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Home Health Agencies Get Ratings

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services just introduced a five-star rating system for home health agencies on its Medicare.gov website.

The ratings, based on patient surveys, were rolled out on the heels of recent upgrades to the government’s nursing home ratings, which had been criticized for giving high ratings to some facilities with problems.

Consumers can search, by area code, for home health agencies, or they can look up specific agencies that they’ve heard about or seen in the neighborhood.  (Some agencies listed on the website are unrated.)

Separately, Kaiser Health News also culled the government ratings to compile its own list of the lowest- and highest-ranked agencies for many states.   But according to Medicare.gov, most agencies “fall ‘in the middle’ with 3 or 3½ stars.” …Learn More

Jared Diamond: Elderly Have “Low Status”

Celebrated scholar Jared Diamond doesn’t mince words in exploring “the low status of the elderly in the United States” in the above Ted video.

An obvious example is beer, which older people are known to buy and consume. Yet, Diamond asks, “When’s the last time you saw a beer ad that depicts smiling people 85 years old? Never.”

Diamond, who is himself closing in on 80, has developed many specialties – traditional societies, geography, evolutionary biology, and physiology (to name a few) – which give him license to paint with a broad brush, as he did in his Pulitzer Prize-winning, “Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies.”

His sobering lecture on the elderly ends on a positive note as he describes their gifts – wisdom, knowledge of history, and skills refined over decades – and how society might better use them.

But the neglect, isolation, and abandonment of the elderly, or worse, he explains, are not new. They were present in some early traditional societies that could not care for them or would not spare the resources to do so. The isolation of older Americans today, Diamond believes, is a direct consequence of the changes that have come to define modern societies: the elderly’s complete separation from the labor force in retirement, the geographic dispersion of families and friends, and technology.

Even Diamond admits to feelings of uselessness. He’s a whiz on the slide rule, the precursor to a calculator, but sometimes calls his son for assistance using his 41-button television remote. …Learn More

Avoid Medicare Enrollment Mistakes

Mistakes made during initial Medicare enrollment can be costly.

Someone with on-the-job health care coverage who enrolls at age 65 may be paying Medicare premiums unnecessarily. Even worse, retirees who sign up too late incur a penalty for life.

“If you’re actively working, that’s the only reason you can enroll late in Medicare” without paying the penalty, Medicare trainer Andy Tartella says in the above video, “The ABCD’s of Medicare,” produced by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Medicare has been around for exactly 50 years. But enrolling in the program is a new experience for every single American who turns 65.   To navigate Medicare enrollment and the alphabet soup of Medicare programs, the following are other video tutorials produced by the federal government and other reliable sources – links are embedded at the end of the title: …Learn More

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Top Blog Topics: Financial Ed, Retirement

It’s customary every six months for Squared Away to round up our readers’ favorite blogs. The following were your top picks during the first six months of 2015, based on an analysis of online page views.

To stay current on blog posts in the future, click here to join a once-weekly mailing list featuring the week’s headlines on Squared Away.

Retirement is a perennial favorite among readers. But the top 10 list below also includes blogs about financial education and knowledge of the U.S. retirement system, longevity, and the hardships specifically faced by older workers: …Learn More

Longevity-Promoting Gadgets Are Here

The “longevity economy” (i.e., aging baby boomers seeking long lives) meets “the quantified self” (tracking everything we do online) in the above video about technologies that help aging boomers stay fit.

The PBS video shows off some of the products being developed to cater to an enormous market of some 100 million Americans over age 50, who are spending about $7 trillion per year. Products include a treadmill desk, technology that reveals sleep patterns, and fitness watches measuring everything from blood pressure to how many steps are walked daily.

One issue not mentioned is the privacy around health matters that boomers sacrifice when their every move and personal health metric is a digital data point stored in the cloud. Younger Americans are comfortable about disclosing their private lives online, but are boomers willing to go this far in the name of health and longevity? Learn More

Planning for a Centenarian’s Life

Americans have been labeled everything from the Greatest Generation to Generations X, Y, and Z. Are you ready for the Centenarian Generation?

The number of 100-years-olds has roughly doubled over the past two decades to more than 67,000 – mostly women – and the U.S. Census Bureau predicts it will double again by 2030. Just think about the implication of living for a century: retirement at, say, 65 means 35 years of leisure.

This is unappealing to some, unaffordable to many, and it impacts us all.

“We’ve added these extra years of life so fast that culture hasn’t had a chance to catch up,” Laura Carstensen, director of Stanford University’s Center on Longevity, said during a panel discussion at a recent Milken Institute Global Conference in Los Angeles. The best use for a additional 20 or 30 years of life isn’t, she said, “just to make old age longer.”

Granted, the Milken panelists – all privileged and accomplished baby boomers – are removed from the financial and other challenges facing most older Americans. But they have thought deeply about longevity and its consequences.

The following is a summary of their musings on how we might adjust to the coming cultural tilt toward aging:

  • Young people need to be more engaged in the issue of increasing U.S. life expectancy, because it will affect Generation Z far more than it has today’s older population. To engage his son’s interest in the topic, Paul Irving, chairman of the Milken Institute’s Center for the Future of Aging, said he introduced the concept of 80-year marriages. “That started a conversation,” he said. …Learn More
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Get a Truly Free Credit Report

These federal government resources should be helpful to Squared Away readers ranging in age from 20 to 70:

Free credit report: Young adults in particular may not be aware they’re entitled to a free credit report from one of the major credit rating agencies. To ensure the report truly is free, click and follow the links to an outside source recommended by the Federal Trade Commission. To file a paper request or ask for a report by telephone, try the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s website.

New U.S. Social Security Administration blog: The agency started a new blog last month to provide important benefit information under various programs. Here’s a sample of three useful articles on the blog:

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