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

How Losing Sleep Could Translate to a Loss of Money

Some teenagers seem to sleep a lot. As parents and grandparents, we can find this rather aggravating. But the fact is, as we get older, our sleep patterns may change, and our sleep can be less restful.1 Perhaps it’s a good idea to let young people sleep in peace while they still can.

Scientists say young adults require about nine hours of sleep a day, on average. If they get less than eight hours, they may have a harder time paying attention. Full-grown adults, on the other hand, need an average of seven and a half hours. Unfortunately, studies show about one-third of adults in Western societies get less than that on a regular basis.2

A recent study by the University of Zurich and the University Hospital Zurich found a correlation between chronic lack of sleep and increased risk-seeking behavior. Scientists trace the link to the brain’s right prefrontal cortex, which is directly connected with higher risk-seeking behavior. The researchers theorize that when a person persistently does not get enough sleep, this area of the brain does not recover properly, which prompts behavioral changes. Interestingly, the researchers found that study subjects did not notice they engaged in riskier behaviors and therefore were not cognizant of this relationship with sleep patterns.3

The study’s authors observed that sound sleep, of the appropriate duration, is critical for good decision making — especially for political and economic leaders whose daily decisions impact the larger society.4 This advice is also worth pursuing in our own lives. In other words, avoid making important decisions when you haven’t been sleeping well.

As financial professionals, we are here to help guide you. We’ll give your retirement income goals our full attention; just give us a call to set up an appointment to discuss how we can help you create a retirement income strategy through the use of insurance products.

Although we often hear that everyone needs a full eight hours of sleep each night, the actual amount varies by individual — usually between seven and nine hours.Just one night of insufficient sleep can make us cranky and too tired for healthy activities — like engaging in exercise or preparing a nutritious meal.6

Over time, sleep deprivation can increase the risk of developing a variety of chronic health problems, including obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease. It may make us more vulnerable to getting sick when exposed to a cold virus. Chronic lack of sleep also can make us more susceptible to experiencing depression and anxiety.7

Women are 40 percent more likely to suffer from insomnia or symptoms of insomnia compared to men, but the reasons for this are unclear. Some researchers hypothesize that women’s traditional role in society as caregivers could be a contributing factor. Furthermore, single parents who serve as both caregivers and financial providers are at higher risk of insomnia. Some scientists speculate the sleep circuitry for women could be different from men and, when combined with social roles as both worker and caregiver, this may result in a higher risk for sleep disorders.8

While the length and quality of sleep is a personal matter, it cumulatively has an impact on the economy. According to a study by RAND Europe, the United States loses approximately $411 billion a year due to workers who sleep less than six hours a night — which represents around 2.28 percent of U.S. gross domestic product. However, if those poor sleepers got one extra hour of sleep each night, the data suggests about $226.4 billion could be added back to the economy.9

Content prepared by Kara Stefan Communications.

National Sleep Foundation. “Aging and Sleep.” https://sleepfoundation.org/sleep-topics/aging-and-sleep. Accessed Dec. 29, 2017.

2 ScienceDaily. Aug. 28, 2017. “Chronic lack of sleep increases risk-seeking.” https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/08/170828102725.htm. Accessed Dec. 19, 2017.

3 Ibid.

4 Ibid.

5 William Kormos, M.D. Harvard Medical School. May 2016. “Ask the Doctor: The right amount of sleep.” https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/ask-the-doctor-right-amount-of-sleep. Accessed Dec. 19, 2017.

6 Julie Corliss. Harvard Medical School. July 2017. “The health hazards of insufficient sleep.” https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/the-health-hazards-of-insufficient-sleep. Accessed Dec. 19, 2017.

7 Ibid.

8 MedicalXpress. Dec. 18, 2017. “New guide aims to unmask unique challenges women face in getting healthy sleep.” https://medicalxpress.com/news/2017-12-aims-unmask-unique-women-healthy.html. Accessed Dec. 19, 2017.

9 Sandee LaMotte. CNN. Sept. 27, 2017. “Sacrificing sleep? Here’s what it will do to your health.” http://www.cnn.com/2017/07/19/health/dangers-of-sleep-deprivation/index.html. Accessed Dec. 19, 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.

Retirement: The New Status Symbol

A lack of savings among many U.S. households could mean a change in the perception of retirement. It used to be a foregone conclusion that once you were too old to work, you retired. That’s not always the case anymore.

More than a third of U.S. households in prime earning years or later have no retirement savings and no access to a traditional pension.1 It’s become increasingly uncommon for people to retire in their early 60s, and those who fail to plan ahead for their future retirement income needs could end up with a retirement lifestyle worse than the one they had while working.

This doesn’t mean these middle-aged households are broke. Retirement income planning may just not be a priority yet. No matter your age, it’s never too late to start building strategies so you can enjoy your post-working years, and as financial professionals, that’s what we’re here for.

It takes diligence and focus to create a retirement income plan. Dwight D. Eisenhower once said, “Plans are worthless, but planning is everything.”2 This reiterates the point that planning for retirement should be strategic and committed, while at the same time fluid and flexible. Nobody knows what will happen in the future, but we can help you create a retirement income strategy designed to help meet your specific goals.

