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Medicare

WROTB president says health insurance provided to only three long-serving directors

By Mike Pettinella

Other than three longtime Western New York Off-Track Betting Corp. directors, no members of the company’s board are receiving or will be eligible to receive health insurance benefits going forward.

WROTB President/Chief Executive Officer Henry Wojtaszek, responding to a Freedom of Information Law request from The Batavian today, said that the public benefit company is paying the health insurance premiums for Dennis Bassett (City of Rochester), Thomas Wamp (Livingston County) and Richard Ricci (Seneca County).

The board of directors consists of 17 members, representing 15 counties plus the cities of Rochester and Buffalo.

“These individuals have qualified for a Medicare plan through Western Regional OTB due to their longevity prior to the board being terminated by state mandate,” Wojtaszek said. “No one else on the board has any coverage.”

New York State legislation last May dismantled the previous board and forced the municipalities to either reappoint the director or appoint someone new. Bassett, Wamp and Ricci were reappointed along with seven other rural county directors.

Following Wednesday’s board meeting at Batavia Downs Gaming, Wojtaszek reported that WROTB’s revamped health insurance plan for employees, other than board members, will be unveiled soon.

“We have the members of the (Labor Management Health Fund) coming in to speak with our employees within the next two to three weeks to inform them of the program,” he said. “And we'll see who takes advantage of it.”

Wojtaszek said two programs will be offered, with an eye on providing something affordable for younger workers and their families. He said WROTB is part of a large consortium with other businesses in the area.

WROTB’s program is a self-insured one where the company pays the cost of claims and also a firm to administer the plan.

When pressed about board members’ health insurance – something that has been in the press for several months and labeled as a “gold-plated” plan for directors, Wojtaszek said all of that changed for any board member approved after July 1, 2021.

“Nobody who is a board member currently is involved in our active (LMHF) program. They could be on Medicare because of an old program (referring to Bassett, Wamp and Ricci),” he said.

Directors who had health insurance through WROTB prior to the reorganization this summer are no longer eligible for the corporation’s LMHF plan, he said. The plan is administered by Lawley Insurance.

In related action, the board approved a resolution to renew a contract with Garland Insurance & Financial Services of Phoenix, Ariz., to provide commercial insurance – liability, property and directors & officers – from through May 31, 2024 at a cost of $1,147,215.46.

Wojtaszek said the premium reflects an increase of 8 percent. 

He also mentioned that WROTB has hired a consultant, Alterity Group, to work on a bidding process after the contract expires. WROTB has contracted with Garland since 2015, he said.

Medicare rule change could add $8.5M to UMMC yearly budget

By Chris Butler
UMMC

A proposed rule change from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) could provide Batavia’s United Memorial Medical Center (UMMC) with an additional $8.5 million every year.

Other hospitals across the state would benefit with their own additional funding. The overall proposal, currently under review, could bring an additional $967 million every year to hospitals in upstate New York.

The proposal, if implemented, would deliver a big win for UMMC, whose administrators have long complained Medicare has underfunded them.
The state has a shortage of doctors and nurses. With additional funding, UMMC and other hospitals could pay for more specialists from both professions.

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) announced the proposal Friday. He said hospital systems across upstate New York have for many years received less than the national average for the services they provide.

Rochester Regional Health (RRH) oversees UMMC. In a statement, company officials predicted good things will come from this extra funding.

“We are optimistic that this proposed rule change would be an important first step on the federal level to address the years of Medicare underfunding we’ve experienced,” according to the statement.
“Currently, RRH receives around $0.84 for every $1 we spend on Medicare patients. Moving forward, we will keep on working with our federal, state and local partners in the fight for fair funding levels so we can continue to provide the high-quality health care this community needs and deserves.”

The Medicare Wage Index rate is used to determine how much money the U.S. government pays hospitals for labor costs when they treat Medicare patients. Each metro area is assigned a rate that dictates whether they receive more or less than the national average for health care labor costs.

Since the 1980s, Schumer said hospitals in the Albany area, for instance, have received only 86 percent of what the average hospital receives to account for wages, which does not reflect that city’s true wages and labor market.

“This means that hospitals from Buffalo to Albany and Watertown to Binghamton, big and small, in rural and urban areas, can get the support they have long deserved,” Schumer said.

“I will use all my clout as majority leader to push CMS to finalize this proposed wage increase, and I won’t stop until Upstate NY hospitals get the full reimbursements they have been denied for too long.” 

Photo of United Memorial Medical Center in Batavia, by Howard Owens.

