Wednesday, June 28, 2006

I'm on vacation...

Greetings.  I'm on vacation for the next two weeks--I'll be taking a road trip with my son, so I'm not sure what kind of Internet access I will have during that time.  I'll post as I am able to.  I hope you're all having a great summer.


June 28, 2006 in Other | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Monday, June 26, 2006

World's oldest captive tortoise dead at 176

The world's oldest animal in captivity has died on the Sunshine Coast at the ripe old age of 176.        Giant Galapagos tortoise Harriet has died of a suspected heart attack.

She was a star attraction at Steve Irwin's Australia Zoo since the 1980s and even features in the Guinness Book of Records for her longevity.

Her history is as colourful as the hibiscus flowers she lovingly munched on.Harriet_3

It is believed Harriet was one of three animals naturalist Charles Darwin brought back from his trip to the Galapagos Islands in 1835 and which led to his theories of evolution and natural selection.

A few years later, Sir Charles gave them to a Brisbane-bound friend.

For about 100 years Harriet was mistakenly thought to be a male.

At 176, Harriet was recognised as the world's oldest living chelonian - a reptile with a shell or bony plates.

Mr Irwin said he considered Harriet a member of the family.


June 26, 2006 in Other | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

WSJ special section on retirement

Today's _Wall St. Journal_ (Note: Full Text of the Wall St. Journal is
available, for a fee, at: contains a special section
on retirement planning and living. Articles include:

"Memoir vs. Memoir," by Jeffrey Zaslow.
"The Future of Health Care," by Sarah Lueck.
"Just Like Bill Gates," by Karen Hube.
"Help Wanted," by Kristi Essick.
"Cranky? Who's Cranky," by Ellen Graham.

June 26, 2006 in Retirement | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Friday, June 23, 2006

June 21 Senate Hearing on Outliving Retirement Savings

Gordon Smith
Herb Kohl
Ranking Member
Title: Managing Retirement Assets: Ensuring Seniors Don't Outlive Their Savings.
Date: 6/21/06
Time: 10:00 AM
Place: 106 Dirksen Senate Office Building
Publication: Hearing Publication not available at this time
Webcast: Click here to view hearing
Member Statements
Senator Gordon Smith (Click here to view statement - PDF)
Witness Testimony
Panel 1
Mr. Ben Stein , Speaker and Writer on Finance Matters, Actor and Honorary Spokesperson for the National Retirement Planning Coalition, Los Angeles, CA
(Click here to view statement - PDF)
C. Robert Henrikson , Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer, MetLife, Long Island City, NY
(Click here to view statement - PDF)
Stephen P. Utkus , Principal, Vanguard Center for Retirement Research, Valley Forge, PA
(Click here to view statement - PDF)
LeRoy Gilbertson , Member, National Legislative Council, AARP, Dallas, OR
(Click here to view statement - PDF)

Ed:  Thanks to Jon Forman. 

June 23, 2006 in Retirement | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

States will delay enforcing proof-of-citizenship requirement for Medicaid

The Cinncinati Enquirer reports:

Ohio will delay enforcing a July 1 deadline for requiring Medicaid recipients to prove their U.S. citizenship because state officials need more time to advise people who might be at risk of losing coverage.

The state does not have an estimate of how many of the 1.7 million people on Medicaid are illegal immigrants.

The requirement is getting criticism from advocates for the poor who say it will cause hardships for the mentally ill, the homeless and victims of natural disaster who do not have their records.

The federal government didn't clarify until last week what documents are acceptable proof of citizenship to receive the health insurance for the poor and disabled, said Jon Allen, a spokesman for the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services. The state needs until Oct. 1 to print new guidelines, advise Medicaid recipients and train workers in 88 counties on the new regulations, he said.

California made a similar announcement earlier this month.

CMS guidance on proof of citizenship is available here.

June 23, 2006 in Medicaid | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

UK: One in five elderly denied long term care

Ukflag One in five elderly people have been wrongfully denied free care, according to a Government review of the system.

The shocking figure emerged as Downing Street pledged to eliminate the 'postcode lottery' for those who need continuing care on the NHS.

But the figure was quickly dismissed by a leading charity as "just the tip of the iceberg".

Gordon Lishman, director-general of Age Concern, said: "The Government has revealed that 'only' one in five of those who should have got continuing care have not got the money they should.

"This amount of people negatively affected is an abomination and, unfortunately, these figures are just the tip of the iceberg.

"These new criteria will not succeed unless there is an attitude shift within the NHS to recognise that people who need long-term care may still be the responsibility of the NHS and so must be funded accordingly."

Read more in the London Daily Mail.

