Saturday, June 28, 2014

Resources for Consumer Protection

If you have been a victim of consumer fraud, there are state and local agencies which may be able to help you. In Florida, there is the Florida Attorney General's Senior's vs. Crime Project. You can request help from them by filling out an online form here. You may also seek help from the Division of Consumer Services, which is a part of the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. This department  is the state’s clearinghouse for consumer complaints, information and protection. You can find their consumer complaint forms here. For more information, you can call: 
1-800-HELP-FLA (435-7352),
 1-(850) 410-3800  - if you are calling from outside of Florida, or 
1-800-FL-AYUDA (352-9832) en EspaƱol.

Our closest regional consumer help offices are:

Hillsborough County Consumer Protection Agency   1-(813)-903-3430 

Pinellas County Office of Consumer Services   1-(727)-464-6200

Another great consumer resource is the 2014 Consumer Action Handbook, published by the federal government. This guide includes a sample complaint letter and useful advice about how to resolve a complaint with a seller. You can pick up a print copy of this handbook at your local Pasco County Library branch.

Here is a video describing the Consumer Action Handbook:


If you live in another state, you can find an index of state consumer agencies here.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

"Physicians United Plan" Medicare Medical Insurance Plan is Ending Soon

The federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services will mutually terminate its contract with the Physicians United Plan (PUP) on July 1st, 2014. This means that Medicare beneficiaries that were using this insurance company will have to enroll in a new healthcare plan by August 31st.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services have stated the new Medicare Advantage/Medicare Advantage with Prescription Drug Plans (MA/MAPD) will coordinate with Physicians United Plan to share information on the beneficiary out-of-pocket costs so that will not start over for beneficiaries. There are several options for beneficiaries during the SEP to include; keeping Original Medicare and the assigned Part D plan, purchase a Medicare Supplement policy (Medigap) to supplement Original Medicare, or select a new Medicare Advantage plan and/or change the Part D prescription drug plan assigned by CMS. The effective coverage date will be the first of the month following enrollment into the plan.

The Florida Department of Elder Affairs and the state’s eleven Area Agencies on Aging are providing plan comparison and enrollment assistance through the SHINE (Serving Health Insurance Needs of Elders) Program. SHINE is a free and unbiased Medicare counseling program that can help beneficiaries whose coverage has changed to choose a new prescription drug plan or enroll in a state or federal Medicare cost-saving program.

SHINE can educate you about the choices that are available. Affected Floridians are encouraged to call the Elder Helpline toll-free at 1-800-96-ELDER (1-800-963-5337) or visit the SHINE website, Information is available in Spanish and other languages, as well as for the hearing impaired (TDD: 850-414-2001).

Saturday, June 14, 2014

World Elder Abuse Awareness Day

World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD) was launched in 2006 by the International Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse and the World Health Organization at the United Nations. This event is held every year on June 15th. It is estimated that 5 million older persons are abused, neglected, and exploited every year. In addition, elders throughout the United States lose an estimated $2.6 billion or more annually due to elder financial abuse.You can help to raise awareness about elder abuse by sharing this information with friends and family.
What else can you do to help?
  • volunteer with your local Meals on Wheels program - in Pasco County, contact the Pasco County Elderly Nutrition Department
  • become a long-term care ombudsman - in Pasco County contact the Area Agency on Aging of Pasco-Pinellas (727) 570-9696) to learn more about volunteering to help the elderly.
  • if you know a caregiver - offer to help them, so they can take a few hours break. 
  • learn about  the 12 things that anyone can do to prevent elder abuse by clicking here.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Disaster Preparedness Guide for Elders

Hurricane season has started and it is a good time to check your emergency plans. The Florida Department of Elder Affairs has published their annual "Disaster Preparedness Guide for Elders". This guide has information about:
  • planning for the hurricane season
  • manufactured homes and hurricanes
  • assembling a disaster supply kit
  • disaster preparedness for elders with hearing loss
  • disaster planning for your pets
  • heat stress and heat stroke
  • disaster recovery assistance
You can read the entire guide here.
For local disaster preparedness, evacuation maps and shelters for Pasco County residents, click here. From this page you can choose the Pasco County evacuation maps and the Pasco County shelter list. You can pick up a print version of this brochure at our Pasco County public libraries.