Tag Archives: medicare

No Leverage = Higher Costs

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We hear all the time that medical costs are too high in the U.S., and that Medicare is going to go bankrupt in the future.  The President-Elect recently told us in a press conference that drug companies are “getting away with murder.”  So how high are drug prices, and are those prices contributing at all to the high medical costs in the U.S.?

Continue reading No Leverage = Higher Costs

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Stocks To The Rescue?

SS shortfall

No doubt you know the statistics: the Social Security program’s reserves are due to run out in 2034.  At that point, the only money available to be paid out will be money collected that month from those current workers who are paying into the system.  Current estimates say that this will amount to about 75% of scheduled benefits.

Continue reading Stocks To The Rescue?

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Medicare Fix-It

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Congressional leaders and the Obama Administration have fixed the potentially alarming increase in Medicare Part B premiums under the recently-passed government budget deal.

Medicare Part B covers most health care services outside of hospitals, and thus represents one of the biggest expense items in the government-run health system.  The program is voluntary, but 91% of all Medicare beneficiaries are enrolled in Part B.

The problem that had to be fixed arose because, under Social Security and Medicare rules, the government is required to collect 25% of all expected Part B costs from recipients each year—in the form of premiums.  The total Part B cost was anticipated to reach $171.2 billion 2016.

However, another provision says that in years where there is no increase in Social Security benefits—such as next year—Medicare premiums must be held steady for current Social Security recipients.  As a result, the entire increase would have had to be borne by enrollees who either don’t yet collect Social Security checks; enrollees with incomes above $85,000 (single) or $170,000 (married); or are dual Medicare-Medicaid beneficiaries.  In all, these three categories represent 30% of 2016 Medicare beneficiaries—roughly 7 million Americans.

The new budget deal creates a $12 billion loan from the U.S. Treasury to the Medicare trust fund to reduce the impact on those Medicare participants.  Instead of seeing their monthly premiums go up from $104.90 to $159.30, they will experience a more modest 14% premium increase, to $120 a month next year, plus a monthly surcharge of $3.  This will allow premiums to rise more gradually, and spread the cost over a longer period of time.

About the Author: Bob Veres has been a commentator, author and consultant in the financial services industry for more than 20 years.  Over his 20-year career in the financial services world, Mr. Veres has worked as editor of Financial Planning magazine; as a contributing editor to the Journal of Financial Planning; as a columnist and editor-at-large of Dow Jones Investment Advisor magazine; and as editor of Morningstar’s advisor web site: MorningstarAdvisor.com.

Mr. Veres has been named one of the most influential people in the financial planning profession by Investment Advisor magazine and Financial Planning magazine, was granted the NAPFA Special Achievement Award by the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors, and most recently the Heart of Financial Planning Distinguished Service Award from the Denver-based Financial Planning Association

Sources:

Medicare Premium Increases: Not as Bad as Predicted

The Obama administration and congressional leaders have finally reached a tentative budget agreement that will prevent a 52 percent spike in Medicare premiums for millions of Americans. Without the bipartisan budget deal about 17 million Medicare recipients would see their Medicare Part B premiums soar from $104.90 to about $160, USA Today reports.

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https://www.medicare.gov/your-medicare-costs/part-b-costs/part-b-costs.html

FY2016 Budget in Brief – CMS Medicare

Topics on this page: CMS Medicare Budget Overview | CMS Medicare Programs and Services | The Four Parts of Medicare | 2016 Legislative Proposals | Affordable Care Act Highlights Strengthening Medicare | Highlights of the Protecting Access to Medicare Act | Highlights of the Improving Medicare Post-Acute Care Transformation Act of 2014 | FY 2015 Medicare Legislative Proposals The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services ensures availability of effective, up-to-date health care coverage and promotes quality care for beneficiaries.

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The Doctor On Your Wrist

images-4Chances are you think that medical costs are going to bankrupt America, and if we assume that Medicare and Medicaid costs will rise as they have for the past 20 years (despite the brief interlude these last three years), then there is reason for alarm.  But ask yourself: how much of those costs are related to expensive diagnostic tests?  How much are related to fixing major health problems after the fact, when they could have been prevented if we had only known where to look at what lifestyle changes to make?

What the bean counters are missing when they simply project ever-larger expenditures based on past experience is the enormous impact that wearable diagnostics are going to have on healthcare in general.  You already know about Fitbit, which helps you get in shape by tracking the number of steps you take each day and week, and now also tracks heart rate, calories burned and stairs climbed.  More recent innovations are the Sensoria smart sock, which diagnoses your running stride and can reliably identify a runner’s rookie mistake of heel striking.  If you’ve gone to a hospital to evaluate your endurance, well, you could have used the PerformTech heart-rate monitor, which calculates your endurance simply from five minutes on a stair-stepper.

Not getting enough sleep?  Or the right kind of sleep?  The Withing’s Aura bed pad will diagnose the quality of your REM cycle.  An app by Sleeprate will tell you when you have restless cycles.  And if you’re one of those people who has trouble getting into meditation, you might try the Muse headband, which contains an EEG device that measures brainwaves, and helps coach you into a state of meditative peace.  It also tracks your meditative progress over time.

Wouldn’t it be nice if all of these devices were included in the same device?  As you read this, ten different companies from around the world are competing for an X Prize that will be given to the first “tricorder,” the device from Star Trek that was used to diagnose the damage to crew members after a rough battle with the Klingons.  The winner of the Tricorder X Prize will be able to monitor your body temperature, oxygen levels and heart rate, tell if you’re anemic, check your blood pressure and perform a constant EEG.  It will diagnose common maladies like stroke and less common ones, like tuberculosis.

