Category: Medicare

“Broadway Joe” Namath Isn’t Giving You the Whole Story

“Broadway Joe” Namath Isn’t Giving You the Whole Story

By:  Dan Hoelscher, President & Founder, Seniormark, LLC

 

If you haven’t already had enough of the Celebrity-Sponsored Medicare Commercials, then buckle up!  With the Medicare Annual Enrollment (AEP) season quickly approaching, you are soon to be inundated with them.  They will feature celebrities such as NFL great Joe Namath, Good Times Jimmy Walker and Ernie Hudson of Ghostbusters fame.  They are obviously effective!   Since Joe Namath became the spokesman for the Medicare Coverage Hotline. we have had more calls regarding Medicare Advantage plans than ever before.  Joe encourages you to not miss out on “New Medicare Benefits” and to make sure you get the “Medicare Benefits You Deserve.”

Benefits such as:

  • Rides to Medicare Appointments
  • Private Home Aides
  • Doctor’s and Nurse’s visits by telephone
  • Home delivered meals
  • Dental, Vision, Hearing and Prescription Drug Coverage

 

Some even offer a premium credit to your social security check for your Part B Medicare premium.  I spent some time recently watching numerous such commercials.  And what the commercials said was true, to the extent that it was said.  However, what is left unsaid is what is most crucial for you to make a wise decision.

 

There are a couple of things you need to consider before you race to your phone to “Call Now.” First, Joe Namath, while he may be a perfectly upstanding gentleman, is no Medicare expert.  He is a paid endorser.  In fact, I doubt he even understands what a Medicare Advantage plan is.  Even if he is on a Medicare Advantage plan, I doubt he is concerned with the potential out of pocket costs involved.  I believe his $25 million net worth may place him a little out of touch with the average American budget. Second, be aware that he is speaking on behalf of the Medicare Coverage Hotline, not Medicare.  And if you were to pause the commercial on the last slide, you would see that The Medicare Coverage Hotline is a for-profit lead generation campaign.  This means that they are simply trying to get you to call their 800 number so they can sell you as a lead to an insurance agent.

 

At Seniormark, we can help you with both Medicare Supplement and Medicare Advantage plans.  And we want you to choose your coverage based on the plan you believe it right for you, based on all the information, not just the information a salesperson wants you to hear.  You deserve a fair comparison!

 

Please join us for our next workshop on October 6th at 10:00 a.m. at our Sidney office (2551 Michigan Street, Sidney, OH) where we will disclose the details that have been left out of the Joe Namath commercial.  Call our office at 937-492-8800 to save your seat, or you may RSVP online at https://seniormark.com/workshops/.

Medicare Supplement vs. Medicare Advantage: The Pros and Cons of Each

Medicare Supplement vs. Medicare Advantage: The Pros and Cons of Each

You may have encountered these buzzwords in television commercials, email blasts, or the piles of mail you’ve likely received from insurance agencies, but what do they mean? What is the difference between a Medicare Advantage Plan and a Medicare Supplement? Which is the best option for you?

 

First off, it is important to address that regardless of which option you choose, you need to sign up for original Medicare (Parts A and B) first.   As long as you’ve determined that you shouldn’t delay part B (because you plan to remain actively employed after 65), you should sign up for both within the 7-month period starting 3 months before your 65th birthday month.

 

Medicare Supplement, or “medigap” insurance as it is aptly nicknamed, fills in some of the gaps of what original Medicare does not cover.  However, Medicare is still the primary payer of your claims.

 

On the other hand, Medicare Advantage is an alternative; it replaces original Medicare as the primary payer of your claims and is offered through subsidized private insurance companies that have contracted with Medicare.

 

This difference makes a big difference when considering the benefits and detriments of each option—in dollar signs, security, and convenience. Because of this, let’s consider the pros and cons of each carefully.

 

Medicare Supplement (Pros)

Minimal Out-of-Pocket Spending – Although there are differences in coverage among each of Medicare’s lettered plans (A-N), supplements cover more gaps (such as deductibles, coinsurance, and copays) than Medicare Advantage.

Predictability – Not only is your coverage guaranteed to stay the same, the price is reasonably consistent from year to year. Although we recommend re-shopping your plan every 4-5 years to avoid the slow creep in premium prices, there won’t be any shocking or unprecedented changes.

