Avoiding SCAMS

SSA and IRS SCAM ALERT!  Anyone can become a victim of Identity theft and seniors are one of the biggest targets.  It is important to always stay vigilant in protecting your social security number and other personal information.  Be informed and be aware because scammers are creative and determined. The Acting Inspector General of Social Security, Gale Stallworth Stone, is warning citizens about ongoing Social Security Administration impersonation schemes.  The Social Security Administration (SSA) and the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) have recently received several reports of suspicious phone calls from people who claim to be with the IRS or the SSA.  Here is a list of a few of their tactics:
  • A person receives an automated phone call stating that their social security number has been suspended for suspicious illegal activity.  The person is given a phone number to call to immediately resolve the issue. The call concludes by stating that if the person doesn’t contact the provided phone number, the person’s assets will be frozen until the alleged issue is resolved.  When the victim returns the call, they are immediately asked to provide a date of birth and their social security number.
  • Someone claiming to be from Social Security calls and says that a person is guilty of fraud and is subject to prosecution in federal court.  Again, they leave a phone number and tell you to contact them immediately.
  • IRS scammers use phone spoofing to make their number come up as the ‘IRS’.  They accuse the victim of a fraudulent tax return or tax evasion and tell you to call back immediately to avoid prosecution.  They ask for payment to resolve the issue.
Know this: The IRS will NEVER contact you by phone asking for money.  They use snail mail as their only means of communication.  The SSA will NOT call you and tell you that you are going to be prosecuted in federal court.  These are scare tactics. These scams are showing up in our local area and have claimed some victims.  Remember to NEVER give personal information over the phone unless you have initiated the phone call.

Hearing Aid Assistance

Hearing loss creates confusion, frustration and isolation for those who experience it.  If we don’t struggle with this ourselves, we most certainly know someone who does.  Adding to the frustration is the fact that hearing loss tends to occur most frequently among the aging population and Medicare, the standard health care for those who are over 65 years of age or disabled, does not help with the cost of hearing aids.  It is not uncommon for a Medicare beneficiary to need hearing aids, but can’t afford them. The Starkey Hearing Foundation Hear Now program may be able to help those who are financially strapped and can’t afford hearing aids.  The foundation provides assistance to just such individuals.  There is an application processing fee of $125 per hearing aid requested.  When an application is approved, aids are given to the applicant at no additional cost. Hear Now serves low income individuals, of any age, who permanently reside in the U.S. that have no other resources to acquire hearing aids.  Anyone having a benefit for hearing aids, in part or total, is encouraged to call and discuss their individual situation. The hearing aids provided are Behind the Ear models, and are new.  Custom hearing aids are not provided by Hear Now.  Starkey Hearing Foundation-Hear Now program offers help to low income individuals. Call 800-328-8602 to discuss eligibility with a Hear Now representative or email: hearnow@starkey.com to request an application for assistance.   *This information is provided by the Idaho Senior  Health Insurance Benefits Agency  (SHIBA).  Our local SHIBA counselor/partner is Kim Hulme  847.0949.  

Adults Need More Physical Activity

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), more than 31 million adults age 50 years or older are inactive – that is, they are not physically active beyond the basic movements needed for daily life activities.   Any increase in activity is beneficial and leads to more vibrant health. According to the CDC, the analysis of adult activity showed:
  • Inactivity was higher for women (29.4%) compared to men (25.5%)
  • Inactivity significantly increased with age. 25% of 50-year-olds are inactive compared to almost 34% of 75-year-olds who are inactive.
  • Having a chronic disease was a major factor in inactivity. This increase is about 21% among adults of the same age.
  • Inactivity in the U.S. is highest in the South (30.1%) followed by the Midwest (28.4%) and in the Northeast (26.6%). Inactivity was lowest in the West (23.1%)
According to Kathleen B. Watson, an epidemiologist in the CDC’s Division of Nutrition, “More work is needed to make it safer and easier for people of all ages and abilities to be physically active in their communities.” Physical activity reduces the risk of premature death and can delay or prevent many chronic diseases, including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, dementia, and some cancers. Four of the five most costly chronic conditions for ages 50+ can be managed or prevented with physical activity.   Being physically active helps older adults maintain the ability to live independently and reduces the risk of falling and fracturing bones.  Being physically active can also improve mental health and delay dementia and cognitive decline. Summertime is an ideal time to get out of doors and start moving.*  Yard work, gardening, walking the dog, walking with a friend, and even parking your car farther from the grocery store entrance are all ways to begin increasing activity. As previously mentioned, any increase in activity is beneficial.  It is wise to see your doctor before beginning a vigorous approach to exercise. *Remember to wear sunscreen when being outdoors.  

