Florida News

Calendar
Presidential Debates Florida Atlantic University has tentatively scheduled two presidential debates for Jan. 24 and Jan. 27. Call 1-866-595-7678 for updates. 2008 Primary Election Remember to vote on Jan. 29. Visit your county supervisor of elections (http://election.dos. state.fl.us/county/index.shtml) to find your poll location. Askew Institute Forum (on intergenerational community-building) University of Florida, Gainesville, Feb. 7 – 8. AARP Celebrates 50 Golden Years in 2008 Event and festivities in Miami on Feb. 23 – 25. Florida Legislative Session Begins March 4. For more information on events, call 1-866-595-7678 or e-mail flaarp@aarp.org. Divided We Fail: Volunteer Opportunities Sign up as a Divided We Fail voter at www.DividedWeFail.org. You can also discuss your own experiences related to health care and financial security. Call toll free 1-866-595-7678 or e-mail FloridaDWF@aarp.org.

www.aarp.org/fl

FL
One of them is Ginette Carpenter, 46, of Lake Placid. A small-business owner, Carpenter was making do without health insurance when she found a lump in her breast in the summer of 2006. After a lumpectomy this past November, she now faces a grueling chemotherapy regime. But instead of focusing on her physical recovery, Carpenter has to figure out how her family can recover from this blow to its finances. “I’ll be fine,” said Carpenter, who is a single mother of two. “I’ve got to be.” Stories like Carpenter’s are all too familiar — which is why a new initiative, Divided We Fail,

Fall 2007

A Chance to Shape the ‘08 Debate
The outcome of the Jan. 29 primary may be uncertain, but the top issues are clear: health care and financial security.
With the state’s primary weeks away, voters are focused on two closely related issues: health care and financial security. A recent AARP poll showed that both Democratic and Republican Florida primary voters say health care is the most important domestic issue facing the nation, and the second most important issue overall (behind the war in Iraq). Floridians are right to be concerned. According to the United Health Foundation, 21.2 percent of state residents lack health insurance (up from 17.8 percent in 2000). That’s more than 3.8 million Floridians who lack peace of mind about affordable, quality health care — and their numbers are growing.
AARP Florida 400 Carillon Parkway, Suite 100 St. Petersburg, FL 33716

AFFORDABLE Health Care for Florida

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is aimed at building a bipartisan consensus for action on health care and financial security. To learn where presidential candidates stand on these vital issues, go to “In Their Own Words” at www.dividedwefail. org. No computer access? Call 1-866-595-7678 to receive this nonpartisan comparison of key positions.
Non-Profit Org. U.S. Postage PAID Permit No. 43 Long Beach, CA

In This Issue
Winter Wonderland ............. 2 Discover Florida events. From the State Director ....... 3 Business, labor, community and faith groups come together on Divided We Fail. Q&A ........................................ 3 “We need a bipartisan effort to reform Social Security.” Rep. Vern Buchanan (R) ‘Divided We Fail’’ ...................4 Portraits of financial insecurity.

A higher percentage of Florida nursing-home residents depends on Medicare as their primary payer than in any other state. Go to www.aarp.org/fl for information about AARP’s work in Florida. Visit the Everglades: http://www.nps.gov/ever.

Voices on the Street
Why are you working for Divided We Fail? “We have many problems in our country, including Washington’s inability to address key issues. We as citizens continually are letting them off the hook and it’s time we get them to start a discussion.” — Clarke Dahlgren of Ft. Myers. Dahlgren has questioned presidential candidates at events, written letters to editors and led a team of Ft. Myers volunteers in working for Divided We Fail. “The Divided We Fail issues are not just problems for seniors but for everyone. We have to get politicians to start talking about it.” — Adelia Vachon of Williston. Vachon has helped lead volunteer training sessions, collected pledge cards and is an active member of her AARP chapter. “I believe in Divided We Fail and if another cause is more important right now I want to know what it is.” — Vollie Riskin of St. Petersburg. Riskin has collected and distributed Divided We Fail pledge cards. “I expect Divided We Fail will usher in a new sense of responsibility among elected officials and expect we will have great success with greater individual participation in the voting process.” — Bill Ternent of Daytona Beach. Ternent helped collect almost 600 pledges at Bethune-Cookman College and has questioned presidential candidates on health and financial security.

