IN NOVEMBER 2019, my 92-year-old widowed mother took an uncontrolled trip down a flight of wooden stairs in her home and got a helicopter ride to the regional trauma center.
Before her fall, we had a tenuous but semi-functional system of care in place. But the chaotic aftermath plunged us into unknown territory and claimed incalculable amounts of time, money and other resources from her caregivers. We spent months struggling with a new, impossibly complex set of rules and referees.
MY HUSBAND AND I are planners. We can tell you where we’ll be living 15 years from now, the trip we plan to take in 2022 and how much we’ll likely pay in taxes this year.
What we didn’t plan for: Paying more for Medicare—a lot more.
If you’re covered by Medicare, you’ll likely know that this year you pay $148.50 in monthly premiums for Medicare Part B, plus a premium for the Part D prescription drug benefit,
ONE OF MY SONS has to choose health insurance for the year ahead—and his employer provided a 95-page pamphlet. Let’s face it: If you need that amount of information to make a choice, something is wrong.
The pamphlet describes three medical options, plus dental options and vision coverage. Two options get you an employer health savings account contribution—or it is a health reimbursement account? There are three levels of deductibles and coinsurance and, of course,
REACHING AGE 65 is a financial relief for many folks—because they’re finally eligible for Medicare. But then disappointment often sets in.
Why? Medicare might cover just 80% of medical expenses, leaving the patient to handle the other 20%. How will you cover that 20%? The usual solution is to buy a Medigap policy. But there are so many choices that it can be overwhelming.
My goal today: Help you narrow that choice a little—by comparing two Medigap plans,
DESPITE THE NEGATIVE press, long-term-care insurance can be a smart buy. In fact, policies can be affordable for those as old as age 79. But as with any financial product, it’s important to understand what you’re buying—and make sure it fits with your goals.
In my last article, I discussed how much money you might earmark for long-term-care (LTC) costs. Need insurance to hit your goal? Today, the two main products are “traditional policies” and “hybrid life and long-term-care policies.”
Both types of policy offer similar LTC benefits.
AS BABY BOOMERS and Generation X march toward retirement, they face a daunting issue: What steps should they take, given the risk they’ll require long-term care?
Long-term care—defined as needing help with activities of daily living such as bathing, dressing and eating—is something that almost 70% of retirees will require at some point, according to LongTermCare.gov. Problem is, Medicare only provides limited coverage.
Yes, Medicaid does cover long-term care. But it was designed as a last resort for low-income folks.
MEET IRMAA. You won’t like her. IRMAA is short for income-related monthly adjustment amount. It’s a premium surcharge levied on those covered by Medicare Part B and Part D—and who have income above certain thresholds.
In 2020, the standard premium for Part B, which covers outpatient care, is $144.60 a month. That’s what you pay if you file taxes as a single individual and your modified adjusted gross income is $87,000 or less, or if you’re married filing jointly with annual income of $174,000 and below.
I’M A BIG FAN of health savings accounts, or HSAs. They’re becoming more popular as a way to pay for medical costs—and, in the right circumstances, they can also be a valuable addition to your retirement plan.
What’s so great about HSAs? If used properly, they’re triple tax-favored. You get a tax deduction when you deposit funds. The growth thereafter is tax-deferred. And if you use distributions to pay for qualified medical expenses, withdrawals are tax-free.
MEDICAL EXPENSES are a big worry for retirees—leading many to purchase supplemental insurance. But you need to think carefully about which Medigap policy you buy.
What does this insurance get you? Medicare Part B, which covers doctor’s visits and other outpatient care, typically only pays 80% of the expenses that retirees incur. To plug this and other coverage gaps, many folks buy a Medigap insurance plan. Want to keep your current doctors and not be restricted to the network of medical professionals offered in a Medicare Advantage plan,
I’M JUST A FEW years from age 65—and being eligible for Medicare. One of my concerns: making a mistake that could trigger penalties.
If you file for Social Security before age 65, you’ll be automatically enrolled in Medicare Part A and B. What if you’re still working at 65? Ask your human resources department for advice. Your coverage at work will dictate whether you should file for Medicare.
If you aren’t covered by an employer’s health insurance plan and you aren’t yet collecting Social Security benefits,
FALL IS MY FAVORITE time of year, but there used to be one thing I dreaded: picking a health plan for the year ahead.
Many folks don’t know how to evaluate their health insurance options. I used to be in that group—until I adopted a fairly straightforward process. Bear with me while I walk you through the sort of choice you might face as an employee. The same analysis can be used if you’re buying insurance on your own.
NOTHING COMPARES to the human body when it comes to the combination of strength, flexibility and control. Build a strong core, and the possibilities are limitless. Through the discipline of Pilates, you can strengthen your core, while developing flexibility and control. It’s a wonderful tool, but one that’s underutilized.
The same can be said for health savings accounts, or HSAs, which can be funded if you have a high-deductible health plan. With an HSA,
PICKING A HEALTH plan used to be easy. Not anymore. Today, whether you receive coverage through your employer, buy insurance on your own or are covered by Medicare, you likely face a slew of choices.
Problem is, just as too many investment options in a 401(k) plan can paralyze employees, the same happens with health care. Indeed, a third of employees say they either don’t understand or know nothing about their health care coverage,
I STILL KEEP IN touch with three high school buddies. One of them, Brent, isn’t doing well. He has high blood pressure, poor eyesight caused by glaucoma and creaky knees that make it hard to get around, and he’s recovering from heart surgery.
My other friend, Robert, is a diabetic with poor vision, suffers from neuropathy pain in the foot, needs a cane to walk and is on medication for various ailments.
Burt, my third pal,
THE INSURANCE market for long-term-care coverage has had a checkered history—and yet there’s an increasing need for LTC insurance among aging baby boomers. My advice: Forget the original standalone insurance products and instead focus on the new hybrid policies.
What went wrong with the original standalone products? They proved to be underpriced. With policyholders living longer, insurers found themselves paying out more than anticipated. Policyholders also didn’t drop their policies as often as insurers expected—and the low lapse rate meant insurance companies had less chance to book profits while incurring no LTC expenses.