Medicare Covers Mental Health Services | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 16 October 2014 14:52

101614senBy Jim Miller • Special to the Times

Medicare recently upgraded its coverage of outpatient mental health services to help beneficiaries with depression and other needs. Here’s how it works.

If you have original Medicare, your Part B coverage will pay 80 percent (after you’ve met your $147 Part B deductible) for a variety of counseling and therapy services that are provided outside a hospital, like individual and group therapy, family counseling and more. They also cover services for treatment of beneficiaries who struggle with inappropriate alcohol and drug use.

You or your supplemental insurance is responsible for the remaining 20 percent coinsurance.

Medicare also gives you the option of getting treatment through a variety of mental health professionals such as psychiatrists, psychologists, clinical social workers and clinical nurse specialists.

It’s also important to understand that if you decide to see a non-medical doctor (such as psychologists or a clinical social worker), you’ll need to make sure that he or she is Medicare-certified and takes assignment, which means they accept Medicare’s approved amount as full payment. If they don’t, Medicare will not pay for the services.

Medicare will, however, pay for the services of Medicare-certified medical doctors (such as psychiatrists) who do not take assignment, but these doctors can charge you up to 15 percent above Medicare’s approved amount in addition to the 20 percent coinsurance, which you will be responsible for.

To locate a mental health care professional in your area that accepts Medicare assignment, use Medicare’s online Physician Compare tool. Just go to and type in your zip code, or city and state, then type in the type of profession you want to locate, like “psychiatry” or “clinical psychologist” in the “What are you searching for?” box. You can also get this information by calling Medicare at 800-633-4227.

Medicare Advantage

If you get your Medicare benefits through a private Medicare Advantage plan, they too must cover the same services as original Medicare, but they will likely require you to see an in-network provider. You’ll need to contact your plan directly for the details.

Additional Coverage

In addition to the outpatient mental health services, you should also know that Medicare covers yearly depression screenings that must be done in a primary care doctor’s office or primary care clinic that can assure appropriate diagnosis, treatment and follow-up. Annual depression screenings are covered 100 percent.

Medicare will also cover almost all medications used to treat mental health conditions under the Part D prescription drug benefit. If you’re prescribed an antidepressant or some other medication, and you have a Part D plan, you should call to confirm coverage or you can search the plans formulary (the list of medications they cover) on their website.

For more info, call Medicare at 800-633-4227 and request a copy of publication #10184 “Medicare & Your Mental Health Benefits,” or read it online at

Jim Miller is a contributor to the NBC Today show and author of “The Savvy Senior.”

Does My Living Trust Contain a ‘Poison Pill?’ | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 16 October 2014 14:50

By Gene L. Osofsky, Esq. • Special to the Times

Q: In past articles you have written about the option of seeking a Medi-Cal subsidy to help pay for the cost of nursing home care if that need arises. I have a Living Trust. Are there provisions that I should include, or some that I should avoid, in order to facilitate Medi-Cal qualification?

A: Great question. While I cannot provide an exhaustive list in the space of this article, I can comment on one that is critically important: a Living Trust-based estate plan should permit amendment or revocation by a trusted agent if the trustor, himself, later becomes incapacitated.

Background: When many people set up trusts, they provide that only they, themselves, are empowered to make amendments or withdrawals from the trust. For persons in robust good health, that restriction makes perfect sense: they understandably do not want others tampering with their trust.

However, when those same individuals age, become infirm and face the need for nursing care, this restriction can become a financial obstacle.

Reason: In order to invoke strategies to accelerate eligibility for a Medi-Cal nursing home subsidy, it is often necessary to first remove assets from the trust. The same is true when the goal is to protect the home or other assets from a Medi-Cal “payback,” or recovery claim, after death.

The problem arises where the infirm trustor does not then have sufficient mental capacity to sign documents to amend or remove assets from his trust.

In that case, his family may be unable to invoke planning strategies to deal with excess resources and qualify him for Medi-Cal. Without help from Medi-Cal, the cost of care could potentially drain the trust estate, to the financial detriment of the trustor and his family.

