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14 posts from October 2013

October 4, 2013

Resources for Navigating the Health Insurance Marketplaces

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It’s day 4 of open enrollment in the Health Insurance Marketplaces, and by many accounts, interest in the Marketplaces is high. If you’re thinking about getting coverage, but aren’t sure what to do, SAGE’s Health Insurance Action Center is a good place to start. In addition, there are many resources online to help you navigate the application process, figure out what kind of paperwork you need, and help you choose the right plan for you—the most comprehensive of these sites is Healthcare.gov.*

Here are a few other resources that can help you understand the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and how the Marketplaces work. If you need health insurance, you can take your time to research all your options—the open enrollment period doesn’t end until March 31, 2014.

*If you visit Healthcare.gov, you may encounter a “wait page” because traffic to the site has been high. Please note that this is a hold page – it is not an error page.  Please be patient, wait on that page to ensure that the system works when you get in, and don’t reload your browser. 

October 3, 2013

SAGE Story: Bringing LGBT Elder Stories to Life

Today’s post is from Robert Espinoza, Senior Director for Public Policy and Communications at SAGE. Follow him on Twitter.

Those moments when you share a personal story that you've held for years—and the listener connects beyond the intellectual—become gems. You remember them forever. Perhaps you open up about a long-held secret. Or you craft a story to revisit a grievance, impart how someone affected you for years, and ask for forgiveness or atonement. You recall a better track you once took—and why. You honor those special people in your life through a vignette; someone hears it and learns to move on.

Our stories connect us to our past and to our loved ones. We cannot transform the decision-makers of our world unless we recount what shaped our own tiny worlds.

SAGEStory_blogPostThe power of storytelling serves as the premise for SAGE Story, our acclaimed national digital storytelling program for LGBT older people. We have learned that a story can personify a complex policy issue and make it relatable. It dramatizes the human consequences of policy decisions, lifelong economic hardship or an incident of discrimination. And when people share their stories—in person or online—they come to terms with those memories and the process serves as catharsis. Those who hear the stories, in turn, grow more empathetic.

A colleague once remarked that our histories as LGBT people have so often been shaped by others—revised, ignored or erased—that we forget the importance of crafting our own stories.

Continue reading "SAGE Story: Bringing LGBT Elder Stories to Life" »

October 1, 2013

How Will the Government Shutdown Impact Older Adults?

5885982The federal government shut down today, and many are wondering how this will affect their federal benefits. The short answer is that for now, most Americans who rely on federal benefit payments will be unaffected. Spending on programs such as Social Security, Medicare, and benefits for retired federal employees will continue.

Here are a few more questions and answers about programs that affect many older adults:

Would a shutdown put the brakes on implementing the Affordable Care Act, or "Obamacare?" No. The state-run exchanges for the uninsured would open as scheduled Tuesday. "The marketplaces will be open on Tuesday, no matter what, even if there is a government shutdown," President Obama said Friday.

Why not? Like Social Security or Medicaid, Obamacare is a permanent entitlement that isn't subject to annual funding by Congress. "Many of the core parts of the health care law are funded through mandatory appropriations and wouldn't be affected," Gary Cohen, the Health and Human Services Department official overseeing the health care rollout, said last week.

Would seniors continue to get Social Security benefits? Yes. Social Security is a mandatory spending program, and the people who send those checks would continue to work under a legal doctrine called "necessary implication."

Can I apply for Social Security benefits, appeal a denial of benefits, change my address or sign up for direct deposit? Yes.

Can I get a new or replacement Social Security card, benefit verification statement or earnings record correction? No.

Would the government continue to pay unemployment benefits? Yes. The Employment and Training Administration "will continue to provide essential functions, as occurred during the shutdown of 1995," according to the Department of Labor contingency plan.

Will I be able to get food stamps? Yes. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is funded through the Recovery Act and from funds that don't expire for another year, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says.

What will happen to veterans receiving compensation for service- or combat-related wounds and injuries? The Department of Veterans Affairs said if the shutdown continues into late October, it will run out of money for compensation and pension checks to more than 3.6 million veterans who rely on the money to support themselves.

Will deceased veterans still be able to get a burial benefit? Yes. Burial benefits, headstones and death notices will still be available.

This Q&A was excerpted from the USA Today article, “66 questions and answers about the government shutdown.”  For a chart detailing the impact of the shutdown on various offices and functions, see “Government Shutdown: What’s Closed, What’s Open?” at CNN.

Open Enrollment in the Health Insurance Marketplace Starts Now!

LGBTAmericans_ACAToday is the start of open enrollment in the Health Insurance Marketplace, a part of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) older people ages 50-64, who tend to report lower rates of health insurance coverage, stand to benefit greatly from the Marketplace.

Without insurance, many people delay care, which can exacerbate poor health. LGBT people across the age span deal with significant disparities in multiple areas related to physical and mental health, and an older person’s poor health represents the cumulative effect of a lifetime of discrimination. In addition, many LGBT older people have faced discrimination in health care settings or have been denied coverage because they were transgender or living with HIV/AIDS.  

However, the ACA prevents health insurers from denying coverage or charging higher premiums based on pre-existing conditions, or a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity. This is a significant step toward expanding health care access for transgender people and people living with HIV/AIDS. And new benefits for elders on Medicare improve access to preventive services and reduce prescription drug costs.

Are you uninsured, or underinsured? As a Champion for Coverage, SAGE wants you to get the health insurance you need. First, determine whether you should be shopping for health insurance in the Marketplace, or if you’re already covered by another program (i.e., Medicare):

  • For older people under age 65 and uninsured, the Marketplace provides a variety of insurance plans to make health care affordable for you and your family. The Marketplace Open Enrollment period is October 1, 2013 to March 31, 2014. Coverage can start as soon as January 1, 2014.
  • For people age 65+ and already on Medicare, the Marketplace does not affect you. However, between October 15 and December 7, 2013, you have the opportunity to review your current health and drug prescription coverage. Visit medicare.gov or call 1-800-Medicare for information on Medicare Open Enrollment.

If you’re ready to get coverage, enrollment is easy. Download SAGE’s ACA fact sheet to learn how to get started. While there is currently a government shutdown in effect, health coverage enrollment is not affected—so don’t delay signing up! In addition, SAGE’s new Health Insurance Action Center offers an FAQ that answers a number of concerns we’ve heard from LGBT older people about the plans being offered through the Marketplace, and other resources to help you choose the plan that’s best for you. Visit today, explore your options, and enroll!

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