Author: Lara Stauning

CMS Notifying Potentially Involved Beneficiaries and Providing Information on Free Credit Monitoring

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) is responding to a data breach at Healthcare Management Solutions, LLC (HMS), a subcontractor of ASRC Federal Data Solutions, LLC (ASRC Federal), that may involve Medicare beneficiaries’ personally identifiable information (PII) and/or protected health information (PHI). No CMS systems were breached and no Medicare claims data were involved. Initial information indicates that HMS acted in violation of its obligations to CMS and that the incident involving HMS has the potential to impact up to 254,000 Medicare beneficiaries’ personally identifiable information out of the over 64 million beneficiaries that CMS serves. This week, CMS is mailing beneficiaries that have been potentially impacted a letter from CMS notifying them directly of the breach.  A copy of that letter can be found below.

“The safeguarding and security of beneficiary information is of the utmost importance to this Agency,” said CMS Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure. “We continue to assess the impact of the breach involving the subcontractor, facilitate support to individuals potentially affected by the incident, and will take all necessary actions needed to safeguard the information entrusted to CMS.”

The services provided to CMS under the contract with ASRC Federal include resolving system errors related to Medicare beneficiary entitlement and premium payment records. The contractors’ services also support the collection of Medicare premiums from the direct-paying beneficiary population. The contractor does not handle Medicare claims information.

CMS is notifying Medicare beneficiaries whose PII and/or PHI may have been put at risk as a result of the breach that they will receive an updated Medicare card with a new Medicare Beneficiary Identifier, be offered free-of-charge credit monitoring services, and will provide additional information about the incident.  

What You Can Do

At this time, [CMS] is not aware of any reports of identity fraud or improper use of your information as a direct result of this incident. However, out of an abundance of caution [they are issuing beneficiaries] a new Medicare card with a new number. CMS will mail the new card to your address in the coming weeks. In the meantime, you can continue to use your existing Medicare card.

After you get your new card, you should:

1. Follow the instructions in the letter that comes with your new card.
2. Destroy your old Medicare card.
3. Inform your providers that you have a new Medicare Number.
While [CMS] continues to investigate what, if any, banking information may have been compromised, if you have concerns, please contact your financial institution and let them know your banking information may have been compromised. Additionally, you can enroll in free Equifax Complete Premier credit monitoring service. You do not need to use your credit card to enroll in the service. Visit the Equifax website to enroll at: www.equifax.com/activate

Thank you for your attention and please feel free to contact the SENIOR MEDICARE PATROL (SMP) program if you need guidance!  1-800-992-9422

The full CMS article with citations is here…

CMS Responding to Data Breach at Subcontractor | CMS

Suspension of Bus Fares Statewide Continues Through March 31, 2023

The Connecticut Department of Transportation (CTDOT) announced that all public transit buses will be fare-free across Connecticut through March 31, 2023. A previous policy signed by Governor Lamont made buses fare free from April 1, 2022 through June 30, 2022, but that was extended to December 1st in a budget passed by the legislature and signed by the Governor on May 9, 2022. The legislature held a special session on November 28, 2022 which passed a bill to continue the fare free program, this bill was signed by the Governor on November 29th, 2022.

Free services include all CTtransit local buses statewide, CTtransit Express and CTfastrak services. ADA Paratransit is also fare free statewide through March 31, 2023.

Governor Lamont Announces Release of Nearly $8.5 Million in Additional Resources To Connect Those Experiencing Homelessness With Support

Governor Lamont Announces Release of Nearly $8.5 Million in Additional Resources To Connect Those Experiencing Homelessness With Support

Posted on November 10, 2022 (HARTFORD, CT) –

Governor Ned Lamont today announced that his administration is releasing nearly $8.5 million additional aid to connect those experiencing homelessness with support services – including housing, food, and mental health services – ahead of the upcoming winter season. The goal of the funding is to ensure that pathways to the homeless service system and human points of contact remain available for those seeking assistance.