Out-of- State Coverage – Supplements cover you in all states, not just your home state.

No Networks – You are able to use any doctor or hospital that accepts Medicare, not just ones within the preferred network of a specific insurance company.

 

Medicare Supplement (Cons)

Higher PremiumMedicare supplement premiums can range from around $70-270 with the average Medicare supplement premium in 2020 hanging around $134 a month for people aged 65-70. This is significantly higher than the average Medicare Advantage plan premium.

No Drug Plan – You have to buy a stand-alone Part D prescription drug plan, which has an average premium cost of 32.74 in 2020.

 

 

Medicare Advantage (Pros)

Low to No Premium– The Average Medicare Advantage plan cost in 2020 is about $36 per month in 2020 and a few are offered at no cost!

Built-in Prescription Drug Plan – Almost all Advantage plans include a drug plan, which means less hassle and no extra premium.

 

Medicare Advantage (Cons)

High Out-of-Pocket Spending  – Medicare Advantage may appear to cover more because they offer perks like vision, dental, and hearing (which are usually not worth covering ). They may even throw in a free gym membership. However, they usually cover less, employing more of a pay-as-you-go approach. For you, this means higher copays, coinsurance, and unexpected costs.

Unpredictability – Since the government subsidizes Advantage plans, your plan’s benefits and premium costs may vary widely from year to year.

Out-of-State Coverage…Sometimes – You can only receive coverage outside of your home state in emergencies.

Networks – Different Advantage plans have various preferred hospitals and doctors. If you do not use your plan’s preferred providers, you may find yourself with less coverage or—depending on the plan—no coverage at all.

 

The Bottom Line

All in all, the pros and cons of these two options can be summarized quickly and concisely: A Medicare supplement is more costly but with better benefits (leading to less hassle and more peace of mind); while a Medicare Advantage plan is inexpensive, but with fewer benefits (often leading to unexpected costs and stress).

 

But the bottom line is that both options do their jobs. They both limit the potentially high out-of-pocket spending that is left by Medicare alone. Whatever you choose, don’t leave yourself vulnerable to coverage gaps.  There are no pros to remaining with Medicare alone!

 

Turning 65 soon and not sure what to do? Click here to sign up for our free Medicare workshop. No high-pressure sales pitches here, just in-depth discussion about the ins and outs of Medicare!  Click here to sign up for our next workshop.

Top 5 Retirement Myths You Probably Believe

Top 5 Retirement Myths You Probably Believe

We only use ten percent of our brains. Napoleon was short. It takes seven years to digest a piece of gum.

 

Myths like these are pervasive and stubborn. Perhaps you are just now realizing the above statements are even myths at all! Regardless, whether you first heard them on an evening sitcom, around the dinner table, or as a warning before your mom gave you a stick of juicy fruit when you were a kid, they were easy to pick up and difficult to get rid of.

 

But unlike these common household myths, which are basically harmless, widely held false beliefs about retirement can lead to unexpected bills, sore disappointments, or missed opportunities.

 

That is why I’ve compiled some of the more common and destructive retirement myths, so you can let them go and grab ahold of a better, more secure retirement.

 

  1. “Health Insurance in Retirement? Won’t Medicare Take Care of All That?”

This is a big one. Many people think that, just because the government provides Medicare for those 65 and over, the program is designed to meet all of their healthcare needs. This is, unfortunately, not the case. In truth, it’s not even close.

 

You see, Medicare has very costly gaps, ranging from small, pesky copays to potentially devastating out-of-pocket spending. Firstly, Medicare simply doesn’t cover vision, hearing, dental, or long-term care. And then—in other areas such as skilled nursing, hospital stays, medications, and much more—the coverage is limited. These gaps will not always be overly expensive, but—since there is no out-of-pocket spending limit with Medicare—one major health crisis can quickly turn into a financial crisis as well.

 

That is why we recommend talking to an advisor about getting a Medicare Supplement Plan to fill in those gaps or, if that is too expensive, a Medicare Advantage Plan that will put a cap on your potential out-of-pocket spending.

 

  1. “Social Security Will Take Care of Most of My Income, Right?”

Although Social Security isn’t going broke and skipping out on promised benefits like some believe, the program is not (and was never) designed to provide anyone’s full retirement income.