June 20, 2006 in Health Care/Long Term Care | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Supreme Court won't hear states' case on clawback

The Supreme Court refused yesterday to block part of the six-month-old Medicare prescription-drug program -- a defeat for states, including Kentucky, that claim they may get stuck with the bill.

Kentucky and four other states filed suit in March to challenge the constitutionality of the new drug coverage, which took effect Jan. 1. Kentucky Attorney General Greg Stumbo said then that Kentucky stands to lose $18.5 million over five years if the drug program isn't changed.

The justices declined without comment to temporarily halt the drug benefit from Medicare, the federal health-insurance program for the elderly and disabled. States were contesting a requirement that they pay the federal government for some expenses.

Read the rest of this story in the Louisville Courier Journal.

Read the order here.

June 20, 2006 in Medicare | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Monday, June 19, 2006

A website to help boomers retire abroad

There's a perfect storm brewing for the estimated 75 million baby boomers marching toward retirement -- and it has nothing to do with South Florida's weather.

Soaring healthcare costs, spiraling real estate prices and a beleaguered social security system are threatening seniors' ability to quit their jobs and kick back.

But Scott Avirett, Steven Sikes and Eric Anderson think they've hit upon an idea to help put the glow back into the golden years.

The three men -- all cousins -- are launching BoomerScape a website that will help adventurous seniors resettle in foreign countries where the weather is mild and dollars stretch further.

''Boomers just aren't going to be able to have the kind of retirement they would expect in places like Arizona and Florida,'' said Avirett. ``We wanted to develop this customized platform for helping facilitate a dream -- essentially for boomers to dive in and live the dream with a high level of quality of life at a much lower cost.''

The concept won second prize in this year's Miami Herald Business Plan Challenge.

While countries such as Costa Rica and Mexico are already hot spots for U.S. retirees, BoomerScape plans to help pioneer lesser known destination such as Belize, the Dominican Republic and Argentina.

Read more in the Miami Herald

The site isn't really operations yet. 

June 19, 2006 in Other | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Friday, June 16, 2006

President of American Psychiatric Association Advocates for Single Payer Health Care

Psychiatrists need to "tirelessly advocate" for a single-payer, universal health care system so every American has access to care as a right, not a privilege.

That was the message that outgoing APA President Steven Sharfstein, M.D., delivered to those attending the Opening Session of APA's 2006 annual meeting last month in Toronto.

"To advocate and to lead, we must say five simple words about the state of our health care system in the U.S. today: the emperor has no clothes," said Sharfstein, president and CEO of the Sheppard Pratt Health System in Maryland.

Sharfstein reminded his audience that in the speech he had delivered at last year's Opening Session, he challenged fellow APA members to become involved in advocating for patients and the profession of psychiatry at the local, state, and national levels.

His challenge did not end with his presidency, however. "We cannot slow down," he said. "Advocacy is not just calling on others to do what we want; it is a shining light for others to follow."

Read more at Psychiatry Online.

June 16, 2006 in Health Care/Long Term Care | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Not elder law: World's oldest bird fossils found in China

BirdFive beautifully preserved headless fossil skeletons discovered in China suggest modern birds evolved from aquatic duck-like ancestors. The creatures, which shared the planet with dinosaurs 110m years ago, are the oldest modern bird fossils ever found. The finds were made by US and Chinese researchers in the north-western Gansu province .

The species, named Gansus yumenensis after the region and the nearby city of Yumen, was previously known only from a fossil leg found in 1983. Hai-Lu You at the Chinese Academy of Geological Sciences in Beijing said that the fine sediment the finds had been covered with by the lake in which the birds died explained the "very, very beautiful preservation". He added: "Soft tissues cannot be preserved normally, but a lake environment, compared to a river, is kind of quiet." Researchers could see the carbonised remains of feathers and webbing between the birds' toes.

Read more in the Guardian.

And in more "world's oldest news", the world's oldest spider has been found trapped in amber--in a museum specimin located in Spain.  Read all about it at


June 16, 2006 in Other | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

New Zealand Senior Citizen's Minister Wants Elder Exploitation Legislation

  Speaking yesterday at an Age Concern workshop marking World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, Senior Citizens Minister Ruth Dyson said she had asked for a review of the enduring power of attorney legislative provisions.

    She aimed to clarify some aspects and introduce further legislation to Parliament before the end of the year.

    Enduring power of attorney allows a person to give another party, such as a family member or lawyer, the power to take over when they can no longer manage their own affairs. One kind of power of attorney covers property and another personal care and welfare.

    Age Concern has released figures showing over 70 per cent of cases involving abuse of the elderly involve financial abuse.

    Many of these cases involve someone entrusted with enduring power of attorney.