This includes:

$5 million from the Connecticut Department of Housing to support seasonal shelters and services throughout the homeless service system during the winter;

$2.5 million from the Connecticut Department of Housing to develop new hubs within each of the state’s seven regional Coordinated Access Networks that support the hiring of more staff, ensuring flexible financial assistance is available, and technological upgrades can be supported;

$500,000 from the Connecticut Department of Housing for the United Way of Connecticut to increase staffing at 2-1-1; and

$475,000 from the Connecticut Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services for the United Way of Connecticut to support costs related to the complex needs of unsheltered individuals and families during periods of extreme cold weather.

The Connecticut Department of Housing is working with the seven regional Coordinated Access Networks on the development of these hubs, which will be able to accept walk-in appointments and receive direct referrals from 2-1-1 staff for those who indicate they are experiencing homelessness. The hubs will serve to provide support for repeat callers of 2-1-1, while helping to reduce the overall call volume at the service.

Governor Lamont said, “Stable housing is critical for the development of a strong and safe community, and it is a moral imperative. Additionally, direct person-to-person contact is essential to adequately address the issue of homelessness. We have an obligation to ensure that everyone has access to a safe and stable place to call home.”

Connecticut Department of Housing Commissioner Seila Mosquera-Bruno said, “Working closely with the Coordinated Access Networks, the Department of Housing is following best practices by directly reaching out to those in need where they are, working with individuals to build trust, and connecting them with housing and related wrap-around services.”

Connecticut Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services Commissioner Nancy Navarretta said, “Access to regional hubs offering in-person assistance to individuals and families experiencing homelessness will be a great help when addressing complex needs. Being able to connect quickly to safe shelter and housing as well as behavioral health services and social supports is imperative for maintaining healthy Connecticut communities.”

Cathy Zall, executive director of the New London Homeless Hospitality Center speaking on behalf of the Eastern Coordinated Access Network, said, “The State of Connecticut is a leader in offering innovative, effective, and compassionate ways to address the challenge of homelessness – beginning when our neighbors first find themselves facing homelessness. Under the leadership of the Department of Housing, Connecticut has established a coordinated ‘front door’ to link people experiencing homelessness quickly with available supports. United Way 2-1-1 has served as the first step in this process for many years. Beginning in November, this ‘front door’ will be become even more effective as the Department of Housing increases its investment in community-based sites, referred to as hubs, managed by the state’s Coordinated Access Networks. These community-based hubs will work closely with 2-1-1, the Department of Housing, local social service providers, emergency responders, health care providers and others to ensure that individuals and families experiencing homelessness know where to turn for the supports they need to get back on the path to permanent housing as quickly as possible.”

Anyone who is experiencing homelessness or is at imminent risk of homelessness is strongly encouraged to call 2-1-1 to get connected to available resources.  

Read on CT.gov

Low Income Household Water Assistance Program Coming to CT

Overview

Connecticut Low Income Household Water Assistance Program (LIHWAP)

***Applications for the Connecticut Energy Assistance Program (CEAP) and the Low-Income Household Water Assistance Program (LIHWAP) 2022-203 Program Year are being accepted starting September 1, 2022.***

Households with annual income at or below 60 percent of the state median income can qualify for this one-time water assistance benefit. Covered services include restoration of household water services to eligible disconnected homes; reduction of arrearages (overdue water bills); and prevention of service disconnection.  Help is available for both household water and wastewater bills from participating water suppliers and wastewater service providers.  There is no financial asset limit to qualify; rather, the application considers current household income.

If you get benefits from the Connecticut Energy Assistance Program (CEAP), Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP), Temporary Family Assistance (TFA), Social Security Income (SSI), State Supplement, State Administered General Assistance (SAGA), or Refugee Cash Assistance, then you will likely meet income requirements. 

Eligible households can qualify for up to $1,000 in water assistance if they have disconnected service or are behind on bills. Payment includes all fees and charges if at imminent risk of household water or wastewater service disconnect.Thank you from the Connecticut Department of Social Services. 

CT Energy Assistance Program: How to Apply

You can apply online, by phone, by email, by mail, or in person at your local Community Action Agency (CAA). Find your local CAA in the table below.

