May 29, 2014
More Plan Funerals Than Plan Elder Care
More adults are planning their funerals than are making arrangements for care in their final years of life.
That’s among the revealing findings about how Americans grapple with the inevitabilities of old age in an annual survey about U.S. attitudes toward long-term care. More than 1,400 adults were surveyed in March and April by the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. (NORC is a social science research organization affiliated with the University of Chicago.)
“Experts believe that, like any other long-term financial planning, long-term care planning is the kind of thing you should get started with as soon as possible,” said Jennifer Benz, a senior research scientist for AP-NORC. But for many people, “it’s not even on their radar,” she said.
Nearly two out of three adults over age 40 said they have discussed funeral plans with family or others they trust, and more than half have also created a so-called advanced directive specifying how they would like their medical care to be handled if they become incapacitated.
While death and mortal illness are on people’s minds, there’s scant thinking about their long-term care arrangements. More than two-thirds reported they have done “little or no planning” for how they’ll be cared for in old age. …Learn More
May 20, 2014
Medicare Advantage Enrollment Doubles
Enrollment in the Medicare Advantage plans that private insurers offer as an alternative to traditional Medicare coverage has more than doubled over the past decade, the Kaiser Foundation reports.
The share of the Medicare population enrolled in these private plans is 30 percent, up from 13 percent in 2005, the non-profit foundation said.
The reason for this dramatic growth: Medicare Advantage became a better deal for older Americans in the wake of a 2003 increase in federal subsidies to insurance companies offering the plans.
The federal government subsidizes insurers through its reimbursements for the care they cover for older Americans enrolled in Medicare Advantage. Those payments were increased in 2003. Insurers responded by reducing beneficiaries’ copayments and cost-sharing in the plans and by providing medical services not always available to people who enroll directly in Medicare and purchase Medigap policies, said Gretchen Jacobson, an associate director of Kaiser’s Medicare policy program.
The extra services include gym memberships, eye glasses, dental care, and preventive medical care. To rein in their overall medical costs, Medicare Advantage plans restrict the hospitals and doctors that patients can use. …Learn More
May 8, 2014
Where We Live: the Mom Magnet
Despite the growing tendency of Americans to migrate around the country for a job or retirement, half of all adults still live less than 25 miles from their mothers.
Such details about basic family living patterns were described in this video featuring Janice Compton, an economist with the University of Manitoba, who conducts research on the relationship between geographic proximity to older parents and who cares for them.
The vast majority of hands-on caregivers are family members. And elderly women, who tend to live longer than men, are more often the ones who receive care from their children.
To determine who’s most likely to stay near mom – and be in a position to assume care-giving duties – Compton and Robert Pollak at Washington University analyzed data from the U.S. Census and the National Survey of Families and Households for adults over age 25. Here’s what they found: …Learn More
April 22, 2014
Job Quality Matters
The nation’s job market regained some of its momentum in March. But it’s not just getting a job that’s key to gaining financial security – it’s about getting and keeping a quality job.
In a recent report, the Institute on Assets and Social Policy at Brandeis University used interviews with workers around the country to identify three aspects of a job – beyond the size of the paycheck – that help people save money and bolster their financial security. [Excerpts from some of the interviews are shown.]
The report also gave some indications of how common it is for workers to go without them:
Benefits – Employer health care, disability insurance, a 401(k) retirement plan with an employer savings match, tuition credits – these benefits help workers save more, shield them against risk, and protect their paychecks by subsidizing some living costs. But the service sector, one of the largest segments of the U.S. labor force, is particularly poor in providing such benefits.
Flexibility – Without sick days and similar arrangements, workers risk losing their jobs due to an illness or unanticipated event. …Learn More
April 8, 2014
1 in 4 Seniors Have Little Home Equity
Retirees can use the equity sitting in their homes to pay for their daily expenses, out-of-pocket medical bills or nursing care, especially toward the end of their lives.
Cash-strapped older retirees can access that equity by taking out reverse mortgages or home equity loans or by downsizing to less expensive homes or condominiums.
But one in four Medicare recipients has less than $12,250 in home equity, according to a new report by the Kaiser Family Foundation, a healthcare non-profit.
Kaiser’s calculations also show that the distribution of home equity among older Americans is – like the distribution of income and financial assets – top heavy. While 5 percent of Medicare beneficiaries in 2013 had more than $398,500 in home equity, half have less than $66,700.
According to Kaiser’s projections, that gap will widen in the future. By 2030, those whose home equity places them in the top 5 percent will see that equity grow more than 40 percent, but it will rise less than 10 percent for those with mid-level – or median – amounts of equity.
The analysis was part of a study to examine the ability of older Americans to absorb rising out-of-pocket retiree medical costs and increasing Medicare premiums. This blog also reported the study’s similarly grim findings about the meager financial savings held by many retirees to cover their health care costs.Learn More
April 3, 2014
1 in 4 Seniors Have Meager Savings
Less than $11,300 – that’s how little savings one-quarter of all Medicare beneficiaries have in their 401(k)s, IRAs, and other financial accounts.
This grim statistic comes out of a report by the Kaiser Family Foundation, a health care and policy non-profit. Kaiser’s goal was to gauge whether older Americans will be able to absorb rising Medicare premiums, co-pays, deductibles and related costs.
“Most people on Medicare are of modest means with relatively low incomes, low savings and low home equity,” concluded Gretchen Jacobson, the foundation’s associate director of the Medicare policy program and lead author of the report.
When retirees’ incomes can’t cover their out-of-pocket costs, they need money in the bank to pay for care. But half of all Medicare beneficiaries have annual incomes below $23,500 and have less than $61,400 in the bank – less than the cost of a year in a nursing home – Kaiser said.
The foundation’s report also projects beneficiary incomes and wealth over the next two decades, as baby boomers age: much of the growth in incomes and wealth will be skewed toward individuals in the higher income and wealth brackets.
This report should “raise questions about the extent to which the next generation of Medicare beneficiaries will be able to bear a larger share of costs,” Kaiser said.Learn More
April 1, 2014
Many with Dementia Manage Finances
When dementia enters an elderly couple’s home, it can bring financial mismanagement with it.
But since both spouses don’t usually become cognitively impaired at precisely the same time, couples have the option of turning over the household financial responsibilities to the person who’s not yet impaired. The question is whether this transfer of control happens quickly enough.
Most couples are waiting until after cognition is very low to make this change, according to a new study.
Economists Joanne Hsu with the Federal Reserve Board and Robert Willis with the University of Michigan found that 80 percent of married older Americans who had been in charge of their household finances continued to manage them after a test revealed they were approaching or already experiencing dementia. …Learn More