I n Y our P ocket Concierge Medicine Adds Crippling Costs With America’s health care system’s difficulties weighing heavily on the minds of AARP members in Florida, candidates and voters tend to focus on those without health coverage — some 47 million Americans nationwide. But thousands of Floridians struggle with health care issues that you haven’t heard as much about. For example, Marilyn Contrada, a retired teacher, spent the last part of 2007 looking for a new doctor. Why? Because of a new trend called “concierge medicine.” “After 28 years with the same doctor, I was told that I must pay $3,000 in January to continue to be his patient,” said Contrada, who lives in upscale Naples. “I just can’t afford it.” Physicians say charging patients an annual fee of $1,500 to $20,000, on top of insurance payments and out-of-pocket fees, helps compensate for cuts in doctor reimbursement. The trend toward concierge medicine is a symptom of a failing health care system, said Jeff Johnson, campaign manager for Divided We Fail in Florida. o n the r ecord : Y our h ealth Journal Article Urges Database to Store Patients’ Records America’s troubled health care system can be a nightmare for patients and physicians. A 2006 report in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that the lack of a standardized electronic database to make patients’ medical records readily available often results in medical errors and lower quality care. Effective electronic systems could reduce some of the estimated 195,000 U.S. deaths annually from preventable medical errors, according to the book 50+: Igniting a Revolution to Reinvent America, by AARP CEO Bill Novelli. Health care is the only large U.S. industry that still routinely keeps vital records on paper. “Even after more than a month’s wait, records were not transferred when my husband went to a specialist he had been referred to,” said Susan Yoder, a Floridian who is her husband’s primary caregiver. “The result was a delay in care.” Yoder said the constant struggle with medical records adds to the stress she already faces in dealing with a lack of affordable and accessible health care for her husband, a World War II veteran. She uniquely understands the need for well-kept, easily accessed records. For more information on where candidates stand on all aspects of health care, please go to www.dividedwefail.org or call toll free 1-866595-7678.

Krewes, Fairs and the Chefs’ Top Picks
With cooler weather, January and February are great months to get outside for festivals and fun. Go to www. visitflorida.com/experience/events for many more events around the state. Gasparilla 2008, Jan. 19 – 26, Bayshore Blvd., Tampa. Aaar, matey! Start with the Gasparilla Extravaganza on Jan. 19 — be sure to check out the Red Baron Frozen Pizza “Piratechnic” fireworks show — and then catch the krewes (carnival paraders) at the Gasparilla Parade on Jan. 26. Go to www. gasparillapiratefest.com for full event info. Florida State Fair, Feb. 7 – 14, State Fairgrounds, 4800 U.S. Highway 301 North, Tampa. Go to www. floridastatefair.com or call toll free 1-800-345-FAIR (1-800-345-3247) for more information. Big Cypress Shootout, Feb. 22 – 24, Clewiston. The Seminole Tribe of Florida will present reenactments of the Second Seminole War as well as craft demonstrations, pine-needle basket-weaving and more. For information, call toll free 1-800-GO-SAFARI (1-800-467-2327). Children’s Home Society benefit, March 2, Tallahassee. More than 50 of the state capital’s best restaurants cook it up to raise funds for a great cause. Tickets are $50; call 1-850-921-0772 for reservations.

M edIcaId r eforM Diabetes and Other Illnesses Go Unreported A recent study from the University of South Florida and Florida State University indicates significant underreporting of diabetes, diabetes complications and asthma/COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) in Florida’s 60-plus residents. According to the report, researchers relying solely on claims from physicians and medical facilities would be able to identify less than 20 percent of Medicaid beneficiaries who actually suffer from those ailments — a severe underreporting that could lead to low budgets for Medicaid. The undercount could be remedied by using prescriptions as the source for claims. Disturbing news: Since 2005, AARP has fought a bold but flawed state Medicaid reform plan to require tens of thousands of children, people with disabilities and some older Floridians to join managed-care plans in order to receive health care financed by Medicaid. Now the inspector general for the state Medicaid agency says that reform pilot projects have produced too little data to show that the plan is improving quality, while doctors and other providers are wrestling with bureaucracy. Her recommendation: Don’t expand the pilots until claims are proven. AARP will keep fighting the plan in 2008.

