Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Medicare 2018 Premiums, Deductibles, Copays

The good news is Medicare is still here, the bad news isn't too bad, your out of pocket costs go up a little for 2018.

Medicare A & B Premiums, Deductibles, Copays 2018

Part A (hospital) Beneficiary pays:
Hospital Deductible $1,340/benefit period
Hospital Copay $335/day for days 61-90
$670/day for days 91-150
Skilled Nursing Facil Copay $167.50/day for days 21-100
Part A Premium $455/month for those with fewer than 30 quarters of Medicare-covered employment
$232/month for those with 30-39 quarters of Medicare-covered employment
Part B (doctor, outpatient services, etc.) Beneficiary pays:
Annual Deductible $186
Part B Premium for those with incomes below $85,000 or $170,000 married couple $134/month – for those beneficiaries enrolled in Medicare prior to 2016, whose premium is taken out of their monthly Social Security benefit
Most covered Part B services 20%

Thursday, December 07, 2017

Lookout for the Jury Duty scam

Timely info from the folks at the Federal Trade Commission:

United States Marshals protect the federal courts, track down dangerous fugitives, and transport thousands of prisoners. They don’t make calls and threaten to arrest people or fine them for missing jury duty. But scammers posing as Marshals have been making calls like that and tricking people into sending money. The imposters use spoofed phone numbers that look official, and steal the names and badge numbers of legitimate law enforcement officials. They warn people they might be arrested — unless they buy a prepaid debit, iTunes or gift card and pay the fine immediately. If you buy a card and tell a scammer the card’s code, the scammer takes the card’s value; your money is gone. If a “U.S. Marshal” calls you with a jury duty warning, hang up. It’s a scam.

If a fake Marshal — or any other government imposter — calls and tells you to send money to avoid arrest:

  • Don’t send money by prepaid card and don’t wire money. Wiring money is like sending cash. You usually can't reverse or trace the transaction.
  • Don’t share your financial or personal information. Scammers can use your information to commit identity theft.
  • Don’t trust a name or number that appears on your phone. Scammers can fake caller ID information.

If you received a call like this, please report it to the FTC and to your local Marshals Service District Office. If you sent money to an imposter on a prepaid card, report it to the card company’s fraud department. Read more about the tricks government imposters use and how to beat their scams.

Monday, November 20, 2017

File your claim for FTC/DOJ settlement with Western Union

Did you lose money to a scammer who had you pay through Western Union between January 1, 20014 and January 19, 2017? The US Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission got a $586 million settlement that may entitle you to some of your money back. Here's the info below, and you can file online and learn more at www.ftc.gov/wu

Monday, September 18, 2017

New Medicare Cards Coming In April 2018

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) is implementing a fraud prevention initiative that removes Social Security numbers from Medicare cards to help prevent identity theft, and safeguard taxpayer dollars.

Under the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act (MACRA) of 2015, the CMS must remove Social Security Numbers (SSNs) from all Medicare cards by April 2019. A new Medicare Beneficiary Identifier (MBI) will replace the SSN-based Health Insurance Claim Number (HICN) on the new Medicare cards for Medicare transactions.

“We’re taking this step to protect our seniors from fraudulent use of Social Security numbers which can lead to identity theft and illegal use of Medicare benefits,” said CMS Administrator Seema Verma. Personal identity theft affects a large and growing number of seniors. People age 65 or older are increasingly the victims of this type of crime. Incidents among seniors increased to 2.6 million from 2.1 million between 2012 and 2014, according to the most current statistics from the Department of Justice.

Under the new system, for each person enrolled in Medicare, the CMS will assign a new MBI and mail a new Medicare card.

As the CMS's website explains, the new cards will use a unique, randomly-assigned number called an MBI to replace the Social Security-based HICN currently used on the Medicare card. Beneficiaries will be instructed to safely and securely destroy their current Medicare cards and keep the new MBI confidential. The MBI is private like the SSN and should be protected as Personally Identifiable Information.

CMS will begin mailing new cards in April 2018 and will meet the congressional deadline for replacing all Medicare cards by April 2019.  The CMS will have a transition period where you can use either the HICN or the MBI to exchange data for Medicare transactions. The transition period will begin no earlier than April 1, 2018 and run through December 31, 2019.