Check to see if your trust provides that the right of amendment or withdrawal is “personal” to you, as the trustor. If so, you may have a problem. Such a provision might read something like the following:

“The power to revoke or amend this trust is personal to the settlor and shall not be exercisable on the settlor’s behalf by a conservator, an agent under a power of attorney, or any other person or entity.”

If your trust contains a provision like the above, it could be the “poison pill” which later exposes your trust assets to rapid spend down in the event you need nursing care and/or to a substantial Medi-Cal recovery claim after death.

Perhaps a better plan would be to change your trust now to authorize your trusted agent under a Durable Power Of Attorney (“DPOA”) to amend or revoke your trust in certain circumstances, such as if the need for nursing care arises. If you are concerned that such power might be abused, you might build restrictions into its exercise, such as by requiring the written certification of a physician that you need nursing home care, the approval of an attorney who practices in the field of Medi-Cal planning and/or the approval of a judge.

If you do opt to so modify your trust, be sure to include coordinating provisions in your DPOA, a legal requirement that is often overlooked.

Lastly, for those who no longer have capacity to change their trust, know that application can sometimes still be made to the superior court for permission to amend or revoke the trust when need requires, a process which is expensive and the outcome uncertain.

Gene L. Osofsky is an elder law and estate planning attorney in Hayward. Visit his website at

Choose Your Flu Shot Option | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 02 October 2014 18:16

100214senBy Jim Miller • Special to the Times

Depending on your health, age and personal preference, there’s a buffet of flu shots available to seniors this flu season, along with two vaccinations for pneumonia that you should consider getting too.

Flu Shots Options

Just as they do every year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends a seasonal flu shot to almost everyone, but it’s especially important for seniors who are at higher risk of developing serious flu-related complications.

The flu puts more than 200,000 people in the hospital each year and kills around 24,000 — 90 percent of whom are seniors. Here’s the rundown of the different options:

• Standard (trivalent) flu shot: This tried-and-true shot that’s been around for more than 30 years protects against three strains of influenza. This year’s version protects against the two common A strains (H1N1 and H3N2), and one influenza B virus.

• Quadrivalent flu shot: This vaccine, which was introduced last year, protects against four types of influenza — the same three strains as the standard flu shot, plus an additional B-strain virus.

• High-dose flu shot: Designed specifically for seniors, age 65 and older, this vaccine, called the Fluzone High-Dose, has four times the amount of antigen as a regular flu shot does, which creates a stronger immune response for better protection. But, be aware that the high-dose option may also be more likely to cause side effects, including headache, muscle aches and fever.

• Intradermal flu shot: If you don’t like needles, the intradermal shot is a nice option because it uses a tiny 1/16-inch long micro-needle to inject the vaccine just under the skin, rather than deeper in the muscle like standard flu shots. This trivalent vaccine is recommended only to those ages 18 to 64.

To locate a vaccination site that offers these flu shots, visit and type in your ZIP code. If you’re a Medicare beneficiary, Part B will cover 100 percent of the costs of any flu shot, as long as your doctor, health clinic or pharmacy agrees not to charge you more than Medicare pays.

Private health insurers are also required to cover standard flu shots, however, you’ll need to check with your provider to see if they cover the other vaccination options.

Pneumonia Vaccines

The other important vaccinations the CDC recommends to seniors, especially this time of year, are the pneumococcal vaccines for pneumonia. An estimated 900,000 people in the U.S. get pneumococcal pneumonia each year, and it kills around 5,000.

This year, the CDC is recommending that all seniors 65 or older get two separate vaccines, which is a change of decades-old advice. The vaccines are Prevnar 13 and Pneumovax 23. Previously, only Pneumovax 23 was recommended for seniors.

Both vaccines, which are administered just once, work in different ways to provide maximum protection.

If you haven’t yet received any pneumococcal vaccine, you should get the Prevnar 13 first, followed by Pneumovax 23 six to 12 months later. But, if you’ve already been vaccinated with Pneumovax 23 you should get Prevnar 13 at least one year later.

