Medicare News

Earlier this year, Congress passed a last-minute budget deal that included provisions affecting Medicare benefits. Specifically, one provision will permit certain therapies to continue beyond the previous caps, subject to conditions. All therapy (physical, speech and occupational) must continue to be classified as “reasonable and necessary to treat the individual’s illness or injury.” 1

There had been ambiguity in the past as to whether Medicare would continue paying for sessions without measurable improvement. Now, however, therapy sessions may continue per the provider’s recommendation. Retroactive for this year, once therapy billing has reached $2,010 (about 20 sessions at $100 per visit), a provider must add an extra billing code to ensure payment. However, if total expenses subsequently pass a $3,000 threshold, they may be subject to medical reviews and audits.2

The federal budget agreement also accelerated the share-cost reduction during the so-called “doughnut hole” period in Medicare drug plans. Starting one year earlier — in 2019 — Medicare beneficiaries will pay 25 percent (instead of 35 percent) of drug expenses once they reach the stated annual limit (currently $3,750 in 2018).3

Medicare rules are always changing. It’s a lot like trying to make retirement planning decisions throughout your career — the bar is a moving target. One potential solution is to over-plan and overfund your share of expected health care expenses in retirement. If you’re looking for ways to help plan for possible increased health care expenses in the future, contact us.  We’d be happy to discuss your options based on your unique situation.

In April, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) issued a final ruling with updates for Medicare Advantage (MA) plans to provide more choices. Specifically, the rule expands the definition of “primarily health-related” benefits to cover products and services not considered direct medical treatments. Examples include air conditioners for people with asthma, healthy groceries, rides to medical appointments and home-delivered meals. Paid benefits also may include home modifications for mobility and balance, such as installing a wheelchair ramp or bathroom grab bars. Plans may offer benefits to help pay home aides who help with dressing, eating and other personal, daily-living care. MA plans must submit their bids for CMS approval by June 4 to begin offering these benefits in 2019.4

The new CMS rule also includes initiatives to address the national prescription opioid epidemic. Specifically, Medicare Part D plans now limit new opioid prescriptions for acute pain management to no more than a seven-day supply. The Overutilization Monitoring System (OMS) is expanding, increasing pharmacist accountability for patients already taking opioids.5

The CMS rule is part of a hardline approach to combating the opioid crisis. The White House has established a Safer Prescribing Plan initiative with specific goals that include cutting nationwide opioid prescription fills by one-third within three years.6

Content created by Kara Stefan Communications.

1 Judith Graham. Kaiser Health News. March 29, 2018. “Scrutinizing Medicare Coverage For Physical, Occupational And Speech Therapy.” https://khn.org/news/scrutinizing-medicare-coverage-for-physical-occupational-and-speech-therapy/. Accessed May 4, 2018.

Ibid.

3 Susan Jaffe. Kaiser Health News. March 14, 2018. “Lifting Therapy Caps Is A Load Off Medicare Patients’ Shoulders.” https://khn.org/news/lifting-therapy-caps-proves-a-load-off-medicare-patients-shoulders/. Accessed May 4, 2018.

4 Bruce Japsen. Forbes. April 5, 2018. “How Trump’s New Medicare Rules Boost Amazon And Walmart.” https://www.forbes.com/sites/brucejapsen/2018/04/05/how-trumps-new-medicare-rules-boost-amazon-and-walmart/#600a42d6786c. Accessed May 4, 2018.

CMS. Fact Sheets. April 2, 2018. “2019 Medicare Advantage and Part D Rate Announcement and Call Letter.” https://www.cms.gov/Newsroom/MediaReleaseDatabase/Fact-sheets/2018-Fact-sheets-items/2018-04-02-2.html. Accessed May 4, 2018.

6 The White House. Fact Sheets. March 19, 2018. “President Donald J. Trump’s Initiative to Stop Opioid Abuse and Reduce Drug Supply and Demand.” https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefings-statements/president-donald-j-trumps-initiative-stop-opioid-abuse-reduce-drug-supply-demand/. Accessed May 4, 2018.

