In Our Community

Need to change your Medicare plan? Medicare Open Enrollment closes December 7th

Medicare’s open enrollment period comes only once a year.

This year’s Open Enrollment Period is October 15 – December 7, 2014.  This is when all people with Medicare can change their health plan and prescription drug plan coverage. If you enroll in a plan during Fall Open Enrollment, your coverage starts January 1.

Medicare plan benefits and your needs can change on an annual basis, so use the open enrollment period to compare your options and get the right fit.

During this past year, have you: Changed the medications you take? Been diagnosed with a new medical condition? Any of those changes could mean your current Medicare plan no longer meets your needs.

Medicare plans also change. The costs of your plan can go up or down, and prescription drugs can be added or dropped from the list of drugs included in your plan. Some Medicare plans change the benefits they offer or stop offering coverage in a particular location.

Because of such changes, you should check your current Medicare plan and, if necessary, switch to another one that fits you better.

You can compare the plans available in your area, and enroll in a new plan if you choose, by visiting your county SHIP Coordinator.

The State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP) provides free help to New Jersey Medicare beneficiaries who have problems with, or questions about their health insurance. SHIP is a statewide program sponsored by the New Jersey Department of Human Services with major funding from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, the federal Medicare agency.

Medicare beneficiaries frequently have questions about benefits and claims, supplement policies, and long-term care insurance. Volunteer counselors, trained in areas of health insurance coverage and benefits that affect Medicare beneficiaries, provide information and assistance for dealing with claims and in evaluating health insurance needs.

Volunteer counselors do not provide legal advice, sell, recommend or endorse any specific insurance product, agent, insurance company, Health Maintenance Organization (HMO), Preferred Provider Organization (PPO) or Private Fee-for-Service (PFFS) plan. They provide information and assistance so that you can make your own decisions. Counseling is free of charge.

If you are a resident in Camden County you can make your SHIP appointment by calling 856-858-3220

If you are a resident in Gloucester County you can make your SHIP appointment by calling 856-468-5000

Or go to: or call 800-MEDICARE (800-633-4227)

Madden Bill To Safeguard UI Benefits Clears Committee

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By Trish Graber

TRENTON – Legislation sponsored by Senate Labor Committee Chairman Fred H. Madden and Senator Jim Beach to streamline the process businesses use to pay into the unemployment insurance system, in order to safeguard benefits for New Jersey’s unemployed, was approved this week by the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee.

The bill (S2415) would implement a recommendation made by the state Auditor in 2013 after an audit found that some businesses were sending unemployment compensation payments to the Department of Labor instead of the Department of Treasury. Those payments, in some cases, were then being hand delivered to Treasury, increasing the risk of lost payments.

“The audit exposed vulnerabilities within the system that increased the potential for theft or loss of funds. Clearly, we should have a better system for processing payments than hand-delivering checks from one state department to another,” said Senator Madden (D-Gloucester/Camden). “Requiring that payments are sent directly to the appropriate department will safeguard the funding that New Jersey’s unemployed rely on to make ends meet. At the same time, it will remove any confusion about the process for businesses.”

As part of its review of the Department of Labor and Workforce Development (DLWD), the State Auditor performed cash counts on three separate dates and counted checks on hand totaling over $525,000. Noting that the continuing practice of sending some checks to the DLWD is lengthy and opens up the possibility for error, the State Auditor recommended that all unemployment payments be submitted electronically or sent directly to the Division of Revenue. The bill (S2415) would implement that recommendation, by clarifying that all payments, reports and receipts from employers related to the unemployment compensation program must be submitted directly to the Division of Revenue in the Department of the Treasury.

“The audit found disturbing instances of checks intended for the UI fund being hand delivered to the Treasury Department, increasing the risk for impropriety. It makes no sense to move hundreds of thousands of dollars between state departments through a courier system, especially when the transaction process can be improved significantly through minor adjustments,” said Senator Beach (D-Camden). “This bill will clarify that all payments to the UI fund must go directly to Treasury, removing the risk that money could get lost in the shuffle.”

The committee approved the bill by a vote of 13-0. It next heads to the full Senate for a vote.

Mosquera Legislation to Promote Donations to ALS Association Clears Assembly

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Legislation sponsored by Assemblywoman Gabriela Mosquera to make it easier for taxpayers to donate to the ALS Association passed 77-0 in the Assembly last week.

The bill (A-3290) requires gross income tax returns to include a provision to allow taxpayers to make voluntary donations to the Greater Philadelphia and Greater New York Chapters of the ALS Association for taxable years beginning on or after the date of enactment. The measure establishes the ALS Association Support Fund as a depository for the donations.

“The mission of the ALS Association is to lead the fight to treat and cure ALS through global research and nationwide advocacy, while also empowering people with Lou Gehrig’s Disease and their families to live fuller lives by providing them with compassionate care and support through a nationwide network of chapters,” said Singleton (D-Burlington). “Making it easier for New Jerseyans to support this cause is the right thing to do.”

The bill directs 50 percent of deposits to the ALS Association Support Fund to be appropriated to the Greater Philadelphia chapter of the ALS Association for services the organization provides to residents located in southern New Jersey and 50 percent of deposits to be appropriated to the Greater New York Chapter of the ALS Association for services provided to residents in central and northern New Jersey. The bill additionally authorizes the Division of Taxation to retain sufficient receipts from the donations to cover administrative costs.

“ALS is a terrible disease and we need to make it as easy as possible to support the effort to overcome it,” said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). “A simple step like this could go a long way toward finding a cure, which is our shared goal.”