 

In fact, according to Social Security’s website, the government program is only designed to replace about 40% of a person’s pre-retirement income. As a general rule of thumb, many financial advisors predict that retirees will need 70-80% of their pre-retirement income to live comfortably That leaves 30-40% up to your nest egg. Can your nest egg handle it? 

 

 

  1. “Work? Retirement? Those Two Words Don’t Belong in the Same Sentence.”

People are living longer, and living longer means having more time on your hands. When people only lived ten or so years after age 65, it made sense to think of retirement as a time to wind down and call it quits. But now that the average life expectancy is approximately 85 years, continuing to work (at least part time) makes a lot of sense.

 

According to a Merrill Lynch Retirement Study, 72% of pre-retirees 50 and older say that they plan to work at some point in their retirement. Additionally, the same study showed that 47% of current retirees have worked or plan to work sometime in retirement.

 

  1. “Starting a New Career is For Young People, Not Retirees.”

But perhaps you don’t want to go back to the stress of your former career. Or maybe you the whole reason you retired is because you weren’t physically capable of performing the backbreaking labor.

 

Well, in that case, why not bust another myth and start afresh? Why not take a hobby or a lifelong aspiration and make a new career out of it?

 

I think Christian writer and thinker, C.S. Lewis, said it best: “You’re never too old to set a new goal or dream a new dream.”

 

And, according the aforementioned Merrill Lynch Retirement Study, many agree. In fact, nearly three-fifths (58%) of working retirees believe retirement is a good time to switch careers. So dream big. There’s more room to take career risks when you have a nest egg to lean on.

 

Maybe you can even start your own business. Did you know that retirees are three times more likely to be business owners or self-employed than pre-retirees?

 

  1. “Retirement Consists of Two Steps: Clock Out and Walk Out.”

Unfortunately, that’s just how you quit working. It’s not how you truly retire. Retirement involves careful planning and a long list of to-dos. This list must include signing up for Medicare, purchasing supplemental coverage, deciding when and how to take Social Security, considering rolling over your 401(k), as well as other non-financial items such as travel plans or simply deciding how you are going to use your extra 40 plus hours a week.

 

Do You Need Some Expert Guidance Concerning Your Retirement Transition?

In that case, you are in the right place. In our Life After Work workshops, we discuss retirement transition.  Sign up today for our free workshop.

 

Our Workshop Promise To You

  1. There will be no high-pressure sales and no obligations, just insight about your retirement transition.
  2. You will feel less overwhelmed and anxious about your decisions and options.

 

Some may not think we will live up to our promises, but that is just another common retirement myth! Our next workshop will be held virtually on Zoom on June 25 at 5:30 pm.  We hope you will come to learn more.  The workshop is free!  Sign up today at https://seniormark.com/workshops/!

 

2020 AEP Checklist

Annual Enrollment Period (AEP) To-Do List

  1. Write the important Annual Enrollment dates to remember on your Calendar, and clip your calendar on your fridge.
  2. Don’t eat that midnight snack until you’ve read the dates at least once.
    1. October 1st— we can talk about your options!
    2. October 15th— The AEP games begins.
    3. December 7th—AEP comes to exhausting close.
    4. January 1st— Plan changes go into effect.
  3. Compare your medications to the formulary (drug list) mailed to you by your drug plan company.
  4. Consider changing your drug plan if some of your medications are no longer covered or if the premium is too high (call OSHIIP at 800-686-1578 to reshop your plan).
  5. Call us and set up an appointment to have a good chat about your Advantage plan.
    • Consider switching Advantage Plans if:
    • Your hospital or doctor went out-of-network
    • Plan changes for the following year result in jaw-dropping out-of-pocket spending or a high premium.
    • Your medications are no longer covered or are costing a lot.
    • Your Advantage plan is (all around) a bit of a drag.

6.  Remember — you can change your Medicare Supplement any day of the year.  If you currently have a supplement, you are not bound by AEP in order to switch companies.  However, if you want to switch from a Medicare Supplement to a Medicare Advantage plan or if you want to switch from a Medicare Advantage plan to a Medicare Supplement, you must do that during this time.

7.  As a golden rule, your ultimate to-do list item is …plan ahead!

Still confused about what to do?  Give our office a call at 937-492-8800.  We are here to help!

