Archive for the 'healthcare reform' Category

What Are Your Healthcare Options?

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Healthcare is again in the news and many people are feeling confused by the amount and variety of information being communicated. Here is what you need to know about Medicare, Obamacare and Medicare Supplemental insurance.

  • Obamacare: Obamacare is the commonly used name for the Affordable Care Act.  This act is designed to make healthcare affordable for everyone and extend coverage to those that do not have it today.If you are already eligible for or receiving Medicare, it does not change your coverage or costs. Likewise, if you are insured by an employer, Obamacare does not apply to you either.

    However, if you are without insurance or are self insured and under the age of 65, then you may want to explore the Affordable Care marketplaces. There could be an insurance plan that meets your needs. This may be of great interest to many older Americans who retired before the age of 65 and are now living without health insurance due to the expense or because they were previously denied coverage because of pre existing conditions. The Affordable Care Act is designed to meet the needs of people like this group.

  • Medicare: Medicare is a government run insurance program for people 65 and older. Almost everyone 65 and over enrolls in Medicare Parts A and B which cover basic medical care.
  • Medicare Supplemental Plans: Medicare Parts A and B do not cover the costs of all medical needs. Many older Americans opt to sign up for additional coverage with a Medicare Supplemental Plan. There are many different plans. It is important to evaluate your supplemental coverage each year to minimize your out of pocket healthcare spending. As we mention below the Medicare Supplement Open Enrollment begins shortly.

Time to get Ready for Medicare Open Enrollment!

The open enrollment period for Medicare will begin Oct. 15. It is important to note that Medicare open enrollment is different from the Obamacare Marketplaces which open  Oct. 1. If you are covered by Medicare, you do not need to think about Obamacare.

The Medicare open enrollment is the one time of year that Medicare beneficiaries can switch plans, including choosing a Medicare Advantage (Part C) plan instead of original Medicare (Parts A and B). Many Medicare recipients find that they can save money and improve coverage by switching or adding Medicare supplemental coverage.

We recommend that all Medicare beneficiaries get answers to these questions EVERY year during the open enrollment period. Ask an insurer:

  • Have there been any changes to your current coverage?
  • How do changes in your health status or prescription needs impact your out of pocket spending?
  • What will your current coverage cost this year vs last?
  • How does health care reform improve your coverage?
  • What are the alternatives to your current plans?

Retirement Health Costs are Higher than you Think

According to the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, the above is largely true no matter how high you think they are.

A good rule of thumb for estimating health costs in retirement is that Medicare will, on average, cover 60%, while the remaining 40% come out of the retiree’s pocket. Unfortunately, according to a lengthy paper published recently by professors at UCLA and Harvard, most would-be retirees habitually underestimate the impact that health care costs will have on their finances, either blithely assuming that Medicare will take a larger share of the burden from them or failing to appreciate just how large that 40% liability is likely to be in terms of real dollars.

So how large is it? Large, at least according to the Urban Institute’s calculations. The median retiree will spend more than $6,000 per year on health care costs alone, while a particularly high spender (or one nearing the end of their life) may be spending as much as $14,000 yearly. This is all without counting any significant end-of-life costs (most retirees spend the majority of their lifetime health-care costs in the last eighteen months of their lives.

Given how large health care costs loom in retirement, it goes without saying that any significant underestimation of their impact can have a staggering effect on your retirement security. This isn’t to say that every retiree needs to budget $15,000 a year for such things, but a careful calculation of retirement expenses is impossible without an accurate understanding of the costs you are likely to face. For these reasons, NewRetirement has always recommended the use of a proper retirement calculator, if only to set realistic boundaries, not guesses, on what your expenses are likely to be, and what level of preparation will be necessary to ensure that you have the capacity to meet them.

Whether you use NewRetirement’s calculator or another source of information, nobody should go into retirement armed only with guesswork.

Learn more about the true costs of retirement with the NewRetirement Retirement Calculator.

Learn more about Supplemental Medicare Insurance at NewRetirement.com.

You Might Want to Reconsider These Common Medical Tests!

The Choosing Wisely campaign, an initiative by the American Board of Internal Medicine Foundation in partnership with Consumer Reports, kicked off last spring. It is an attempt to alert both doctors and patients to problematic and commonly overused medical tests, procedures and treatments.