“For New Jerseyans able to do so, this option could make it easier to donate to this worthy cause,” said Benson (D-Mercer/Middlesex). “We all want to put an end to ALS, and anything that helps the cause is a step forward.”

“ALS advocacy and funding are critical in the effort to care for and support men and women with this illness,” said Conaway (D-Burlington). “This legislation will provide New Jersey residents with the means to help improve the overall quality of life for those living with ALS and end the disease altogether.”

“During the past few months, we’ve seen unprecedented funding and attention go toward curing ALS, and this bill has the potential to keep that momentum going,” said Garcia (D-Hudson). “The easier we make it for people across New Jersey to contribute to the ALS Association, the more likely it is that they will join in the fight against this debilitating illness.”

“When people know how they can help and that they’re giving to a reputable organization, they want to contribute,” said Riley (D-Cumberland/Gloucester/Salem). “This legislation will facilitate giving and provide New Jersey residents with a way to support those living with ALS.”

“Every year, thousands of men and women across the nation receive an ALS diagnosis, and along with the physical difficulties, they must prepare for new financial burdens,” said Mosquera (D-Camden/Gloucester). “The recent surge in awareness and fundraising for the ALS Association was outstanding, but we can’t let that be a one-time thing. This bill will help provide much-needed support for New Jersey residents with ALS well into the future.”

“In a single month this summer, concerned donors across the nation raised $100 million for the ALS Association, making it clear that people want to give to this cause,” said Caputo (D-Essex). “This legislation establishes a means for New Jersey taxpayers to continue giving to the ALS Association as it works to support residents dealing with this devastating disease.”

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), often referred to as “Lou Gehrig’s Disease,” is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord and is estimated to impact some 30,000 Americans at any given time, with an estimated 5,600 individuals newly diagnosed with the disease each year.

The legislation now awaits further consideration by the Senate.

Moriarty police body camera bill debuted in N.J. Legislature

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By Jason Laday | South Jersey Times

A bill introduced in Trenton this week would require all county, state and municipal police officers on patrol to wear body cameras.

State Sen. Donald Norcross (D-5, of Camden) and Assemblyman Paul Moriarty (D-4, of Washington Township), announced the introduction of the bill in a joint statement on Friday. The pair had previously stated their intention of drafting such legislation during a press conference in September, after Gov. Chris Christie signed into law a bill, introduced by Moriarty, requiring local police cars to have dashboard cameras.

“Body cameras are the next logical step in public safety,” said Norcross in the statement. “We laid the groundwork with the dashboard bill, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see other states following suit. Now it’s time to get cameras on all our patrol officers.”

The body camera bill — S2518 in the Senate and A3852 in the Assembly — expands on the dash-cam law by requiring all police officers who are “primarily assigned to patrol duty” to wear a mobile video recording system, Norcross said.

Under the bill, the new body cameras would be paid for partly by increasing the surcharge on those convicted of DWI, from $100 to $125. Additional funds could potentially come from drug forfeiture fees and surcharges on Megan’s Law violators, according to the joint statement.

The bill would also call on the state Attorney General’s Office to create guidelines for the independent review of the resulting video footage, and to determine what can be released to the public upon request.

“I have spoken with individuals and groups on both sides of this issue, and everyone agrees — video cameras protect the police and the public alike,” said Moriarty in the statement. “Video footage doesn’t lie. It can back up civilian claims of excessive force and abuse as easily as they can protect officers who have been wrongly accused of impropriety.”

Moriarty sponsored the vehicle camera bill after an in-car video captured his 2012 DWI arrest, and provided evidence that led to a dismissal of all charges. The video also led to the indictment of the officer on 14 criminal charges, including falsifying a police report.

Several police departments throughout the state have begun their own body camera programs, including Evesham and Cherry Hill.

Norcross is the sole primary sponsor of the body camera bill in the Senate. In the Assembly, primary sponsors include Moriarty, Law and Public Safety Committee Chairman Charles Mainor (D-31, of Jersey City), Vincent Mazzeo (D-2, of Northfield), Angel Fuentes (D-5, of Camden), Gilbert “Whip” Wilson (D-5, of Camden) and Carmelo Garcia (D-33, of Hoboken).

Mosquera Bill to Study Wellness of NJ Minorities with Disabilities Advanced by Assembly Panel

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Legislation Assemblywomen Gabriela Mosquera and Cleopatra G. Tucker sponsored to study the impact of disabilities on individuals in minority and underrepresented communities was released recently by an Assembly panel.

The bill (A-3632) would require the commissioner of the Department of Health, in consultation with the commissioner of the Department of Human Services, to review the impact of disabilities on individuals in minority and underrepresented communities. The two department heads would be required to submit a report of their findings and recommendations to the governor and the legislature within a year of the legislation taking effect.

“The impact study this legislation calls for will enable the state to work toward justice and independence for minorities with disabilities,” said Tucker (D-Essex). “Several disheartening factors related to racial and ethnic background as well as socio-economic class combine to put members of this particular group at a disadvantage. They are often uninsured or underinsured and have less access to public services they require, like high-quality accessible transportation. Improving their overall quality of life starts will understanding the unique challenges they face and determining how we can best address them.”

“Overall, members of racial and ethnic minorities have less access to job opportunities, education, health care, housing and other vital services, and unfortunately, studies show that those with disabilities face even greater challenges in these areas,” said Mosquera (D-Camden/Gloucester). “In order to provide the best possible services and to alleviate limitations that burden minorities with disabilities, it is imperative for the state to be proactive.”

After passing in both houses during the last legislative session, the bill was conditionally vetoed by the governor. Tucker in September reintroduced the bill.

The measure was advanced by the Assembly Human Services Committee.