 

Why You Should Consider Working In Retirement

Why You Should Consider Working In Retirement

(Even If You Don’t Need the Money)

Work? Retirement? The two words don’t even sound like they belong in the same sentence. After all, retirement is for relaxation. Retirement is for grandkids. Retirement is for vacations and bucketlisting.

 

But wait just a minute.

 

Although all of those things are true, studies show that regular work is also on the agenda, nestled in-between the couch sitting as well as babysitting. According to a Merill Lynch Retirement Study, 72% of pre-retirees age 50 and up will work in some capacity during their retirement.

 

This raises the question: Why are so many soon-to-be retirees planning to spend time working, the same thing they’ve likely been doing for the last 40 years?

 

It’s Not All About the Dollar Signs

As it turns out, there are a lot of reasons, and not all of them are financially related. Participants of the Merrill Lynch Study reported working in order to

  • Stay mentally active
  • Stay socially connected
  • Maintain a sense of identity and self worth

…as well as many other valid reasons. Surprisingly, staying mentally active was the number one cited reason. Money was still a consideration, especially considering that many retirees have not saved enough for a 20-year-or-more retirement, but those other motives definitely pulled their weight in the statistics.

 

And, fortunately, these desires were not left unfulfilled. The study also indicated that retirees who are working in retirement get out what they put in. As it turns out, working retirees reported feeling 10% prouder, 17% more connected to others, and 17% more stimulated than their non-working counterparts! It seems the sense of accomplishment, social interactions, and work environment provided a sense of overall well-being.

 

The Bottom Line

The point is today’s retirees and pre-retirees refuse to see retirement as the end. They are, instead, viewing it as a new horizon, a new beginning, a springboard instead of a landing pad. According to the study, many do take a 2.5 year break from work after retiring, but they are using that rest to recharge rather than wind down.

 

From working with my clients, I’ve heard some of their ideas for work. One client of mine does woodworking projects for people. Others give private music lessons. I even know a couple that travels down the east coast, selling kettle corn at local festivals during the summer. I remember them telling me all about the fun of traveling from year to year and the relationships they’ve built with some of the locals. Doesn’t that sound like fun?

 

You see, work and retirement only sound like they don’t belong in the same sentence if you consider work to be stressful or boring. However, if you can make money doing what you like, working will turn into a passion rather than a drag. In fact, you just might find that work and retirement is a match made in heaven.

 

Do You Have Retirement Questions?

Deciding whether or not to work is just one of many decisions you will have to make as you transition to retirement. Luckily, our Life After Work series of workshops seeks to cover the three critical areas of a successful retirement transition: Medicare, Social Security, and 401(k) planning. You can sign up for just one or all three. No high-pressure sales pitches here, just in-depth discussion about what you need to know as you approach retirement.   Our Welcome to Medicare workshop is Thursday, June 25, beginning at 5:30 on Zoom.  Call our office at 937-492-8800 or head on over to our web page and sign up for a free workshop today!

Will I Be Able to Afford Medicare?

Will I Be Able to Afford Medicare?

The shortest and most honest answer is “I don’t know”. But I know this doesn’t help you answer the most pressing questions weighing on your mind as you approach retirement age. Am I ready? Or Should I delay my retirement? And most of all—how am I going to afford health care without my employer insurance?

 

So here’s what I am going to do. Using my 20+ years of experience working with retirees, I am going to lay out a framework for what to expect when it comes to Medicare expenses. These will just be “in-the-ballpark” figures, but I believe they will help you come to a decision. You just might find that Medicare falls squarely into your budget.

 

So let’s get started with some good news.

 

Medicare Part A (Inpatient Care) Is Free

As long as you’ve paid into Social Security for at least 10 years, social security will return the favor with no associated Part A premium.

 

The Associated Part B (Outpatient Care) Monthly Premium is $134.00

This figure is adjusted for high income, but most people don’t fall into the high-income category. $144.60 will be your monthly premium unless you make $87,000 per year or more as an individual or $174,000 filing jointly.

 

From this point, the cost of Medicare is heavily affected by which path you take. You can boil down all the madness into two basic choices: Medicare Advantage or Original (traditional) Medicare.