As we get older, we may find the need or desire for significant medical testing and procedures.  However, research is showing that some common tests and treatments may not be necessary.  If your doctor is recommending one of the following things to you, it may be wise to question them about why.  Discussing things with your doctor will help keep you  healthy now and as you age.

A few of the tests that Family Physicians recommend you question include:

  • Imaging for Lower Back Pain: Unless red flags are present, physicians recommend waiting six weeks for imaging on low back pain.
  • Antibiotics: Don’t insist on antibiotics for acute mild to moderate sinusitis unless symptoms last for seven or more days or symptoms worsen after some improvement.
  • Osteoporosis X-Rays: Don’t use dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry (DEXA) screening for osteoporosis in women younger than 65 or men younger than 70 with no risk factors.
  • EKGs: Avoid cardiac screening for low risk patients without symptoms.
  • Carotid Artery Stenosis: Don’t screen for carotid artery stenosis unless there are symptoms.
  • Cervical Cancer: Don’t screen women older than 65 years of age for cervical cancer who have had adequate prior screening and are not otherwise at high risk for cervical cancer.

For a full list from the Family Physicians and 50 other medical specialties, you can go to http://www.choosingwisely.org.

Additional Resources:

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What to Expect from Obama 2.0

After two years, a billion dollars, and altogether too much media coverage, the election is finally over.  President Barack Obama has been re-elected, and will preside over the next four years, during which time he and congress will have to grapple with such issues as continuing the economic recovery, implementing Obamacare, and dealing with the so-called “Fiscal Cliff” (a topic for another day).  But what does all this really mean to the average senior?  We’ve been inundated for months with promises that the President’s re-election will solve everyone’s problems, or dire warnings that it will result in the destruction of the country.  So what can we actually expect?

Predicting the future is an inherently problematic exercise, but the Huffington Post is willing to try it out.  The biggest issue it sees coming down the pipeline for seniors is that of Social Security and Medicare, and the changes that might well be coming along for it.  Despite the claims by both parties that the other want to destroy Social Security while they want to preserve it, the fact is that both sides are interested in altering the makeup of these entitlement programs, and Huffington’s article posits a “Grand Bargain” taking place between the parties to raise the retirement age while also increasing medicare and social security taxes, all to ensure that the programs are fully funded into the foreseeable future.  This is not a new concept. NewRetirement’s own Bud Hebler wrote that it might be wise to consider likely alterations that politicians will impose on the programs when designing one’s Social Security strategy, for example taking benefits at an earlier date if you have reason to believe your overall benefits will shrink due to new legislation.

There’s also Obamacare, the next wave of which is due to begin implementation over the next couple of years.  Love it or hate it, with the President’s re-election and the Republican party suffering heavy defeats in the senate, Obamacare is likely no longer at any risk of being repealed, and thus the alterations it has already wrought are here to stay.  Huffington cites the continued discounts that seniors will be receiving on prescription drugs, as well as a new basic package of health benefits the government will establish for sale from private companies starting in 2014, all of which will be available to seniors who wish to supplement their Medicare.  Some states will also be expanding their Medicaid coverage to low-income workers, including pre-retirees in their 50s and 60s.

Overall though, it doesn’t look like the script has changed much since last anyone looked at it.  Even the most incremental changes in Social Security or Medicare will be staggeringly complex events, unlikely to happen rapidly or by fiat.  Still, for seniors relying on these essential programs to help them in retirement, it never hurts to know what’s coming.

Learn more about Optimizing your Social Security Benefits at NewRetirement.com

 

Find out more about ways to supplement Medicare

 

Your HEALTH that May Be the Key to Your Retirement Security!

A 2010 study by economists James Poterba, Steven Venti and David Wise tracked the retirements of older Americans and health differences emerged at a significant determinant of retirement success.

The study, titled “The Asset Cost of Poor Health,” found that poor health was a common attribute of people who died with little wealth.  While many of these households had adequate income in their 50s and 60s, that same income was too low to handle health expenses as they aged.