As outlined by Eileen Ambrose of AARP, here is what you need to know about the new Medicare cards:
* The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) will begin mailing the cards to beneficiaries in April 2018.
* The cards will automatically be mailed to all 58 million current beneficiaries. You don’t need to do anything special to receive one.
* The new cards will feature a randomly assigned Medicare Beneficiary Identifier (MBI) made up of 11 letters and numbers. Each MBI is unique, randomly generated, and the characters are "non-intelligent," which means they don't have any hidden or special meaning.
*Your benefits will not change under the new MBI.
* People with Medicare may start using their new Medicare cards and MBIs as soon as they get them.

However, remain leery of scams, warn the folks at Medicare.gov. Scam artists may try to get your current Medicare number and other personal information by contacting you about your new Medicare card. They often claim to be from Medicare and use various scams to get your Medicare Number including:
* Asking you to confirm your Medicare or Social Security Number so they can send you a new card.
* Telling you there's a charge for your new card and they need to verify your personal information.
* Threatening to cancel your health benefits if you don’t share your Medicare Number or other personal information.
If someone calls you and asks for your Medicare number or other personal information, hang up and call 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227).

For more information on the new Medicare cards, see:

https://www.cms.gov/Medicare/New-Medicare-Card/index.html

https://www.cms.gov/Newsroom/MediaReleaseDatabase/Press-releases/2017-Press-releases-items/2017-05-30.html

http://www.aarp.org/health/medicare-insurance/info-2017/new-medicare-cards-facts-fd.html

 



 


Thursday, September 14, 2017

Equifax Data Breach: What You Can Do


Credit bureaus, or credit reporting agencies, are companies that collect and maintain consumer credit information then resell this information to other businesses in the form of credit reports. The three main credit reporting agencies in the U.S. are Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion.  These agencies collect information on all your financial transactions from banks, credit card companies, mortgage lenders, and other business with which you may have an account.  

Recently, however, Equifax experienced a huge security breach. Hackers managed to obtain access to the personal data of around 143 million people. The private information that was hacked includes people's social security numbers, addresses, birthdays, and credit card numbers. You’re probably a victim.

In response to the massive breach, Equifax has set up a special website that allows people to check to see if their personal information has been compromised. To find out if you may have been impacted, visit www.EquifaxSecurity2017.com, and click on the "Potential Impact" tab. You'll have to enter your last name and the last six digits of your Social Security number to do so.

In an effort to appease consumers Equifax is offering one free year of credit monitoring to all Americans. After that year you will likely have to pay a monthly fee if you want to keep receiving their monitoring service, and your identifying information will continue to be at risk since we can’t know who has obtained it since the breach.

Merely getting credit monitoring, whether through Equifax’s one year offer or any of the other services available for a fee, is not enough to protect you from the risk of identify theft after this breach. Tim Herrera of the New York Times suggests a few other steps to increase your likelihood of protecting your credit and your identity:

  1. Set Up Fraud Alerts. A good first step would be to establish fraud alerts with all three major credit reporting agencies, Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian. Fraud alerts notify you if someone tries to apply for credit in your name. With a fraud alert, when you or someone else attempts to open a credit account in your name, increase the credit limit on an existing account, or obtain a new card on an existing account, the lender should takes steps to verify that you have authorized the request. However, fraud alerts do not prevent third parties from viewing your credit file. Setting up fraud alerts is free, and the steps will vary depending on your banks or credit unions.

  1. Consider Credit Freezes. A credit freeze locks your credit files so that only companies you already do business with will have access to them; credit freezes block your file from being disclosed to third parties. As Ron Lieber of the New York Times explains, “. . . the bureaus are not supposed to release your credit report to any company except the ones that already have you as a customer. Why is this important? When a thief shows up with your social security number and address to apply for credit in your name, the lender will go to fetch your credit report before anything else happens. If it can’t retrieve the report because of the freeze, then no new account for the thief.”
You can thaw your freeze every time you want to apply for new credit, or you can permanently eliminate the freeze by using a personal identification number (PIN) you will get at the time you apply the freeze. Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion allow consumers in any state to add, lift or remove a freeze online, by phone or by mail. If you don’t have that PIN you’ll have a heckuva time trying to thaw or remove a freeze, so this is a dangerous option if you don’t have a good safe reliable system for storing and retrieving PINs, passwords, and account info.
For WV residents (the fees vary by state) the cost is $5 for each freeze, thaw, and removal on each of your 3 credit reporting agency accounts. Equifax has said it will waive all fees until November 21, 2017 for people who want to freeze the Equifax credit files.

  1. Check Your Credit Report. Often. You are entitled to one free credit report every year from each of the three major credit reporting agencies. You can access your free reports at www.annualcreditreport.com. There are lots of other websites that purport to get you the free reports, watch out for their sneaky fees. Experts advise spreading these out over the year, so that you obtain a credit report about once every four months. Carefully reviewing your credit report can help you spot suspicious activity. And, as Herrera notes, because the Equifax breach will have long-term consequences, it is a good idea to start checking your credit report as part of your regular financial routines.

