Category: In the News

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Texas Silver-Haired Legislature Working for Seniors

Delegates from 28 Districts Sworn in at the 18th Texas Silver-Haired Legislature

Press Release by Texas Silver-Haired Legislature (TSHL)

The 18th Texas Silver-Haired Legislature (TSHL) convened on the floor of the House of Representatives in Austin, Texas, July 14- 18 this summer. Eighty delegates from 28 districts in Texas were sworn in for a two-year term by the Honorable Donna Howard, Texas Rep. District 48.

This five-day meeting was the first of three TSHL sessions to be held over the next 12 months. The delegates will research senior issues in Texas, prepare resolutions for proposed legislation, pass them through committee, and vote on them in full chamber next May. Approved resolutions will be included in a 2020 TSHL Legislative Report that will be delivered to all legislators, as well as to the Governor and Lt. Governor, in advance of the 2021 state session.

The Texas Silver-Haired Legislature is a non-partisan body created by the 69th Texas Legislature with the adoption of SCR 37, on April 3, 1985. Since its inception, some 684 seniors have been elected to serve in TSHL. The vision of TSHL is that “the applied wisdom, energy, and experience of aging will improve the lives of all Texans through education, knowledge, and involvement in legislation and governmental affairs.

Irene Andrews Texas Silver-Haired Legislature Central Texas representative

Central Texas TSHL representative Irene Andrews

Local resident Irene Andrews, representing Central Texas which includes the seven counties of Bell, Coryell, Hamilton, Lampasas, Milam, Mills and San Saba, was among the sworn delegates and will serve her second term as elected chair of the sub-committee on Retirement and Aging. In her first term, she is proud to have co-signed a resolution that asked the Legislature to take action to make the Teacher Retirement System Pension Plan actuarily sound. She helped inform her fellow TSHL members on this issue, explaining that TRS impacts thousands of seniors in this state who are retired teachers, such as herself. It became one of the top ten resolutions that TSHL voted on, approved and published in their Legislative Report.

Andrews recalled visiting the Capitol many times, both before and during the recent 2019 State Legislative session, meeting with Rep. Brad Buckley and staff members of Senator Dawn Buckingham, to remind them of how critical it was to make TRS actuarily sound. “I am pleased the bill received so much support. Through the efforts of countless volunteers, within TSHL, Teacher Union Organizations and the Texas Retired Teachers Association, what began as a resolution became law.”

At the convention, the Honorable Rhonda M. Rogers, representing the Ark-Tex district, was elected Speaker for the 2019-2021 legislative term. Rogers, a retired military officer and teacher living in Paris, Texas, has served on TSHL since 2015.

Elected to serve on the TSHL Executive Committee with Rogers, are Speaker Pro Tem Dr. Sharron (Sherry) Hubbard, representative of the Concho Valley District;  Deputy Speaker Pro Tem Barbara Aydlett from the Heart of Texas District; Comptroller Barbie Butler-Johnson of the Brazos Valley District; and Secretary Pam Edgerley representing the Brazos Valley District.

Outgoing Speaker, the Honorable Walter Graham, was named Speaker Emeritus during the closing session. Graham represents the West Central Texas District and served as Speaker from 2008-2013 and again from 2017-2019. Rogers praised Graham for his dedication, commitment, and hard work for the senior population of Texas. “Walter Graham has served in virtually every office in the Texas Silver-Haired Legislature during his eight terms. His leadership has resulted in countless bills that have been passed into law and I know that he will continue to serve our senior citizens and this great State as Speaker Emeritus,” she said.

Legislation that the advocacy group has crafted in past sessions includes increasing the financial strength of the Teacher Retirement System pension plan, creating the Silver Alert for missing seniors, increasing the monthly personal needs allowance to $60 for Medicaid nursing home residents, allowing grandparent caregivers to make educational and medical decisions for a grandchild without having custodial rights, and enhancing criminal degree and fines for those who perpetrate internet Fraud against seniors.

“The work we do to advocate for and improve the lives of Seniors in Texas is totally voluntary. We are always looking for people 60 years and older to join the ranks of TSHL. It is an honor to serve and rewarding to see the positive impact we are making for seniors in Texas”, said Andrews.

To get involved with TSHL, contact Irene Andrews at TSHLirene@gmail.com, visit her Facebook page @empower60, or call Kerry Fillip, Director of the Area Agency on Aging of Central Texas at (254) 770-2344 or (855) 937-2372. Additional information is also available on the TSHL website at www.txshl.org.

 

genetic testing scams target older adults with dna double helix image

Genetic Testing Fraud Targets Older Adults

Protecting Yourself and Your Medicare Coverage

Article by Texas Senior Medicare Patrol

Genetic testing scams are currently a widespread issue throughout the country. Scammers are offering Medicare beneficiaries cheek swabs for genetic testing to obtain their Medicare information for identity theft or fraudulent billing purposes.