Additional findings include:

  • Around 46 percent of persons die with virtually no financial assets.
  • Those in poorer health may retire earlier and/or work fewer hours than their healthier counterparts – giving them a smaller pool of assets when they retire.
  • Those with the smallest pool of assets died the earliest.

It appears that taking care of your health can have striking financial benefits – in addition to an improved quality of life.

However, whether you are in “peak physical condition” or not, there are additional safeguards you can take to improve your retirement finances – optimize your Social Security payments, look at home equity as a way to bridge income and expenses, purchase the best supplemental health insurance and consider ways to fund long term care.

RESOURCES

Stop Sitting and Other Health News for Older Americans

According to numerous recent studies, sitting is going to reduce your life span!  In people who do a similar amount of physical activity, those who sit less will have a lower risk of dying compared to those who sit more.

Other recent health news:

  • Achy joints?  Eat this: Some research suggests that consuming the following foods could help alleviate osteoarthritis symptoms: strawberries, olive oil, salmon, green tea and leafy greens.
  • The eyes have it! In a recent study of Medicare beneficiaries, those who had cataracts removed were less likely to take a serious fall, experiencing 16 percent fewer hip fractures in the year after the operation.
  • Sleep! Getting good quality sleep can improve your overall health and a new study says it will help elderly people stay out of nursing homes.  If you have sleep problems, consult your doctor.
  • Spice it Up: Supplements containing a compound in curry spice may help prevent diabetes in people at high risk.\

RESOURCES:

 

 

The Decline of Doctors

The New York  Times reports that by 2014, Obama’s new healthcare law is projected to cover more than 300,000 people in the Inland empire, an economically poor area in Southern California. However, the healthcare coverage may not transfer into actual care, as locals speculate that there will be nowhere near the number of doctors necessary.

To this day, the Inland Empire has about 40 primary care doctors and 70 specialists per 100,000 residents — the worst shortage in California. Although patients still get care, the process is often slow and difficult. In Riverside, it has resulted in residents driving long distances to doctors, getting added to already full waiting lists, overusing emergency rooms and even forgoing care. As a result of this shortfall, a government council has recommended that a given region have 60 to 80 primary care doctors and 85 to 105 specialists primary care doctors per 100,000 residents.

As the expansion of insurance coverage and the aging of baby boomers drive up demand for care, the Association of American Medical Colleges predicts that in 2015, there will be 62,900 fewer doctors than needed (the number is expected to double by 2025.) Along with the increasing demand of the aging baby boom generation, Medicare officials predict that enrollment will surge to 73.2 million in 2025, up 44 percent from 50.7 million this year.

 

What Defines Old vs Young?

Wherever the line that defines whether you are ‘old’ or ‘young’ is, the individuals on either side end up looking very differently, in political and economical terms. According to a recent New York Times article, in 2004, older voters began moving right (politically), while younger voters shifted left. This year, polls suggest that Mitt Romney will win a landslide among the over-65 crowd and that President Obama will do likewise among those under 40. The split between the ages goes farther than politics; the two have different views on many of the biggest questions before the country. For example, the young favor gay marriage and school funding more strongly and are also notably less religious, more positive toward immigrants, and  less hostile to Social Security. On the other hand, the older crowd are less tolerant to immigrants and expect more out of Social Security.

Over all, more than 50 percent of federal benefits flow to the 13 percent of the population over 65; a portion of these benefits come from Social Security while a much larger from Medicare. However, contrary to common perception, most Americans do not come close to paying for their own Medicare benefits through payroll taxes. Instead, medicare, in addition to being the largest source of the country’s projected budget deficits, is a transfer program from young to old.

One aspect that both the ‘old’ and ‘young’ can agree upon is that they are more open to change and confident that life in the United States will remain good.

 

‘Booming’ Medical Costs

The medical costs for keeping the Baby Boomer generation in good health has, and will be, skyrocketing for the years to come. It is projected that there will be 15 million people with Alzheimer’s by the year 2050 – nearly triple the amount in present day. The cost of dementia care is also projected to shoot from $200 billion to $1 trillion in today’s dollar.

As a result, many people will begin taking in elderly relatives. According to a recent article from NPR.org, more than 50 million Americans reside in multigenerational homes. And in many of these households, middle-aged “children” are caring for elderly parents, as well as providing shelter for their own grown children.

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