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Helping members become their own best advocates

New York Teacher

We want to assist you to become your own best care advocate and be able to navigate through the many evolving health service policies and practices. There have been some changes made in hospital procedures that I thought all RTC members should know about, so I asked Sasha Greene, our director of retiree social services, to explain those changes and how they will affect you.

— Tom Murphy, chapter leader

 

Hospitals have made changes they attribute to cost effectiveness that you need to be aware of in case you are hospitalized. Here are some important ones:

Hospitalist: It is very common these days that your primary doctor may not be able to visit you while you’re in the hospital even though your doctor is connected to the hospital and has admitted you. Instead you will be seen by hospitalists — board-certified doctors, not interns or residents — employed by the hospital.

Be sure to ask your primary care doctor ahead of time if he or she will be able to visit you during a hospital stay.

Observation status: Be warned that even if you stay in the hospital overnight you might still be considered an outpatient by the hospital, a status considered observation status, that will affect how much you pay for hospital services like X-rays, drugs and lab tests, and whether Medicare will cover rehab costs. You only become an inpatient starting the day you are formally admitted with a doctor’s order.

You must ask the question “Am I admitted?” to know your status. If you question your status and get no satisfaction, immediately ask to call your union at 1-212-598-6880, and we will intercede on your behalf.

With ongoing UFT/NYSUT lobbying, the state Legislature last year passed and the governor signed legislation that aims to protect Medicare-eligible patients facing these issues. Federal legislation proposed by Sen. Chuck Schumer and others looks to provide this kind of protection nationwide. But only with a friendlier Congress will that see the light of day.

In the meantime, please let us help you be your own best health care advocate and be vigilant.

Don’t panic: Your health comes first. Go to the emergency room only if it is a true emergency. Otherwise you should go to your doctor’s office or one of the urgent care centers that have popped up all over the country. The Retiree Social Services department is always available to help you navigate these systems. We are your social workers, so please call us.

Remember that we have three full-time geriatric social workers and a staff of trained caseworkers to provide free, professional and confidential services to help you deal with issues and decisions you may face during your retirement years. These services are available to you and your family wherever you live in the United States.

Our Nationwide Telephone Reassurance Program provides regular friendly calls from a member of our professional staff to help you through difficult times with illness, family problems or a recent loss.

Through the Nationwide Hospital Stay in Touch Program, we are in touch daily during your hospital stay and assist in discharge plans, dietary needs, home care, transportation, home modification and whatever else you may need.

Caseworkers can help with referrals to nursing homes, hospice care, rehabilitation centers and assisted living, and in finding bereavement and support groups to help in times of stress.

For senior crime victims in such areas as elder abuse, financial exploitation and neglect by caregivers, trained staff can put you in touch with the help you need.

Please remember, we want you to be your own best advocate. Let us help you do that. For more information about all these services, check the RTC Website at www.uft.org/chapters/retirees.