  • Apply online: Online applications are now open. Click here to get started
  • Apply by phone: Call your local Community Action Agency and request assistance applying for CEAP over the phone (see ‘Phone Number’ below).
  • Apply by email: Download and complete the CEAP application. Email your complete application and required documents to your local Community Action Agency (see ‘Email Address’ below).
  • Apply by mail: Download and complete the CEAP application. Mail your complete application and required documents to your local Community Action Agency (see ‘Mailing Address’ below).
  • Apply in person: Call your local Community Action Agency and schedule an in-person appointment or walk-in (no appointment needed). Remember to review the CEAP application before your appointment and bring all of your required documents to your appointment.

Before you start your application:  

  • Confirm your eligibility:  See ‘Who Is Eligible’ tab.
  • Gather your energy and/or water documents:  You will either need a copy of your most recent heating bill (if applying for Heating Assistance), electric bill (if applying for Heating Assistance), and water bill (if applying for Water Assistance), or a copy or photo of your rental lease showing that your utilities are included in your rent.
  • Gather your income documents (as needed):  If you or anyone in your household currently receives benefits like SNAP or cash assistance you automatically meet the income requirements and do not need to gather any income documents (see full list under ‘Confirm your eligibility’). If you don’t get one of those benefits, you need to submit proof of income. Specifically:
  • If you or anyone in your household is employed, you must provide: A copy or photo of paystubs that show income from 4 consecutive weeks anytime in the last 3 months, or a signed letter from payroll department/employer stating your income in this time period.
  • If you or anyone in your household is self-employed (e.g., freelancer, side-gigger, contractor, small business owner), you must provide: A copy or photo of a completed Self-Employment Worksheet (download here), and your most recently-filed IRS Form 1040, including all schedules.
  • If you or anyone in your household receives additional income, you must provide: Award letter(s), a bank statement showing direct deposit, and/or signed statements. Click here to learn more.
  • Gather your additional documents (as needed):  Depending on your situation, you may need to provide additional documents. If any of the below apply, download and complete the form(s) before you start your online application. You will be asked to upload a photo or copy of the completed form as part of your application. 
  • Zero Income Form: Complete this form if your household has had no income for the last four weeks or longer.
  • Affidavit Certifying Non-Receipt of Child Support Payments: Complete this form if your household includes children who have one or more non-custodial parents who are not paying child support.
  • Certification of DisabilityComplete this form if you or a household member have a disability but do not receive disability benefits like Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or the State Supplement for Aged, Blind, or Disabled.

Community Action Agency Contact Information

Check the map to find your Community Action Agency, then check the table for contact information (email address, phone number, and website). 

1Access Community Action Agency (Access)
2Alliance for Community Empowerment, Inc.
3Community Action Agency of New Haven, Inc. (CAANH)
4Community Action Agency of Western Connecticut, Inc. (CAAWC)
5Community Renewal Team, Inc. (CRT)
6Human Resources Agency of New Britain, Inc. (HRA)
7New Opportunities, Inc. (NOI)
8TEAM, Inc.
9Thames Valley Council for Community Action, Inc. (TVCCA)

A Financial Fireside Chat, Monday, 11/14/22, 12-1 PM

Please join the Governor’s Council for Women and Girls’ Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity and Workforce Equity, Financial Literacy Workgroup on Monday, November 14, 2022 for a program focused on innovative approaches to financial education.  See link below to register and join the program!

A FINANCIAL FIRESIDE CHAT

Monday, November 14, 2022, from 12-1:00 p.m

Join Credit Union League of Connecticut President and CEO Bruce Adams as he facilitates a panel of experts who will discuss the work credit unions are doing to innovatively support communities and promote financial wellness.  They will discuss the importance of increasing consumer financial wellness, banking undocumented residents and ensuring compassionate approaches to consumer relationships. This is an important conversation for anyone working with underserved communities.