Medicare currently covers only one pneumococcal vaccine per older adult. If you’re paying out of pocket, you can expect to pay around $50 to $85 for Pneumovax 23, and around $120 to $150 for the Prevnar 13.


How Does the Reading of a Will Work? | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 02 October 2014 18:13

By Gene L. Osofsky, Esq. • Special to the Times

Q: My brother-in-law just died, and I expected the entire family to be invited to a formal reading of his will. So far, nothing has been set up. Does that sound right?

A: Actually, yes it does. You have probably seen a number of old movies where, after a person’s death, his next of kin gather in the attorney’s office for a formal “reading of the will.”

In the movies, the attorney somberly reads the will aloud while the family listens with anxious anticipation to learn how the decedent provided for them. Typically, the camera captures audience reaction as the decedent’s wishes are finally made known.

In real life, however, that scenario does not occur.

Instead, the heirs and beneficiaries typically receive a copy of the will in connection with the commencement of a formal probate proceeding:  Within 30 days of death, the original of the decedent’s Last Will must be lodged with the Superior Court clerk in the county of the decedent’s residence.

If there is to be a probate of the will, the decedent’s attorney will then prepare a formal Notice of Petition To Administer the Estate and mail it to all heirs and beneficiaries.

This formal Notice is usually accompanied by a true copy of the decedent’s will. If not, a copy of the will is available for viewing and copying at the clerk’s office as a public record.

However, even if there is no probate (for example, if the decedent held all assets in a trust), the original will is still kept in a secure file by the court clerk and there remains a semi-public record, available for viewing or copying upon showing the clerk the decedent’s death certificate or by obtaining a court order.

Essentially, each interested person receives, or can secure, a copy of the will to read for himself. That is typically how the ‘reading of the will’ actually occurs in today’s world.

Some have suggested that the former ceremony of reading the will has its roots in earlier times when literacy was not as common as it is today, and that the ceremonial reading aloud was therefore necessary to inform beneficiaries of the will’s contents.

However, it is my guess that there is another explanation which might have more to do with technology, i.e. the advent of copy machines. Certainly, in the days of Abraham Lincoln and even into the last century, copying a legal document for distribution to others would have been a labor-intensive process, usually performed by hand and therefore prone to error. In that context, reliance upon a single original made sense.

By contrast, today we can quickly and accurately reproduce the decedent’s Last Will and easily distribute a true copy to all those who have a legitimate interest.

Hence, in today’s world there is no need for a solemn gathering to hear the reading aloud of the original Last Will, and the law does not require that an attorney do so. That said, we can still enjoy old movies with the drama of the reading of the will in the presence of the assembled family members.

Gene L. Osofsky is an elder law and estate planning attorney in Hayward. Visit his website at

Generic Drugs Offer Big Savings | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 18 September 2014 13:50

091814sen1By Jim Miller • Special to the Times

Are brand-name medications better than generic?

No. Brand-name medications are not better, safer or more effective than their generic alternative because they’re virtually the same.

To gain approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), generic drugs are required to have the same active ingredients, strength and dosage form as their brand-name counterpart. The generic manufacturer must also demonstrate that people absorb the drug at the same rate.

The only difference between a brand-name drug and its generic is the name (generics are usually called by their chemical name), shape and color of the drug (U.S. trademark laws don’t allow generics to look exactly like the their brand-name counterparts) and price.

Generic drugs are often 10 to 30 percent cheaper when they first become available, but by the end of the first year the price can drop in half. And, by the second and third year, it can drop 70 to 90 percent.

Cost Difference

The reason generic drugs are so much cheaper is because their manufacturers don’t have the hefty start-up costs that the original creators of the drug do.

When a pharmaceutical company creates a new drug, it spends millions of dollars on the research, development and clinical testing phase. Then, if it gets FDA approval, it has to turn around and spend even more money to market the drug to the health care industry and the public.

The total cost can rise into the hundreds of millions by the time the drug is in the hands of consumers.

In an effort to recoup their investment, the brand-name drug makers charge a premium price, and are given a 20-year patent protection, which means that no other company can make or sell the drug during that period of time.