Office for the Aging offering assistance for expanded Medicare Savings Program

By Press Release

Press release:

Higher-income eligibility (revised) for the Medicare Savings Program (MSP) (due to higher federal poverty guidelines) in New York. Single individuals with Medicare have a gross income of up to $2,280 per month, and couples with monthly gross incomes of up to $3,077. New York State does NOT look at your assets for this program.

The MSP helps older adults and people with disabilities living on low incomes by paying their Medicare Part B premiums ($164.90 each month) and enrolling them in Extra Help, the federal prescription drug subsidy program that the Social Security Administration estimates is worth about $5,100 per year. This program lowers prescription costs and gets rid of the deductible and the “donut hole,” or gap coverage.  The financial assistance can be a lifeline, allowing enrollees to maintain their Medicare coverage, access needed care, and afford other necessities, like food and rent.

The Genesee County Office for the Aging will be holding a walk-in assistance day for anyone will be new to this program, on Wednesday, March 29th, from 2 to4 p.m.  We are located at 2 Bank Street in Batavia.  Bring with you: a birth certificate, social security card, Medicare card, License, Current (2023) Social Security award letter, and any other reoccurring income proof (weekly, monthly, or yearly).

Looking for a Medicare plan? Vendor fairs available for Genesee County residents

By Joanne Beck

shelley_stein.jpg
Medicare Advantage, Drug plan Part D, Drug plan Part D + Medigap policy, only the Medigap policy.

Confused by the options for Medicare during this open enrollment period? It runs through Dec. 7, and there is help for the thousands of people in Genesee County eligible to sign up, Genesee County Legislative Chairwoman Shelley Stein says.

Given the volume of people who may be wanting to sit down to review plans and ask questions, two staff members in the Office For the Aging cannot handle them all. Not to worry, Stein says, vendor fairs are coming to the rescue.

“There are 10,000 eligible Medicare residents in Genesee County, who all have the opportunity to enroll or re-enroll, or find a new provider for that Medicare supplement,” Stein said Wednesday. “(OFA staff) have collectively arranged for vendor fairs, and for different parts of our county. And the vendors are there, the supplemental insurance providers are there, and they have time to talk to our residents.”

She encouraged her fellow legislators to direct those with questions, comments or complaints about their Medicare coverage to attend a vendor fair.

“Each and every person in our community, those 10,000 that are eligible, they're important. And it is important that they get the right supplemental insurance to meet their own individual needs,” she said. “So, again, this is the most important time of the year for that fragile population that we have. Please encourage them to attend one of these fairs.”

There are three fairs coming up, and all of them go from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. They are scheduled for:

  • Nov. 2 at Town of Bethany Hall, 10510 Bethany Center Road, East Bethany
  • Nov. 15 at Darien Center Fire Hall, 10537 Alleghany Road, Darien Center
  • Nov. 29 at First United Methodist Church, 8221 Lewiston Road, Batavia

Attendees should bring their Medicare card, and a list of each their prescriptions and doctors.

Representatives from local Medicare Advantage Plans will be present to assist you in understanding changes for 2023, and to help sign you up for a different plan or company if that’s what you choose to do.

Medicare specialists from the Office For the Aging will be on hand to answer any questions and to give unbiased information.

A representative from EPIC, the state Prescription Assistance Program, will be available on Nov. 29 at the Batavia location.

For anyone with disabilities or language interpretation needs, requests for reasonable accommodations should be made at least five days before your visit to a vendor.

For more information, call 585-343-1611.

File Photo of Shelley Stein by Joanne Beck.

Medicare chats scheduled for GLOW YMCAs

By Press Release

Press release:

Sheridan Benefits, LLC will host a series of ‘Medicare 101 Table  Chats’ at three GLOW YMCA branches the week of March 7, 2022. Biggs Johnson with Sheridan  Benefits will be available to present information to those approaching Medicare age to learn about the program and to answer questions from current Medicare beneficiaries.

Orleans County YMCA
306 Pearl Street, Medina
Monday, March 7 from 9:30 – 11:30 a.m.

Genesee County YMCA
209 East Main Street, Batavia
Wednesday, March 9 from 9 – 11 a.m.

Wyoming County YMCA
115 Linwood Ave, Warsaw
Thursday, March 10 from 9 – 11 a.m.

These events are an opportunity to obtain important information Medicare eligible individuals will need in order to learn how Medicare works, discover changes within the program, review  different coverage types and see which plans are the best for you and your current needs.

Medicare 101 Table Chats are open to the public. 

Office for the Aging warns seniors of Medicare phone scams locally

By Press Release

Press release from the Genesee County Office of the Aging:

Callers claiming to be from Medicare have been targeting seniors in our local area.