Photos by Nate Cowan

Half of all American workers eligible for an employer 401(k) or related savings program do not participate. Go to www.dividedwefail.org/fl for info about Divided We Fail in Florida. Small business guide: http://www.floridatrend.com/small_biz.asp

Q&A
Serving 2.9 million members St. Petersburg Office 400 Carillon Parkway, Suite 100 St. Petersburg, FL 33716 South Florida Office 3350 SW 148th Ave., Suite 120 Miramar, FL 33027 Tallahassee Office 200 West College Ave., Suite 304 Tallahassee, FL 32301 1-866-595-7678 toll free www.aarp.org/fl flaarp@aarp.org

A Chat With Rep. Vern Buchanan
One of hundreds of members of Congress to sign the Divided We Fail pledge is Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-Sarasota). AARP asked the congressman to explain why the initiative is so important.
Fail Congressional pledge to work for bipartisan solutions to health and financial security. Others declined. Why were you willing to do so? A: Americans don’t care whether a proposal is Republican or Democratic — they want their elected leaders to work together to solve our nation’s most pressing challenges. It was encouraging to see groups who often disagree work together
Q: You signed the Divided We

to urge a bipartisan effort to address these important issues.
Q: With half of all eligible workers not enrolled in workplace savings plans like 401(k)s, millions could face bleak retirements. Yet many families find it hard to save. How can we give Floridians tools to prepare for lifetime security? A: We need a bipartisan effort to reform Social Security and ensure that this important safety net is available for seniors now and later. I am committed to legislation that strengthens Social Security, treats all generations fairly and provides Americans with greater access to retirement plans and financial incentives to save. Q: You’ve noted that health care costs are pounding families and small businesses. How can we keep costs from rising so rapidly? A: We need to provide information about the quality, cost and effectiveness of health care services, prevent illness and

promote good health. We also need secure health information technology and electronic health records. Finally, we need to provide choices for longterm care service delivery and affordable financing options.
Q: Are partisan tensions in Washington just too high to allow solutions to move forward? How can we break through gridlock and move forward on health and financial security? A: There is too much partisanship in Washington and not enough common sense. Many of us have legitimate differences of opinion and public debate is healthy. But some seem to care more about scoring political points than getting anything done. I hope that a bipartisan majority will put party politics aside and find solutions we can all support.

S tate O ffice S taff Lori Parham State Director Odette Bragg Operations Supervisor Dave Bruns Communication Manager Jeff Johnson DWF Campaign Manager and Manager of State Operations Jack McRay Advocacy Manager

AARP Florida thanks Rep. Buchanan for answering our questions.

e xecutive c Ouncil M eMberS Judy Thames Volunteer State President Larry Carmichael Tallahassee Olga Connor Miami Doug Heinlen Sarasota Lois Herron St. Petersburg Nat Willis Gainesville

f roM the S tate d Irector

We Can Change America Jan. 29
Business, representing 1.7 million small businesses throughout America. The heart of Divided We Fail is ordinary people. More than 15,000 Floridians have signed the Divided We Fail pledge; some 1,300 have provided personal stories. On Jan. 29, Florida will be the first large state to vote for major-party nominees. If Floridians demand that the candidates commit to bipartisan action on health and financial security, our children and grandchildren won’t have to face the challenges highlighted in this edition. Go to www.dividedwefail.org or call 1-866-595-7678 toll free for more information on candidates’ positions. Then, on Jan. 29, please go to the polls and vote. Because divided we fail. But together we can do anything. Lori Parham leads the AARP Florida team as state director.

Percentage by which Florida’s 85-plus population will grow by 2020.