Use the link below to join us on November 14th at noon: 

Registration link:  https://us06web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZEsfuqhqTgiHtX7-mSth07oCMBEiGKJCltQ

Medicare Open Enrollment: Tips to Protect Yourself and Get the Coverage that Serves You

Medicare Open Enrollment: Tips to Protect Yourself and Get the Coverage that Serves You

Every year during Medicare’s Annual Enrollment Period (AEP) from October 15th to December 7th, millions of beneficiaries have the opportunity to switch or drop their current plan and enroll in a new plan that better suits their health care needs. When originally signing up for Medicare, an enrollee has two options; 1) sign up for Part A hospitalization, Part B outpatient care & preventive services, Part D prescription drug coverage, and a medigap/supplemental or 2) a private insurance Medicare Advantage plan known as Part C. It is important that those who sign up for original/traditional Medicare or choose to opt-out and go the private insurance Medicare Advantage route, understand the important difference between these two options.

Medicare is complicated and many of our elderly may not know what plan they’re actually on. During the annual enrollment period that began October 15th, this confusion is heighted by the postcards, letters, emails, and texts that everyone begins receiving, starting in late August. Somewhere on the mailing or text you will see in bold lettering the word MEDICARE or MEDICARE NOTICE. Do not be deceived, these forms of contact are not from original/traditional Medicare, the federal agency that sent you a red, white, and blue card when you originally enrolled. If you respond to any of these mailings, texts or calls, there will be an insurance agent or broker who would like to enroll you in one of their private insurance plans. Last year alone, Medicare received complaints that more than 39,000 beneficiaries had been improperly switched into plans that excluded their preferred Doctors, did not offer the coverage promised, or caused higher out-of-pocket expenses when co-payments and deductibles were not properly factored in.

Senior Medicare Patrol (SMP) is a national federal program that empowers and assists Medicare beneficiaries and their families to prevent, detect, and report Medicare fraud errors and abuse. SMP relies on teams of volunteers who are the “eyes and ears” in their community and assist with SMP counseling, outreach and education. It is during Medicare’s AEP when SMP receives heightened complaints and reports of fraudsters and scammers seeking to steal medical identities and confuse seniors into giving out private confidential information. And some of these types of contacts may be from unscrupulous insurance brokers and agents who switch beneficiaries into plans that are inappropriate for their individual health care needs. Senior Medicare Patrol receives and reports these types of complaints. As of October 1st 2022, private Medicare Advantage Plans and insurance agents and brokers must state upon initial telecommunication contact that“We do not offer every plan available in your area. Any information we provide is limited to those plans we do offer in your area. Please contact Medicare.gov or 1-800-MEDICARE to get information on all your options.” The problem has been that many o f those enticing ads with popular celebrities are national advertising campaigns may not be offered in Connecticut. And now, as of October 1st, if a beneficiary is enrolled as a result of such contact, the enrollment must be recorded in its entirety and kept for 10 years. This is a great help for Senior Medicare Patrol, as the recording can be requested to ensure that a fully informed decision was made by Medicare beneficiaries if they decide to switch into a different plan.

In a memo released October 19th, 2022, Medicare cautioned all Medicare Advantage Organizations that as a result of recent “secret shopping” calls with the numbers associated with television ads, mailings, and newspaper advertisements, it was discovered that some agents were not complying with current regulation and unduly pressuring beneficiaries, as well as failing to provide accurate or enough information to assist beneficiaries in making informed health care decisions. Medicare is closely monitoring marketing activities during the 2023 (when your new enrollment begins) open enrollment. This includes marketing that is misleading, confusing, or misrepresents a benefit or product, and will take compliance action against plans for activities and materials that do not comply with Medicare’s requirements. If you or a family member or caregiver suspect that either of the above circumstances apply to you, please call and report your case to Senior Medicare Patrol at 1-800-994-9422.

Medicare Open Enrollment: Tips to Protect Yourself and Get the Coverage that Serves You

Submitted by: Audrey Cole, Senior Medicare Patrol, Coordinate of Volunteers at the Western CT Area Agency on Aging

Sources:

Federal Register /Vol. 87, No. 89 /Monday, May 9, 2022 /Rules and Regulations 27819 F. Marketing and Communications Requirements on MA and Part D Plans To Assist Their Enrollees (§§ 422.2260 and 423.2260, 422.2267, and 423.2267)

October 19, 2022 Memo, https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/23168640-cms-memo-101922-medicare-advantage-marketing

