information, visit the EESI section of the Wider Opportunities for Women website or contact

Comments Please: Have you experienced the magnification of disparities upon retirement personally or with a family member?