Medicare Hotline Complaints Detailed

Last month, Squared Away published a primer for new Medicare enrollees choosing between their two available options: an Advantage plan or traditional Medicare plus a Part D drug plan and/or supplemental Medigap policy.

Millions of beneficiaries receive their Medicare benefits without any major problems. But Medicare rights center logotoday’s blog is about a report detailing complaints to the national telephone hotline operated by the Medicare Rights Center, a non-profit patient advocacy organization.  Two of the top issues reported by seniors were denials of coverage and rocky transitions from employer or other health insurance into Medicare.

Here are some of the findings:

  • 60 percent of calls about Advantage plans involved denials of coverage for physician care, home care, therapy, medical equipment, tests and other services. Some calls about coverage denials also involved traditional Medicare. However, in contrast to private Advantage plans, Schwarz said that private Medigap plans must follow Medicare’s lead in determining what’s covered.  “If Medicare pays, then Medigap pays,” she said.
  • The majority of denials of drug coverage involved medications not on the list approved by the senior’s drug plan.This primarily affects either seniors starting new medications or new plan enrollees who learn that their plan doesn’t cover all their medications.  Advantage and Part D drug plans are not permitted to deny coverage in the middle of a plan year if they’ve been covering a drug for a specific medical condition, unless the drug is removed for a specific reason, such as the appearance of a new generic.  They can, however, remove the drug from the list when the senior’s annual policy expires, Schwarz said. …

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New Online Financial Resources

Squared Away periodically alerts readers to information online that might be useful to them.  These three crossed the transom in August:

  • Natural disasters quickly turn into financial disasters. On Hurricane Katrina’s 10th anniversary, the National Endowment for Financial Education and other organizations have released a guide, Disasters and Financial Planning.  The guide includes tips on how to insure properly against hurricanes, floods, or forest fires and how to hire contractors to make repairs after disaster hits.
  • The U.S. Social Security Administration posts a raft of brochures online to explain everything from how to get your newborn’s Social Security number or replace your old one (citizen or non-citizen, international students) to disability information for veterans. There’s also information on federal benefits many people may be unaware of. For example, low-income Medicare enrollees can apply for extra help – up to $4,000 per year – to pay for their prescription drugs. Many of the brochures come in multiple languages, including Somali and Vietnamese.  Click here to see the full list of publications on socialsecurity.gov.
  • The Center for Financial Services Innovation’s Consumer Financial Health Study sorts Americans into four financial states: “unengaged,” “tenuous;” “at risk,” and “striving.”  They’re characterized by typical behavioral characteristics of how they handle – or fail to manage – their finances. For example, the unengaged typically “do not know how much their monthly debt payments are.” …

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This Retiree Is a Lucky Dog

It would be even tougher for Sher Polvinale to get by solely on her late husband’s Social Security check of $1,700 per month if he had not bought a life insurance policy that has paid off their house.

Despite her meager financial circumstances, Polvinale’s retirement is rich in rewards.

This 69-year-old former payroll administrator for a construction company said she brings in $200,000 in annual donations for her non-profit, which cares for old, unwanted dogs that need expensive medical care and attention. One can’t help thinking, while watching the National Geographic video below about the retired dog sanctuary in her home, that many elderly people would be lucky to have such a place to live out their final years.

For financial or lifestyle reasons, not everyone settles into a full-blown retirement. Some people refuse to retire altogether, while others try out retirement only to resume working, perhaps in a part-time position. Polvinale’s is one of the myriad stories of how individuals adapt and recreate their lives as they ease into old age and detach from the hard-charging work world.

“I’m kind of an odd person,” said Polvinale, explaining what motivated her to establish the non-profit in 2006. She recalls telling her husband, Joe, who would die in 2008, “I can’t agonize over whether people are going to love their dog until the end of its life. I want to keep them until they die. That’s selfish but I want to know that they’re safe and loved for the rest of their lives.” …Learn More

Workplace Benefit Inequality

Inequality goes beyond the wealth and income disparities that frequently make it into today’s headlines. Employer benefits also flow more freely to people at the top.

The newly released survey of employers by the U.S. Bureau of Labor shows how stark the differences are.

The charts below compare the share of private-sector workers in the lowest income bracket who receive benefits – their earnings are in the bottom 25 percent of all U.S. workers’ earnings – with the share in the top 25 percent. Four benefits are compared: health insurance, the percent of health premiums paid by employers, paid sick leave, and – since it’s August – paid vacations.

BLS_2_Health
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
For the other charts, click here.Learn More

the end

Paying Extra on College Debt Has Wallop

One-third of 18-24 year olds in a new Allstate poll said the best use of their extra funds is getting their college or other debts off their backs. For those considering making larger payments, a loan amortization table demonstrates the impact.

Paying down debt is just another form of saving, and larger loan payments significantly shorten the time it takes to pay it off, while reducing the total interest paid. Start with the $5,000 loan example already loaded into a Bankrate.com student loan amortization calculator:

  • Paying $96.66 per month on a $5,000 student loan with 6 percent interest eliminates it in five years. An extra $50 every month – a couple of nights out – knocks two years off the payment time. This can be seen by entering $50 in the top box under the “Extra payments” heading in the calculator and clicking “Show/Calculate Amortization Table.” …

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Illustration of the future

The Future of Retirement Is Now

Gray, small, and distinctly female.

This is what the director of MIT’s AgeLab, Joseph Coughlin, sees when he peers into the future of retirement.

“The context and definition of retirement is changing,” Coughlin said earlier this month at the Retirement Research Consortium meeting, where nearly two dozen researchers also presented their Consortium-funded work on a range of retirement topics. Their research summaries can be found at this link to the Center for Retirement Research, which supports this blog and is a consortium member.

Coughlin spooled out a list of stunning facts to impress on his audience the dramatic impact of rising longevity and graying populations in the developed world, and he urged them to think in fresh ways about retirement. In Japan, for example, adult diapers are outselling baby diapers. China already faces a looming worker shortage, and Germany’s population is in sharp decline. In 2047, there will be more Americans over age 60 than children under 15.

“The country will have the demographics of Florida,” Coughlin said. …Learn More

Retirement: a Priority for Millennials?

Saving for retirement is more crucial for Millennials than for any prior generation. Data are emerging that reveal how they’re doing.

millennialsVanguard’s 2014 data from its large 401(k) client base shows that 67 percent of young adults between 25 and 34 who are covered by an employer plan are saving – this is well above a decade ago.

A survey recently by the Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies found evidence that this generation makes retirement a priority: a majority of working adults in their 20s and early 30s – now the largest single demographic group in the U.S. labor force – view retirement benefits as “a major factor in their decision on whether to accept a future job offer.”

This indicates that Millennials are getting the message, said Catherine Collinson, president of the Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies.

The growth of automatic enrollment in 401(k) plans “has helped pull young people and non-participants into the plans,” Collinson said, “but I also believe it’s also due to heightened levels of awareness.” …Learn More