Reuters Money

Medicare Part B premium hike will be smaller than expected

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Seniors caught a break Thursday when the Obama Administration announced that Medicare Part B premiums won’t rise as much as expected in 2012.

The premium for Part B – which funds doctor and other outpatient services – will be $99.90 in 2012, up just 3 percent compared with this year. And the Medicare Part B deductible will be $140, a decrease of $22 from 2011.

The official government 2012 Part B premium forecast had been $106.60 – an increase that would have taken a significant bite out of Social Security’s cost-of-living adjustment (COLA). Although Social Security beneficiaries will receive a 3.6 percent raise next year, the average beneficiary’s increase would have been shaved to 2.95 percent if the larger Part B increase had been implemented. Part B premiums are deducted from most seniors’ Social Security benefits.

Today’s news means that seniors receiving the average monthly Social Security benefit ($1,177) will see a net 3.3 percent gain in payments – just under $39 per month.

Is pet insurance worth it?

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lola REUTERS/handoutGiovanna Dimperio’s dog Lola, a pit bull mix, has a knack for getting hurt. Her first big problem — eating part of a Frisbee — resulted in surgery. The $1,000 bill prompted Dimperio to look into pet insurance. More than two years after signing up for the $25 a month premiums, she says it paid off.

When Lola blew out a ligament in her leg chasing a ball, Dimperio was told the dog would need “extensive, intensive surgery.” The charge was $6,000. Dimperio of Madison, Wisconsin, ended up paying $1,000 out of pocket.

Some Medicare plans drop prices: time to shop is now

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A nurse holds up a vial of H1N1 flu vaccine prior to an inoculation at the Geisinger Medical Center in Danville, Pennsylvania October 28, 2009. If you’re a senior on Medicare – or if you help out aging parents with their money matters  – it’s time to get ready to shop. The annual enrollment period for Medicare prescription drug and Advantage managed care plans is about to begin, and it’s one of the best opportunities of the year for seniors to save money.

The new healthcare reform law is reshaping certain parts of the Medicare marketplace, for the most part in ways that benefit seniors. Although the law gradually reduced subsidies to Medicare Advantage — a change that critics derided as “slashing” Medicare– the Advantage and prescription drug markets are doing just fine. The number of plan offerings for 2012 are stable and average prices are steady or falling slightly.

2012 Medicare choices come early: How not to overpay

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Last year, Henry D’Aloisio needed to adjust his Medicare coverage to pay for doctor’s visits. He thought the changes would be simple, and that decades of administrative experience would have prepared him adequately for the paperwork and small print.

But it was much more time consuming and complex than he had been expecting — “the most daunting” task he’s faced in 50 years, he says.

Patient Protection reform could mean higher healthcare costs

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Of the endlessly debated provisions in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), the requirements for Medical Loss Ratios (MLRs) stand out for insurance companies because the requirements are designed to dictate how those companies pay their bills.

Until now, it’s been mostly unclear how those requirements will affect consumers. But a new study from the U.S. Government Accountability Office released last week sheds some light. And experts are weighing in.

Workers regret their health benefit choices: survey

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Within a few weeks, employees across the U.S. will start to see their healthcare benefit packages for 2012: They’ll find higher premium costs, more coverage restrictions and myriad choices on items like deductibles, flexible spending account contributions, vision and dental coverage and more. If this year is like others, almost half of those employees will make decisions they later regret.

That’s the findings of a new survey conducted by Harris Interactive and due to be released tomorrow as part of the Aflac WorkForces Report. Reuters received the findings early.

How parents of multiples tackle financial challenges

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Kevin O’Reilly spends his life dispensing financial planning advice. But he wasn’t exactly fiscally prepared when his wife Rebecca had triplets more than six years ago after spending close to $20,000 on fertility treatments. At the time she was earning a substantial salary as a project manager.

The plan was for his wife to return to work not too long after the delivery. That pretty much went out the window once they found out she was carrying triplets because of the extra care they required.

Shopping for health insurance? 5 tips on how to get it right

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When Ronna Wisbrod, a real estate broker and personal organizer, returned to the Chicago area last year, she needed to figure out new health insurance. Now 57, she knew she had to have insurance, but as she set up her own business, Organization by Ronna, she also wanted to keep costs down.

“I’m at a rebuilding stage and in the process of rebuilding my budget, [which] is very tight,” Wisbrod says.

For-profit or not: What to consider when choosing a nursing home

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As a state-appointed consumer advocate overseeing complaints about Florida’s long-term care industry, Brian Lee became curious about corporate ownership earlier this year. He sent nearly 700 letters to every nursing home in the state requesting information about which entities owned which facilities.

It wasn’t idle curiosity.

Numerous investigative reports over the past decade have found that for-profit nursing homes tend to under-perform when compared to non-profit facilities.

Self-employed? How to find disability insurance

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If you’re self-employed and work out of your home, it’s probably occurred to you that you ought to have long-term disability insurance. If you’ve mentioned this to your insurance agent, they’ve probably told you it’s a good idea and not a problem.

But, chances are when you looked into it, it has, indeed, been a problem.

Policies seem expensive and unlikely to replace the income you actually need — if you can get coverage at all.