12/16 SSA Work Incentive Webinar

The Social Security Adminstration will present a December 16, 2020 WISE (Work Incentive Seminar Event) webinar on Ticket to Work and Mental Health. The webinar will include SSA’s Ticket to Work Program, Ticket Program service providers, managing a job search, battling the winter blues, and how working will impact your SSDI income. WISE webinars are usually held every fourth Wednesday; stay informed about them at https://choosework.ssa.gov/wise. Find out more about the SSA Ticket to Work program and other SSA job search aids at https://choosework.ssa.gov/blog/2020-12-02-start-job-search-at-december-career-fair. Find details and register for the December 16 event at https://choosework.ssa.gov/wise/eventdetails.

Fall 2020 Patient Newsletters

The Network 16 and Network 18 Patient Newsletters for Fall 2020 have been posted to the Network websites, in both English and Spanish. They include articles on the Medicare Open Enrollment Period (which is open through December 7, 2020), Vocational Rehabilitation, and Dialysis Facility Compare, plus short notes on heart health and fluid management, filing a grievance, and (free) subscriptions to the Network Newsletters and blog. The Network 18 Newsletter also includes a short note on volunteering to help the Network improve patient care. Find the English and Spanish versions of the latest Newsletters at https://www.nwrn.org/patients-a-family/ptedres/quarterly-patient-newsletter.html for Network 16, and https://esrdnetwork18.org/patients/newsletters/ for Network 18.

11/23 ESRD Paperwork Reduction Comments Due

CMS has filed a Paperwork Reduction Act (PRA) Notice to solicit comments on a proposal to renew its approval to collect information on the application for Medicare coverage for new ESRD patients, and on the general application for Medicare coverage.  No changes to the forms are contemplated, but the PRA requires periodic renewals.  Comments are due by November 23, 2020.  Find the Federal Register notice at https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2020/09/24/2020-21095/agency-information-collection-activities-proposed-collection-comment-request.

11/10+ RNS Hope Week Online

The Renal Support Network has been offering its free Annual Patient Education Meeting for kidney patients and their families in the Los Angeles area for 27 years. With COVID-19 complicating things this year, RSN did what only Lori Hartwell could have imagined doing – they went global and online, and made it five times as big! So this year, RSN Hope Week will span November 10-14, 2020 with a different theme each day: CKD on day 1, Dialysis on day 2, Transplant on day 3, All Stages of Care on day 4, and Parenting Children with CKD on day 5.

Find RSN’s press release introducing the week at https://www.rsnhope.org/press-releases/renal-support-networks-27th-annual-patient-education-meeting-goes-virtual/. Find a short version of the agenda below. It’s page 1 of their flyer, which includes a full page describing each day – find the full 6-page flyer HERE. Find brief vitae and snapshots of the full faculty at https://www.rsnhope.org/hope-week-faculty/. And register at https://www.rsnhope.org/hope-week-rsns-national-online-patient-meeting/ – there’s also a short version of the agenda on that page.

RSN on Medicare Advantage

The Renal Support Network has published an excellent blog post titled Original Medicare vs. Medicare Advantage Plans: How Do I Decide? The post compares “plain vanilla” Medicare to Medicare Advantage (“MA” or sometimes, informally, “Medicare Part C”). Ongoing kidney patients will be eligible for MA plans in 2021 for the first time, and Medicare beneficiaries can switch plans until December 7, 2020. There are pros and cons to both, and each MA plan is unique, so kidney patients should huddle with their insurance advisors and their social worker to make sure that they enroll in the plan which best suits their individual situation. While MA plans can provide additional benefits, they are tied to specific provider groups (or “networks” – not to be confused with the ESRD Networks), and since they may provide very different advantages and disadvantages in different places, they must be evaluated individually.

The RSN blog post provides an excellent overview of the pros and cons of each type of plan, but can’t consider each plan in each location. That evaluation must be tailored to each specific patient and each specific place. The RSN post includes a series of questions that each patient should be asking themselves and their advisors. Find the post at https://www.rsnhope.org/health-library/original-medicare-vs-medicare-advantage-plans-how-do-i-decide/.