 

The Traditional Medicare Route

If you choose the Traditional Medicare route, you will want Medicare Supplement Insurance to fill in the gaps of what Medicare doesn’t cover. Otherwise, there will be no limit to your out-of-pocket spending. The premiums for a Medicare Supplement range from $45-146 per month. However, we often recommend a plan G, which typically costs $110 per month. This is a fairly standard premium. It puts into perspective what you can expect a Medicare Supplement Plan to cost.

 

To cover your medications, you will also need a Part D prescription drug plan, which will cost in additional premium anywhere between $14 to $128 monthly. The average cost for a drug plan is $42 in 2020. The out-of-pocket costs associated with Part D vary greatly depending on your medications. It is impossible to estimate without knowing your specific situation.

 

The Medicare Advantage Route

Offered as an alternative to Traditional Medicare, Medicare Advantage is often the cheaper option when it comes to premiums. They are offered for prices within the range of $0-163 monthly with the average premium being approximately $23 per month. The Part D prescription drug plan is almost always rolled into the plan.

 

Caution: Check For Possible Out-of-pocket Costs

At first glance, it looks like the Medicare Advantage route is the obvious choice. But this fails to take into account the risk of out-of-pocket costs. With a Medicare Supplement (only available with Original Medicare), the maximum out-of-pocket (for Medicare approved expenses) is only $198 annually for Plan G. However, in an advantage plan, it is more of a pay-as-you-go approach. There are less monthly premiums; but copays, coinsurance, and deductibles are much higher. The potential out-of-pocket for an advantage plan can be as a high as $3500-6000 per year or more!

 

The Costs At a Glance


So there you have it! This should give you a good idea of what Medicare costs for the average 65-year old. But—as I said before—the cost of Medicare is different for every person. If you are still concerned about being able to afford Medicare, contact us for a free consultation. We will assess your financial and health situation to find an overall plan that meets your needs, concerns, and pocketbook. Ensuring you a successful and secure transition into retirement is our number one priority.

 

There are a lot circumstances that may prevent you from retiring. But I believe that the affordability of health insurance shouldn’t be one.

 

Disclaimer: Numbers are based on Ohio 45365.

 

Turning 65 soon and not sure what to do?  Our next workshop is quickly approaching on June 25.  Click here to sign up for our free Medicare workshop. No high-pressure sales pitches here, just in-depth discussion about the ins and outs of Medicare!

Top 5 Retirement Myths You Probably Believe

Top 5 Retirement Myths You Probably Believe

We only use ten percent of our brains. Napoleon was short. It takes seven years to digest a piece of gum.

 

Myths like these are pervasive and stubborn. Perhaps you are just now realizing the above statements are even myths at all! Regardless, whether you first heard them on an evening sitcom, around the dinner table, or as a warning before your mom gave you a stick of juicy fruit when you were a kid, they were easy to pick up and difficult to get rid of.

 

But unlike these common household myths, which are basically harmless, widely held false beliefs about retirement can lead to unexpected bills, sore disappointments, or missed opportunities.

 

That is why I’ve compiled some of the more common and destructive retirement myths, so you can let them go and grab ahold of a better, more secure retirement.

 

  1. “Health Insurance in Retirement? Won’t Medicare Take Care of All That?”

This is a big one. Many people think that, just because the government provides Medicare for those 65 and over, the program is designed to meet all of their healthcare needs. This is, unfortunately, not the case. In truth, it’s not even close.

 

You see, Medicare has very costly gaps, ranging from small, pesky copays to potentially devastating out-of-pocket spending. Firstly, Medicare simply doesn’t cover vision, hearing, dental, or long-term care. And then—in other areas such as skilled nursing, hospital stays, medications, and much more—the coverage is limited. These gaps will not always be overly expensive, but—since there is no out-of-pocket spending limit with Medicare—one major health crisis can quickly turn into a financial crisis as well.

 

That is why we recommend talking to an advisor about getting a Medicare Supplement Plan to fill in those gaps or, if that is too expensive, a Medicare Advantage Plan that will put a cap on your potential out-of-pocket spending.

 

  1. “Social Security Will Take Care of Most of My Income, Right?”

Although Social Security isn’t going broke and skipping out on promised benefits like some believe, the program is not (and was never) designed to provide anyone’s full retirement income.