    Dyson said the legislation would clarify issues such as gifting, witnesses, access to the court system and the threshold at which the enduring power of attorney kicked in.

    "Financial abuse is one of the hardest forms of abuse to deal with, largely because of the legal issues involved," she said.

    "It is an important way for people to provide for advanced old age when they may not be able to make decisions about their personal lives and finances."



June 16, 2006 in Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Monday, June 12, 2006

Millions of Americans will Face Difficulties Getting Medicaid Starting July 1

Guidelines announced yesterday carry new requirements likely to impede Medicaid coverage for millions of the nation's poor and disabled.  Effective July 1, proof of citizenship will be required rather than mere declarations that had been the standard in most states

The regulations, which were authorized by changes in February to the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005, will affect about 50 million Medicaid recipients nationwide and nearly 700,000 in Virginia.

"Self-attestation of citizenship and identity is no longer an acceptable practice," Dennis G. Smith, director of the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services wrote state Medicaid directors in a 14-page letter spelling out the changes.

Failure to implement the changes could force withdrawal of federal Medicaid funds. The guidelines also carry requirements for extensive cross-checking of Social Security and other records.

Sharply criticized by immigrant advocates for months as a means of achieving tens of millions of dollars in savings by blocking Medicaid payments to illegal immigrants, the regulations set up complex methods of identification and citizenship documentation using birth certificates and other identification papers.

Read more in the Richmond (VA) Times-Dispatch.

A CMS Fact Sheet and other official information about the new proof-of-citizenship requirement is available on the CMS website.

June 12, 2006 in Medicaid | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

KFF Updates Part D State by State Information

  Kaiser has updated its interactive online resource, the Medicare Health and Prescription Drug Plan Tracker, which provides local, regional and national information about Medicare Advantage and stand-alone prescription drug plans. The Tracker allows users to examine current data as well as historical trends in Medicare Advantage plans, and also compare one state or county to others. It also enables users to look up quick facts about the 1,429 stand-alone prescription drug plans offering Medicare benefits in 2006, including the number of participating plans, range of monthly premiums, share of plans with no deductible, and share of plans with a coverage gap.

June 12, 2006 in Statistics | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

CMS Will Attempt to Enroll More Low Income Part D Beneficiaries

The Bush administration begins a new effort Monday to track down and sign up millions of low-income people on Medicare who are not receiving prescription-drug coverage.

The Social Security Administration will start by sending out 500,000 applications to a select group of seniors age 79 and up. The applications will also target seniors in low-income neighborhoods, people with disabilities, Hispanics and those who do not handle their own financial affairs.

It's the latest in a series of attempts by the government and private groups to lure those seniors who stand to benefit the most from Medicare's prescription-drug program — but who are most likely to have missed out on the coverage.

Medicare officials say 38.7 million of Medicare's 42.5 million beneficiaries have drug coverage. According to Medicare's estimates, most of those without coverage — about 3 million of the roughly 4 million still not part of the drug plan —have low incomes and would qualify for extra financial assistance.

Outside groups agree that there are still many low-income seniors who could qualify for financial help if they joined the prescription-drug program.

Read more in USA Today. 

June 12, 2006 in Medicare | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Friday, June 2, 2006

Mental Health Professional Wary of KY, WV Medicaid changes

Kentucky and West Virginia are the first states to amend their Medicaid programs permanently under a new federal law that allows states to enact changes to the programs. 

Although federal officials refer to newly approved Medicaid programs in Kentucky and West Virginia as "historic," mental health professionals have mixed reactions to their likely impact on patients. 

The two states were the first to receive federal approval of redesigns of their Medicaid programs under the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005 (DRA, PL 109-171), which gave states more flexibility to design Medicaid programs with increased cost-sharing for some services and populations. 

The federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) approved the two state plans in early April, although both are still finalizing some components. 

The redesigns, which unlike past Medicaid waivers are permanent, strive to tailor Medicaid service to the age and health status of individual recipients. Prior to enactment of the DRA, Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt said, states generally could not target benefits to specific groups of enrollees. 

"Kentucky is leading the nation in crafting Medicaid benefit packages to the needs of its residents," Leavitt said, when announcing that program's approval. "These changes make sense for enrollees and the very future of the Medicaid program." 

The Kentucky program, called Ky-Health Choices, will offer various benefit packages aimed at meeting the needs of groups such as children, the elderly, people with disabilities who need institutional care, and the general Medicaid population. Medicaid enrollees can choose the most appropriate benefit plan based on their needs, such as the Family Choices program to serve healthy children and Comprehensive Choices and Optimum Choices to serve individuals with complex health care needs. 

Read more about the concerns of experts in Psychiatric News.

June 2, 2006 in Health Care/Long Term Care | Permalink | TrackBack (0)