HDC: Insurance 101 for Social Workers

MEI’s Home Dialysis Central blog has published a post on Insurance 101 for Dialysis Social Workers.  The objective is to help assure that people with Chronic Kidney Failure avoid inaccurate advice that can be very costly.  The complexity is remarkable – even insurance experts should review the article for anything they may have overlooked.  Find the post at https://homedialysis.org/news-and-research/blog/367-insurance-101-for-dialysis-social-workers.  It may be particularly useful as we approach the 2020 Medicare Open Enrollment Period.

Just a few examples:

  • You must have paid Social Security taxes for a specific length of time to be eligible for Medicare to cover treatment for chronic kidney failure.
  • Medicare coverage starts in month 4 for in-center dialysis, but starts in month 1 for home dialysis.
  • Medicare part A is free, but it’s Part B that pays for dialysis, and it’s not free.
  • If you don’t sign up for Medicare Part B or D when you’re first eligible for part A, you’ll pay a lot more for them.
  • A few of the terms and acronyms that complicate matters: work credits, Medicare Advantage, Medigap, Medicaid, Medi-Cal, primary payer, Medicare assignment, MA, QMD, SLMB, COBRA, QHP, ACA.

10/8 CMS Open Enrollment Webinar

CMS will present an October 8, 2020 webinar for anyone who advises Medicare enrollees on Getting Ready for the Medicare Open Enrollment Period. The three-hour webinar begins at 10am PDT, but you will need a CMS National Training Program account to get in, so start earlier. If you don’t already have an account, getting one is painless, but CMS has to confirm a new account before you can proceed, and they warn that confirmation can take ten minutes or more.

Anyone advising beneficiaries on Medicare Open Enrollment would also be likely to improve their advice by reviewing Beth Witten’s HDC: Insurance 101 for Social Workers, at https://nwrnbulletins.wordpress.com/2020/07/02/hdc-insurance-101-for-social-workers/ .

The Getting Ready webinar shares Medicare Program updates and resources to help those who assist Medicare beneficiaries to make informed decisions about their 2021 health care coverage. Create a new account if necessary at https://cmsnationaltrainingprogram.cms.gov/ , and find the webinar at https://cmsnationaltrainingprogram.cms.gov/?q=global-search&combine=Open+Enrollment . The 2020 Medicare Open Enrollment Period, during which people with Medicare can make changes to their health plans and prescription drug coverage to meet their health care needs for the following year, spans October 15 to December 7.

The CMS National Training Program includes a catalog of recorded courses and online self-paced trainings for staff members who work with Medicare, starting with Introductions that have no prerequisites.  Many are repeated in Spanish.  Find the course catalog at https://cmsnationaltrainingprogram.cms.gov/?q=ntp-courses .

The HHS Administration for Community Living ( https://acl.gov/ ) has prepared a toolkit, Preparing for a Remote Medicare Open Enrollment: Managing through COVID-19 Toolkit, containing successful practices, templates, and checklists to help you and your clients stay safe from COVID-19 during this year’s Open Enrollment. Find the Toolkit at https://www.shiptacenter.org/covid-19/toolkit

9/28 Free Job Fair

My Employment Options will hold a free September 28, 2020 Online Job Fair for their Ticket to Work clients, job-seekers with disabilities or other challenges, and anyone else who wants to attend.  Both work-at-home and on-site jobs will be included.  Find details and registration at https://www.myemploymentoptions.com/register-for-virtual-job-fair/.

Find the Social Security Administration’s introduction to the Ticket to Work program at https://choosework.ssa.gov/about/how-it-works/index.html.

NW16/OR Medicare Wildfire Assistance

CMS has prepared a press release summarizing the steps that Medicare has taken in Oregon to help make health care available to wildfire victims, including opening special enrollment periods to allow out-of-season initiations or changes to Medicare coverage, various kinds of assistance to healthcare facilities, and help to displaced dialysis patients.  Find the press release at https://www.cms.gov/newsroom/press-releases/cms-offers-comprehensive-support-oregon-due-wildfires.