Bear Lake Memorial Hospital named Top 20 Critical Access Hospital

Bear Lake Memorial Hospital in Montpelier, ID was recently recognized with two national awards:  (1) Top 20 Critical Access Hospital (CAH), and (2) Top 20 “Best Practices in Quality”. There are over 1300 critical access hospitals in the nation and BLMH ranked in the 99.6% percentile overall.  The Top 20 Critical Access Hospitals scored best among critical access hospitals, as determined by The Chartis Center for Rural Health, and was recently announced by the National Rural Health Association (NRHA). The Top 20 Critical Access Hospital “winners” are those hospitals who have achieved success in overall performance based on a composite rating from seven indices of strength: Patient Satisfaction, Operational Costs, Financial Stability, Patient Expense, Market Share, Outcomes, and Quality. The Top 20 Critical Access Hospitals are recognized for the outstanding patient satisfaction they provide.   The Top 20 Best Practices in Quality award is a rating of hospital performance based on the percentile rank across the five categories of ‘Hospital Compare Process of Care’ measures. All hospitals in the index study are evaluated across rural-relevant Process of Care measures (including Heart Failure, Pneumonia, and Outpatient metrics). The Best Practices in Quality award recipients are recognized for the outstanding quality they deliver to their patients.   “Bear Lake Memorial Hospital is proud of the efforts of its physicians and staff who have contributed to our hospital achieving this designation,” said Dennis Carlson, Hospital Administrator. “Our results as top 99.6% percentile overall means our visitors and community members can count on us to deliver the services they need now and in the future.”   Bear Lake Memorial Hospital invites the public to come to a Top 20 Community Celebration on Friday, June 29th at Well C. Stock Park in Montpelier. It will be held from 5pm – 8pm and have food, games, giveaways, along with Top 20 hit songs from 50s, 60s, 70s, and 80s. More information can be found at www.BLMHospital.com.   About the National Rural Health Association NRHA is a nonprofit organization working to improve the health and wellbeing of rural Americans and providing leadership on rural health issues through advocacy, communications, education, and research. NRHA membership is made up of 21,000 diverse individuals and organizations, all of whom share the common bond of an interest in rural health. For more information, visit RuralHealthWeb.org.   About the Chartis Group The Chartis Group (Chartis) provides comprehensive advisory services and analytics to the health care industry. With an unparalleled depth of expertise in strategic planning, performance excellence, informatics and technology, and health analytics, Chartis helps leading academic medical centers, integrated delivery networks, children’s hospitals and health care service organizations achieve transformative results. Learn more at Chartisrural.com

National Cancer Survivor’s Month

Image result for cancer survivor June 2018National cancer survivor’s month was established to recognize those who have successfully fought or are in the process of fighting the disease.  Each one of us most likely knows a person who has either succumbed to cancer or is currently battling the disease.  Cancer is a disease that literally affects millions of Americans daily.  In June we take time to celebrate those who are still among us after having fought cancer. Thanks to many advancements in treating cancer, people are living longer after receiving a cancer diagnosis.  The most recent studies show that more than six million men, and seven million women have managed to survive cancer in the United States.  The growing number of cancer survivors is not an indication that cancer rates are rising, (they have actually declined over the past 10 years), but more an indication that treatments are improving. In 2014, half of the cancer survivors were diagnosed before the age of 66 and half were diagnosed after.  Certain types of cancer affect a particular age group more commonly than others.  For instance, the median age of someone with lymphocytic leukemia is 14, but for those with bladder cancer, it’s 73. Today, 64% of all cancer survivors have lived at least five years since their diagnosis.  A great many of these have gone on to live long lives, with 46% of them reaching their 70th birthday. For men, the largest group of survivors is the 43% who have been diagnosed with prostate cancer.  Colorectal cancer has the second largest group of survivors among men. Among women, survivors of breast cancer are by far the largest group, making up 41% of female cancer survivors.  Uterine and colorectal cancer both have the second largest group of female survivors.  This makes sense when we understand that women are more likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer than either uterine or colorectal cancer. Some types of cancers are as common in men as they are in women.  For instance, survivors of colorectal cancers account for 9% of male cancer survivors and 8% of female cancer survivors. The survival rate for Non-Hodgkin lymphoma is essentially the same for men as it is for women. Early detection is key to survival.  The growing number of survivors in the U.S. helps us understand the importance of health screenings such as blood work, colonoscopies, and mammograms.  Please talk with your doctor to take advantage of these screenings.

