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By Rita Hatch
Senior Voice Correspondent 

Updates on Medicare, home repair grants, more

News and Views from Rita


Affordable Care Act and insurance plans

For those of you not in Medicare and have not yet enrolled in one of the Affordable Care Act insurance plans, you will not be able to do so until the next open enrollment, which will take place between Nov. 15, 2014 and Feb. 15, 2015. However, you can still apply for coverage through the exchanges before the next enrollment period, if you have a major change in your life.

Qualifying changes include getting married, having or adopting a child, losing employer-provided coverage, getting divorced, etc. In general, you must apply within 60 days of the change and provide some sort of documentation (marriage or birth certificate, adoption papers, etc.).

Under the federal health care law, most Americans must have health insurance this year or pay a penalty. The penalty is $95 per adult or 1 percent of adjusted gross income, whichever is greater.

You can apply for Medicaid for low income people at any time but eligibility depends on your income and resources. So if you think you might qualify, you should apply. You can apply at any Adult Public Assistance office.

If you have found the Affordable Care Act (ACA) insurance to be more than you can afford, another option might be to apply for medical help at a community health clinic, which has sliding fees based on your income.

If you can find an insurer selling coverage, the options most likely will be extremely limited because the plans must meet the ACA requirements. However you will only have to keep this insurance until Nov. 15, when you will then be able to get back into the ACA insurance plans.

The U.S. Census Bureau projects that by 2050 the 65 and older population will nearly double and expects it to be 39 percent of the population. The majority of the growth is expected to be between 2012 and 2030. Yeah, us! So keep those youngsters from changing our Social Security and Medicare because they will soon be collecting it, too.

Eliminating the Windfall Elimination?

Some good news. In Alaska about 8,000 people are penalized by the Windfall Elimination Provision and 2,500 by the Government Pension Offset. Nationwide, over 2 million people are also being affected by these two bills, which were enacted in the 1980s and are still hurting retirees today. The bills penalize all civil servants (those who work for any municipal, state or federal governments) so that they cannot collect all the Social Security benefits they or their spouses had earned by also working on jobs that deducted Social Security from their earnings.

There is a bill called the Social Security Act S896, which is being pushed by one of our Senators to eliminate this unfairness. Anyone being affected by these unfair acts should contact their Congressional representative and Senators to ask them to keep pushing for Senate bill S896. This includes everyone nationwide.

Prevention is the cure

Some more good news. The ACA is helping to reduce hospital readmissions by 8 percent among Medicare beneficiaries between Jan. 2012 and Dec. 2014 and a 9 percent decrease in hospital acquired conditions. So stay out of hospitals if you can.

Extra Help for prescription drugs

If you are currently in a Medicare Part D drug program and you find that you are still having problems paying for your Medicare prescriptions, there is a program that helps with your prescription costs. It is called the “Extra Help” program and the qualifications are as follows: the Alaska 2014 monthly income limit for a single person is $1,823; and for a couple, $2,458. The resource limits are $13,440 for a single person and $26,860 for a couple.

You can apply in Anchorage at the Aging and Disability Resource Center (ADRC), 343-7770, or at your public assistance office statewide.

Grant for home repairs in Anchorage

The Municipality of Anchorage will assist low to moderate income families, who own or occupy a single family home in need of minor repairs. This is in the form of a one-time grant of up to $15,000 and must be used for items that threaten the health or safety of the household. Mobile home projects shall be for a limited scope, restricted to roof, furnace or water heater replacement.

An applicant must meet the eligibility criteria, which you will be told when you apply for a grant at 480 West Tudor Road. Or call 677-8490 for more information.

DEAP funding cut

Mabel T. Caverly Senior Services in Anchorage has lost funding for its DEAP program, which had assisted indigent people with grants to help pay for dental work, hearing aids, eyeglasses and some prescriptions. They are hoping to find new funding for the program within the next two years.

On the other hand, their Patches program, which helps pay for minor home or car repairs, rent or utilities or other expenses up to $250, is still in existence, although needing donations to keep growing.

Their telephone number is 276-1496 if you wish to donate to a worthy cause.

Other thoughts

This year is a very important election year. While a president will not be chosen, you will be choosing issues and the people who will affect you for the rest of your lives.

I am not able, nor would I want to tell you for whom you should vote. I do urge you to read both sides of every question and to think about the consequences. If you choose not to vote, remember that is a decision that you might regret. Many issues have not been brought before this Congress because of political differences and pure stupidity. We should vote for people who are willing to do the hard work of Congress and not for the ones who won’t take a stand either way.

I am still looking for a volunteer, whom I can teach the things that I do (not very complicated, but very rewarding) to continue helping people in need, who ask for assistance. After all, I won’t live forever but there will be people who need help, forever.

I am hoping that since I haven’t heard to the contrary, nobody disagrees with anything that I have written about. If you wish to voice your opinion, by all means please write.

Rita Hatch volunteers for the Older Persons Action Group Medicare Assistance program. Call her at 276-1059 in Anchorage or toll-free statewide at 1-800-478-1059. Her email address is


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