What is Genetic Testing Fraud?

Genetic testing fraud occurs when Medicare is billed for a test or screening that was not medically necessary and/or was not ordered by a beneficiary’s treating physician.

What are Examples of Genetic Testing Fraud?

  • A company offering you “free” testing without a treating physician’s order and then billing Medicare. These tests go by many names and claim to test for many things. Here are some examples of ways you may see this advertised:
    • Cancer screening / test
    • DNA screening / test
    • Hereditary cancer screening / test
    • Dementia screening / test
    • Parkinson’s screening / test
    • Pharmacogenomics – medication metabolization
  • A company providing a test or screening that you never requested or that you do not need.
  • A company billing Medicare for screening services that are not covered by Medicare or for screenings that do not apply to you.
  • A company requesting your Medicare number at a community event, a local fair, a farmer’s market, a parking lot, or any other event.

What Happens if Medicare Denies the Genetic Test Claims?

You could be responsible for the entire cost of the test! The average is $9,000-$11,000.

What Can You Do to Stop Genetic Testing Fraud?

  • Be sure your doctor has assessed your condition. Although Medicare covers many genetic tests for diagnostic use, it only covers one preventative genetic test to screen for cancer.
  • Do not give out your personal information or accept screening services from someone at a community event, a local fair, a farmer’s market, a parking lot, or any other event.
  • Always read your Medicare Summary Notice (MSN) or Explanation of Benefits (EOB). The words “gene analysis,” “molecular pathology,” or “laboratory” may indicate questionable genetic testing has occurred.
  • If you received a cheek swab or a screening that was not medically necessary, report your concerns about billing errors or possible fraud and abuse to your local SMP.Do not allow speakers to collect Medicare numbers from attendees.

How the Texas Senior Medicare Patrol (SMP) Can Help

The Texas SMP is ready to provide you with the information you need to PROTECT yourself from Medicare fraud, errors, and abuse; DETECT potential fraud, errors, and abuse; and REPORT your concerns. SMPs and their trained volunteers help educate and empower Medicare beneficiaries in the fight against health care fraud. The Texas SMP can help you with your questions, concerns, or complaints about potential fraud and abuse issues. It also can provide information and educational presentations.

REPORT MEDICARE ERROR, FRAUD OR ABUSE TO THE TEXAS SMP:  1-888-341-6187

When are Genetic Tests Covered?

  • When someone has stage III or IV cancer
  • When the test is medically reasonable and necessary
  • Federal regulations define medical necessity as “services or items reasonable and necessary for the diagnosis or treatment of illness or injury or to improve the functioning of a malformed body member.”
  • When it is ordered by a treating physician
  • Federal regulations define a treating physician as “the physician who furnishes a consultation or treats a beneficiary for a specific medical problem and who uses the results in the management of the beneficiary’s specific medical problem. Tests not ordered by the physician who is treating the beneficiary are not reasonable and necessary.”
  • When one or more coverage requirements are met for colorectal cancer genetic screening
  • There is no other Medicare coverage for genetic testing as a screening service.
  • When a treating physician orders the test as a diagnostic service and uses the results to manage the patient’s condition

How are Fraudsters Benefiting from Genetic Testing Fraud?

See the chart for why this is becoming more prevalent. These services are not free. Each cheek swab could potentially make the company thousands of dollars by billing Medicare and/or you for services that were not needed.

Example Charges for One Cheek Swab

genetic-fraud-cheek-swab-chart

More Tips from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services

Download and share the fact sheet from www.medicare.gov to keep yourself and your loved ones protected from genetic testing scams.

508_eob-genetic-testing-fraud-1-_page_1 508_eob-genetic-testing-fraud-1-_page_2

Supported by a grant (No. 90MPRC0001) from the Administration for Community Living (ACL), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS).

Worried elderly man and woman

Protecting Seniors from Health Care Fraud

Health Care Scams Cost Medicare Beneficiaries Billions

Article by Senior Medicare Patrol

The Medicare program and Medicare beneficiaries lose an estimated $60 to $90 billion each year to health care fraud as older adults are increasingly targeted by scam artists. This fact sheet provides basic information and tips you can use to help prevent health care fraud in your facility.

Senior center and senior housing staff are in a unique position to help protect their clients from unscrupulous practices that take money away from much-needed programs and from older adults.

Your clients trust you and often believe that any product, service or activity that your organization directly or indirectly promotes has been properly checked out.

You should know about fraud schemes targeting your community and have practices in place to safeguard your clients. Your local SMP can educate you about local fraud and scams.