We are able to provide you with information but not guidance or advice related to Medicare. Our firm is not affiliated with the U.S. government or any governmental agency.

We are an independent firm helping individuals create retirement strategies using a variety of insurance products to custom suit their needs and objectives. This material is intended to provide general information to help you understand basic retirement income strategies and should not be construed as financial advice.

The information contained in this material is believed to be reliable, but accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed; it is not intended to be used as the sole basis for financial decisions. If you are unable to access any of the news articles and sources through the links provided in this text, please contact us to request a copy of the desired reference.

Music Plays Instrumental Role in Healing Ailments

Hearing a familiar song from a happy period in your life, such as childhood, can instantly make you feel joyful. It’s as if you’re right back there — toe tapping, head bopping and singing along. Just as with our sight, smell and taste senses, positive auditory memories can enhance mood and transport us back to a happier time.

The power of music has led researchers to study various applications of music therapy to help people overcome the pain of health conditions, emotional challenges and even the cognitive decline that often accompanies old age.1

It’s not enough to believe we will all grow old gracefully. This usually doesn’t happen without planning. A big part of planning for retirement isn’t just how to provide enough income for the rest of our life, but how to help ensure we still enjoy a high quality of life no matter our age.

As an independent financial services firm, we help people create retirement strategies using a variety of insurance products to custom suit their needs and objectives; just give us a call. As for creating a plan to help enhance quality of life, consider some of these music therapy applications.

Music therapy is now a board-certified health profession. With approximately 7,500 practitioners throughout the country, the practice has become prevalent in nursing homes and hospices. The American Music Therapy Association reports about 10 percent of musical therapists work with terminally ill patients in a new discipline called end-of-life music therapy.2

 A growing body of research indicates music therapy can help improve cognitive function in patients with Alzheimer’s disease.3 It also can be used to aid in stress and pain management, memory enhancement, communication and physical rehabilitation.4

Further, the discipline has been found to help people with psychiatric problems, such as depression, trauma and schizophrenia. Music can help calm patients as well as help them process emotions, trauma and grief.5

Interestingly, the military has used forms of music therapy since the post-World War I era. Trained musical therapists use it as a tool to help wounded, injured or ill soldiers express their thoughts nonverbally. Research also shows music can be effective at increasing neuroplasticity in the brain, which is an important role in helping veterans address symptoms of PTSD and traumatic brain injuries.6

 Content prepared by Kara Stefan Communications.

1 Sharon Otterman. The New York Times. Jan. 15, 2018. “Music Therapy Offers an End-of-Life Grace Note.” https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/15/nyregion/music-therapy-nursing-home-hospice.html. Accessed April 13, 2018.

2 Ibid.

3 Sherry Christiansen. Alzheimer’s Universe. July 24, 2017. “Quick Alzheimer’s Prevention Pearl: Studies Show Music Improves Cognition in People with Alzheimer’s Disease.” https://www.alzu.org/blog/2017/07/24/how-music-helps-with-alzheimers-prevention/. Accessed April 18, 2018.

4 American Music Therapy Association. 2018. “What is Music Therapy?” https://www.musictherapy.org. Accessed April 13, 2018.

5 Molly Warren. National Alliance on Mental Illness. Dec. 19, 2016. “The Impact of Music Therapy on Mental Health.” https://www.nami.org/Blogs/NAMI-Blog/December-2016/The-Impact-of-Music-Therapy-on-Mental-Health. Accessed April 18, 2018.

6 Frank Otto. Drexel University News Blog. March 20, 2018. “3 Things to Keep in Mind About Music Therapy in the Military.” https://newsblog.drexel.edu/2018/03/20/3-things-to-keep-in-mind-about-music-therapy-in-the-military/. Accessed April 13, 2018.

This material is intended to provide general information to help you understand basic retirement income strategies and should not be construed as financial advice.