After those 20 years are up, however, other companies can apply to the FDA to sell generic versions. But because generic manufacturers don’t have the same research, development and marketing costs, they can sell their product much cheaper.

Also, once generic drugs are approved, there’s greater competition, which drives the price down. Today, nearly 8 in 10 prescriptions filled in the United States are for generics, which saves U.S. consumers around $3 billion every week.

New Generics

You should also know, in 2014 and 2015, patents on a wide variety of popular brand-name drugs will expire and become available in generic, including Celebrex, Copaxone, Actonel, Nexium, Exforge, Cymbalta, Lunesta, Avodart, Abilify, Evista, Maxalt, Maxalt MPT, Micardis, Micardis HCT, Reneagel, Twynata and Xeloda.

For more information, Community Catalyst, a national, nonprofit consumer advocacy organization, provides a list on their website of the top 50 brand-name drugs and the dates they should become available as generics. Go to, and type “Drugs Going Generic 2014 – 2015” in their search bar to find it.

You can also find out if a brand-name drug has a generic alternative by simply asking your doctor or pharmacist. Or, visit, an internet tool that provides prices on brand-name drugs and their generic alternatives (if available) at virtually every pharmacy in the U.S. so you can find the best deals in your area.


Does Medicare Offer Coverage for Mental Health Services? | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 18 September 2014 13:48

By Gene L. Osofsky, Esq. • Special to the Times

Q: I hear that Medicare will now cover mental health services much like it covers care for medical and surgical conditions. Do you know anything about this?

A: Yes. Beginning Jan. 1, 2014, Medicare began reimbursing the cost of outpatient mental health treatment services on a par with its reimbursement for other Part B medical services.

Previously, Medicare beneficiaries who received mental health services faced a higher co-pay and were initially required to pay up to 50 percent of the approved amount, whereas they only paid 20 percent for most other outpatient medical services. Many Medicare recipients and advocacy organizations felt this practice to be discriminatory. Congress ultimately agreed.

In July, 2008, Congress enacted the “Medicare Improvements For Patients and Providers Act” (“Act”).  Under the Act, Congress initiated a phase-out of this disparity over a five-year period from 2010 to 2014. That phase-out is now complete.  

As a result, at the first of this year, Medicare began paying the same 80 percent of the Medicare-approved rate for all covered mental health services, just like it does for medical and surgical services.

Also, if you have a Medicare supplemental policy, it may cover the 20-percent co-payment just as it now does for more traditional medical services. If you do not have a supplemental policy and need help paying the 20-percent co-pay, there are Medicare programs that may help.

The following are some of the mental health services that Medicare will now cover at 80 percent of the Medicare-approved rate:

• Visits to a psychologist or other professional counselor;

• Family therapy, as long as the focus of therapy is on the Medicare recipient;

• Substance abuse treatment;

• Occupational therapy that is part of mental health treatment;

• Prescription medicine that cannot be self-administered;

• Art, dance and music therapy if deemed necessary to prevent hospitalization.

Medicare also covers inpatient care in a general or psychiatric hospital. However, unlike with non-mental health services, Medicare puts a cap on coverage for inpatient psychiatric care and will only pay for up to 190 days of inpatient psychiatric hospital services in a lifetime.

Be aware that Medicare will pay for services only if they are provided by a mental health professional who accepts Medicare assignment, so be sure to check with your health professional before you receive services.

Note: If you have a Medicare Advantage Plan, coverage rules may be different, so check with your plan before receiving services.

For more information on covered mental health services, visit and download Medicare’s new guide entitled “Medicare And Your Mental Health Benefits,” or call 1-800-633-4227 and ask for a copy.

For help with paying the co-pays, visit and select “Get Help Paying Costs” under “Your Medicare Costs,” or call the 800 number above.

Gene L. Osofsky is an elder law and estate planning attorney in Hayward.  Visit his website at

Social Security Resumes Mailing Benefit Statements | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 18 September 2014 13:45

By Jason Alderman • Special to the Times

Call it a paperless experiment that didn’t quite pan out.