Common Health Care Scams that Affect Beneficiaries

  • Services Not Provided – beneficiaries are billed for services never received or health care providers change billing codes or submit fake claims.
  • Medical Equipment Fraud – equipment manufacturers may offer “free” products or waive required copayments or deductibles in exchange for a Medicare number.
  • Free Health Screenings – a vendor offers to provide “free” health care screenings, lab tests or other services but asks for a person’s Medicare number.
  • Insurance Bait & Switch or Cross-selling – licensed agents present information about a Medicare Advantage plan, describing benefits and services that the plan doesn’t actually offer, and then sign people up for a plan that isn’t right for them.
  • Counterfeit Prescription Drugs – beneficiaries purchase medication over the Internet to save money, but the drugs they receive are not the right medication or the right dosage.
  • Medical Identity Theft – this can happen when someone uses a person’s Social Security number or Medicare number, date of birth, credit card number or other personal information. This information can be obtained by asking for it at an event or over the phone or stealing information from a wallet or the trash.

Tips for Protecting Your Clients & Your Organization

  • Do not allow presenters to get names and telephone number from participants.
  • Screen any group that wants to provide information or services to your community – see if they are an approved agency or licensed business. Check with your local SMP, Better Business Bureau or state department of insurance, as appropriate, for complaints.
  • Review all materials that are distributed or promoted in your organization.
  • For any agencies, organizations or individuals who want to offer services through your organization, create written agreements that clarify roles and responsibilities.
  • Know Medicare marketing guidelines—e.g., Medicare does not call to ask for sensitive personal information and forbids unsolicited telemarketing, e-mail marketing, and sales of Medicare-related products and services.
  • Be wary of any entity that offers FREE prizes, meals, groceries, low-cost health care products, nutritional supplements or inexpensive vacations, or says that Medicare will pay for it. Watch for high-pressure sales tactics.
  • Consider making fraud awareness training an ongoing priority for your staff.

Guide for Inviting Outside Speakers to Your Organization

  • Do not allow speakers to collect Medicare numbers from attendees.
  • Request a biography from the speaker in writing before the presentation.
  • Check references for agencies or organizations; ask about them in your senior network; and check out potential speakers.
  • Do not allow a “sales pitch.”

How Your Senior Medicare Patrol (SMP) Can Help

The local SMPs are ready to provide Medicare beneficiaries with the information they need to PROTECT seniors from Medicare errors, fraud and abuse; DETECT potential errors, fraud, and abuse; and REPORT their concerns. SMPs use trained senior volunteers to help educate and empower older adults in the fight against health care fraud. The local SMP can help beneficiaries with questions, concerns or complaints about potential fraud and abuse issues. It also provides information and speakers for your facility.

 

For assistance, call the Texas SMP program at 713-341-6184 or 1-888-341-6187.

For more information or to locate your state SMP, visit www.smpresource.org.
Supported by grant number 90NP0001/01 from the U.S. Administration on Aging (AoA), Department of Health and Human Services.

 

diabetes management

Diabetes Management

“Once you get a diabetes diagnosis, the one thing that happens is…nothing,” Viola Davis said in her latest interview on Live with Kelly and Ryan. While discussing her pre-diabetes diagnosis and new documentary, A Touch of Sugar, Viola touches on how diabetic patients can feel isolated and hopeless. If you feel as alone as she did when diagnosed with diabetes or pre-diabetes, we’re here to provide the support you need!

Diabetes Management classes will allow you to discover how to balance healthy eating and activity to maintain blood sugar levels. We’ll show you how to select healthy food and recognize carbs, fats, and proteins. You’ll learn the impact of high and low blood sugar levels. Primarily, you’ll learn how to set goals for day-to-day management.

Free Health and Wellness Classes

Our Community Health and Wellness programs are free and open to the public with no age or income requirements. Certified instructors provide the tools you need to take charge of your health during weekly sessions at various locations throughout our seven-county service area.

Call us today at 1-855-937-2372 or 254-770-2330 and learn more about our classes and other free tools for health management, benefits, income security, and more.

powerful tools for caregivers class review

Powerful Tools for Caregivers Class Receives Great Reviews

powerful tools for caregivers class review

“Not in This Alone” – Caregiver Class Reviews

We wrapped up our latest Powerful Tools for Caregivers class at Seton Medical Center in Harker Heights last night. It was a great class filled with sharing and eagerness to learn. Here are a few of the reviews from the class participants:

“I wish it was longer so we could have more sessions. I will continue to read the book and get more information. I am glad I attended.”

“I learned new ways to handle caregiving concerns and how to relate to the care recipient better.”

“The classes were fun.  Easy to share and laugh.”

“Every week I came home more positive and more at peace.  My family even noticed the difference.”

“Most important lesson – I need to take better care of me to be a good caregiver.”

“Class is awesome!  Thank you for caring and helping us through our difficult time.”

We’ll have new classes for caregiving, balance, diabetes self-management, and more coming soon!