For more information on the Equifax Security Breach see:





For more information on credit freezes see:

For more information on how to protect yourself see:








Wednesday, September 13, 2017

September 28 is Good Neighbor Day

West Virginians know that being a good neighbor is important to our communities. There's also good evidence that social connection can help reduce the risk of financial exploitation in later life. On September 28 you have a great excuse to check in on a older neighbor or a neighbor with disabilities just to say Hi Neighbor! It's Good Neighbor Day, and you can download a card to take to you neighbor or get some ideas about other ways to be neighborly at wvneighbors.com.

Your good neighbor needs a good neighbor!

Friday, August 25, 2017

Happy 99th Birthday to WV native Katherine Coleman Goble Johnson!

Katherine Coleman Goble Johnson, African-American physicist and mathematician, was born August 26, 1918 in White Sulphur Springs, Greenbrier County, WV. She would become a pioneer in space science and computing working for NASA, even calculating complex rocket trajectories with a slide rule and pencil. She and her coworkers are the subject of the Oscar-nominated 2016 film Hidden Figures.

Ms. Johnson is a 2015 Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient and was given an honorary Doctorate from WVU in 2017. These are just two of numerous awards and accolades she has received for a lifetime of extraordinary achievement.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

WV Supreme Court's first black Justice Franklin D. Cleckley dies at age 77

We at West Virginia Senior Legal Aid are sad to hear that former WV Supreme Court Justice, WVU law professor, scholar, author, mentor, and cherished colleague Franklin D. Cleckley died on Monday 8/14/2017.

Cleckley was appointed as Justice to the WV Supreme Court of Appeals in 1994 by Gov. Caperton, making him the first black justice in WV history.

Professor Cleckley was my Criminal Procedure professor at WVU College of Law. I got a D+ in there and I worked hard for it. He had the amazing ability to compare and contrast like 8 cases at a time. I could barely keep the facts for 3 cases straight in my head, much less consider the nuance of tricky Constitutional jurisprudence going on across those opinions. In my humble opinion he was brilliant.

For more about Professor Cleckley see this article in the Charleston Gazette-Mail www.wvgazettemail.com/news-cops-and-courts/20170815/cleckley-first-black-person-on-wv-supreme-court-dies-at-77

Wednesday, June 07, 2017

WVSLA Celebrates LGBT Pride Month!

We recognize that West Virginia seniors who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender are an important part of the fabric of our culture. We seek to serve the legal needs of LGBT senior West Virginians, and hold ourselves to a high standard of competence regarding your unique legal issues.

Thank you for your contributions to our state's rich history! We celebrate with you this month.

Friday, April 28, 2017

$151M settlement in January 2014 WV water crisis

A $151 million settlement has been proposed to resolve a federal court class-action lawsuit over the January 2014 water crisis in West Virginia that impacted over 200,000 people.

There will be a "simple payment" option for class members and another option for members who seek specific additional damages amounts (like medical costs, replacement hot water heater, etc.). The class includes everyone who lived in a residential dwelling (homeowners and renters) supplied with tap water from West Virginia American Water’s Kanawha Valley Treatment Plant on Jan. 9, 2014; all businesses, non-profit and governmental entities that received tap water from that same plant on that date; and everyone who was regularly employed as an hourly-wage earner by those businesses.

Any class member who wants to opt out of the settlement will have to do so before a deadline that will be announced by the court.

Residential households in the class who use the simple payment option would get under the settlement $525 + $170 for each additional resident.

For more information see http://wvwaterlitigation.com/

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Most ID theft victims don’t need a police report. . .

by Seena Gressin
Attorney, Division of Consumer & Business Education, FTC

When it comes to reporting and recovering from identity theft, the FTC is simplifying the process by eliminating the need for a police report in most cases.

How does it work? When you report identity theft using IdentityTheft.gov, you’ll answer some questions about what happened. IdentityTheft.gov then uses your information to create the tools you need to begin your recovery, including:

  • a personal recovery plan
  • pre-filled letters to send to merchants, banks, and others affected by the identity theft, and
  • an “Identity Theft Report,” which is your official statement about the crime.