Meanwhile, if you saw the episodes of Jeopardy where a computer named Watson cleaned up the board, well, you saw the next major diagnostic engine.  At this moment, Watson is busy absorbing all the medical literature, and is helping real doctors make proper diagnoses and offer remedies.  IBM, the maker of Watson, expects to put the program in the Cloud, where it will be accessible to, among other things, mobile devices.

The combination of the next generation of wearable diagnostics uploading data to Watson for instant analysis will allow all of us to have our health monitored constantly in real time—by affordable devices that are as sensitive as the expensive hospital equipment that currently hits the global healthcare budget so hard.  When you begin to have a problem, the wearable device will schedule a medical exam.  If you start to experience the early stages of a heart attack or stroke, the ambulance will arrive at your door—before you realize you have a problem.  The treatments will be much less expensive, because the problems will be caught in the very early stages.

How many billions of dollars will this save?  The bean counters who draw the alarming graphs haven’t even started to realize that they’re living in the middle of a health care revolution.  But now you do.

Sources:

http://readwrite.com/2013/08/29/readwritebody-scanadu-scout-tricorder

http://readwrite.com/2015/03/19/tricorder-x-prize-home-diagnostics

http://techcrunch.com/2014/01/11/ive-seen-the-future-of-health-tech-and-its-going-to-improve-your-life-in-2014/

About the Author: Bob Veres has been a commentator, author and consultant in the financial services industry for more than 20 years.  Over his 20-year career in the financial services world, Mr. Veres has worked as editor of Financial Planning magazine; as a contributing editor to the Journal of Financial Planning; as a columnist and editor-at-large of Dow Jones Investment Advisor magazine; and as editor of Morningstar’s advisor web site: MorningstarAdvisor.com.

Mr. Veres has been named one of the most influential people in the financial planning profession by Investment Advisor magazine and Financial Planning magazine, was granted the NAPFA Special Achievement Award by the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors, and most recently the Heart of Financial Planning Distinguished Service Award from the Denver-based Financial Planning Association. 

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Allen Hamm: Getting Through the Medicare Maze

Author: Allen Hamm – Health Care in Retirement Resource

Over 10,000 Americans turn 65 everyday! And that will happen each and every day for the next 3 decades!! Age 65 used to be thought of as the age to retire. That’s changed. More and more people are working past age 65; a high percentage by choice, not necessity. But turning 65 is still an important milestone: It’s the age to make some important decisions regarding Medicare.
Medicare is our country’s health insurance program for people 65 and older. Not to be confused with Medi-Cal or Medicaid, which are means-tested healthcare programs available to people of all ages, Medicare is available only to people 65 and older, unless a person has a specific disability that allows them to qualify early.

You’d think that getting enrolled in Medicare and the all choices that surround your Medicare decisions would be easy. But there’s lots of ways to go wrong. One of the most common mistakes is not getting signed up for Medicare on time. If you miss the deadline for signing up, you’ll be penalized for your lifetime. If you’re retired when you turn 65, it’s imperative that you start planning for Medicare at least 3 months prior to your 65th birthday. That’s also true if you’re still working and your employer has less than 20 employees. If you’re still working as you turn 65, and you’re employed by a company with more than 20 employees, you may still want to sign up for Medicare, but only for Part A, the hospitalization benefit of Medicare. Or you may want to postpone signing up for any parts of Medicare until you retire. But either way, it’s important to make a deliberate decision.

Another important decision is whether to elect regular Medicare, or a Medicare Advantage Plan. There are pros and cons to each choice. Maintaining regular Medicare gives you the choice of utilizing any doctor or hospital in the U.S. that accepts Medicare recipients. But this option costs more. The Medicare Advantage route limits you to certain doctors and hospitals but there’s a cost savings.
You’ll also want to consider whether or not you need a Medicare Supplement policy. These policies pay for some or all of Medicare’s deductibles and co-insurance gaps. There are 12 Medicare Supplement options. The best one for your situation can be determined by doing an analysis of your history of healthcare usage.

What about prescriptions? This is vital part of the Medicare equation: choosing a Part D prescription medication provider. Some people going on Medicare skip this step because they don’t take any prescription medications. That’s a big mistake! You should choose a Part D prescription medication plan, even if you take no medications. Waiting until later will cause penalties for your lifetime.
Because it’s so easy to make a wrong turn or skip a step when it comes to getting through the Medicare maze, our firm has retained the services of an expert who specializes in this area of planning. Allen Hamm and his team are available to assist our clients with both Medicare and long-term care planning. They specialize in working with the clients of financial advisors, so all their work is from the perspective of planning, not purchasing a product. There’s no charge to you for utilizing their services: We pay Allen’s firm a retainer fee, as a value-added benefit to you for being our client. If you’d like to take advantage of this service, contact us and we’ll make an introduction.

Allen Hamm | SuperiorLTC

Allen Hamm, author of Long-Term Care Planning: Assuring Choice, Independence, and Financial Security and creator of the Comprehensive Planning Approach to Long-Term Care. Allen has been a guest speaker on “Ask the Expert” with Rob Black, KRON TV, San Francisco, and the “Coping with Caregiving” radio program with Jacqueline Marcell on wsRadio.com.

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