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The stories in this special “Divided We Fail” edition can make for tough reading. But they describe real problems of fellow Floridians — problems that make for even tougher living. Our broken health system leaves one in four Floridians under age 65 uninsured, and many more without adequate coverage. Millions struggle because people lack effective tools to save or plan for retirement. While Americans wrestle with these critical problems, Washington seems hopelessly divided. As our life experience shows, when we are divided, we fail. Divided We Fail brings together AARP and leading national business, labor and faith groups. In November, we welcomed our newest partner, the National Federation of Independent

Jason Merritt

“…More than 15,000 Floridians have signed the pledge…”

About seven out of 10 Florida AARP members say financial security issues will be very important in how they vote Jan. 29. Go to www.aarpdaytona.org or www.aarpsarasota.org to check out AARP’s online communities across Florida.

Resources To visit:
Gov. Charlie Crist’s (R) site to compare homeowners’ insurance rates: www.shopandcomparerates.com Attorney General Bill McCollum’s (R) site to compare prescription drug costs: www.myfloridarx.com To apply for help with phone bills: www.floridapsc.com/utilities/ telecomm/lifeline Florida CFO Alex Sink’s (D) grant program to help harden your home against hurricanes: www.mysafefloridahome.com To learn the latest health news: www.floridahealthnews.org To learn about Medicare prescription drug coverage: www.aarp.org/health/medicare/ drug_coverage

d IvIded W e f aIl

Care Costs a Prescription for Financial Hardship
Health care and financial security are issues that are inextricably linked for millions of Americans of all ages. The stakes are especially high for the many 50-plus Floridians who provide long-term care services for elderly or disabled relatives — an obligation that can create a catastrophic drain on family finances. The majority of long-term care services in the United States. are provided by unpaid family caregivers. With a state population of about 18 million, roughly 1.7 million Floridians provided these services at a value of $17.3 billion in 2006. That’s four and a half times more than total annual Loretta Belfiore lost her job when she became a full-time caregiver Medicaid spending on long-term for her ailing mother and husband. Now she is waiting for Medicare care in the state, according to a to help provide the backup she needs. recent AARP study. Loretta Belfiore of Altamonte Springs knows all The Social Security Lifeline too well about this pressing issue. “With both my Social Security is a top election-year issue for millions mother and my husband ill, I was unable to secure of Floridians like Loretta Belfiore. For one in four resa job as I became an unpaid idents age 65-plus, Social Security provides the sole caregiver,” said Belfiore, source of income. Fully half of Florida’s residents — 62, whose husband died in including 53 percent of women — would face poverty November. “I called social without the aid of Social Security. As the population services to see if anything ages, those numbers will keep growing. was financially available to AARP members statewide are closely watchme because of my inability to ing where the presidential candidates stand on work and was told I had too protecting Social Security. One of them is Port much money.” St. Lucie resident Joy Goldsmith, a former health How much is too much? aide. Goldsmith fractured her hip last summer and, Joy Goldsmith The little money that Belfiore unable to return to work, relies on her monthly of Port St. Lucie has saved is part of a rolled- $412 Social Security check to make ends meet. relies solely over 401(k) that is locked into Reforms are needed, and they are needed soon. on Social an annuity; she cannot access Security to make the money until she turns 65, ends meet. Take the ‘Divided We Fail’ Pledge when she also becomes eliTo learn more about where the candidates stand on gible for Medicare. Belfiore strengthening Social Security and giving Americans the must now rely on Social Security, but since her tools they need to achieve lifetime financial security, go caregiving duties forced her to give up her job to “In Their Own Words” at www.dividedwefail.org or sooner than planned, she cannot receive the maxcall 1-866-595-7678. imum monthly Social Security benefit.

To call:
Florida’s Elder Helpline: 1-800-963-5337 To become a Tax-Aide volunteer or find a site near you: 1-888-687-2277 To learn about an AARP Driver Safety course: 1-888-AARP-NOW (1-888-227-7669) For free, unbiased advice on health insurance from state volunteers: 1-800-96ELDER (1-800-9635337)

To order:
Order the following publications by calling 1-866-595-7678. Medicines Made Easy Medicare: What You Need to Know Money Matters: Your Guide to Financial Security

Fifty-four percent of Floridians age 45-plus think Medicare pays for extended nursing-home stays. It does not. Learn about workers’ compensation: www.fldfs.com/WC. Energy tips: www.dep.state.fl.us.mainpage/tips/default.htm.

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