Did You Get Your New Medicare Card?

Social Security numbers are used for just about everything; including financial records, medical information and legal documents.

Medicare, the federal health insurance program for people 65 and older and people with disabilities, are removing Social Security numbers (SSN) off the cards it distributes to enrollees. Instead of identifying members by their Social Security number, the new cards will use a computer generated series of 11 letters and numbers. The cards will also no longer include a person’s gender or signature.

Pennsylvania residents were among the first affected by the change and they should have received cards between April 2018 and the end of June 2018.

The reason for this change is meant to help defend you against identity theft, which affects a large and growing number of seniors. By removing Social Security numbers from Medicare cards this will help to prevent fraud, fight identity theft, and keep taxpayer dollars safe. 

The use of Social Security numbers on Medicare cards has long been problematic. Whether through theft or fraud, if your number falls in the wrong hands, it can be used to access your bank accounts, steal your Social Security checks, or fraudulently get medical care or prescription drugs in your name.

According to the Social Security Administration, a task force was created in 2006 to investigate identity theft. Because about 42 million Medicare cards display the full Social Security number, authorities feared that beneficiaries would be vulnerable to identity theft. Federal agencies have been recommending removal of the SSN for a number of years, and now the Department of Health and Human Services has until 2019 to issue new modernized Medicare cards to new beneficiaries and give out the new cards to those who already have existing Medicare cards.

“The change is long overdue”, states Melissa Hey, Blair Senior Services, Apprise Coordinator. “You show your health insurance card to a lot of people you wouldn’t share your Social Security number with”, she says. “The updated cards provide more privacy protection and lowers the risk of identity theft.” 

Ironically, the change has sparked a wave of new scams targeting people on Medicare. The new scams started almost as soon as the replacement card program was announced. In one typical scheme, fraudsters call Medicare beneficiaries on the phone and tell them that in order to get the new card they need to provide Social Security and bank account information, threatening to cancel their Medicare benefits if they don’t provide both. None of which are true.

Seniors who account for 50 million people using Medicare, the other million are people with disabilities, are especially vulnerable to scams. Melissa Hey says, “ Older adults are targeted more often because they are perceived to be more trusting. But scams can have a devastating impact on seniors who live on a fixed income and who don’t have time to rebuild savings.”

WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW ABOUT YOUR NEW CARD

You don’t need to do anything to get your card.
Medicare won’t call you to ask for personal or financial information.  Just make sure Medicare has your current mailing address. If it needs to be updated due to moving in the past year or two, contact Social Security, which administers the Medicare program. You can update it online by creating an online account at www.ssa.gov/myaccount, or you can call 1-800-772-1213. You can also go to a Social Security field office.

Medicare coverage and benefits will NOT change.
Getting a new Medicare card and number will not change the coverage or benefits that people with Medicare are currently receiving. The new Medicare Beneficiary Identification number (MBI) will be used for billing and for checking eligibility and claim status.

There is no charge for the new Medicare Card.
There is absolutely no fee to get the new card.  If anyone says otherwise, that should be a red flag that it’s a scam.

You may not get your card right away.
The process of mailing cards will take time, and you may not get your new card at the same time as your friends and neighbors. All people with Medicare will be mailed new cards by April 2019. You can make sure your mailing address is up to date by contacting Social Security at www.ssa.gov/myaccount or 1-800-772-1213. TTY (Teleprinter/Teletypewriter) users can call 1-800-325-0778.

You can use your current card until January 1, 2020.
There is a transition period during which you can use either your new Medicare card or your old card at doctors’ offices and hospitals. Both should work until Dec. 31, 2019. After that, shred your old card—don’t just put it in the trash. The new card is smaller, the size of a credit card, so it fits in your wallet more easily. Beginning Jan. 1, 2020, only the new card will be usable. 