In 2011, a budget-strapped Social Security Administration (SSA) stopped mailing annual benefit statements to workers over 25 in order to save $70 million on annual printing and mailing costs.

In return, the agency launched the “my Social Security” online tool that allows 24/7 access to your statement, as well as other helpful information. (Your statement shows a complete record of your taxable earnings as well as estimated retirement, disability and survivor benefits.)

Although more than 13 million people have opened accounts, that’s only about 6 percent of the American workforce. With millions of Baby Boomers at – or approaching – retirement age, Congress was justifiably concerned that not enough people were accessing this critical retirement-planning tool.

That’s why this month SSA will resume mailing paper statements every five years to workers from ages 25 to 60, provided they haven’t already signed up for online statements. The expectation is that more people will migrate to electronic services over time, as Social Security continues to close field offices and reduce in-office paperwork services – thanks to years of funding cutbacks.

The paper statements are a good first step, but creating an online account allows you to log in anytime and:

• Estimate retirement, disability and survivor benefits available to you under different work, earnings and retirement-age scenarios.

• Estimate benefits for which your family would be eligible when you receive Social Security or die.

• View a list of your lifetime earnings to date, according to the agency’s records.

• See the estimated Social Security and Medicare taxes you’ve paid over your working career.

• Find information about qualifying and signing up for Medicare.

• Review topics to consider if you’re 55 or older and thinking about retiring.

• Read general information about Social Security.

• Access calculators to estimate your projected benefits under different scenarios.

• Apply online for retirement and disability benefits.

• Access a printable version of your Social Security statement.

To create an online account, go to the “my Social Security” website ( You must have a valid email address, Social Security number, U.S. mailing address and be at least age 18.

You’ll need to verify your identity by providing personal information and answering questions whose answers only you should know. Social Security contracts with Experian to design these questions based on the credit bureau’s records.

Once your identity has been verified, you can create a password-protected account. Social Security emphasizes that you may sign into or create an account to access only your own information. Unauthorized use could subject you to criminal and/or civil penalties.

Review your statement at least annually to ensure the information on file for you is correct – for example, your yearly taxable earnings. Otherwise, when Social Security calculates your benefits at retirement, disability or death, you could be shortchanged; or, if your earnings were over-reported, you could end up owing the government money.

If you do find errors, call 800-772-1213, or visit your local office. You’ll need copies of your W-2 form or tax return for any impacted years.

Jason Alderman directs Visa’s financial education programs.

Gambling Problems Hit Seniors Hard | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 04 September 2014 12:02

090414senBy Jim Miller • Special to the Times

Problem gambling among seniors is definitely on the rise. Seniors have time and money on their hands, and the influx of casinos across Northern California have made access to gambling much more convenient. Here’s what you should know, along with some tips and resources that can help your senior parent if they do indeed have a problem.

Problem Gambling

For most older adults, gambling is simply a fun recreational activity, but for those who become addicted to it, it can be a devastating disease that can financially wipe them out.

There are a number of reasons why seniors can be vulnerable to gambling problems. For starters, seniors are often catered to by casinos with free bus transportation, free or discounted meals, special rewards and other prizes as a way to entice them.

In addition, many seniors use gambling as a way to distract or escape feelings of loneliness, depression, sadness, or even a chronic health condition. Some may have financial problems they are seeking to overcome. And, some may have cognitive impairment that interferes with their ability to make sound decisions.

Adding to the problem is that many seniors may not understand addiction, making them less likely to identify a gambling problem. Or they may be confused or embarrassed that they can’t control their urges to gamble and reluctant to seek help because they think that, at their age, they should know better. And, even if they recognize that they have a problem, they may not know that help is available or where to get it.

You should also know that while there are many gambling options for people to get hooked on today, casino slot machines are far and away the most popular among seniors.

Slot machines are much more addictive then the old machines of yesteryear with spinning lemons, cherries and melons. Many of today’s slot machines offer intense sensory stimulation with large video screens, music and vibrating, ergonomic chairs.

Find Help

How can you know if a spouse or a parent has a gambling problem? Gamblers Anonymous offers a 20 question online test at that will help determine if there is a problem. In the meantime, here are some questions you can ask to help evaluate the situation.

