Area Agency on Aging: Support hotlines and new pricing rule for hospitals

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    By Kay Kaylor
    PREVIEW Columnist

    I advocate for residents in extended care and assisted living residences as the regional long-term care ombudsman. I also am a Senior Medicare Patrol and State Health Insurance Assistance Program counselor, all as an employee of San Juan Basin Area Agency on Aging (SJBAAA). The many aging and care concerns will be addressed here.

    This year could be characterized as The Year of Stress for many reasons, and one way to relieve built-up stress is to talk about why you are anxious, worried, depressed or experiencing a feeling of impending doom. The Colorado Spirit Crisis Counseling and Training Program, particularly created for help with pandemic stress, promotes the following two hotlines with free and anonymous support from trained counselors:

    1. Through the University of Colorado for health care workers and educators: (303) 724-2500.

    2. For everyone else, in this region via Axis Health Services: (970) 828-6004.

    Hospital price
    transparency

    Beginning Jan. 1, 2021, every hospital in the United States must publish “clear, accessible pricing information online about the items and services they provide,” according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. The federal Department of Health and Human Services rule states that the information has two requirements. A computer must be able to process the online file data, known as “machine readable.”

    Second, the information must be presented in a consumer-friendly manner. An Internet price-estimator tool is allowed as an alternative, with further information encouraged. If the hospital is large, it must show the standard charge for a minimum of 300 “shoppable” services individuals can schedule in advance. Examples include hours spent in the operating room, laboratory services, physical therapy, flu shots and medication infusions. Five types of standard charges are defined, such as third-party negotiated charges and cash discounts.

    The items and services information must be posted on a public website, must be available free of charge and must not request personal information, registration, an account or a password. An annual update is required. 

    SJBAAA offers resources for people age 60 and older or on Medicare; see sjbaaa.org. For further information, please call or text 403-2165 or send an email to kkaylor@sjbaaa.org.