You should keep your OTHER Medicare cards.
About one-third of people get their Medicare benefits through private insurance plans known as Medicare Advantage. Your Medicare Advantage card, which like the new Medicare cards, uses a unique identifier, not your Social Security number. This will not change and will still be your main card for Medicare. But you may be asked to show your new Medicare card, too, so take that with you for your initial appointments. Same goes if you have a separate plan for prescription drug coverage, Medicare Part D.

You can get help if you are scammed.
If you think you are a victim of identity theft or Medicare fraud, contact your state’s Senior Medicare Patrol, a federally funded program to help Medicare beneficiaries, their family, and caregivers. You can also call the Medicare fraud tip line at 1-800-447-8477; the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services at 800-633-4227; or Blair Senior Services, Inc. Apprise office at 814-946-1235. Unlike a Social Security number, which is difficult to change, you can get a different Medicare number if needed.

Melissa Hey said, “Ways to cut down on fraud with the new cards is first and foremost, keep the card in a safe place. Do not carry the new card in your wallet.  After your initial visits with your doctors, pharmacy or if you have an appointment here with us, always return your new card to a safe, secure location in your home. Be sure to check and read all the statements you receive in the mail regarding your benefits. Check for costs not associated with any visits, prescriptions or ‘fake’ services you may be charged.”

“Overall the new Medicare cards will make identity theft and theft of services for Medicare recipients less common. But be aware, scammers always find new ways. Please feel free to call our Apprise office at 814-946-1235 if there are any questions we can help answer for you.”

For more information on the new Medicare cards you can go to www.Medicare.gov.

Seasons Magazine Summer 2018

Harold Snyder

Harold Snyder has been volunteering for the VITA Program at Blair Senior Services, Inc. for the last 18 years. Harold started originally as an employee for Blair Senior Services in 1999, working at the information desk and security services. In 2000, he began helping with the VITA Program. When he retired, he decided to continue with volunteering to do taxes with the VITA Program at Blair Senior Services, Inc.

Harold volunteers at the Blair Senior Services’ Central Blair Senior Center by assisting consumers with preparing their taxes.

When asked what he liked the most about volunteering for Blair Senior Services, Harold stated “I enjoy helping the people with being able to provide them with a free service that many on fixed incomes may not be able to afford. They are appreciative and it’s so rewarding knowing I am able to help them.”

When asked if he had a special memory while volunteering for Blair Senior Services, Harold said, “I have met so many nice people over the years. Even the ones that have passed away, I still remember them. I know one gentleman came in and was rather upset about getting his taxes done and actually left the paperwork and walked out. I completed his return and called him. He was so happy and appreciative that he comes back every year for me to do his taxes and is much happier about it. It is nice knowing that I made his experience a better one.”

Harold would encourage anyone to give the VITA Program a try saying, “It is such a help to so many in the community. It is also a much needed service for our area seniors. You receive training and I can say all the volunteers have fun and the seniors are so appreciative.”

If you or your group is interested in volunteering for this program or any of the programs offered, please call Blair Senior Services, Inc. at 814-946-1235.

Craig Russell

Craig Russell has been working for Blair Senior Services for nineteen years. He initially began his employment as a part-time Van Driver for the Transportation Department in Hollidaysburg. Craig added to his responsibilities with becoming a part-time Mechanic for Transportation as well. Over the years, his duties have increased and he is now the Operations Supervisor in the Transportation Department.

Craig’s responsibilities include helping with vehicle maintenance in the garage when needed, software implementation and computer technology, and even helps with answering the phones and scheduling transportation for consumers. Craig says, “I am responsible basically for anything that needs to be done on a day-to-day basis that helps to keep our daily operations running as smooth as possible with the exception of driving the vans.”

When asked what he liked best about working for Blair Senior Services, Craig stated, “My favorite part of working for this agency is knowing that we are providing such a valuable service. For many of our consumers this is their only means of getting out of the home. To doctors, medical treatments or just to socialize or go shopping. I am very proud to be part of all of it!”