Please be aware:

  • Medicare will NEVER call and ask for your Medicare number.
  • If you get a call from someone promising free items, if you give them your Medicare number (can include back brace, glucose monitor, pain relievers for arthritis) -- DO NOT DO IT. This is a scam, even if they tell you it is not.
  • Refuse any offer, money, or gifts for free medical care.
  • If you see any charges on your Explanation of Benefits from Medicare, or from your Medicare Advantage provider that you do not understand, call the office from where it was billed to question the charge.
  • Most importantly – guard your card like it is a credit card. If you did not initiate the call, do not give out any information.

If you feel you may have been a victim of Medicare fraud, please call the NYS Senior Medicare Patrol at 1-800-333-4374.

Schumer to Feds: we cannot cut off New York’s funds & fed help just as we turn the corner on COVID here

By Billie Owens

Press release:

Noting that the clock is ticking, U.S. Senator Charles Schumer called on the Trump Administration to extend the nation’s public health emergency declaration first issued this past winter to address the COVID-19 pandemic.

Schumer warned that the declaration will expire on July 25th unless the feds soon act, and reminded that executive branch delay on the emergency declaration this past winter set us back in the COVID fight.

Schumer said Health and Human Services (HHS) should announce an extension ASAP and give locals across New York the reassurances they need to keep the COVID fight going. Schumer cautioned, that without action, New York stands to lose collective billions in state and local healthcare funds, FEMA disaster dollars and even tele-health services, like those for Hospice and everyday healthcare.

“If we have learned anything from COVID-19 it is that a ‘stitch in time saves nine,’ and the more we can do to be proactive, the better off the public will be,” Schumer said. “This past winter there was delay and dismissal towards those urging HHS to officially declare a public health emergency as it relates to the coronavirus.

"Well, we cannot -- and we must not -- have that kind of inaction and uncertainly now, especially with what we know and with the sustaining needs of New York. We need the public health emergency extended ASAP to keep healthcare dollars and FEMA funds flowing to this state, and we need the declaration to keep our local health departments fully supported. The clock is ticking as July dawns, so we need this action now.”

Aside from the very clear public health consequences, Schumer said New York would lose billions of dollars collectively if the Trump administration fails to extend the public health emergency declaration. Just last week, more than $300,000,000 in federal healthcare dollars were dispersed across New York State.

Those funds are part of a combined $2.5 billion in the pipeline and already secured for New York as part of the Families First Coronavirus stimulus package, which are tethered to the emergency declaration.

In addition, as of June 1, FEMA had obligated over $1.1 billion to New York under the state’s COVID Major Disaster Declaration and the agency is looking to the public health emergency declaration to define how much longer it will continue reimbursing New York, and in particular New York City, for related expenses. Should the public health emergency end, FEMA has indicated that the funds flowing from the Disaster Relief Fund will also stop.

“New York is by no means out of the woods with the coronavirus, especially given the upticks we are seeing in other states and the risk those upticks pose here when you take travel into account,” Schumer added. “Extending this declaration will keep New York positioned to both respond and to keep fighting.”

In addition, Schumer also detailed the CDC’s Infectious Disease Rapid Response Reserve Fund, which without an emergency extension would be locked up like it was before the first declaration was made at the beginning of the year. The account’s funds are being used to support local health departments and increased staffing across the city and on Long Island.

Schumer explained that these dollars could also be used by the CDC for, amongst other things:

  • Epidemiological activities, such as contact tracing and monitoring of cases;
  • Additional or enhanced screenings, like at airports;
  • Support for state and local health departments;
  • Public awareness campaigns;
  • Increased staffing.

Schumer also explained how the emergency declaration has allowed vulnerable and high-risk patients to avoid potential exposure to the coronavirus at hospitals and health centers by expanding federal eligibility to receive routine care through telehealth and digital care.

Federal support and coverage for this type of medical care has saved countless lives because clinicians can use tele-health to fulfill many face-to-face visit requirements to see patients, says Schumer, adding that this has been one of the main requests of in inpatient rehabilitation facilities, hospice and home health professionals who are now using apps with audio and video capabilities to have patients visit with their doctors or practitioners.

Finally, Schumer listed other necessities that would cease unless the public health emergency is extended:

  • Nutrition assistance for kids who would normally receive free or reduced lunch in school would cease;
  • Access to SNAP would be restricted;
  • Seniors who rely on Meals on Wheels would see their access to food restricted;
  • A massive restriction on assistance hospitals and doctors rely on to keep their doors open during the crisis;
  • Reduced access for out of work individuals to receive Pandemic Unemployment Assistance;
  • Reduced access to prescription drugs for seniors on Medicare.