• Is she/he preoccupied with gambling, constantly talking about it, or planning to gamble versus doing their normal activities?

• Is she/he gambling more and more money to get the same level of excitement?

• Is she/he using their retirement funds or other savings to gamble, or are they pawning or selling personal items to get money to gamble with?

•Has she/he lost control to the point that they can’t set a limit of time and money to spend in the casino, and stick to it?

• Does she/he become uncomfortable, angry or lie when you ask them about their gambling activities?

If the answer is yes to any of these questions, there may be a problem. To find help, contact the National Council on Problem Gambling (, a non-profit organization that operates a 24-hour national hotline at 800-522-4700. They can direct you to resources in your area, including counselors who have been trained through the National Certified Gambler Counseling Program.

Jim Miller is a contributor to the NBC Today show and author of “The Savvy Senior.”

If I Have a Trust, Do I Also Need a Will? | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 04 September 2014 11:59

By Gene L. Osofsky, Esq. • Special to the Times

Q: I have a living trust, prepared some time ago. I recently heard that it was a good idea to also have a will. However, I thought the trust took the place of a will. Can you clarify this?

A: Sure. Attorneys who prepare trusts generally also prepare a backup will to coordinate with the trust. The companion will is designed to “catch” assets that were inadvertently left out of the trust.

The will then typically directs that these omitted assets be “poured back” into the trust and be distributed according to the terms of the trust.  Attorneys often refer to these wills as “Pour Over” Wills, which accurately describes their purpose.

Ideally, you would never need to use the “Pour Over” Will, because all assets would be part of your trust. However, in the real world, we find that clients often neglect to take proper steps to retitle assets into their trust.

Remember, in order to transfer assets into your trust, you generally have to sign a formal document, such as a deed in the case of real property, which formally re-titles assets into the name of the trustee of the trust. By the way, in most cases the trustee is the same person who created the trust (the trustor), but the trustor still must observe the formality of retaking title in his own name “as trustee.”

The assets omitted from the trust and “captured” by the Pour-Over Will still have to go through probate. However, the advantage of having a Pour-Over Will is that the omitted assets will ultimately go to your designated trust beneficiaries as part of a coordinated plan. Without the Pour-Over Will, the omitted assets would be distributed to your heirs-at-law as identified by statute, which could be different persons.

A related topic arises where a trustor has clearly listed assets on a schedule attached to his trust, but neglects to formally retitle the assets into his name “as trustee.” This happens fairly frequently.

In this situation, the trustor clearly intended to put the described assets in the trust, but for whatever reason failed to take formal steps to do so. Here, the law provides a quicker remedy, which attorneys often refer to as a “Heggstad Motion,” so named because of the 1993 court decision which approved this remedy.  Thus, where the trustor’s intent to include an asset in his trust is clear, it is possible to petition the court for an order immediately transferring the assets into the trust, so that they are not subject to probate and the possibility that they may go to unintended individuals.

For the above reasons, we always recommend that a trust contain a detailed Schedule of Assets, that upon creation of the trust the client take immediate steps to retitle those assets into the trust, and that the trust be accompanied by a companion “Pour-Over Will.”

Caution: some assets, such as retirement accounts, should never be re-titled into the name of the trust, as that could trigger an adverse tax result.

Gene L. Osofsky is an elder law and estate planning attorney in Hayward. Visit his website at

How Medicare Can Cover a Mobility Device, Wheelchair | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 21 August 2014 13:30

082114sen1By Jim Miller • Special to the Times

Getting an electric-powered mobility scooter or wheelchair for a senior who is covered by original Medicare starts with a visit to the doctor’s office.

If eligible, Medicare will pay 80 percent of the cost, after you meet your $147 Part B deductible. You will then be responsible for the remaining 20 percent. Here’s a breakdown of how it works.

Make an Appointment

Your first step is to call your doctor and schedule a Medicare-required, face-to-face mobility evaluation, to determine your need for a power wheelchair or scooter. To be eligible, you’ll need to meet all of the following conditions:

• Your health condition makes moving around your home very difficult, even with the help of a cane, walker or manual wheelchair.

