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Houston Mayor Makes Desperate Plea for Hurricane Harvey Recovery Aid

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In a moving plea for help from the state and federal government, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner was joined at a Thursday press conference by three of his constituents who remain displaced by Hurricane Harvey nearly four months after the storm made landfall.

Image: Sylvester Turner

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner. Ismael Francisco / AP file

“Literally, there are thousands of people living in homes that need to be remediated,” said Turner. “And there are thousands of people who are still living in hotels. And the question is, where do they go when FEMA says, ‘No more’?”

The push is part of Houston and Texas’s request for Congress to approve a bill for $61 billion in federal assistance. Thus far the state has received $11 billion in federal disaster aid — far less than the nearly $115 billion of federal assistance provided after Hurricane Katrina or the $56 billion after Hurricane Sandy.

Turner also asked that Texas Gov. Greg Abbott provide the city with $200 million from the state’s rainy day fund, which he said currently carries $11 billion. The mayor said his plan is to repay the loan with federal aid once Congress has approved it.

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, with Houston Texans Shane Lechler, left, and J.J. Watt distribute relief supplies to people impacted by Hurricane Harvey on Sunday, Sept. 3, 2017, in Houston. Watt’s Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund has raised more than $18 million to date to help those affected by the storm.  (Photo: Brett Coomer/Houston Chronicle).

Abbott has claimed there is no need to touch the fund until 2019 when the state legislature next reconvenes in regular session and can decide how to use the funds. The Texas governor also rejected the Turner’s call for a special session of the legislature.

“We cannot wait until 2019,” Turner said in response to Abbott. “There are things that need to be done right now.”

A little over an hour after the press conference, the House passed an $81 billion disaster funding bill for Texas, Florida, California and Puerto Rico, 252-168. The Senate was not expected to act on the bill until next year.

“It’s a lot more complicated, a lot more moving parts, a lot more varied interests, competition between various jurisdictions over who gets what,” Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn, R-Texas, said of the bill. “So, it’s just not likely [the Senate will vote on it this year.]”

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, excoriated his colleagues in a speech on the floor of the U.S. Senate Thursday evening, calling it “wrong” and “maddening” that the Senate would not pass further disaster relief for Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria before leaving on holiday break. He also noted that the House bill would only provide a fraction of the $81 billion to his home state, which he said was not nearly enough.

“I’m sorry to say that the United States Senate is now leaving town without delivering on its commitment to help Texas, to help Florida and to help Puerto Rico to recover,” Cruz said.

Earlier on Thursday, Turner also emphasized the “urgent” and immediate need his city had, and he asked three Houstonians — Karen Knight, Christina Quintero and Deborah Williams — to share how they lost their homes to Hurricane Harvey to highlight the necessity for aid.

“I was waiting for my house to be rebuilt and that’s been since Aug. 25 when the storm came,” said Williams, whose home took four to six feet of water. “Now I’m currently living in a hotel and I don’t know how long I’ll be able to stay there because they don’t do that for free.”

 

Quintero tearfully spoke of her two children, one of whom is autistic, and their inability to return home because all of their possessions and the interior of the house was destroyed in the flood water. They now live with Quintero’s parents nearby.

“Everyday he has nightmares because he walks back to his house, he opens the door and he sees a gutted home where we took out everything to make sure there was no mold so they could have a safe and healthy home,” Quintero said of her autistic son.

Knight said she is a single mother of five children. Her daughter is paralyzed, and her doctor told her that their home was not safe for the child.

“It’s unlivable,” Knight said, describing her home. “It’s full of mold. I tried to get some help with contractors and whatnot and go out the cheap way, so I could get back home only to find out that there are people who will take advantage of you.”

“This is the face of Harvey that still needs to be addressed,” said Turner.

Source: NBC News

#LeNoraMillen         12-22-17

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Health Care

Medicare Takes Aim at Medical Identity Theft: Protecting Seniors From Fraud

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Criminals are increasingly targeting people age 65 or older for personal identity theft. In 2014 alone, there were 2.6 million such incidents among seniors, according to the Department of Justice.

A growing offshoot of identity theft is healthcare fraud, which can result when someone unlawfully uses another person’s Medicare number. Medical identity theft can lead to inaccuracies in medical records, which in turn can result in delayed care, denied services and costly false claims.