Older Americans Month poster 2019 Connect Create Contribute

Older Americans Month: Connect, Create, Contribute

May 1, 2019

Every day, all around us, older adults make a positive impact in our communities. As employees, volunteers, mentors, and advocates, they are an integral part of America’s social fabric. Their experience and insights enrich and strengthen our neighborhoods, workplaces, and families.

That’s why ACL takes time each May to honor their valuable contributions and celebrate Older Americans Month (OAM). People of all ages can celebrate OAM and help older adults thrive. With the 2019 theme, Connect, Create, and Contribute, ACL invites you to:

  • Connect with friends, family, and services that support participation
  • Create through activities that promote learning, health, and personal enrichment
  • Contribute time, talent, and life experience to benefit others

ACL offers information about resources to assist older adults, family members, care providers, organizations, and neighbors connect, create, and contribute. We have also put together a list of suggested activities to celebrate OAM.

We encourage you to Connect, Create, and Contribute for stronger communities this month and throughout the year. Visit acl.gov/oam for ways to get started and watch our blog for upcoming posts that explore ways to connect, create, and contribute in your communities.

Follow ACL on Twitter and Facebook, and join the conversation using #OAM19 and #ConnectCreateContribute.

Older Americans Month logo

Older Americans Month proclamation presented to Holland, TX mayor

Older Americans Month Proclamation

Older Americans Month proclamation presented to Holland, TX mayor

Our Community Health & Wellness Programs Coordinator Susan Burchfield presented the Older Americans Month Proclamation to Stanley Koonsen, Mayor of Holland, TX on April 29, 2019.

Led by the Administration for Community Living (ACL) each May, Older Americans Month (OAM) provides resources to help older Americans stay healthy and independent, and resources to help communities support and celebrate their diversity. OAM has been recognizing the contributions of this growing population for 56 years.

This year’s OAM theme, Connect, Create, Contribute, encourages older adults and their communities to:

  • Connect with friends, family, and local services and resources.
  • Create through activities that promote learning, health, and personal enrichment.
  • Contribute time, talent, and life experience to benefit others.

Communities that support and recognize older adults are stronger! Join us in strengthening our community – this May and throughout the year. Visit the official OAM website for ideas and inspiration, and follow ACL on Twitter and Facebook. Learn more about our resources and free classes to support older Americans on the health, wellness, and prevention page.

Ombudsman Volunteers Group Photo

Ombudsman Volunteer Appreciation Event

Thank You to Our Ombudsman Volunteers!

Last week we held an appreciation event where we showered our volunteers with gifts and refreshments. Thank you to all of our “All Star” Ombudsmen! If you have a heart for residents of long-term care facilities and are interested in advocating for their rights, visit our Ombudsman page or contact Ombudsman coordinator Chrystal Griggs at 254-770-2368 to learn more.

Ombudsman Volunteers Group Photo
Ombudsman from left to right:  Roxanne Flores-Achmad, Karin Villasana, Lionel Villasana, Melinda Wenzl, Millie Ogilive, and Jeanne Whorton

Ombudsman Appreciation Table Display

Ombudsman Appreciation Event

Ombudsman Appreciation Wall

Senate Finance Committee Hearing Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect

Senate Finance Committee Hearing Held on Nursing Homes Abuse and Neglect

Not Forgotten:  Protecting Americans From Abuse and Neglect in Nursing Homes

By Chrystal Griggs, Regional Ombudsman for Central Texas Council of Governments

On March 6, 2019, the Senate Finance Committee, chaired by Senator Grassley, held a hearing entitled, “Not Forgotten: Protecting Americans From Abuse and Neglect in Nursing Homes.” After opening statements from Chairman Grassley and Ranking Member Senator Ron Wyden, the daughters of two nursing home residents gave heartbreaking and distressing testimony about each of their mother’s experiences – one with neglect, the other with abuse. Following their statements, five additional witnesses provided testimony:  Dr. David Gifford, American Health Care Association; Dr. David Grabowksi, Harvard Medical School; Dr. Kate Goodrich, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services; Antoinette Bacon, Department of Justice; and Keesha Mitchell, Office of the Ohio Attorney General.

Numerous issues were raised during the hearing, among them, Nursing Home Compare and the Five-Star Rating System, the closing of rural nursing homes, Medicaid reimbursement rates, regulations and enforcement, and staffing. Director of Public Policy and Advocacy Robyn Grant attended the hearing. She expressed concern that there was no consumer advocate on the panel who could have testified to the resident experience nationwide and provided the consumer perspective on care, abuse, and neglect. Grant also voiced disappointment that although the title of the hearing indicated the topic would be abuse and neglect, there was not a focused discussion and examination of ways to prevent and end nursing home abuse and neglect.

View a recording of the hearing on the Senate Finance Committee’s Facebook page.