• You have significant problems performing activities of daily living like bathing, dressing, getting in or out of a bed or chair, or using the bathroom.

• You are able to safely operate, and get on and off the scooter or wheelchair, or have someone with you who is always available to help you safely use the device.

If eligible, your doctor will determine what kind of mobility equipment you’ll need based on your condition, usability in your home, and the ability to operate it.

It’s also important to know that Medicare coverage is dependent on you needing a scooter or wheelchair in your home. If your claim is based on needing it outside the home, it will be denied as not medically necessary, because the wheelchair or scooter will be considered as a leisure item.

Where to Shop

If the doctor determines that you need a power scooter or wheelchair, they will fill out a written order or certificate of medical necessity (CMN) form for you.

Once you receive that, you’ll need to take it to a Medicare-approved supplier within 45 days. If you happen to live in one of Medicare’s competitive bidding areas, you’ll need to get the device from specific suppliers approved by Medicare. To find approved suppliers and competitive bidding suppliers in your area, visit or call 800-633-4227.

Once you choose an approved supplier, they will send a representative to assess your home, measuring your doorways, thresholds and overall space to ensure that you get the appropriate mobility device.

Financial Assistance

If you have a Medicare supplemental policy, it may pick up some, or all of the 20 percent cost of the scooter or wheelchair that’s not covered by Medicare. If, however, you don’t have supplemental insurance, and can’t afford the 20 percent, you may be able to get help through Medicare Savings Programs. Call your local Medicaid office for eligibility information.

Or, if you find that you are not eligible for a Medicare covered scooter or wheelchair, and can’t afford to purchase one, renting can be a much cheaper short-term solution. Talk to a supplier about this option.

For more information, call Medicare at 800-633-4227 and request a copy of publication No. 11046 “Medicare’s Wheelchair and Scooter Benefit,” or you can read it online at

Medicare Advantage

If you happen to have a Medicare Advantage plan (like an HMO or PPO), you’ll need to call your plan to find out the specific steps you need to take to get a wheelchair or scooter. Many Advantage plans may have specific suppliers within the plan’s network they’ll require you to use.

Send your senior questions to: Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070, or visit

Senior Safe-Driver Seminar on Sept. 2 | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 21 August 2014 13:29

082114sen2The California Highway Patrol will present a safe-driver seminar for seniors from 1 to 4 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 2, at the Castro Valley Library. Topics to be covered include compensating for age-related changes, tuning up your driving skills, the rules of the road, safe-driving tips and a confidential self-evaluation. On completion of the seminar, seniors will receive a certificate which usually entitles them to an automobile insurance discount. The program is free, but registration is required. To register, or for more information, call the Library Information Desk at 510-667-7900. The Castro Valley Library is located at 3600 Norbridge Ave. and is wheelchair accessible.


Keep Active as Time Passes By | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 21 August 2014 13:27

082114sen3For optimal health, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that older adults get a minimum of two hours and 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity or one hour and 15 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity every week.

In addition, muscle-strengthening activities should be conducted two or more days a week.

Why Exercise

Exercise can help prevent many physical problems and chronic conditions that come with aging, including weight gain, back pain and heart disease. Plus, it keeps the mind sharp and can help you feel happier, improving symptoms of depression and even dementia.

To gain these benefits, however, you need to find a fitness program that provides the physical results desired and is enjoyable, too, so you’ll stick to it.

How To Exercise

Before you begin any exercise program:

1. See your doctor, especially if you have a chronic condition.

2. Start slowly. Begin by walking, say, for 10 minutes or so a day. As you gain energy and your body builds stamina, increase your activity levels and make it more challenging.

3. Stay motivated. Have realistic short-term goals you can easily meet.

4. Don’t be intimidated. Remember that everyone had to walk in the door for the first time. Don’t let the thought of starting hold you back. You can do it.

Healthways SilverSneakers Fitness Program is available nationwide. It’s free in most cases because it’s covered through many Medicare Advantage, Medicare Supplement and group retiree plans. For more information, visit



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