 

In fact, according to Social Security’s website, the government program is only designed to replace about 40% of a person’s pre-retirement income. As a general rule of thumb, many financial advisors predict that retirees will need 70-80% of their pre-retirement income to live comfortably That leaves 30-40% up to your nest egg. Can your nest egg handle it? 

 

 

  1. “Work? Retirement? Those Two Words Don’t Belong in the Same Sentence.”

People are living longer, and living longer means having more time on your hands. When people only lived ten or so years after age 65, it made sense to think of retirement as a time to wind down and call it quits. But now that the average life expectancy is approximately 85 years, continuing to work (at least part time) makes a lot of sense.

 

According to a Merrill Lynch Retirement Study, 72% of pre-retirees 50 and older say that they plan to work at some point in their retirement. Additionally, the same study showed that 47% of current retirees have worked or plan to work sometime in retirement.

 

  1. “Starting a New Career is For Young People, Not Retirees.”

But perhaps you don’t want to go back to the stress of your former career. Or maybe you the whole reason you retired is because you weren’t physically capable of performing the backbreaking labor.

 

Well, in that case, why not bust another myth and start afresh? Why not take a hobby or a lifelong aspiration and make a new career out of it?

 

I think Christian writer and thinker, C.S. Lewis, said it best: “You’re never too old to set a new goal or dream a new dream.”

 

And, according the aforementioned Merrill Lynch Retirement Study, many agree. In fact, nearly three-fifths (58%) of working retirees believe retirement is a good time to switch careers. So dream big. There’s more room to take career risks when you have a nest egg to lean on.

 

Maybe you can even start your own business. Did you know that retirees are three times more likely to be business owners or self-employed than pre-retirees?

 

  1. “Retirement Consists of Two Steps: Clock Out and Walk Out.”

Unfortunately, that’s just how you quit working. It’s not how you truly retire. Retirement involves careful planning and a long list of to-dos. This list must include signing up for Medicare, purchasing supplemental coverage, deciding when and how to take Social Security, considering rolling over your 401(k), as well as other non-financial items such as travel plans or simply deciding how you are going to use your extra 40 plus hours a week.

 

Do You Need Some Expert Guidance Concerning Your Retirement Transition?

In that case, you are in the right place. In our Life After Work workshops, we discuss retirement transition.  Sign up today for our free workshop.

 

Our Workshop Promise To You

  1. There will be no high-pressure sales and no obligations, just insight about your retirement transition.
  2. You will feel less overwhelmed and anxious about your decisions and options.

 

Some may not think we will live up to our promises, but that is just another common retirement myth! Our next workshop will be held virtually on Zoom on June 25 at 5:30 pm.  We hope you will come to learn more.  The workshop is free!  Sign up today at https://seniormark.com/workshops/!

 

How to Lower Health Care Costs in Retirement—The 4 Best Ways

How to Lower Health Care Costs in Retirement—The 4 Best Ways

Did you know that a recent Fidelity study shows that the average couple can expect to spend $260,000 on health care expenses in retirement? Well, unfortunately, that is the current figure circling around the retirement blogosphere. And that isn’t even taking into account the possibility of long term care such as an extended nursing home stay, a consideration which escalates the estimation well into the three hundred thousands.

 

It can’t be true, can it?

 

I know, when I saw that figure in print for the first time, I was surprised as well. But as I begin adding up all of the possible costs—really crunching the numbers—I found out it was a lot more probable than I originally thought.

 

So what are you to do? If you are still working, the answer is common sense: save more to cover the costs. But if you are beginning the retirement transition right now, it’s too late for that strategy. You need something to lessen the burden—and fast!

 

Although these four ways won’t slash that number in half by any means, they can certainly help keep your health care costs in check:

 

1.  Sign Up For Medicare On Time To Avoid Penalties

You must sign up during the six-month period surrounding your 65th birthday or else pay hefty penalties that continue for your entire life! Unless you have a qualifying reason, everyone should sign up for Medicare parts A and B. And unless you are on an Advantage plan with a drug plan rolled into the deal, you should sign up for Part D. Because, if you miss it by just one year, you will accrue $4,248 worth of penalties over your lifetime, assuming you live 20 years after 65.

