Consumer Center for Health Education and Advocacy (CCHEA) educates and assists older adults to access health insurance such as Medi-Cal and Medicare as well as other assistance programs such as Supplemental Security Income (SSI), food stamps, utility assistance, and In-Home Supportive Services. CCHEA partners with Serving Seniors to provide all of these on-site services free of charge for seniors at the Gary and Mary West Senior Wellness Center. CCHEA also manages the Bud and Esther Fischer Cyber Café which provides seniors with free computer and technology assistance to help them stay independent and connected to the world.

The following recent real-life examples illustrate the breadth of the Consumer Center’s assistance:

Case 1:Case 2:
A 78-year-old woman with severe arthritis received an increase in her Social Security income — from $1,270/month (just $1 under the income limit to qualify for free Medi-Cal coverage) to over $1,300/month. The senior called the Consumer Center in a panic because the increase moved her from free coverage to the Share of Cost (SOC) Medi-Cal program, which would require an outlay of more than $700/month before Medi-Cal would assist with any bills. This made both her weekly In-Home Supportive Services (IHSS) care and medical services unaffordable.

As the Consumer Center advocates worked with this senior, they discovered some additional rules applied. Since she was found disabled by the Social Security Administration before the age of 65, she was able to count her participation in a medical survey as work and she could request evaluation for the Working Disabled Program (WDP). WDP does not count disability income in the Medi-Cal limits. With the Consumer Center’s assistance, the senior was found eligible for WDP, with just a $20 monthly premium, rather than the $700/month SOC program, and was able to continue receiving her IHSS services and regular medical treatment.
In a less typical example, a Consumer Center advocate opened a case to help a mentally and physically disabled senior whose wages are being garnished by the U.S. Treasury Department. Although the senior, who is disabled by Parkinson’s, diabetes and schizoaffective disorder, had not been in the military and had no military health coverage, he had sought and received emergency treatment at the San Diego Naval Medical Center. Although he was covered by Medicare at the time, the Naval Hospital never sent the bill to Medicare.

The senior lives on $936/month in Social Security income, yet is garnished $140 a month for the Naval Hospital bill that started at $15,000, and then ballooned to $23,000, despite the deductions taken monthly for the past five years. At the time of the hospitalization, the senior was homeless and ill and most likely never even received the original bills, which were sent to a former address. The Consumer Center has battled for nearly a year to resolve this debt, through countless phone calls, emails, letters to government agencies, and an appeal to the senior’s congressman. An attorney now leads the effort, with the goal to end the garnishment, and if possible, obtain a reimbursement of the more than $7,500 already taken out of the senior’s income.