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May 22, 2012

A program for keeping older workers employed

CHICAGO (Reuters) – Career change often begins with a jolting disruption, like a job loss, a health problem or family issues.

For Becky Loyacano, 57, change began with one of the worst disasters in U.S. history. When Hurricane Katrina destroyed Loyacano’s home in Slidell, Louisiana in 2005, it also crushed the New Orleans native’s work selling disability insurance.

May 15, 2012

Gay couples can’t bank Obama’s blessings yet

CHICAGO (Reuters) – When President Obama embraced same-sex marriage last week, he tried to frame it as an issue for the states to resolve. But federal laws and policies are very much front and center in the battle for a level financial playing field for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Americans – especially seniors. And the Obama administration is taking a more active role in that battle than the president let on in his historic interview.

One of the key pocketbook issues is that it is impossible for LGBT couples to access the valuable spousal, survivor and death benefits from Social Security, although they pay the same FICA taxes as heterosexual workers, and are nearly twice as likely to live in poverty than heterosexual seniors. Average Social Security benefits are 32 percent lower for LGBT couples than for heterosexual couples, according to The Williams Institute, a think tank focused on sexual orientation and gender identity law and public policy at the UCLA School of Law.

May 10, 2012

New online Social Security statements don’t cut it

CHICAGO, May 10 (Reuters) – Your annual Social Security
benefit statement, which provides an important annual reminder
and explanation of benefits, has moved online.

Paper statements were eliminated last year for most
participating workers in a budget-cutting move, which saves $70
million annually in printing and postage. Last week, the Social
Security Administration (SSA) introduced the replacement – an
online statement accessible to anyone who sets up an account at
the agency’s website (here).
So far 130,000 Americans have signed up.

May 8, 2012

Uncle Sam gives workplace Roths a big push

CHICAGO (Reuters) – Roth workplace accounts, which have grown more popular in recent years, are about to get a shot in the arm from Uncle Sam. This week the federal government started rolling out a Roth option to 3.3 million employees who participate in its main retirement program.

Unlike tax-deferred retirement accounts, Roth contributions are made with after-tax dollars. Contributions and investment returns can be withdrawn tax-free as long as the account holder is over age 59-1/2 and the account has been established for at least five years.

May 3, 2012

When should workers take a pension buyout?

CHICAGO (Reuters) – Ford Motor Company is making an offer it hopes 90,000 former employees can’t refuse: a lump sum buyout of their pensions.

The auto giant plans to offer a voluntary buyout of defined benefit pensions to salaried retirees and former employees, with payouts to start later this year.

May 1, 2012

How seniors can get needed primary care

(The author is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are
his own.)

By Mark Miller

CHICAGO, May 1(Reuters) – When older patients experience
memory loss or confusion, it’s not uncommon for doctors to
suspect dementia. But for Dr. Roseann Leipzig, her first thought
is to check the patient’s medications, including
over-the-counter meds, to make sure none are causing trouble.

“For example, Benadryl can cause confusion in older people,
even in very low dosages” says Leipzig, a professor of
geriatrics and palliative medicine at the Mount Sinai School of
Medicine in New York City.

Apr 26, 2012

Even “average” Medicare plans receive government bonuses

CHICAGO (Reuters) – In Garrison Keillor’s Lake Wobegon Days, all the children are above average. In Washington, the same impossible math is being applied to Medicare’s managed-care insurance plans.

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) includes funds to pay special bonuses to Medicare Advantage plans offering above-average quality of care. Instead, the Obama Administration is paying the bonuses to nearly all Advantage plans, including a majority that are rated just average.

Apr 26, 2012

All Medicare plans are above average now

CHICAGO (Reuters) – In Garrison Keillor’s Lake Wobegon Days, all the children are above average. In Washington, the same impossible math is being applied to Medicare’s managed-care insurance plans.

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) includes funds to pay special bonuses to Medicare Advantage plans offering above-average quality of care. Instead, the Obama Administration is paying the bonuses to nearly all Advantage plans, including a majority that are rated just average.

Apr 24, 2012

Is Social Security really “exhausted?” Not at all

CHICAGO, April 24 (Reuters) – It’s rare to see a federal
official publicly beg reporters to get a story right, but the
commissioner of the Social Security Administration seemed ready
to get down on his hands and knees at a Monday press briefing.
Michael Astrue was cautioning journalists not to scare the
public about the meaning of the word “exhaustion.”

“Please, please remember that exhaustion is an actuarial
term of art and it does not mean there will be no money left to
pay any benefits” he warned in issuing the trustees’ annual
report on the financial health of the Social Security program.

Apr 19, 2012

Consumer-directed U.S. health insurance surges

CHICAGO, April 19 (Reuters) – There may not be a consensus
in the nation’s capital on how to control the cost of health
care, but businesses and their employees are not sitting around
waiting for clarity. They are voting with their wallets for one
approach that’s already available: Account-based health
insurance plans, which offer lower premiums in exchange for high
deductibles.

Consumer-directed health insurance is a cornerstone of
Republican-backed market-oriented health reform solutions. It
will also be offered as an option to shoppers in the public
health insurance exchanges under the Affordable Care Act (ACA),
if the law isn’t struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court in June.

    • 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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