 

2.  Take Advantage of the Preventive Services Provided by Medicare

Like the old saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and Medicare agrees. While Medicare covers very few things in full, the program covers every penny of many preventive services including (but not limited to) the following:

  • Flu Shots
  • Various cancer screenings
  • Obesity screenings and counseling
  • Annual “wellness” visits
  • Tobacco use cessation counseling

Now I am not saying you should spend all of your golden years sitting in cold waiting rooms. Rather, the core of this advice is simple: take care of yourself. Take the tiny steps now, so you can avoid the big health issues later. Catch the problems in their inception, so what could have been a free office visit and quick fix doesn’t end up costing you an arm and a leg in hospital bills.

 

According to a study conducted by Age Wave, pre-retirees and retirees say the two most important ingredients to a happy retirement are health (81% of respondents) and financial security (58% of respondents). The funny thing is that taking preventive measures often helps both.

 

3.  Cut Prescription Drug Costs

It is not difficult to see that the cost of drugs, especially for those with chronic illness, contributes its fair share to that $260,000 figure in health care expenses. Sure, you have a Part D Drug Plan, but there are still expensive coverage gaps.

 

But the good news is there are a few things you can do to lessen the burden. You can switch to generics. You can try mail order. Some people are even splitting pills to split the bill with certain medications.

 

For more specific details to help you cut drug costs, read this:  “How to afford meds in the donut hole”.

 

4.  Beat the Medicare Supplement Creep by Shopping Around!

If you don’t have a Medicare Supplement, I would strongly recommend getting one. And if you do and you’ve been in the same one for 3-5 years, I strongly recommend that you shop around.

 

Why?

 

Because Medicare Supplement premiums naturally creep up year-by-year, and they rarely come back down. The best news is you don’t even have to change coverage when you switch. Because of standardization, any and all of Medicare’s 11 lettered plans (A-N) offer the same exact benefits no matter which company you purchase it from. It is not uncommon for people to save $40-50 per month by switching. I’ve even seen savings as high as $100 per month or more.

 

The point is it pays to bargain shop! And it will pay to put some or all of these health care cost cutting ideas to the test.

 

Want to check and see what you could save by switching? Use our free Medicare Supplement quoting tool.   No contact information required.   Or call our office and we can give you a free quote over the phone!  937-492-8800

Do I Need To Do Anything To Enroll in Medicare?

Do I Need To Do Anything To Enroll in Medicare?

This is a question I get quite frequently at my offices in Sidney and Vandalia, Ohio. When it comes to Medicare, soon-to-be retirees know that they’ve been paying for it since they started working through Social Security. However, they often don’t know how they collect the benefit they’ve worked so hard to earn.

 

Does it just happen automatically? Or do soon-to-be retirees like you need to do something?

 

Well, that depends on one thing…

 

Are You Already Receiving Your Social Security Benefit?

If you decided to claim your Social Security benefit before 65, then you don’t have to sign up. Your Medicare card will arrive in the mail around your 65th birthday and you will be automatically signed up for Medicare Parts A and B.

 

If Not, Make Sure You Sign Up!

But if you are not receiving your Social Security benefit, you need to sign up during your open enrollment period, the seven-month period surrounding your 65th birthday. You will be doing yourself a big favor by signing up on time because there are many late enrollment fees. For example, the Part B penalty is 10% for every year you are late. Unfortunately, this penalty will continue for the rest of your life.

 

So take the time amidst retirement planning and birthday celebrations to sign up. You can sign up online at ssa.gov or you can call or stop by your local Social Security office. If you live near Sidney, that office is in Piqua, 227 Looney Rd.  If you live somewhere else in Ohio, find your closest location here:  Ohio Social Security office locations.

 

Everyone’s Got a Lot More to Consider!

But whether or not you have to sign up for Medicare, you are far from done. It is a big misconception (see our blog on this here) to think that original Medicare alone is enough to cover all your health care expenses. There are two things you should do. Firstly, it is almost always a good idea to pick up a stand-alone prescription drug plan through Part D of Medicare. Otherwise, you will have no coverage for your medications. In addition, I also recommend finding some way to supplement Medicare with additional insurance. You can get a Medicare Supplement plan, or—for those who are more cost-conscious—a low to no cost Advantage plan.

