As always there are a number of important topics for seniors to be aware of.
To start off, some of the television networks are now providing information about the Digital Television Transition. How might this affect you? Currently, many over-the-air stations are broadcasting in both analog and digital TV formats. After Feb. 17, 2009, full-power TV stations will only broadcast in digital. This Federal law requires the switch and will open up more frequencies for emergency communications, such as police and fire.
If you currently watch TV using an antenna or "rabbit ears" you will be affected by this change. You can purchase a digital-to-analog converter box, which cost $40-$70 each. It should not be necessary to purchase a new antenna. To help consumers pay for the boxes, the government is offering two $40 coupons per household. Coupons are available by calling (888) 388-2009 or online at http://www.dtv2009.gov. The Senior LinkAge Line will be happy to assist clients who need to get a coupon.
If you subscribe to a paid service as cable or satellite TV, it is likely you will not need to do anything. You should call your provider if you have questions.
Much has been written about mortgage foreclosure, and the Senior LinkAge Line has received a few calls as well. Most of us do not fully understand the foreclosure process in Minnesota. It is a process dictated by state laws and follows a timeline that generally takes at least a year from the time of the first missed payment until the home is foreclosed. Understanding the steps in the process helps the homeowner exercise their rights. The earlier the homeowner seeks help, the more likely they are able to save their home.
There are counseling resources available in Cass County by calling Bi-County Community Action Program at (218) 333-9867 or (800) 332-7161, extension 143 and in Crow Wing County call Lutheran Social Services at (218) 529-2227 or (800) 777-7419.
There is a new scam out there in which an individual requests a donation from the victim to help those affected by the earthquake in China. If you receive a call pertaining to this or any other questionable request for a donation, please contact the Senior LinkAge Line at (800) 333-2433 so the appropriate reporting can be done. The Minnesota Board on Aging has a designated staff person to follow up on these complaints, and helps to keep us informed about the latest attempts at fraud and scams.
And finally, it's not too early to be thinking about Medicare Part D and open enrollment coming in a few months. More and more people have learned the value of re-evaluating their Part D plan during open enrollment (Nov. 15- Dec. 31). Senior LinkAge Line offers this service at no charge by simply making a phone call for an appointment. Using the Medicare website tool, the client's current list of medications is used as the key factor to determine the most cost effective plan for that individual.
Most beneficiaries do understand that the plans differ in the monthly premium and annual deductible. This information is readily available in the "Medicare and You Handbook" which come to beneficiaries in late October, early November. The website tool offers the beneficiary additional information as to the actual cost of the medication in each plan, as well as the co-insurance and/or co-pay amount the beneficiary will be responsible for.
Appointments will be available with the local Advocate and State Health Insurance Program volunteers beginning late October.
KATHIE PHILLIPS is a senior advocate for the Senior LinkAge Line.
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