National Stroke & High Blood Pressure Awareness Month

Stroke is the number five cause of death and a leading cause of disability in the United States.  A stroke affects the arteries leading to and within the brain. Did you know… Someone has a stroke every 40 seconds in the U.S.             -Each year, about as many Americans have a stroke as a heart attack. -Stroke causes more than 133,000 deaths annually Stroke is largely treatable and most strokes are preventable             -The faster you are treated, the more likely you are to recover -Stroke patients who receive the clot-busting drug alteplase (IV r-tPA) within 90 minutes of symptom onset are almost 3 times more likely to recover with little or no disability. -91 % of stroke patients who were treated with a stent retriever within 2.5 hours of symptom onset recovered with little or no disability. High blood pressure (hypertension) is the most important controllable risk factor for stroke.             -One in three American adults has high blood pressure About three in four people who have a first stroke, have blood pressure greater than    140/90 mm Hg.  Normal blood pressure is 120/90 mm Hg. -The American Heart Association says high blood pressure is usually preventable with simple steps*, yet it kills more people worldwide than any other condition. World Hypertension Day is May 17th, and the American heart Association wants people to check their blood pressure by May 17, 2018. *Steps to reduce high blood pressure -Reduce sodium in your diet                         -Quit smoking -Lost extra pounds                                         -Cut back on Caffeine -Eat a healthy diet                                         -Reduce Stress -Limit alcohol intake                                      -Exercise regularly

Eat Right for Your Sight

It wasn’t just your mother telling you to eat carrots for better vision. People have known for centuries that certain foods can be good for your eyesight, including 16th Century Spanish explorers who carried chili peppers on voyages to help with night vision. Your mom and the explorers were smart: those chili peppers contained beta-carotene, vitamins C, E and B6, and folic acid, and the carrots had carotenoids and antioxidants. A diet rich in these nutrients may reduce the risk of developing macular degeneration and slow the progression of the disease in those already diagnosed. The easy part of eating for eye health is learning which kinds of foods are best, foods like salmon, eggs, corn, blueberries, peppers, and leafy green vegetables.    Age-related macular degeneration, or AMD, is a common eye condition and a leading cause of vision loss among people age 50 or older.  It causes damage to the macula, a small spot near the center of the retina and the part of the eye needed for sharp, central vision, which lets us see objects that are straight ahead.  In some cases, the disease advances slowly and vision loss does not occur for a long time.  In others, the disease progresses faster and may lead to loss of vision in one or both eyes. Age is a major risk factor for AMD.  Other risk factors include:
  • Smoking-smoking more than doubles the risk
  • Race-AMD is more common among Caucasians than African-
  • Americans or Hispanics
  • Family history and genetics-People with family history are at a higher risk
Lifestyle does make a difference.  Avoid smoking, exercise regularly, maintain normal blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and eat a healthy diet rich in green, leafy vegetables and fish.   Researchers at the National Eye Institute tested whether taking nutritional supplements could protect against AMD.  They found that daily intake of certain high-dose vitamins and mineral can slow progression of the disease in people who have intermediate AMD, and those who have late AMD in one eye.  Studies showed that a combination of vitamin C, vitamin E, beta-carotene, zinc, and copper can reduce the risk of late AMD by 25%. Other supplements help as well. The list published by the National Institute of Health includes: 500 milligrams of vitamin C 400 international units of vitamin E 80 milligrams of zinc as zinc oxide 2 milligrams of copper as cupric oxide 10 mg lutein and 2 mg zeaxanthin  

Top 100 in the Nation Two Years in a Row

Bear Lake Memorial Hospital in Montpelier, ID was recently named one of the Top 100 Critical Access Hospitals in the United States by iVantage Health Analytics and The Chartis Center for Rural Health. This is the second year in a row the hospital has gotten this recognition. BLMH is one of only three hospitals in Idaho that have received this ranking. Bear Lake Memorial scored in the top 100 of Critical Access Hospitals on iVantage Health Analytics’ Hospital Strength INDEX®. The INDEX is the industry’s most comprehensive rating of rural providers. Each hospital is measured across eight pillars of strength: Inpatient Share Ranking, Outpatient Share Ranking, Cost, Charge, Quality, Outcomes, Patient Perspectives, and Financial Stability. “It’s more important than ever that rural hospitals proactively understand and address performance in the areas of cost, quality, outcomes and patient perspective. iVantage’s INDEX was designed to serve as this industry model,” said Michael Topchik, national leader of the Chartis Center for Rural Health. Recognitions like these reinforce the high standard of quality healthcare the hospital provides and will continue to provide to the citizens of the Bear Lake Valley. Hospital Administrator, Dennis Carlson states, “This achievement is very gratifying and validates our daily commitment to providing the best health care possible to our community while maintaining an efficient and effective facility.”   See data directly from Beckers Hospital Review at https://goo.gl/D28TN4  