The information contained in this material is believed to be reliable, but accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed; it is not intended to be used as the sole basis for financial decisions. If you are unable to access any of the news articles and sources through the links provided in this text, please contact us to request a copy of the desired reference.

AE04185043B

The Longevity Revolution

How old do you have to be before you’re considered “old”? This number may change depending on the age of the person making the assessment. For example, a child or a teenager might think someone age 40 is old. That view is less likely to be held by a 39-year-old.

History indicates you have to reach a lot more birthdays these days to be considered old. One way to judge this is to look at pictures of your parents, aunts, uncles and grandparents when they were your age. Apart from the improved clarity of photographs in the modern era, many of us have fewer wrinkles and an overall healthier appearance than our ancestors.1

The data backs this up. A study by a Stanford University economics professor found that back in the 1920s, males were considered old if they were age 55 and up, whereas today that’s considered “middle age.”2

Of course, how we feel can change from day to day. Some days we might feel like a teenager, while other days we feel older than our years. We don’t want our clients to have similar feelings of uncertainty when planning for retirement. First of all, we like to help our clients work toward a well-prepared financial future. Second, it’s important to  consider that no matter how old you are, you’re likely to live longer than your parents and thus should plan for that eventuality. That’s why we work with our clients to create retirement income strategies for a retirement income that lasts as long as they do.

From a societal perspective, some of the reasons we’ve experienced a longevity revolution include universal access to clean water, sanitation, waste removal, electricity and refrigeration, as well as vaccinations and continued improvements in health care.3 At the individual level, people have their own take on why they’re living longer. One woman from Maine, 100-year-old Florence Bearse, claims the secret to her longevity is drinking wine. That, and people shouldn’t “take any baloney” if they want to live to old age.4

Another centenarian, Manhattan jazz saxophonist Fred Staton, is still playing professionally at age 102, which gives credence to the notion that creativity and passion lend themselves to a longer life.5 While a healthy lifestyle might be a strong indicator of longevity, it is by no means a definitive measure. Staton admits to smoking up until age 60, and rocker Mick Jagger — not exactly the poster child for a clean-living lifestyle — is still performing at Rolling Stones concerts at age 73.6

As for saving enough money to live comfortably throughout a long retirement, global analysts have noticed an interesting trend in spending among retirees. In wealthier countries, retirees appear to be aware of the potential for outliving their income, with many saving more than necessary.7

Content prepared by Kara Stefan Communications.

1 Steve Vernon. CBS News. June 29, 2017. “What age is considered ‘old’ nowadays?” http://www.cbsnews.com/news/what-age-is-considered-old-nowadays/. Accessed July 8, 2017.

2 Ibid.

3 Ibid.

4 Time. July 7, 2017. “Secret to 100-Year-Old Woman’s Longevity Likely Wine.” http://time.com/4849191/100-year-old-old-age-secret-wine/. Accessed July 8, 2017.

5 Corey Kilgannon. New York Times. June 29, 2017. “At 102, a ‘Triple-Digit’ Jazzman Plays On.” https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/29/nyregion/fred-staton-jazz-saxophonist-plays-on.html. Accessed July 8, 2017.

6 The Economist. July 6, 2017. “Getting to grips with longevity.” https://www.economist.com/news/special-report/21724745-ageing-populations-could-be-boon-rather-curse-happen-lot?fsrc=scn/tw/te/bl/ed/gettingtogripswithlongevity. Accessed July 8, 2017.

7 The Economist. July 6, 2017. “Financing longevity.” https://www.economist.com/news/special-report/21724751-lives-get-longer-financial-models-will-have-change-financing-longevity. Accessed July 8, 2017.

We are an independent firm helping individuals create retirement strategies using a variety of insurance products to custom suit their needs and objectives. This material is intended to provide general information to help you understand basic retirement income strategies and should not be construed as financial advice.

The information contained in this material is believed to be reliable, but accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed; it is not intended to be used as the sole basis for financial decisions. If you are unable to access any of the news articles and sources through the links provided in this text, please contact us to request a copy of the desired reference.