In most cases, you can use your Identity Theft Report in place of a police report to clear your account and credit records of transactions that resulted from the identity theft. That’s because when you use IdentityTheft.gov, you’re reporting the crime to the Federal Trade Commission, a federal law enforcement agency. Just like when you file a police report, you’re legally obligated to tell the truth to the best of your knowledge, and subject to criminal penalties if you don’t. That makes your Identity Theft Report powerful evidence that you’re telling the truth.

By reducing the need for police reports, IdentityTheft.gov helps you get started on your recovery quickly, and helps free local police to focus on public safety. Still, contact the police to report identity theft if:

  • you know the identity thief, or have other information that could help a police investigation
  • an identity thief used your name in a traffic stop or any encounter with police, or
  • a creditor, debt collector, or someone else affected by the identity theft insists that you produce a police report.

To learn more about identity theft, browse the FTC's recovery steps, or visit the FTC's Privacy and Identity page for prevention tips.

Friday, April 07, 2017

Broadband Internet for WV?

Friday, March 24, 2017

Crossover Day in the WV Legislature is March 29

The 50th day of our 60 day regular legislative session is known as Crossover Day. Any bill that has not had its third reading in its house of origin is dead. This year that day is March 29, Wednesday.

You can see from any bill's status page on the WV Legislature's website whether it has made it past that hurdle www.legis.state.wv.us/Bill_Status/bill_status.cfm

If there are bills that matter to you as a WV citizen now is the time to contact your senators and delegates to voice your opinions. Adjournment for the regular session is midnight April 8, 2017.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

CFPB fines Experian $3M

The federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) took action today against Experian and its subsidiaries for deceiving consumers about the use of credit scores it sold to consumers. Experian claimed the credit scores it marketed and provided to consumers were used by lenders to make credit decisions. In fact, lenders did not use Experian’s scores to make those decisions. The CFPB ordered Experian to truthfully represent how its credit scores are used. Experian must also pay a civil penalty of $3 million.

“Experian deceived consumers over how the credit scores it marketed and sold were used by lenders,” said CFPB Director Richard Cordray. “Consumers deserve and should expect honest and accurate information about their credit scores, which are central to their financial lives.”

Enforcement Action

Under the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, the CFPB is authorized to take action against institutions engaged in unfair, deceptive, or abusive acts or practices, or that otherwise violate federal consumer financial laws. Under the consent order, Experian must:

  • Pay a $3 million penalty: Experian must pay a civil money penalty of $3 million to the Bureau’s Civil Penalty Fund.
  • Truthfully represent the usefulness of credit scores it sells: Experian must inform consumers about the nature of the scores it sells to consumers.
  • Put in place an effective compliance management system: Experian must develop and implement a plan to make sure its advertising practices relating to credit scores and on Internet webpages that consumers access through AnnualCreditReport.com comply with federal consumer laws and the terms of the CFPB’s consent order.

The full text of the CFPB’s Consent Order against Experian is available here: http://files.consumerfinance.gov/f/documents/201703_cfpb_Experian-Holdings-Inc-consent-order.pdf

Friday, February 03, 2017

Celebrating Black History Month: WV civil rights hero J R Clifford

"John Robert Clifford was West Virginia’s first African-American attorney, a newspaper publisher, editor and writer, a schoolteacher and principal, a civil rights pioneer, a founding member of the Niagara Movement (forerunner to the NAACP), a Civil War veteran, and a graduate of Storer College.

In 1887, Clifford was admitted to the bar by the West Virginia Supreme Court. In 1898, Clifford won a landmark civil-rights-in-education case before the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals: Williams v. Board of Education. The Tucker County School Board of Education tried to cut the public school year for African-American students from nine months to five months, while the students in the “white school” continued to receive the full nine-month school year. Clifford encouraged the teacher, Carrie Williams, to continue teaching for the entire nine months and, together, they filed a lawsuit against the school board for her back pay. In the end, the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals upheld the decision to provide equal educational rights to African-American students in West Virginia. All this occurred well over 50 years before the landmark “Brown v. Board of Education” decision and was one of the few civil rights victories in a southern state’s highest court before the turn of the century."

For more information about this West Virginia civil rights hero see www.jrclifford.org.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Update: New Martinsville Ponzi scheme perpetrator sentenced to 10+ years

The perpetrator of a massive Ponzi scheme in Wetzel County WV has been sentenced to 10 years and one month in federal prison. Over 800 victims lost over $30 million in the mail fraud, wire fraud, and money laundering scheme we reported here in March 2016 http://seniorlegalaid.blogspot.com/2016/03/budget-finance-in-new-martinsville-in.html

Unfortunately most victims will never get much if any of their money back. For more information about the sentencing see www.theintelligencer.net/news/top-headlines/2017/01/woman-sentenced-in-wetzel-county-budget-finance-ponzi-scheme/

Wednesday, January 04, 2017

Jury Duty Fine Telephone Scam

West Virginians beware of a call saying you owe a fine for failing to appear for jury duty, and threatening jail if you don't pay by money order. Such scam has recently been reported in the Huntington area.

