The Obama administration announced another piece of good news for seniors today: there will be no increase in Medicare premiums and these fees for prescription drugs will actually drop a bit.
“Overall, the average premium cost of the Medicare Part D prescription drug plan in 2012 will be about $30, a modest decline from $30.76 paid out on average in 2011”. Many will ask “how did this happen?”. The answer is that Medicare’s drug benefits program is being aided by competition from private insurers and increased use of generic medicines. And experts predict that the prices may continue to drop as more big-time drugs become generic over the next year few years.
DHHS (Department of Health and Human Services) secretary Kathleen Sebelius credited President Obama’s health care reform efforts for being crucial in these cost savings. "The Affordable Care Act is strengthening a very critical Medicare program and helping million[s] of seniors and Americans with disabilities get the care they need," she said. "Thanks to the new discounts, beneficiaries are saving hundreds of millions of dollars in the Medicare Part D coverage gap, known as the donut hole, at the same time as Part D premiums are falling”.
Although this was big news, experts cautioned that much more work needs to be done. Sebelius said that there were still “critical” gaps in coverage especially with prescription drugs. Hopefully this trend of progress will continue and this will make life easier for the elderly everywhere.
The debt ceiling bill passed Congress yesterday which is good news for the country as a whole but many seniors are wondering how it will affect them. With all the horse-trading and compromising finally over, the news looks good (at least in the short term) for the elderly.
Most major programs of interest will be protected under the deal including Social Security, Medicaid, veteran’s benefits and pensions, civil and military pay and programs for women, infants and children. The deal does not raise taxes (due to Republican insistence) and will cut spending by over $900 billion starting in October.
What happens after this bill remains to be seen. A bipartisan committee has been tasked with finding another $1.5 trillion in savings later this year and that could definitely affect some of the aforementioned programs. Seniors may want to hope that Washington continues to struggle with compromising because if the committee fails to reach an agreement, automatic cuts would occur and Social Security would be safe again.
Everyone should be glad that a government shutdown was avoided but this process left an ominous future for new agreements and put many important programs at risk. We’ll just have to wait and see.
With the so called “Heat Dome” affecting much of the continental United States, it seemed like a prudent time to write about being safe and keeping cool outside. The Heat Dome is “a perfect storm of sizzling summer weather exacerbated by relatively cloudless skies and the higher angle of the sun in the summer”. This has caused the entire continental US to face a huge heat wave that has already broken 221 records across the country.
With this increased heat, experts at the US National Institute on Aging recently stated that the risk of heat-related illness increases with age. As people get older, their bodies are less able to adapt to increased temperatures which can exacerbate their pre-existing conditions. Furthermore, medications that seniors take may also cause dehydration or decrease their body’s ability to respond to heat.
Once the body reaches 104 degrees Fahrenheit, a heat stroke may occur which can be deadly. Signs that indicate this has occurred include “a strong, rapid pulse; lack of sweating; dry flushed skin; faintness; staggering; and mental status changes, such as confusion, combativeness, disorientation or even coma”.
Researchers strongly cautioned seniors to avoid the heat as much as possible by staying inside with air conditioning as much as possible. However, if someone is suffering from a heat-related illness the following steps should be taken:
- Call 911 immediately
- Move them into air conditioning or another cool place
- Urge them to lie down and rest
- Remove or loosen tight-fitting or heavy clothing
- Encourage them to drink water or juices if they are able to drink, but avoid alcohol and caffeine
- Apply cold water or cold compresses to their skin
 Eli Jacks, meteorologist at the National Weather Service, http://www.theatlanticwire.com/national/2011/07/whats-heat-dome-anyway/40291/
 HealthDay, “Elderly at Greater Risk for Heat Stroke, Experts Warn”, http://news.yahoo.com/elderly-greater-risk-heat-stroke-experts-warn-130609458.html;_ylt=AqL5A21cJKH.mEb7cpaqkE_VJRIF;_ylu=X3oDMTM4OTg0ZnBlBHBrZwMzZjQwYzc3ZC0yMTVmLTM2MmQtYTAwOC1jYzQyYzhjYmI2YmEEcG9zAzMEc2VjA2xuX0FnaW5nX2dhbAR2ZXIDODEyZDRjYzAtYjM5YS0xMWUwLWJmZGItNWNlODFkYThjNGI1;_ylv=3
A presentation at this week's Alzheimer's Association International Conference has brought up a link between falls and Alzheimer's disease.
Elderly adults with Alzheimer's are more likely to fall than elderly adults without the disease. That's why scientists at the Alzheimer's Disease Research Center at Washington University have been following 125 older adults over 8 months and having them record any time they've fallen.
To determine whether any of the study participants have preclinical Alzheimer's, they were tested for the presence of amyloids, a known sign of the disease. Among those without amyloids, the fall rate was about 30 percent. Among those with amyloids -- and by extension, preclinical Alzheimer's -- the fall rate was 66 percent.
"There was a statistically significant marked difference in the fall rates between the 2 groups," study author Dr. Susan Stark told Medscape.
"These are all cognitively normal, healthy, aging people who otherwise do not look any different from us, so this hints to us that there are probably things other than the changes in the brain that are occurring that are affecting other things," Dr. Stark said.
"We are trained to look for cognitive changes, but in fact there probably are other changes that are happening. In this case, it's the motor changes that are making a fall occur."
The results are important because falls witnessed by a caretaker or relative or nurse could cause increased vigilance for the disease by physicians and even earlier diagnoses. There are even some promising potential treatments for the disease, but Alzheimer's must be caught early for them to be effective.
This blog usually only covers past studies and developments but today this post will discuss a current event that may have a huge effect on every American but specifically senior citizens.
President Obama and Congress have yet to come to an agreement to raise the debt ceiling even though the US Treasury has said that on August 2nd it will run out of money to pay for the country’s bills. Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell recently said “a real solution to the U.S. debt problem was unlikely while Obama was in office”.
This presents a scary situation for all Americans but in particular for the elderly because Obama has warned that these seniors could suffer first due to lack of Social Security checks. “I cannot guarantee that those checks go out on August 3rd if we haven't resolved this issue…there may simply not be the money in the coffers to do it,” Obama said. Other areas like veterans’ checks and disability benefits could also be affected if a compromise is not reached soon. Senator Harry Reid has seconded Obama’s statements today but the Republicans continue to balk, calling these “scare tactics” by the Democrats.
Hopefully our country’s leaders will come to their senses and put together a deal that allows our government to continue to function normally. Otherwise, not only will seniors see their benefits end, but “this could have catastrophic consequences for our economy as well as the economic stability of the rest of the world…threatening to take us into a second Great Depression”.
 Reuters, “Obama: seniors could be hurt without debt deal”, http://reut.rs/pcZuM7
 David Min, Associate Director for Financial Markets Policy, Center for American Progress, “The Big Freeze”, 10/28/2010, http://www.americanprogress.org/issues/2010/10/big_freeze.html