Senior Connection

Mar 28, 2010

Be Wary of Tax Relief Scams

You may have seen them on television and the internet companies promising to reduce your tax debt, stop garnishments, remove tax liens, or settle your debt.

Individuals in debt to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) are regularly preyed upon by scam tax relief companies who charge thousands of dollars and deliver nothing. In many cases these scams involve a personal tax evaluation costing several thousand dollars only for the taxpayer to be told that there is nothing that can be done. The IRS has issued warnings about these companies.

If you cannot pay your taxes by the April 15 deadline, you should contact the IRS as soon as possible, as they will listen to your case and offer the best solution to your situation.

The IRS has many options for you to pay your taxes, including:

1. The IRS may give you an extension of time to pay from 30 to 120 days.

2. An installment plan that allows you make regular monthly payments until your tax bill is resolved.

3. Request an offer in compromise, an agreement between you and the IRS to settle your tax debt for less than you owe.

4. Plan ahead for next tax season: Adjust your withholding or increase your estimated tax payments so you will have a lesser tax obligation next year.

For more information about your personal income taxes and/or tax relief, contact:

Barbara Anthony, Undersecretary 10 Park Plaza Suite 5170 Boston, MA 02116
Hotline 617-973-8787 888-283-3757

Internal Revenue Service (IRS)
Phone: toll-free (800) 829-1040

Massachusetts Department of Revenue (DOR)
Phone: toll-free in MA (800) 392-6089, (617) 887-MDOR

DOR’s customer service call center hours for tax help are 10 am - 1 pm and 1:30 pm - 4 pm, Monday through Friday.

Mar 22, 2010

How the new Health Reform legislation will affect seniors.

The Medicare prescription-drug benefit would be improved substantially. This year, seniors who enter the Part D coverage gap, known as the "doughnut hole," each would get $250 to help pay for their medications.

Beyond that, drug-company discounts on brand-name drugs and federal subsidies and discounts for all drugs would reduce the gap gradually, eliminating it by 2020. That means that seniors, who now pay 100 percent of their drug costs while they're in the doughnut hole, would pay 25 percent.

Further, as under current law, once seniors spend a certain amount on medications, they'd get "catastrophic" coverage and pay only 5 percent of the cost of their medications.

Government payments to Medicare Advantage, the private-plan part of Medicare, would be cut sharply starting next year. If you're one of the 10 million enrollees, you could lose extra benefits that many of the plans offer, such as free eyeglasses, hearing aids and gym memberships. To cushion the blow to beneficiaries, the cuts to health plans in high-cost areas of the country such as New York City and South Florida — where seniors have enjoyed the richest benefits — would be phased in over as many as seven years.

Beginning this year, the bill would make all Medicare preventive services, such as screenings for colon, prostate and breast cancer, free to beneficiaries.

Mar 16, 2010

If Reform Fails

This editorial from The New York Times, is a part of a comprehensive examination of the debate over health care reform. You can read all of these editorials at:

As the fierce debate on President Obama’s plan for health care reform comes to a head, Americans should be thinking carefully about what happens if Congress fails to enact legislation.

Are they really satisfied with the status quo? And is the status quo really sustainable?

Here are some basic facts Americans need to know as Congress decides whether to approve comprehensive reform or continue with what we have:

HOW REFORM WOULD WORK: Let’s be clear, the changes Mr. Obama and Democratic leaders in Congress are proposing are significant. But, despite what the critics charge, this is not a government takeover. And the program is not only fully paid for, it should actually reduce the deficit over the next two decades.

Under the new system, all people would be required to have health insurance or pay a penalty. If you are poor or middle class you would also get significant help through Medicaid coverage or tax credits to pay the premiums.

The legislation would create exchanges on which small businesses and people who buy their own coverage directly from insurers could choose from an array of private plans that would compete for their business. It would also require insurance companies to accept all applicants, even those with a pre-existing condition. And it would make a start at reforming the medical care system to improve quality and lower costs.

46 MILLION AND RISING: If nothing is done, the number of uninsured people — 46 million in 2008 — is sure to spike upward as rising medical costs and soaring premiums make policies less affordable and employers continue to drop coverage to save money.

The Congressional Budget Office projects 54 million uninsured people in 2019; the actuary for the federal government’s Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services projects 57 million.

It should be no surprise that people without insurance often postpone needed care, and many get much sicker as a result. That is morally unsustainable. It is also fiscally unsustainable for safety net hospitals — which foist much of the cost on the American taxpayer when the uninsured end up in the emergency room. As the number of uninsured rises, that bill will rise.

The Senate’s reform bill would reduce the number of uninsured by an estimated 31 million in 2019. The Republicans’ paltry proposals would cut the number by only three million.

To read this story in its entirety, please visit The New York Times

Mar 9, 2010

From The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services

While caregivers face a range of challenges every day, few can generate as much concern and uncertainty as trying to successfully manage a transition in care from the hospital to home setting.

That’s why the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ (CMS) Ask Medicare initiative has developed two new videos to help caregivers and their loved ones successfully navigate the process. The videos present tips that are practical and easy to follow – and they highlight resources that are available for additional support.

The first video Tips for Making a Hospital to Home Transition provides insights and expert guidance on important issues caregivers need to plan for, and manage, when bringing a loved one back home from the hospital. It offers advice on maintaining effective dialogues with health care providers, preparing the home for new equipment needs, planning for additional expenses, and more.

The second video highlights a detailed checklist, the Planning for your Discharge Guide, which CMS has developed to help caregivers – and their loved ones – walk through a range of questions that need to be answered to ensure a successful and stress-free future of in-home care.

Please visit the Ask Medicare web site at to view these and other helpful resources, including our free e-newsletter, real caregiver stories, targeted tips and tools. And please share them with others who may benefit from the information.

Because the more we all know about the challenges and joys of caregiving, the more we can support those who do so much for others.

Thank you,

Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services


To Enhance The Quality Of Life For Area Seniors And Their Caregivers, The Central Massachusetts Agency On Aging Will Provide Leadership, Information And Resources, Coordination Of Services And Advocacy.