Office for the Aging to offer four vendor fairs to help people make sense of Medicare maze

By Billie Owens

According to a specialist in aging services and Medicare at the Genesee County Office for the Aging, "this year is utter chaos with Medicare Advantage Plans as FIVE out of six companies selling in Genesee County have dropped at least one plan."

"We have been slammed with calls (as many as 43 within hours!) from people seeking guidance on what to do," she says.

So they are holding four Medicare Open Enrollment Vendor fairs during Medicare Open Enrollment (Oct. 15 through Dec. 7) to help people sort through the maze. ​The fairs are provided through grant funds from the NYS Office for the Aging, the Federal Older Americans Act, and generous support of the Genesee County Legislature.

Charts will be available at the vendor fairs (and in the Office for the Aging) comparing ALL available plans for 2017. Reps from local Medicare Advantage Plans and AARP Medigap will be present to help attendees understand the changes for 2017. They can help sign you up if you wish to choose a different plan or company. And Medicare trained/certified counselors from the Office of the Aging will be there to answer questions and offer unbiased assistance.

The fairs are scheduled as follows:

  • Monday, Oct. 17, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., in the Paddock Room at Batavia Downs, 8315 Park Road
  • Wednesday, Nov. 2, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., in the Oakfield Community and Government Center, 3219 Drake St., Oakfield
  • Tuesday, Nov. 22, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., at the Office for the Aging, 2 Bank St., Batavia
  • Tuesday, Dec. 6, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., at the Office for the Aging, 2 Bank St., Batavia

Letters alert eligible Medicare beneficiaries to missed benefits

By Billie Owens

Press release:

Beginning this week, Medicare beneficiaries will receive a letter from the Social Security Administration (SSA) if they may be eligible for help with their out-of-pocket medical and drug expenses. Genesee County Office for the Aging encourages beneficiaries who receive these letters to take action to learn more about the Medicare Savings Program (MSP) and Extra Help.

The letters are sent annually to people with Medicare with limited incomes who could be eligible for—but are not enrolled in—an MSP, which helps with Medicare out-of-pocket costs, or Extra Help, which helps with the costs of prescription drugs.

“These letters are not a scam,” said Kimberly Perl, HIICAP coordinator at the Genesee County Office for the Aging. “They are an important notification that Medicare beneficiaries should review and consider. We can help determine if they’re eligible, apply, enroll, and even understand how to use their new benefits once they’ve been approved.”

A Walk-In Day to assist potential beneficiaries has already been set on May 31st between the hours of noon and 2 p.m. at the Office for the Aging, located at 2 Bank St. downtown Batavia. Anyone receiving a letter—or who believes they or a loved one may be able to get help from these programs—should contact the Office for the Aging first at (585) 343-1611 so they may properly inform you of what you will need to bring.

In addition, Medicare beneficiaries can go online to see if they are eligible for MSPs, Extra Help and other benefits that can supplement their monthly budget. The National Council on Aging’s BenefitsCheckUp® is a free, confidential screening tool that can connect older and adults and younger adults with disabilities to these programs. Learn more at BenefitsCheckUp.org.

Medicare 101 Session

By Kimberly Perl

Will you be new to Medicare due to age or disability by May 2016?

Thinking of retiring, but not certain what the next steps are?

Attend the LAST session of 2015 and learn all about Medicare!

Next session will not be until March 2016!

Held at the Office for the Aging - 2 Bank Street, Batavia

Reservations are NOT required!

 

Event Date and Time
-

Medicare 101 Session

By Kimberly Perl

Will you be new to Medicare soon due to age or disability?

Thinking of retiring, but not certain what the next steps are?

Attend one of our sessions and learn all about Medicare!

Held at the Office for the Aging - 2 Bank Street, Batavia

Reservations NOT required!

 

Event Date and Time
-

Medicare 101 Session

By Kimberly Perl

Will you be new to Medicare soon because of age or disability?

Thinking of retiring, but not certain what the next steps are?

Attend ONE of our sessions and learn about Medicare!

All sessions are held at the Genesee County Office for the Aging -

2 Bank Street, Batavia - and begin at 6pm

Reservations are NOT required.

Event Date and Time
-

Medicare 101 Seminar

By Kimberly Perl

Will you be new to Medicare soon because of age or disability?

Thinking of retiring, but not certain what the next steps are?

Attend one of our sessions and learn about Medicare!

All sessions are free and are held at the Genesee County Office for the Aging—

2 Bank Street, Batavia.  All begin at 6pm.

Reservations are NOT required!

 

 

Event Date and Time
-

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