Medicare beneficiaries reminded to take advantage of preventive benefits

June 5, 2021
In The News

WILKES-BARRE — The Pennsylvania Department of Aging this week encouraged Medicare beneficiaries to make the most of their preventive benefits that could help them save money and live healthier lives through preventive care.

The department recently launched a five-week media campaign to promote awareness of these benefits.

Beneficiaries who have Medicare Part A and B and limited income and resources may qualify to have a Medicare Savings Program pay a portion of their premium each month.

Those with Medicare Part D and who have limited finances and resources may qualify for Extra Help, which lowers the cost of coverage and prescriptions.

Older adults enrolled in original Medicare or a Medicare Advantage Plan may benefit from preventive services that may be free or at a low cost under certain guidelines. These preventive services are:

• Screenings

• Wellness

• Counseling

• Shots

• Nutrition

“Navigating the Medicare system sometimes can be difficult. Once beneficiaries are aware of how they can make their benefits work for them, they will see greater health outcomes,” said Susan Neff, APPRISE director. “Our trained staff and volunteers look forward to speaking with Medicare beneficiaries who are interested in hearing about these preventive benefits in their plan or discuss ways to save money through Extra Help or a Medicare Savings Program.”

Medicare beneficiaries with questions or wanting to learn more information can call the APPRISE Helpline at 1-800-783-7067.

APPRISE is Pennsylvania’s State Health Insurance Assistance Program with nearly 800 trained counselors available who provide free, confidential, objective, and easy-to-understand information about original Medicare, Medicare Advantage Plans, prescription drug plans, and Medicare Supplement plans, and allows Medicare beneficiaries to compare plans and determine what best meets their needs and save them money. 

Local governments should

request funding allocations

Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) Secretary Dennis Davin this week announced that counties, metropolitan cities, and local governments are now able to request their portion of federal Local Fiscal Recovery funding provided by the American Rescue Plan.

“Today, county and municipal governments are able to request the Local Fiscal Recovery funds that have been made available to them by the American Rescue Plan,” Davin said. “This funding provides immediate relief for local governments that have seen unprecedented fiscal challenges due to COVID-19. I encourage every county, city, and municipal government to take advantage of these funds that will help them recover from the pandemic and chart a course for long-term growth.”

As part of the American Rescue Plan signed by President Joseph R. Biden, the federal government is providing a total of approximately $6.15 billion to Pennsylvania counties, metropolitan cities, and local government units to support COVID-19 response efforts, replace lost revenue, support economic stabilization for households and businesses, and address systemic public health and economic challenges.

The U.S. Department of Treasury has established two separate methods for local governments to request these funds, depending on the type of local government:

County governments and metropolitan city governments must request funds directly from the U.S. Department of the Treasury via their Submission Portal webpage.

Local governments that are NOT metropolitan cities or counties – called non-entitlement units of local government (NEUs) – must request the funds through the commonwealth by visiting the DCED website.

Due to Treasury’s requirements that states disburse all Local Fiscal Recovery funding within 30 days of the state receiving the federal funds, DCED strongly recommends that NEUs request their funding in the next five days to allow adequate processing time for each request.

Information about how to request funds, eligible uses for the funding, and federal allocation amounts for counties, cities, and NEUs can be found on the DCED website and the U.S. Department of Treasury website.

Local governments with further questions about accessing these funds should email covidarpa@pa.gov.

Rep. Keller holds first Bureau of

Prisons Reform Caucus meeting

U.S. Rep. Fred Keller, R-Middleburg, and the Bureau of Prisons Reform Caucus this week met with the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) to receive updates from the agency’s 2021 report entitled, “Opportunities Exist to Better Analyze Staffing Data and Improve Employee Wellness Programs.”

The findings of the GAO report showed clear inconsistencies within the BOP’s data collection systems and an inability to use this data to improve agency policies and operations. Specifically, the report outlined flaws with BOP’s staffing methodology, its plan for identifying staffing shortages, and agency retention issues.

“Throughout the pandemic, we saw BOP leadership make questionable decisions when mitigating the risk of spreading COVID-19, addressing staffing shortages, and taking care of their inmates and correctional officers,” Keller said during the meeting. “BOP’s leadership needs to understand the decisions they make in Washington affect the daily lives of families and communities.”

Keller went on to outline three major areas where BOP can improve, including:

• Increased transparency and work with Congress

• Better preparation for future emergency situations

• More comprehensive data collection efforts

On the meeting, Keller, Chair of the BOP Reform Caucus, made the following statement:

“The recommendations and insights provided by the GAO today gives the BOP Reform Caucus an important look into the serious management challenges that the Bureau of Prisons faces. We have heard from correctional officers across Pennsylvania and the country about systemic issues like staffing shortages, lacking internal data collection, and ineffective response strategies during COVID-19. Moving forward, the BOP Reform Caucus must ensure that the BOP is transparent in meeting the standards it sets while also working with agency leadership to develop higher standards in the future.”

Keller formed the BOP Reform Caucus in August of 2020 after experiencing repeated issues with the BOP, including a lack of response from the agency and the continued movement of inmates across BOP facilities nationwide during the COVID-19 pandemic, despite the serious need to halt movement and transfers to protect correctional officers, other inmates, and surrounding communities.

Pennsylvanians urged to

purchase flood insurance

Pennsylvania Insurance Commissioner Jessica Altman this week urged property owners to consider purchasing flood insurance to protect their homes, businesses, and possessions.

For many Pennsylvanians, extreme weather, including flooding caused by hurricanes and severe thunderstorms, can be a common occurrence throughout the state during the summer months.

As the country enters hurricane season, the federal government is working towards improving the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP).

“Flooding is a threat across all of Pennsylvania during this time of year due to heavy summer storms,” Altman said. “The commonwealth is generally impacted by the high winds and heavy rain that accompany hurricanes, often causing significant damages. Standard homeowners’ insurance policies do not cover flood damage, so homeowners should review their policies and consider this added protection, whether purchased through the rapidly growing private market or the NFIP.”

Consumers should be aware that flood insurance policies are not active immediately. In most scenarios, there is a 30-day waiting period before policies are active; this prevents individuals from purchasing flood insurance solely when a storm is headed in the direction of their property. However, there are a few exceptions:

• If an address was newly added to the Special Flood Hazard Areas (SFHAs) map and flood insurance is purchased within the 13-month period following a map revision.

• If renewing a flood policy and increasing coverage.

• If a home has been affected by flooding on burned federal land and a policy was purchased within 60 days of the fire’s containment.

• If a home was just purchased and the lender requires flood coverage.

Pennsylvania continues to see strong growth in the number of private market flood policies. As of January 2021, there are now more than 12,800 policies covering owner-occupied private residential properties and secondary/seasonal properties statewide, compared to approximately 1,500 policies only five years ago. Policy counts have increased 17 percent from 2020 and 750 percent over the past five years.

“Flood insurance is more readily available than ever and can be much more affordable than you would think,” said PEMA Director Randy Padfield. “We are seeing significant flooding in places that historically haven’t been flooded, showing us that wherever it rains, it can flood so we’re all vulnerable to this threat.”

Padfield said it’s important for families to have emergency communications plans in place, so everyone knows what to do and where to go in an emergency.