AE07175090B

Divorce During Retirement

A funny thing happens when you get busy with trying to achieve all the things you want out of life: You lose a few along the way. Unfortunately, some people lose their marriage.1 However, for those who are truly unhappy and can’t see a way back to blissful partnership, a “gray divorce” isn’t necessarily all negative. Even in retirement, leaving a spouse can open up new avenues to be explored, the chance to pursue activities perhaps not supported before and new opportunities to reinvent yourself.

With that said, you also must deal with a myriad of details when it comes to dividing assets to help ensure each ex-spouse has enough income to live comfortably during retirement. Just as it takes a village to raise children, it can take a team of experienced and qualified professionals to help you do this, from attorneys to financial advisors to tax planners and perhaps even a therapist. The goal is to emerge confident about your financial future, and we’re here to help both spouses on this journey should you need it.

When it comes to Social Security, there are certain rules that apply to benefits for a divorced spouse based on the ex’s earning history. For example, the marriage must have lasted for at least 10 years, the couple must be divorced for at least two years and the claiming ex must be currently unmarried – if the claimer gets remarried, the ex’s spousal benefits will stop. Furthermore, the ex-spouses must both be at least age 62 to begin drawing spousal benefits, and the spouse/divorcee must be full retirement age to be eligible for the full spousal benefit.2

Another important component to address is life insurance. If there are alimony payments involved, life insurance can help cover the loss of that income should the payer die first. Depending on their circumstances, divorcing couples may want to update their named beneficiaries on their respective policies. If a policy has a cash value, that money belongs to the owner. While the policy is active, the owner may forgo the death benefit and instead take the cash value, a process known as cashing out your life insurance policy.3

Research has found that divorce may be a reason why many people are working long past traditional retirement age.4 Because of this, it’s important to set aside animosity and work on an equitable agreement for both spouses’ retirement. Divorcing spouses should be cognizant that if one ends up struggling financially, their adult children may have to pick up the slack.5

 Content prepared by Kara Stefan Communications

1 Linda Melone. Next Avenue. July 11, 2016. “Why Couples Divorce After Decades of Marriage.” http://www.nextavenue.org/slideshow/why-couples-divorce-after-decades-of-marriage/. Accessed June 6, 2017.

2 Social Security Administration. “Retirement Planner: If You Are Divorced.” https://www.ssa.gov/planners/retire/divspouse.html. Accessed June 6, 2017.

3 Greg DePersio. Investopedia. Nov. 25, 2015. “How Life Insurance Works in a Divorce.” http://www.investopedia.com/articles/personal-finance/112515/how-life-insurance-works-divorce.asp. Accessed June 6, 2017.

4 Ben Steverman. Bloomberg. Oct. 17, 2016. “Divorce Is Destroying Retirement.” https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-10-17/divorce-is-destroying-retirement. Accessed June 6, 2017.

5 Charlotte Cowles. The Cut. May 12, 2017. “My Mom Is Broke. How Can I Help Her?” https://www.thecut.com/2017/05/my-mom-is-bad-with-money-how-do-i-help-her.html. Accessed June 6, 2017.

Our firm is not affiliated with or endorsed by the Social Security Administration or any governmental agency and does not provide tax or legal advice.

Life insurance policies are contracts between you and an insurance company. Life insurance product guarantees rely on the financial strength and claims-paying ability of the issuing insurer.

We are an independent firm helping individuals create retirement strategies using a variety of insurance and investment products to custom suit their needs and objectives. This material is intended to provide general information to help you understand basic financial planning strategies and should not be construed as financial advice. All investments are subject to risk including the potential loss of principal. No investment strategy can guarantee a profit or protect against loss in periods of declining values. 

The information contained in this material is believed to be reliable, but accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed; it is not intended to be used as the sole basis for financial decisions. If you are unable to access any of the news articles and sources through the links provided in this text, please contact us to request a copy of the desired reference.

