Metropolitan Area Agency on Aging: Aging News You Can Use

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February 2016
Information and Resources to Know and Share
Welcome to the first 2016 edition of Aging News You Can Use! This issue features answers to two Medicare questions: how Social Security Administration is related to Medicare and the different Medicare Part B premiums. We highlight the Community Options Team; provide an update on two new Health Insurance Counseling sites; and offer a fond farewell to Marilyn Theesfeld. Thank you for your continued partnership. Together, we can promote successful aging in our communities.
Emily Justman, Chee Moua, and Kelsey Heisler
MAAA Outreach Team
Senior LinkAge Line® is a partnership of the Minnesota Board on Aging and Area Agencies on Aging. 
ASK AN MAAA EXPERT
Answers to Your Medicare Questions and More
Q:  How is Social Security related to Medicare?

A:  Medicare is a federal health insurance program that came into effect as part of a Social Security law passed in 1965. The Social Security Administration (SSA) determines Medicare and Low Income Subsidy (LIS) eligibility. Social Security takes applications for Medicare and enrolls beneficiaries. They also issue Medicare cards and resolve initial billing and eligibility problems. Some people confuse their eligibility to begin Social Security retirement benefits with their age-specific use of Medicare. Regardless of when someone starts collecting their Social Security benefit, they are eligible for Medicare at age 65. The Social Security Administration can be reached at https://www.ssa.gov/ or by calling 1-800-772-1213 (TTY1-800-325-0778).

 
Q:  Why are there different Medicare Part B premiums in 2016?

A:  Medicare Part B premiums are supposed to be a fixed percent of what is projected to be the Part B average total cost for the year. However, the Social Security Act contains a hold-harmless provision that protects previous-year Medicare beneficiaries from paying a larger increase in Medicare Part B premiums than they receive from a Social Security Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA). For 2016, the Medicare Part B total cost per participant is expected to increase — but there is no COLA increase for Social Security benefits. Therefore, the 2015 Medicare beneficiary who also was collecting Social Security benefits will continue to pay the same rate ($104.90 per month) for Medicare Part B. Most who are new to Medicare and/or Social Security benefits in 2016 must pay the higher 2016 premium of $121.80 per month.

Since 2007, higher income beneficiaries have been paying a larger Part B premium, based on income they reported to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). The income thresholds through 2019 are $85,000 for an individual and $170,000 for a married couple. Their premiums are based on a sliding scale depending on actual income.
A CLOSER LOOK
Featured Senior LinkAge Line Services
Community Options Counseling

By Kristen Pearce, Community Options Team Supervisor
The Community Options Team provides comprehensive, easy to understand, and objective information to seniors and family members about home and community-based resource options to maintain independence and to support informed decision making. The staff provides telephone assistance for consumers who are considering a move into an assisted living facility. The process includes the issuance of a Verification Code, which is required by the State before the move. The goal of calling is to receive options counseling and support related to current or anticipated long-term care needs.
There are multiple reasons to receive options counseling. The most important being we want seniors to know they have choices. If an older adult wants to remain in his or her home, but requires more assistance, there are services and programs that can help. Our staff knows in-home services and other community based supports inside and out.Another important consideration is the rising cost of housing and health care services. The Community Options Team works with older adults and families to explore all options available in hopes of reducing out-of-pocket costs to facilitate more control over personal finances.

The Community Options Team’s Information and Assistance Specialists are licensed social workers with extensive training in community programs and in helping callers explore their options.  On an average day, our staff may answer questions about energy assistance, “lifeline” phone programs, moving services, caregiver support, billing issues, public benefits and many other concerns. We serve a large number of older adults and family members who say they learn about their options and make better choices as a result of consulting with us. The service is free and available by calling the Senior LinkAge Line at 1-800-333-2433.

INDUSTRY PULSE
What’s Happening in Aging
Caregiving for Older Adults: A Part of Our Culture Resources Available
An educational campaign geared to ethnic and new immigrant caregivers and older adults was launched in November. The goal is to raise awareness of caregiving, promote planning ahead and self-care, and link families with available resources.  Short Videos and Tip Sheets are available in Spanish, Hmong, Somali, Khmer (Cambodian), and English. The project was developed by the Minnesota Board on Aging in partnership with Area Agencies on Aging, ECHO (Emergency Community Health Outreach), community providers, and community members.
VOLUNTEER CORNER
Health Insurance Counseling sites and volunteer recruitment
By Colleen Fritsch, MAAA Volunteer Coordinator
Two new sites have partnered with the Senior LinkAge Line to offer one-on-one health insurance counseling in their community. In partnership with Northeast Senior Services, MAAA offers health insurance counseling at The Legacy, 540 Kenzie Terrace in Minneapolis now regularly scheduled for the first Tuesday of each month from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. Health insurance counseling is also available at Bottineau Park, 2000 2nd ST NE, Minneapolis on the 3rd Thursday of each month from 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m.The Senior LinkAge Line’s work in the community is most often powered by volunteers! We are seeking volunteers to help staff exhibit booths at local community festivals, senior fairs, or health fairs. MAAA provides committed, caring professionals to support you. If interested in volunteering, contact Colleen via email at cfritsch@metroaging.org or by phone at 651-917-4638. For more information about MAAA’s work in and with the community, visit us on our webpage.

IN THE SPOTLIGHT
Farewell Marilyn Theesfeld
Happy Retirement, Marilyn

The Outreach Team celebrated Marilyn Theesfeld’s career and bid her farewell in January. Marilyn worked at MAAA for almost 8 years, most of which was spent in the role of Senior Outreach Specialist. For nearly 20 years, Marilyn had a career in the insurance industry moving her all over the country.
Marilyn relocated to Minnesota to be closer to family where she began her career in human services. She completed a Master’s degree in Counseling and Gerontology from Bethel University and worked with children and older adults in a church ministry position for 10 years. Marilyn also taught a Leadership class in Bethel University’s Gerontology graduate program. During retirement she plans to spend more time outdoors and with her family. We thank Marilyn for her fine work at MAAA and wish her the best in the days ahead.
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Aging News You Can Use is a publication of the Metropolitan Area Agency on Aging. Connect with the Outreach Team at outreach@metroaging.org.© 2015, Metropolitan Area Agency on Aging