Although Craig said there are many great memories, he shared one special memory he had with Blair Senior Services while being a driver, “When I was driving, at times we would have to take disabled or behavioral challenged students to school. They weren’t able to ride a regular school bus. I did this for two years with the kids and I really liked knowing that I was able to help them. By our Agency providing this service, they were able to go to school. This is just one example of what makes this job so rewarding and helps you to realize what an important service the Transportation Department at Blair Senior Services provides for the community.”

In addition, Craig encouraged others to consider either volunteering or possibly working for the Transportation Department saying, “Blair Senior Services is providing such an important service to many people in our community that this is their only means of transportation. It is a very rewarding experience as a person to know that every day you are making a difference in someone’s life.” If you are interested in volunteering or working for one of the many Blair Senior Services, Inc. programs, please call 814-946-1235.

Seasons Spring 2018

Blair Senior Services, Inc. Adds Two New Vans to Their Fleet

Blair Senior Services, Inc. has added two new vans to their transportation services. Both consumers and drivers are giving a thumbs up to the new Ford Transit vans that have several unique features.

Craig Russell of the Blair Senior Services, Inc. Transportation Department agrees sharing, “We’ve received good comments from our consumers about the new vans. The seating is comfortable and easy to access. The new vans are narrower than our other vans which makes it easier to navigate while driving especially through the smaller city streets. And due to their more efficient engines, we are getting twice the miles to a gallon of gas.”

The new vans also have a unique floor system that allows for reconfiguration of the seating. This will enable the vans to be used in several ways by adding to the number of seats or changing the layout of the seating. Typically, the van will be set up for six seats and one wheelchair. One of the vans is being used for the rural routes and the other is being used in Altoona.
Currently, there are 36 vans in the fleet which are all handicap accessible that offer door-to-door transportation to Blair County residents. Anyone of any age can ride the van. Having reliable transportation during the week can help to change consumers’ lives. It offers freedom and independence.

Some programs exist to help pay for transportation services for those under age 60. Funded trips for residents between the ages of 60-64 are limited to medical appointments and federal buildings, such as the Social Security office. Consumers age 65 or older may use the van for multiple purposes, such as transportation to medical appointments, stores or hairdressers. Every trip is based on mileage and is a very inexpensive way to get where you need to go. Trips must be scheduled 24 hours in advance. Contact Blair Senior Services’ Transportation Office at (814) 695-3500 to schedule a trip or to get rate information.

Blair Senior Services, Inc. Announces the Rex Fahr Award for Consumer Service

For years, Blair Senior Services, Inc. wanted to have an award to recognize their Transportation Department employees who are held in high esteem by their peers and demonstrate excellence in every aspect of the job.

According to Dennis Wisor, Transportation Program Manager of the Blair Senior Services, Inc.’s Transportation Department, “We had tried many times to launch a recognition awards program. I am very happy we now have the “Rex Fahr Award for Consumer Service” to recognize the employees who do such good work every day.”

For the first year, Dennis said they kept it simple and the only restriction was that nominees must work in the Transportation/Medical Assistance Transportation Program. Employees of the Transportation Department were encouraged to submit nominations for employees they felt were deserving of this honor based on their dedication to the mission of Blair Senior Services, Inc., quality of service, or any related factors they felt makes them an exceptional employee.

The award was named in memory of the late Rex Fahr, a past Transportation Department driver from June 2013 to January 2016, who was well loved and respected for his exceptional work and personality. “Rex was universally loved by all of his fellow drivers and consumers. He battled cancer for over two years while working and left a mark on the entire Transportation Department,” shared Dennis.

The first recipient of the “Rex Fahr Award for Consumer Service” is Chuck Alessi, Vehicle Operator. He was recognized and received his award at the HIPAA training held in December 2017. Dennis stated, “Chuck is a peer trainer and an overall great driver. He is simply what we strive to be every day.”

Chuck was surprised by the award, but very grateful. “I believe we should be courteous on and off the van, a good representative and ambassador of the company,” shared Chuck. “You appreciate the job and want the company to succeed and it is important to the consumers. For a lot of them, it is the only transportation service they have and they appreciate it.”