March is National Colon Cancer Awareness Month

  • It is the third most commonly diagnosed cancer and the second leading cause of cancer death.
  • Colorectal cancer affects men and women equally, and people of all races and nationalities.
  • Anyone can get colorectal cancer.
  • The lifetime risk of being diagnosed with colorectal cancer is about one in 20.
  • The 5-year relative survival rate for Stage 1 and Stage II colon cancer was 90%; the 5-year survival rate for patients diagnosed at Stage III was 70% and Stage IV was 12%.
  • Colorectal cancer usually develops slowly over a period of 10 to 15 years.
  • Colorectal cancer rates in the US vary widely by geographic area. Contributing factors include regional variations in risk factors and access to screening and treatment.
  • Compared to whites, all other racial/ethnic groups are less likely to have colorectal cancer found in the early stages.
  • Colorectal cancer incidence rates have been declining in the US since the mid-1980s, due to increased awareness and screening.
  • Often, those who are diagnosed with colon cancer have experienced no signs or symptoms associated with the disease.
  • Currently, only about two-thirds of people aged 50 or older, for whom screening is recommended, report having received colorectal cancer testing consistent with current guidelines.
  • While most people diagnosed with colon cancer have no family history of the disease, those with a family history of the disease should begin screening at an earlier age.
  • People with a parent, sibling, or offspring with colorectal cancer have 2 or 3 times the risk of developing colon cancer compared to those with no family history of the disease.

When a relative is diagnosed at a young age or if there is more than one affected relative, the risk of developing colorectal cancer increases to three to six times that of the general population.

  • The risk of colorectal cancer increases with age; 91% of cases are diagnosed in individuals 50 years of age and older.
  • While rates of colon cancer have been declining among adults 50 years and older, incidence of colorectal cancer is increasing among adults under age 50.
  • Between 1998 and 2007 colorectal cancer cases have dropped steadily in adults over 50, but they increased by more than 2% each year in younger adults – as much as 4% for rectal cancers, and 3% for colon cancer.
  • Younger adults were more likely than older adults to be diagnosed with late-stage cancers.
  • People in their 30s were about 30% more likely than other age groups to be diagnosed with cancers in stage III or IV.

About 72% of cases of colorectal cancer in young people arise in the colon and about 28% in the rectum. According to the American Cancer Society, men and women should begin screening for colon cancer at age 50.

For more information follow this link: https://coloncancercoalition.org/get-educated/  

New Medicare Cards Coming in 2018

58 million Medicare beneficiaries will receive new Medicare cards beginning April 2018.  CMS hopes to have all of the cards mailed by April 2019.  You do not need to do anything to have the card mailed to you.  As long as Medicare and Social Security have your current address, the card will automatically be mailed to you.   Don’t be concerned if you don’t receive your card the same time as your spouse or your neighbor receives their card.   The new cards will have a new Medicare Beneficiary Identifier (MBI) and will consist of 11 letters and numbers, which are “non-intelligent, “ meaning they have no connection to any personal information about you, such as date of birth or where you were born, etc.   It is hoped that assigning beneficiaries a new random number will help alleviate identity theft and Medicare fraud. It is important to note that your coverage or benefits will not change and that your Medigap (supplemental) insurance will not be affected. As is expected, scams relating to the new card are already surfacing.  According to the Justice Department, the number of identity theft cases for people over 65 was 2.6 million in 2014.  Each year, the numbers go up.  Here are three common tactics scammers are  using: Rip-off artists call beneficiaries and tell them they can speed up the process of receiving a new card so the Medicare recipient won’t have any trouble when they go to a doctor’s office or hospital.  Scammers then ask the beneficiary for their personal information, such as bank account number, social security numbers, etc.  (Your old Medicare number will be good until December 31st, 2019, and you won’t be denied services because you don’t have your new card.) You get a phone call saying that you will receive your new card as soon as you pay.  Hang up!  The new card is free. Scammers pretending to be from CMS call you and say they don’t have the correct information on you and need it to mail you the new card.  You’re told you will lose benefits if you don’t give the information. Remember:  MEDICARE OR SOCIAL SECURITY WILL NEVER CALL YOU ASKING FOR INFORMATION. THEY ALREADY HAVE YOUR INFORMATION.   DO NOT GIVE OUT ANY PERSONAL INFORMATION OVER THE PHONE TO ANYONE UNLESS YOU HAVE INITIATED THE PHONE CALL. For questions about Medicare-related subjects, call the local SHIBA agent, Kim Hulme at 208.847.0949.