It can be difficult in the moment, but turning your back on pricey, impulse purchases, such as an expensive car, an outdoor kitchen or backyard pool, can help improve the prospects of your retirement down the road. Many people with good credit can borrow money to purchase these things, but good credit doesn’t fund a long retirement.3

Some workers might argue it’s not worth giving up indulgences today for a better (and earlier) retirement lifestyle. It’s a matter of examining individual priorities. One grandmother did just that when her 8-year-old grandson asked if she would be around when he got married. She had to rethink her priorities for what it might take to accomplish that goal. This led to a stronger pursuit of healthier living, including wholesome food, daily exercise and supportive social connections.4

While it may sound daunting to put in the years of hard work it takes to reach retirement, in some ways long hours at the office is a status symbol of its own. In Italy, the leisure class is perceived to have a higher status than the working class. But in the United States, there’s a certain prestige associated with working long hours and constantly being busy.5

Some people work 70+ hour weeks, not to earn more money and buy more things, but because that is what the working elite do.6 While this may not be the way all people wish to align their priorities, it does offer the distinct advantage of being able to save more money for retirement. For some, retiring is the ultimate status symbol.

Content prepared by Kara Stefan Communications

1 Stan Choe. The Denver Post. Nov. 18, 2016. “Easy retirement for Americans? It’s only for a privileged few.” http://www.denverpost.com/2016/11/17/easy-retirement-privileged-few/. Accessed July 10, 2017.

2 Jonathan Look. NextAvenue. June 23, 2017. “What I Did to Stop ‘Awfulizing’ Retirement.” https://www.forbes.com/sites/nextavenue/2017/06/23/how-i-stopped-awfulizing-retirement/#1d5429451baf. Accessed July 10, 2017.

3 Holly Johnson. Club Thrifty. May 15, 2017. “My Plan to Achieve the Ultimate Status Symbol.” http://clubthrifty.com/my-plan-to-achieve-the-ultimate-status-symbol/. Accessed July 10, 2017.

4 Jane E. Brody. The New York Times. April 20, 2016. “Thriving at Age 70 and Beyond.” https://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2016/04/25/thriving-at-age-70-and-beyond/. Accessed July 10, 2017.

5 Lisa Tolin. NBC News. April 3, 2017. “The Busy Trap: How Keeping Busy Became a Status Symbol.” https://www.nbcnews.com/better/careers/busy-trap-how-keeping-busy-became-status-symbol-n742051. Accessed July 10, 2017.

6 Ben Tarnoff. The Guardian. April 24, 2017. “The new status symbol: it’s not what you spend — it’s how hard you work.” https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/apr/24/new-status-symbol-hard-work-spending-ceos. Accessed July 10, 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.

AE07175091B

Can Longevity Truly be Predicted?

Every morning, Emma Morano ate a raw egg and biscuits. When she died at age 117 in April of this year, she was the oldest person in the world. She lived in Verbania, a picturesque town situated on Lake Maggiore in northern Italy.1

Violet Brown, who was born in 1900 and lives in Jamaica, now holds the mantle as the world’s most senior senior.2 Like Morano, she resides in one of those beautiful locales that most of us only dream about. Could picturesque surroundings be a factor in longevity?

Surely happiness, time spent with good friends and family and a high quality of life can be factors. But no one really knows how long they’re going to live, which makes it particularly difficult to plan accurately for retirement income.

According to the Society of Actuaries, men who reach age 65 can expect to live to an average age of 86 and women to 88 — but those are just averages.2 In reality, some won’t make it to their predictive age and others will live longer. Which will you be?

As financial advisors, we understand the dilemma of planning for the unknown because it’s what we do every day. If we can help you develop a retirement plan, please contact us for a financial review.  We can help you stay focused on your long-term goals and work with you to design a specific plan using a variety of insurance and investment products that help you work toward your desired financial future.

One tool to estimate your lifespan is the Actuaries Longevity Illustrator. Based on a few simple questions regarding health and demographic characteristics, it offers a series of percentages predicting your chances of living to various ages.3

If that’s too broad in nature, you might enjoy completing a more detailed questionnaire at the Biological-Age calculator. Based on how healthy a lifestyle you lead, this calculator knocks years off your current age for an estimate of how well your body is holding up.4

The Living to 100 Life Expectancy Calculator (livingto100.com), which was developed by Dr. Thomas Perls, of the New England Centenarian Study, asks 40 questions about health and family history to help estimate how long you may live based on researched medical and scientific data.5

If you’re concerned about getting older, here’s a bit of good news: People tend to get happier as they age. In a poll earlier this year, people age 70 and older said their quality of life has improved as they’ve aged.6 This could reflect the sentiment many people feel who either never enjoyed working or are simply happy to stop.

Either way, it’s probably more uplifting to stop thinking about the limitations of getting older, and reflect more on the advantages we can enjoy that were denied us at younger ages.

