CVS is ramping up its efforts to hire people with disabilities with a slew of new mock stores designed to help train this traditionally-underemployed demographic. The pharmacy chain said it will open at least eight mock stores by spring. Each site features equipment characteristic of a typical CVS location. People with disabilities participate in classroom and hands-on training in both life and job-related skills, learning the tasks required for working in a CVS store or as a pharmacy technician. Those who complete the training program are eligible to apply for employment at CVS. “CVS Health is focused on breaking down the employment barriers that individuals with disabilities face, which these facilities help to achieve,” said David Casey, Vice President of Workforce Strategies and Chief Diversity Officer at CVS Health. CVS opened one of the mock stores this month at the Arkansas Career Training Institute in Hot Springs, Ark. and two others — located in Fishersville, Va. and Johnstown, Pa. — are already up and running.
Medicare enrollees, who have watched their out-of-pocket spending on prescription drugs climb in recent years, might be in for a break. Federal officials are exploring how beneficiaries could get a share of certain behind-the-scenes fees and discounts negotiated by insurers and pharmacy benefit managers, or PBMs, who together administer Medicare’s Part D drug program. Supporters say this could help enrollees by reducing the price tag of their prescription drugs and slow their approach to the coverage gap in the Part D program. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) could disclose the fees to the public and apply them to what enrollees pay for their drugs. However, there’s no guarantee that such an approach would be included in a proposed rule change that could land any day, according to several experts familiar with the discussions. While Medicare itself cannot negotiate drug prices, the health insurers and PBMs have long been able to negotiate with manufacturers who are willing to pay rebates and other discounts so their products win a good spot on a health plan’s list of approved drugs. Federal officials described these fees in a January fact sheet as direct and indirect remuneration, or DIR fees.
A recent survey by AARP of family caregivers and those for whom they care shows that positive emotions far outweigh negative emotions for both family caregivers and care recipients. Family caregivers report more positive emotions despite half feeling stressed or worried and care recipients report more positive emotions despite 6 out of 10 feeling less independent. The survey also found that family caregivers who felt more prepared to take on their role were more likely to report positive emotions than negative. “Changing roles can be difficult to navigate within families, especially when those changes happen quickly with little time to prepare,” said Amy Goyer, AARP Family and Caregiving expert and author of AARP’s Juggling Life, Work, and Caregiving. “AARP’s caregiving resources help families prepare for new roles, making the transition less stressful and allowing families to enjoy more quality time together.”
People who do hatha yoga report improved balance, but only now has yoga’s impact on falls received rigorous study. Now, University of Wisconsin–Madison professor of family medicine Irene Hamrick reports that the number of falls in older adults dropped 48 percent in the six months after yoga classes began, compared to the six months previous. The study, now online in Complementary Therapies in Medicine, looked at older, rural adults who attended yoga classes in Western Wisconsin. Hatha yoga is a series of poses that can be performed on the floor or standing. They are intended to improve flexibility, mood and presence of mind. The practice originated in India and usually includes a period of meditation. Hamrick, Paul Smith, also a UW–Madison professor of family medicine, Nate Christopher, a physical therapist at Southwest Health in Platteville, and yoga instructor Paul Mross of Belleville started with a needs assessment to evaluate receptivity to various formats of yoga classes. The 38 study participants attended biweekly classes for eight weeks in Dodgeville, Platteville and Monroe. Among people aged 65 and up, falls are the leading cause of injury death, and the most common cause of nonfatal injuries and hospital trauma admissions. Thirty percent of this age group has a fall each year; the rate rises to 50 percent by age 80.
For many Americans entering retirement, it comes as an unwelcome surprise: Medicare premiums become much more expensive if you do not sign up on time. The program tacks on a 10 percent penalty on monthly Part B premiums for each full 12-month period of late enrollment, and you keep on paying the penalties for the rest of your life. The aim is to avoid “adverse selection,” which occurs when people sign up for coverage only when they think they will need it. That helps keep premiums lower for all Medicare enrollees. But a heads-up would be nice. And that is the intent of the Beneficiary Enrollment Notification and Eligibility Simplification Act (BENES Act), a bill introduced with bipartisan support last week in the U.S. Senate (companion legislation was introduced in the House of Representatives earlier). It would require the government to send a notification letter in the year before your 65th birthday - the first date of Medicare eligibility. The letter would explain the enrollment rules, and - importantly - how Medicare interacts with other insurance coverage you might have. Roughly 750,000 Medicare beneficiaries paid late enrollment penalties in 2014, according to the Congressional Research Service (CRS). That is less than 2 percent of enrollees, but for those who do pay the penalties, the bite is painful. On average, total premiums for late enrollees were 29 percent higher, CRS reported.