That’s why Medicare works with the Department of Justice, taking aim squarely at would-be thieves. In the largest law enforcement action against criminals fraudulently targeting the Medicare, Medicaid and Tricare programs, 412 people around the country, including 115 doctors, nurses and other licensed medical professionals, were charged in 2017 with bilking U.S. taxpayers out of $1.3 billion.

New Medicare Card for 2018. (Video Courtesy of YouTube)

The next big fraud-fighting push is well underway — and its focus is protecting the personal information of senior citizens by removing their Social Security numbers from Medicare cards.

People with Medicare don’t need to take any action to get a new Medicare card. Beginning in April 2018, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) will mail out newly designed Medicare cards to the 58 million Americans with Medicare. The cards will have a new number that will be unique for each card recipient. This will help protect personal identity and prevent fraud because identity thieves can’t bill Medicare without a valid Medicare number. To help with a seamless transition to the new cards, providers will be able to use secure lookup tools that will support quick access to the new card numbers when needed.

Healthcare fraud drives up costs for everyone, but healthcare consumers can be an effective first line of defense against fraud. Follow these tips to help protect yourself:

Do

  • Treat your Medicare number like a credit card.
  • When the new card comes in the mail next year, destroy your old card and make sure you bring your new one to your doctors’ appointments.
  • Be suspicious of anyone offering early bird discounts, limited time offers or encouraging you to act now for the best deal. That’s an indicator of potential fraud because Medicare plans are forbidden from offering incentives.
  • Be skeptical of free gifts, free medical services, discount packages or any offer that sounds too good to be true.
  • Only give your Medicare number to doctors, insurers acting on your behalf or trusted people in the community who work with Medicare, like your State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP).
  • Report suspected instances of fraud.
  • Check your Medicare statements to make sure the charges are accurate.

Don’t

  • Don’t share your Medicare number or other personal information with anyone who contacts you by telephone, email or approaches you in person, unless you’ve given them permission in advance. Medicare will never contact you uninvited and request your Medicare number or other personal information.
  • Don’t let anyone borrow or pay to use your Medicare number.
  • Don’t allow anyone, except your doctor or other Medicare providers, to review your medical records or recommend services.
  • Don’t let anyone persuade you to see a doctor for care or services you don’t need.
  • Don’t accept medical supplies from a door-to-door salesman.

Learn more about how you can fight Medicare fraud at Medicare.gov/fraud, or call 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227). You can also visit a local SHIP counselor, who can provide free, one-on-one, non-biased Medicare assistance.

With a common sense approach to protecting health information, senior citizens can be effective partners in fighting Medicare fraud.

 

Source: Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services

@LeNoraMillen       01-19-18

 

 

 

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Politics

Trump Children’s Health Insurance Tweet Contradicts White House Administration

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Washington (CNN) President Donald Trump contradicted his own administration on Thursday when he tweeted that funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program  (CHIP) should not be included in a short-term plan to fund the government.

Trump’s tweet sent on Thursday morning, seemingly undercut the “Stopgap Spending Bill,” leaving many confused at what could be construed as an “Anti-Chip” tweet.

Read more here

@LeNoraMillen     01-18-18

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Politics

What If a Government Shutdown Occurs? Five Things to Know

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The Air Force Life Cycle Management Center at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base BARRIE BARBER/STAFF

The federal government faces a partial federal shutdown threat Friday without a $1.1 trillion appropriations spending budget or a temporary stopgap spending measure in place.

Here’s what could happen in the Miami Valley if a shutdown occurs:

FURLOUGHS: A Wright-Patterson Air Force Base spokesman said this week the base had not received guidance on what actions to take. But the last time a federal government shutdown occurred in 2013, thousands of Wright-Patterson civilian employees were furloughed temporarily. Among those exempted were police, fire, medical and airfield operations. Military service members remained on the job.

MUSEUM: The region’s biggest tourist attraction, the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force, would close until a funding deal is reached, according to a spokesman.

MAIL SERVICE: The U.S. Postal Service, which is considered self-funded, would continue operations, including home delivery and post offices, would stay open, a spokesman said.

DAYTON VA: The Department of Veterans Affairs medical facilities would remain open. The VA operates on a two-year budget cycle, exempting the department from the latest funding skirmish in Washington.

NATIONAL PARK SERVICE: NPS sites in the Dayton region closed during the last shutdown in 2013. An NPS directive issued in September 2017, said parks would close if a lapse in federal government appropriations occurs.

Source: Dayton Daily News

@LeNoraMillen    01-18-18

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