Content prepared by Kara Stefan Communications

1 Sean Rossman. USA Today. April 15, 2017. “World’s oldest person, last known to be born in 1800s dies.” https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation-now/2017/04/15/worlds-oldest-person-last-known-born-1800s-dies/100501238/. Accessed April 18, 2017.

2 Mark Miller. The New York Times. Feb. 18, 2017. “How to Make Your Money Last as Long as You Do.” https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/18/your-money/retiring-longevity-planning-social-security.html?_r=0. Accessed April 18, 2017.

3 Society of Actuaries. 2017. “Actuaries Longevity Illustrator.” http://www.longevityillustrator.org/. Accessed April 18, 2017.

4 Biological Age. 2017. “Find Your Biological Age.” http://www.biological-age.com/#. Accessed April 18, 2017.

5 Dr. Thomas Perls. 2017. “Living to 100 Life Expectancy Calculator.” . Accessed April 18, 2017.

6 Matt Sedensky. The Detroit News. March 22, 2017. “Poll: As people move toward old age, optimism sets in.” http://www.detroitnews.com/story/life/wellness/2017/03/22/poll-old-age-optimism/99485000/. Accessed April 18, 2017.

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.

AE05175052C

The Psychological Impact of a Divisive Election

Before 2016, the American Psychological Association’s (APA) annual Stress in America surveys showed money, work and the economy were the biggest sources of stress in people’s lives.1 During the 2016 presidential campaign season, however, doctors began reporting patients were increasingly anxious due to issues candidates highlighted in speeches and interviews. 2

 The APA’s most recent survey discovered top stressors now include personal safety and the threat of terrorism. The survey also found more than half of Americans reported the presidential election itself was a significant source of stress.3

This is hardly welcome news, considering all the other things we have to be concerned about in life, such as health care, career and finances — and often, those three are intertwined. Many people choose their jobs based on benefits like health insurance, and salary and personal financial confidence are almost always correlated.

The link between health and finances can be challenging during retirement. If you’re having trouble figuring out how to plan for retirement income, including the possibility of increased health care expenses — just give us a call. Some insurance products, such as life insurance and annuities, provide various options you may want to consider. We would be happy to discuss your options based on your unique situation.

Last year’s election even put pressure on some relationships and marriages, particularly when one spouse supported Donald Trump and the other didn’t.4 These types of rifts also were evident on social media sites, with lifelong buddies “unfriending” each other on Facebook when learning the other’s political viewpoints.5 Interestingly, it turns out that getting annoyed and stressed about political posts on social media is a bipartisan issue, equally shared by both Democrats and Republicans.6

One way to stay up to date on current events without the associated political stress is to spend time with people who are disinterested about who lives in the White House. To help retirees figure out where those types of people reside, Bankrate.com conducted an analysis of the most appealing places to live in the U.S. if you’re tired of hearing about politics. The most politics-free states lie in the Great Plains region, ranging from Kansas (lowest cost of living among choices) to North Dakota (lowest per-capita contributions to political campaigns).7

Bankrate.com’s No. 1 pick for a politics-free retirement was Wyoming. In addition to boasting a high degree of overall well-being, the state carries only three electoral votes in presidential elections. That means residents are spared the usual campaign ad blitz that battleground states face.8

Content prepared by Kara Stefan Communications.

1 American Psychological Association. Feb. 15, 2017. “Stress in America 2017 Snapshot:

Coping with Change.” http://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/stress/2016/coping-with-change.pdf. Accessed April. 26, 2017.

2 Carey Goldberg. WBUR. Nov. 18, 2016. “Mass. Doctors Are Seeing the Effects of the Election in the Exam Room.” http://www.wbur.org/commonhealth/2016/11/18/mass-doctors-election-effects. Accessed May 17, 2017.

3 American Psychological Association. Feb. 15, 2017. “Stress in America 2017 Snapshot:

Coping with Change.” http://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/stress/2016/coping-with-change.pdf. Accessed April. 26, 2017.

4 Sridhar Pappu. New York Times. Aug. 13, 2016. “He Likes Trump. She Doesn’t. Can This Marriage Be Saved?” https://www.nytimes.com/2016/08/14/fashion/marriage-politics-donald-trump-hillary-clinton.html. Accessed April 26, 2017.

5 Matt Lindner. Chicago Tribune. Nov. 9, 2016. “Block. Mute. Unfriend. Tensions rise on Facebook After Election Results.” http://www.chicagotribune.com/lifestyles/ct-facebook-election-reaction-family-1109-20161109-story.html. Accessed April 26, 2017.

6 Maeve Duggan and Aaron Smith. Pew Research Center. Oct. 25, 2016. “The Political Environment on Social Media.” http://www.pewinternet.org/2016/10/25/the-political-environment-on-social-media/. Accessed April 26, 2017.

7 Jill Cornfield. March 20, 2017. “10 Best States to Retire in if You’re Sick of Politics.” http://www.bankrate.com/retirement/10-best-states-to-retire-in-if-youre-sick-of-politics/#slide=1. Accessed April 26, 2017.

8 Ibid.

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.

 AE05175059B