 

As you can see, even though you may not have to do anything to sign up for Medicare, signing up is just the first step before you have your health insurance in order. I recommend seeing an advisor to help guide you through this complex process.

 

Need help navigating Medicare? Want personal help to find a plan that is right for your needs and pocketbook? Call Seniormark at 937-492-8800 for a free consultation!

 

3 Reasons Why Prescription Drugs Are So Expensive

 3 Reasons Why Prescription Drugs Are So Expensive

It is no secret that prescription drugs are outrageously expensive. After nineteen years of working with those transitioning into retirement and helping retirees shop Part D Drug Plans, I have come across some astronomic prices. To give you an idea, some of the prescriptions (without insurance, thank goodness) range from $40,000 per year all the way to $158,000 per year. And what’s more, the prescription that cost $158,000 was simply a small, white pill that my client took once a day. If you break that down to price per pill, the cost is $439 per pop. Talk about over-the-top!

 

The scary part is, I know this is a widespread issue. Its effects extend to burden millions of older and younger folks beyond my small office in Sidney, Ohio. I’m not naïve enough to believe that what I have witnessed is unique.

 

This raises the question: why? Are drug companies “getting away with murder” as Donald Trump proposed on his campaign trail? Is it a governmental failure to regulate a monstrous and out-of-control industry? Or are their prices ultimately justified? Well, I did a little digging, and it seems the general consensus centers around three main reasons:

 

Reason#1: The 20-Year Monopoly

If any of you have ever played the famous Parker Brother board game, you know that the game is over once one player has control of the board. It is the same with the drug industry, except their monopoly is not won through rolling doubles and buying properties, but by acquiring patents. Once a pharmaceutical company turns out a new drug, their patent grants them exclusive rights to the formula for 20 years. This prevents any generic drugs from being manufactured to provide competition. And no competition means unlimited control over price. Normally this excessive control wouldn’t be the case, but prescription drugs are not like new sneakers or television sets. Those who need them can’t live without them, and are, quite often, willing to pay anything to get them.

 

This wouldn’t be so bad if it were just for those first twenty years. After all, the pharmaceutical company does need some time to make profit back after dumping loads of resources into research and development to turn out the new drug. However, the companies often push their monopoly past the 20 years by changing their formula just enough to renew their patent. At that point, the monopoly can become a bit oppressive.

 

Reason #2: Can’t We Talk About This?

Many other countries negotiate heavily with drug companies to keep prices low. But the United States does not allow this. Medicare is not allowed to talk the price down, and others who might have a voice are silenced by the almighty dollar. Essentially, drug companies have full reign over what they charge for their prescriptions.

 

Imagine how much the United States could save if they allowed Medicare to have a say.  According to the Economist, Medicare is the drug companies’ “single biggest customer,” forking over $112 billion to purchase prescription medications for retirees. If they could use this buying power as leverage, AARP says that Medicare could save $16 billion annually. Then they could pass those savings over to you in the form of lower Part D premiums and fees.

 

Unfortunately, this is not the case as of now. Now, Medicare has to cover almost all drugs approved by the FDA, AARP says, “regardless of whether a cheaper, equally effective drug is available.”

 

Reason #3: Lack of Transparency in Drug Pricing

It is difficult to tell how much a drug is actually worth. Drug companies claim that research and development costs justify the high prices, but it is unclear as to how accurate this really is. Some sources, like Money Magazine dispute this explanation, citing that only 10-20% of revenue really goes to research and development.  Others, like AARP, point out that “9 out of 10 big pharmaceutical companies spend more on marketing than on research,” a statistic which shows a lot about where their priorities lie. And this all goes without saying that drug companies are rarely hurting for money anyhow. In recent years, it has proved to be a very lucrative industry.

 

Overall, it seems that drug companies have too much power in the United States economy. The question then turns to how can we lessen that power to make it fair for everyone involved without lessening the incentive for innovation. Because $439 for each measly pill is too much. I think everyone besides the drug companies can agree on that.

 

Until these issues are tackled, just do what is within your power. If you are approaching 65, get yourself on a Part D drug plan for your unique needs and situation.   Remember, at any given time there are 20+ drug plans to choose from, so don’t let company names drive you to the wrong plan.  Each person’s recommended drug plan is different based on their prescriptions.  Make sure and shop your drug plans!