AE06175073C

Checking Up on Health Care Expenses

If there’s one thing every adult demographic in America values, it’s maintaining good health.

People with medical conditions may be interested in topics like new medical technology, pharmacology or national changes to health care insurance. Meanwhile, those without serious medical issues want to know how they can stay that way, through nutrition, exercise, weight loss and preventive screenings. It’s a national conversation, and not one that’s likely to diminish any time soon.

The 6.5 percent growth rate in medical expenses has plateaued recently, according to business consulting firm PwC, but the company’s researchers see signs the rate will increase again in the near future.1

This isn’t just a reflection of the cost of health care insurance, but also the prices charged by facilities, physicians and specialists for the drugs and therapies necessary to treat medical conditions. Escalating health care usage and prices contribute to the increase of insurance premiums, deductibles, copays and coinsurance.2

Whether you’re working or retired, the issues of finances and health care are inextricably interwoven. You can’t really think or plan about one without considering the other. This is true whether you’re covered under employer-sponsored insurance, a plan from the individual market or a government-sponsored plan. As financial professionals, we work with clients in each of these situations to help ensure their retirement income plan takes into consideration current and potential medical expenses in the future. If you need help assessing your retirement income needs, please contact us for help.

Ultimately, the message the health care industry is promoting is that people need to take better care of themselves. They need to research and understand their health care options, and also work on improving their overall health now to prevent problems — and related expenses — in the future.

When it comes to individuals taking responsibility for their own health, there’s no need to wait for the government to step in and pass legislation. There’s plenty of knowledge available at our fingertips to help maintain health, from advice on healthy eating away from home3 to using diet to manage indigestion problems like acid reflux.4

For older Americans, taking on new fitness activities may be worrisome since they can increase the likelihood of injury. On the other hand, when done correctly, moderately and consistently, exercise can also help decrease the likelihood of injury.

Plus, it may be easier than you think to catch up on today’s fitness trends. Many are simply rejuvenated from the workouts of yesteryear.5 Like today’s trendy Pilates exercises, which were quite popular in the 1950s and 60s,6 one thing that will never go out of style is taking strides to maintain health.

Content prepared by Kara Stefan Communications

 1 PwC. 2017. “Medical Cost Trend.” https://www.pwc.com/us/en/health-industries/health-research-institute/behind-the-numbers.html. Accessed May 5, 2017.

2 NBC News. Nov. 4, 2016. “Why Health Care Eats More Of Your Paycheck Every Year.” http://www.nbcnews.com/health/health-news/why-health-care-eats-more-your-paycheck-every-year-n678051. Accessed May 5, 2017.

3 Harvard Medical School. 2017. “Tips for healthy eating away from home.” http://www.health.harvard.edu/diseases-and-conditions/tips-for-healthy-eating-away-from-home. Accessed May 5, 2017.

4 Jane E. Brody. The New York Times. Mar. 20, 2017. “Pop a Pill for Heartburn? Try Diet and Exercise Instead.” https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/20/well/pop-a-pill-for-heartburn-try-diet-and-exercise-instead.html?_r=0. Accessed May 5, 2017.

5 Jessica Smith. Shape.com. 2017. “Then & Now: 7 Retro Workouts That Still Get Results.” http://www.shape.com/fitness/workouts/then-now-7-retro-workouts-still-get-results. Accessed May 5, 2017.

6 Balanced Bodies. 2017. “Pilates Origins.” http://www.pilates.com/BBAPP/V/pilates/origins-of-pilates.html. Accessed May 5, 2017.

We are an independent firm helping individuals create retirement strategies using a variety of insurance products to custom suit their needs and objectives. This material is intended to provide general information to help you understand basic retirement income strategies and should not be construed as financial advice.

The information contained in this material is believed to be reliable, but accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed; it is not intended to be used as the sole basis for financial decisions. If you are unable to access any of the news articles and sources through the links provided in this text, please contact us to request a copy of the desired reference.

AE05175065B