He has many fond memories of Rex and his consumers. Recently, Chuck encouraged one of his consumers, who was having difficulty remembering, to do the brainteaser puzzle that appears in every issue of the Seasons Magazine. The next time she rode his van, she told him how much she appreciated the driver that suggested she do the brainteaser puzzle and how it was helping. Her daughter even bought her three-word search books which is making a big difference. She did not remember it was Chuck who made the suggestion, but that is fine with him. He is more concerned with her well-being. “Many of my riders use our transportation service often and I get to know them.”

Rex and Chuck shared similar religious beliefs as Christians and often prayed together before they “took off each day.” Now Chuck is continuing this with the other drivers and keeping Rex’s tradition going. Chuck has been driving for Blair Senior Services, Inc. for five years. He served in the U.S. Navy, was a coal miner and retired from working at Berwind Railroad in Hollidaysburg. He majored in psychology in college.

Other nominees for the award included; Jim Fouse a driver for 8 years, Katie Brinkman a Transportation Program Assistant for 4 ½ years, and Rick Freet a driver for 3 years.
Frances Fahr, Rex’s wife, believes Rex would be happy to know his peers are being recognized. “I have the best job,” Rex would tell Frances every day when he came home from work. “As soon as he got home, he would tell me about the people he drove, always with a smile on his face”, shared Frances. “He would talk about them as he would a special friend or family member which is how he thought of them.”

When asking others to describe Rex, the words caring and compassionate were often repeated and Frances agreed. “There wasn’t anything he wouldn’t do for someone in need.”
Everywhere he went people knew him and he loved talking with them. He told me, “God really blessed me that He gave me this job.” Even as the disease progressed, Frances said it was the desire to care for others that kept him going.

Rex Fahr was a very special man in every way. After a very courageous battle with pancreatic cancer for three years, Rex passed in 2017. But his incredible and unselfish service and compassion for others will always be remembered.

Frances now rides the van and talks with other consumers on the van. When they learn that Rex was her husband they are quick to share their own personal memories of him. Even some who did not get to know Rex share how they have heard stories about his sincere concern and unselfish services for the van riders.
Congratulations to Chuck and all of the well-deserving nominees. Thank you to the hardworking and dedicated Blair Senior Services, Inc. Transportation Department Team for making a positive difference in the community.

Mary Ann Hofer

Mary Ann Hofer has been volunteering for the Foster Grandparent Program at Blair Senior Services for the last 17 years. Mary Ann volunteers 5 days a week from 8 a.m. until Noon.   Mary Ann heard about the Blair Senior Services’ program through word of mouth and decided to give it a try. 

Mary Ann’s volunteer site is at the Altoona Area High School volunteering in the School Age Parent Program. There, Mary Ann helps with skills for the students and nurturing of the infants and toddlers.  Mary Ann says, “I talk to the children and hug and kiss them. Lots of hugs I give and get in return.  I give enough love to fill any empty spots there may be. ”

When asked what she liked the most about volunteering for Blair Senior Services, Mary Ann stated “I absolutely love everyone with my whole heart. Everyone at Blair Senior Services, in the offices, the van drivers are all so very nice.  Then the people at the school, Mrs. Resko and all the teachers are so good to me.  The students call me Gram.  Who doesn’t need an extra Gram?  I just love so much what I do and I have lots of fun.  I look forward to each day.”  Mary Ann does get paid a stipend for volunteering but said it doesn’t compare to the amount of reward she gets from volunteering.

When asked if she had a special memory while volunteering for Blair Senior Services, Mary Ann said, “There are too many to mention and really every day something special happens.”

Mary Ann would encourage anyone to give the Foster Grandparent Program a try saying, “If you love kids, this is the program for you!”

If you or your group is interested in volunteering for this program or any of the programs offered, please call Blair Senior Services, Inc. at 814-946-1235.