Any government agency, state or federal, is unlikely to ever deliver any information about fines or fees by telephone. If you ever receive a call from a government agency you can ask for the information to be sent to you by mail. Caller ID is easily faked, so don't rely on that as credible.

When seniors tell other seniors about scams they have heard about it helps everyone in the community to recognize scams more readily and avoid them. If you tell two friends, and they tell two friends, etc.

For more information about the jury duty scam check out this article from WCHS Channel 8 http://wchstv.com/news/local/old-phone-scam-is-using-a-new-twist.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

WVSLA opposes racism and seeks to serve WV seniors of color

In response to recent statements published on social media by the senior services provider in Clay County, WV, the Board of Directors and staff of West Virginia Senior Legal Aid wishes to reiterate our commitment to serving senior West Virginians of color and reaffirm that we do not condone racism in any form. Using the law to promote equality is an essential part of our mission and any examples and/or perceptions of discrimination on the basis of race in our state deserve our focused attention.

Given that the Older Americans Act, by law, targets its services to those in the greatest economic or social need, with particular attention to low-income minorities, rural residents and those with limited English proficiency, it is imperative that ALL providers within the network offer and provide services without actual or the perception of, discrimination. We do not and will not support any action in the senior services network that is inspired by racism or that sends the message that seniors of color are not welcome and deserving of all the services our network has to offer. Our message is that West Virginia Senior Legal Aid seeks to reach out to and serve with excellence the legal needs of our state’s seniors of color. Our doors are especially open to seniors whose rights have been violated, and we promise to zealously advocate for the individual rights of every senior West Virginian of color who seeks our services. You are important to us.

We welcome your input about how we can do a better job reaching out to and serving seniors of color in our state. We seek to partner with anti-racist groups around the state to enhance our capacity and learn how to deliver the best possible services to minority seniors.

As we enter a new year, the Board of Directors and staff of West Virginia Senior Legal Aid wish to assure ALL West Virginia Seniors that we are here to serve you, regardless of your race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, socio-economic, educational or disability status AND we uphold your right to receive services from other senior service providers without prejudice.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Price of US national parks lifetime Senior Pass may go up dramatically, get yours now

If you are at least 62 years old you can get a Senior Pass (formerly the Golden Age Pass) "A $10.00 lifetime pass that provides access to more than 2,000 recreation sites managed by five Federal agencies, with up to 100% of the proceeds being used to improve and enhance visitor recreation services," according to the US Geological Survey where you can purchase the pass.

But Congress has passed H.R. 4680: National Park Service Centennial Act (track it here www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/114/hr4680) and the senate passed a companion bill on December 10 which changes the price of the lifetime pass to track with the America the Beautiful Pass which is currently $80. The legislation is likely to be signed quickly by the President and the price increase may take effect immediately.

You can purchase the Senior Pass online (for $20 which includes the $10 pass price and a $10 online processing fee), by mail (also $20), or in person ($10) at locations listed here (scroll way down for locations in WV) https://store.usgs.gov/pass/PassIssuanceList.pdf. For more information and links to purchase go to this USGS page https://store.usgs.gov/pass/senior.html.

Friday, December 02, 2016

Medicare A&B Premiums, Deductibles, Copays 2017

The premium for Medicare Part B is calculated by outpatient utilization figures from the year before. Because beneficiaries used the services more than anticipated in 2015 the Part B premium for 2017 will increase will increase for most beneficiaries to $134.00.

Medicare A & B Premiums, Deductibles, Copays 2017

Part A (hospital) Beneficiary pays:
Hospital Deductible $1,316/benefit period
Hospital Copay $329/day for days 61-90
$658/day for days 91-150
Skilled Nursing Facil Copay $164.50/day for days 21-100
Part A Premium $413/month for those with fewer than 30 quarters of Medicare-covered employment
$227/month for those with 30-39 quarters of Medicare-covered employment
Part B (doctor, outpatient services, etc.) Beneficiary pays:
Annual Deductible $187.50
Part B Premium for those with incomes below $85,000 or $170,000 married couple $109/month – for those beneficiaries enrolled in Medicare prior to 2016, whose premium is taken out of their monthly Social Security benefit
Most covered Part B services 20%