Paid for in part by grant number 90MPPG0044, from the U.S. Administration for Community Living, Department of Health and Human Services and is administered by the CT Department of Aging and Disability Services

Governor Lamont Announces Distribution of $23.9 Million in Renters’ Rebate Assistance for Seniors and Individuals With Disabilities

(HARTFORD, CT) – Governor Ned Lamont today announced that checks totaling $23.9 million are being distributed this week to those who applied for the Connecticut Renters’ Rebate Program. Approximately 45,000 residents in the state will be receiving an average rebate of $540. The Office of Policy and Management (OPM), which administers the program, is required to start processing the payments in October.

The program, established in 1974, provides reimbursement for Connecticut renters who are elderly or have certain disabilities, and whose incomes do not exceed certain limits. The rebate amount is based on a graduated income scale, and the amount of rent and utility payments (excluding telephone) made in the calendar year prior to the year in which the renter applies.

“This program makes it possible for thousands of Connecticut’s seniors and individuals with disabilities to afford to stay in their homes and live with security and independence,” Governor Lamont said. “Helping our most vulnerable residents is one of the essential functions of government, and this program provides access to homes that are safe and affordable. Many of those receiving assistance have dedicated their lives to our state, have been working here, are raising their families here, and are contributing in endless ways to make our communities stronger.”

If a renter misses the designated filing period, they have until November 15, 2022, to submit a request for an extension of time to file to OPM. The request for an extension of time to file must be accompanied by a doctor’s letter indicating that the renter had a medical condition that contributed to them not applying during the designated filing period.
Read on CT.gov

AARP CT and CT Dept. of Aging and Disability Services Host Technology Series

Facilitating Virtual Training Sessions: Tips & Tools to Reduce Glitches 10/27/2022 @1PM ET

Do your presentations/trainings in the virtual space convey the message you want?

Join AARP Connecticut, Dr. Lauren Tucker, the State of Connecticut Department of Aging & Disability Services and participants from across the country for this FREE, virtual 2-hour training on Thursday, October 27, 2022, at 1:00 p.m. ET | 12:00 p.m. CT | 11:00 a.m. MT | 10:00 a.m. PT – AARP membership not required.This session is approved for (2.0) Continuing Education Units by NASW/CT and meets the continuing education criteria for CT Social Work Licensure renewal. This approval is also applicable for license renewals for CT, LPCs, LMFTs, and licensed psychologists.https://aarp.cventevents.com/TuckerVirtualOct27

CEJC Annual Symposium: Join Us Tomorrow!! 10/18/22 @ 1:30 PM – 3 PM

The Assumptions We Hold: Rethinking Commonly-Held Beliefs among Elder Justice Professionals

Coalition for Elder Justice in CT Virtual Symposium by AARP CT

REGISTRATION:  https://aarp.cventevents.com/CEJCOct182022

Exploring assumptions we may have can positively impact our experience in the elder justice space.  Join the Coalition for Elder Justice in CT (CEJC), AARP CT, and attendees from around the country for this FREE, virtual symposium taking place on Tuesday, October 18, 2022, at 1:30 PM ET| 12:30 PM CT| 11:30 AM MT| 10:30 AM PT.  Membership is not required.  Live event not recorded.

This event is a collaboration between the Coalition for Elder Justice in CT (CEJC) and AARP CT to offer you professional development credits and also offer trending and global information from our AARP issue experts and CEJC members.  The focus of the event is to address this year’s symposium theme Inclusion, Integration & Innovation.  The symposium will tackle themes focused on Ageism & Exploitation, Social Integration Impact on Health Equity, Successful Digital Inclusion Models, and Consumer Insights Driving Innovation.  

This program is approved for (1.50) Continuing Education Units including (1.5) Hours of Cultural Competency by NASW/CT and meets the continuing education criteria for CT Social Work Licensure renewal.  This approval will also apply for license renewals for CT LPCs, LMFTs, and licensed psychologists.   NOTE:  CEUs are available to Social Workers in states recognizing an NASW State Chapter CE approvals. Visit https://www.socialworkers.org/About/Chapters/Find-a-Chapter