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Dec 6, 2012

Saving a little on Medicare may cost everyone else a lot

CHICAGO (Reuters) – Congressional Republicans want to raise Medicare’s eligibility age as part of a deal with Democrats to avoid falling off the fiscal cliff. Raising the eligibility age from 65 to 67 would save some money for Medicare and low-income seniors. But at the same time, it would boost out-of-pocket insurance costs for two-thirds of seniors in that age bracket and those who are younger, plus raise overall healthcare spending for the federal government, states and employers.

Start shifting insurance risk in one age bracket, and the effects ripple.

First, the youngest, relatively healthy seniors would move out of the Medicare risk pool, raising the cost — and premiums — of covering older beneficiaries.

Dec 5, 2012

Federal clampdown looming on reverse mortgages

CHICAGO, Dec 5 (Reuters) – The federal government is
proposing to make big changes to its reverse mortgage program
early next year that should make the loans safer for seniors who
use them to tap home equity.

Shaun Donovan, secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing
and Urban Development (HUD), which regulates these loans, will
detail policy options t h at would create more conservative
lending standards in testimony later this week before the Senate
Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs.

Nov 29, 2012

Protecting your retirement from “fiscal cliff” risk

CHICAGO (Reuters) – The U.S. “fiscal cliff” is bad news for retirement security – whether we fall off it or not.

If the White House and Congress don’t steer clear of the cliff, taxes on income and investments will jump, beginning January 1. And if a deal is reached in Congress, it could herald entitlement benefit cuts, higher Medicare premiums for the rich and even caps on pre-tax 401(k) contributions.

Nov 16, 2012

Medicare premiums rising in 2013, but less than expected

CHICAGO, November 16 (Reuters) – The rising cost of Medicare
premiums will take a bigger bite out of seniors’ wallets next
year – but the amount will be smaller than was predicted by a
federal government forecast earlier this year.

The monthly premium for Medicare Part B (outpatient
services) will jump 5 percent in 2013 to $104.90, the Centers
for Medicare & Medicaid Services announced on Friday. The
increase — which amounts to $5 instead of the $9 that had been
predicted by the trustees of the Medicare program — will
consume part of the already-small Social Security cost-of-living
adjustment next year for middle class recipients.

Nov 13, 2012

How to appeal when Medicare won’t pay

CHICAGO (Reuters) – Medicare processed 906 billion outpatient insurance claims in 2010 – and refused to pay 10 percent of them. But if you’re a senior on Medicare with a denied claim, your odds of turning that around are surprisingly good if you appeal.

The importance of pushing back when Medicare says no was highlighted recently by settlement of a class action lawsuit that will force Medicare to start covering skilled nursing and therapy services in institutional or home care settings – not only when patients have a demonstrated medical potential to improve, but also when they need care to maintain their current health status.

Nov 8, 2012

Breaking ground on housing for LGBT seniors

CHICAGO (Reuters) – Gay rights took a big stride forward in this week’s elections, with voters in four states affirming the right of same-sex couples to marry. But here’s an issue in the LGBT community that continues to fly under the radar: what happens to LGBT Americans when they get old?

“Our community has been focused for years on other issues, like AIDS/HIV, marriage equality and bullying,” says Mark Segal, a well-known advocate in the LGBT community and founder of the Philadelphia Gay News. “But we’ve never developed a system for LGBT seniors, especially those who are low income and are very endangered.”

Nov 5, 2012

Sandy leaves some Social Security recipients high and dry

By Mark Miller

(Reuters) – Disrupted mail service is not at the top of the list of problems facing superstorm Sandy’s victims – unless you are a senior counting on the post office to deliver a monthly Social Security check.

Most Social Security benefits, which account for more than half of total income for nearly two-thirds of people aged 65 and above, are paid on the third of each month. This month, the payments were made on November 2, because the third fell on a Saturday. That means those payments were made just as the U.S. Postal Service was struggling to restore service around the tri-state area of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. A USPS spokesman said the situation still varies dramatically around the region.

Oct 25, 2012

Landmark Medicare settlement could change lives

CHICAGO, Oct 25 (Reuters) – Glenda Jimmo has had a
challenging life. Blind since the age of 19, the 76-year-old
Bristol, Vermont, resident is confined to a wheelchair due to
disabling conditions that include a below-the-knee amputation
stemming from her diabetes.

“But it’s been an interesting, full life,” she says. “I have
four children.”

Oct 23, 2012

A reminder from the IRS that you should not ignore

CHICAGO, Oct 23 (Reuters) – When the Internal Revenue
Service talks, Americans generally listen. But many will ignore
the message the agency sent last week: You can save more in your
tax-qualified retirement accounts next year.

The IRS announced a $500 cost-of-living increase for the
maximum tax-qualified contributions for 2013: $17,500 for 401(k)
accounts and $5,500 for IRAs.

Oct 18, 2012

What’s your rate of return on Social Security?

CHICAGO (Reuters) – Is Social Security a good deal? Many Americans worry that they will put more money into the system via payroll taxes during their working years than they will ever get back in benefits – and their concerns help fuel the ongoing push by Republicans to transform Social Security into a privatized system of personal accounts.

Mitt Romney has supported privatization in the past (see his book, “No Apology”), and running mate Paul Ryan argued for it as recently as last week’s vice presidential debate: “Let younger Americans have a voluntary choice of making their money work faster for them within the Social Security system.”

    • About Mark

      "Mark Miller is a journalist and author who writes about trends in retirement and aging. He has a special focus on how the baby boomer generation is revising its approach to careers, money and lifestyle after age 50. Mark is the author of The Hard Times Guide to Retirement Security: Practical Strategies for Money, Work and Living (John Wiley & Sons/Bloomberg Press, 2010) and edits RetirementRevised.com. Mark is the former editor of Crain’s Chicago Business, and former Sunday editor of the Chicago Sun-Times. The opinions expressed here are his own."
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