2020 Census

The 2020 Census will soon be underway and it is vital for everyone to participate. The Census, which is a once-a-decade population count, determines very important decisions, such as the number of representatives each state has in the U.S. House of Representatives, the amount of federal funds provided to states, counties and local municipalities, and which infrastructure projects get completed. With that, there are certain groups of people and areas that are at risk of not being counted, including hard-to-count rural communities, college students, those facing poverty and children under 5 years of age. Not being counted puts these groups at risk and deprives them and their communities of important public and private resources. Be sure to participate in the 2020 Census to ensure accurate funding and resources for you, your family and your community!

A Raise for Social Security Beneficiaries

Social Security beneficiaries will see a 1.6 percent increase in their retirement earnings in January 2020, due to the Cost Of Living Allowance (COLA) that occurs every year. This increase is lower than the increase in 2019 at 2.8 percent, but it is still higher than the average over the past decade, which was 1.4 percent. The increase will average about $24 per month and $288 per year for individuals.

Cost of Living Allowances, or COLAs, are meant to offset the effects of inflation of fixed incomes. This was first introduced in 1950 when Congress first legislated an increase in benefits. Many retirees count on their Social Security as the largest source of income, so the COLA increase will help Social Security beneficiaries, as well as their families, keep up with the rising costs of living. Although this is a modest increase, this increase typically does not keep up with rising prices as most older adults face increases in living expenses, such as housing, transportation and, most of all, health care and prescription costs. AARP found that, in 2017, retail drug prices increased by twice the rate of inflation, and it has exceeded the inflation rate for at least 12 consecutive years. Overall, in 2019, about 64 million Americans received over one trillion dollars in Social Security benefits. Nearly nine out of ten individuals, age 65 and older, receive Social Security benefits.

As Social Security is increasing, Medicare Advantage plan premiums are set to decrease by 14% throughout 2020, to an estimated monthly $23. This is set to impact one-third of Medicare’s 60 million beneficiaries who belong to the private insurance plans. If you or a loved one needs assistance with Medicare-related issues, please contact the Agency’s APPRISE Program at (814) 946-1235 or 1-800-245-3282.

*Information provided to Blair Senior Services, Inc. from American Association of Retired Persons (AARP).

Blair Senior Services, Inc. Seeking Volunteers for Medicare Open Enrollment Period

Blair Senior Services, Inc. is searching for volunteers to assist them during the Medicare Open Enrollment Period, which will be from October 15, 2019 to December 7, 2019. During this time, Medicare beneficiaries will be able to make changes to their Medicare coverage or enroll in Medicare for the first time. Blair Senior Services, Inc. offers the APPRISE Program, a free health insurance counseling program designed to assist Pennsylvanians with Medicare by bettering understanding their health insurance options.

This Open Enrollment period, however, has a new requirement: “Before consumers will be able to receive Medicare counseling through APPRISE, they will need to create a Medicare account,” said Melissa Hey, APPRISE Coordinator at Blair Senior Services, Inc. “It’s mandated that everyone who wants to receive Medicare counseling must have a Medicare account, and we are anticipating many consumers will not have one and will not feel comfortable making an account,” said Hey. “I’d like to recruit computer savvy individuals who have a basic knowledge of how to create a username and password, and who will be able to make the consumers feel comfortable through the whole process.”

To become a volunteer for the Medicare Open Enrollment Period, limited training will become available and will be able to be completed at home at the volunteer’s convenience. Once completed, Blair Senior Services, Inc. will be notified and interested parties can continue on the path of becoming a volunteer.

“Having volunteers help us with this process will save us a lot of time and will make the whole program run smoothly,” Hey said. “We’re expecting that this will take approximately 15 minutes per person to get the profile created, and this is before we can even start talking to the consumer about Medicare,” Hey said. “So having someone there to assist the consumers beforehand will be fantastic.”

To learn more information on becoming a volunteer for this Open Enrollment Period, please contact Melissa Hey, APPRISE Coordinator, at (814) 946-1235 Ext. 1016.