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.

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How to Help Avoid Struggling with Caregiver Burnout

Serving as a caregiver for a loved one can be a wonderful thing. It often allows ill or disabled individuals to remain in their own home, surrounded by familiar surroundings. However, it can often take a toll on the person providing care, and can sometimes lead to the caregiver feeling depleted or exhausted. This feeling is commonly known as caregiver burnout.1

The National Alliance for Caregiving reported an estimated 43.5 million adults provided care for a chronically ill, disabled or aged loved one in 2014. The organization also reported the average caregiver spends nearly 25 hours per week providing assistance, the equivalent of a part-time job.2

While being a caregiver can be rewarding, it can also be emotionally, physically and mentally taxing. Burnout tends to happen when the caregiver neglects his or her own needs — often without realizing it’s happening.

If you are providing care for an ill or disabled loved one, it’s important to recognize the symptoms of burnout in the early stages. The ALS Association reports some of these patterns as signs of burnout for caregivers:3

  • Irritability and impatience
  • Overreacting to small things or comments made by others
  • Problems sleeping
  • Abuse of food, tobacco, drugs or alcohol
  • Feelings of isolation, alienation or resentment
  • Increasing levels of stress

The time and money dedicated to helping someone else can also be a drain on the caregiver. While retirees in particular may feel they have the time available to take care of a friend in need, it’s important they consider how that kind of time commitment could affect their own energy levels and financial resources.

How do you avoid caregiver burnout? Here are five suggestions from the Caregiver Action Network:4

  1. Seek support. Providing care can be isolating. Reach out to family and friends, and tell them exactly what you need. Many of them want to help, but they aren’t sure how. Also explore online options. The AARP provides a list of resources for caregivers,5 including online communities where people can share experiences.
  2. Take breaks. Letting someone else provide care can be difficult, since others don’t do things quite the same way and it might be challenging for the person receiving care to adjust to someone new. Taking a break, however, is important for both mental and physical respite.
  3. Don’t neglect your own health. It might take some creativity, but find ways to work in activity, even if it’s taking a 15-minute walk. Pay attention to your own nutrition. Try not to let go of all the things that bolster your mental health; it can be easy to neglect your own hobbies and interests.
  4. Get the paperwork in order. Organize medical records, legal paperwork and other items so they’re easy to find. Introduce yourself to your loved one’s lawyer, accountant, financial professional and other service providers. Provide them with a copy of a power of attorney so you can have access to records if needed. If you have questions about how taking the time to care for someone else could affect you financially, don’t hesitate to reach out to your financial professional.
  5. Don’t be too hard on yourself. Caregiving is a tough job. Recognizing that you also have physical, mental and emotional needs will help you avoid burnout and continue to provide the best care to your loved one.

Content prepared by Amy Ragland.

 1 Senior Helpers. “Caregiver Burnout.” http://www.seniorhelpers.com/resources/family-caregiver-burnout.  Accessed May 21, 2017.

2 National Alliance for Caregiving in Collaboration with AARP. June 2015. Pages 6 and 33. “Caregiving in the U.S. 2015.” http://www.caregiving.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/2015_CaregivingintheUS_Final-Report-June-4_WEB.pdf. Accessed May 21, 2017.

3 ALS Association. “Symptoms of Caregiver Burnout.” http://www.alsa.org/als-care/caregivers/caregivers-month/symptoms-of-caregiver-burnout.html. Accessed May 21, 2017.

4 Caregiver Action Network. “10 Tips for Family Caregivers.” http://caregiveraction.org/resources/10-tips-family-caregivers. Accessed May 21, 2017.

5 AARP. “Resources Caregivers Should Know About.” http://www.aarp.org/home-family/caregiving/info-08-2012/important-resources-for-caregivers.html. Accessed May 21, 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.

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Preventing Elderly Financial Abuse

A recent study by the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College concluded that many retirees who do not suffer from any cognitive impairment can still manage their money through their 70s and 80s.1 The study reports that financial capacity relies on accumulated knowledge and that knowledge stays mostly intact as we age.

However, the study points out that it generally is not a good idea to start managing financial decisions in your late 70s and 80s if you haven’t had experience doing this before — such as after the death of a spouse who handled the finances.2 We work closely with our clients to help them develop financial strategies designed to last a lifetime, with the goal of reducing the need to make dramatic financial changes later in life. However, we are here to address any questions or concerns of our clients no matter what stage of their financial planning. Please give us a call; we’re here to help.

Having a plan for late-stage financial management is important due to the increase in elderly financial fraud. With more than 45 million seniors in America, this is a large and tempting market for scammers. One study estimated that about 5 million older Americans are financially exploited each year. In New York state alone, allegations of elderly financial abuse spiked by more than 35 percent between 2010 and 2014.3

In response to this growing problem, several government regulatory agencies have stepped up efforts to help prevent and address elder financial abuse, including the following:

  • The SEC requires brokers to make “reasonable efforts” to identify a “trusted contact” for investment accounts and allows them to prevent the disbursement of funds from the account and notify the trusted contact if the broker suspects abuse.4
  • The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, or FINRA, set up a senior help line at 844-57-HELPS (844-574-3577)5
  • In 2016, four state legislatures approved a rule requiring advisors to notify adult protective services and state regulators if they detect abuse; 10 more states are expected to adopt similar rules this year, and three other states already had such rules in place.6

According to the National Committee for the Prevention of Elder Abuse, some of the most common ways the elderly are taken advantage of financially are: forging their signature; getting them to sign a deed, will or power of attorney through deception, coercion or undue influence; using their property or possessions without permission; and telemarketing scams. Some of the most likely perpetrators of elder financial abuse are: family members; predatory people who seek out vulnerable seniors; and unscrupulous business professionals.7 If you believe you are a victim of fraud, contact your local law enforcement, state agency on aging and/or a community senior services group.

Content prepared by Kara Stefan Communications.

1 Anek Belbase and Geoffrey T. Sanzenbacher. Center for Retirement Research at Boston College. January 2017. “Cognitive Aging and the Capacity to Manage Money.” http://crr.bc.edu/briefs/cognitive-aging-and-the-capacity-to-manage-money/. Accessed June 22, 2017.

2 Ibid.

3 Christine Idzelis. Investment News. April 23, 2017. “Advisers on front lines in battle against financial abuse of the elderly.”  http://www.investmentnews.com/article/20170403/FEATURE/170339977. Accessed June 22, 2017.

4 Mark Schoeff Jr. Investment News. April 3, 2017. “Advisers taking steps to protect elderly.” http://www.investmentnews.com/article/20170403/FREE/170339979?utm_campaign=socialflow&utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=social. Accessed June 22, 2017.

5 FINRA. “FINRA Securities Helpline for Seniors.” http://www.finra.org/investors/highlights/finra-securities-helpline-seniors. Accessed June 22, 2017.

6 Mark Schoeff Jr. Investment News. April 3, 2017. “Advisers taking steps to protect elderly.” http://www.investmentnews.com/article/20170403/FREE/170339979?utm_campaign=socialflow&utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=social. Accessed June 22, 2017.

7 National Committee for the Prevention of Elder Abuse. “Financial Abuse.” http://www.preventelderabuse.org/elderabuse/fin_abuse.html. Accessed June 22, 2017.

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.

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Expenses That Come With Caring

We spend our lives caring for others — at least if we’re lucky. One of the greatest treasures in life is having people, causes and pets to care for. Unfortunately, caring for others can have its challenges, including additional stress and financial burdens.

Sometimes we get so caught up in making money that we don’t pay attention to how much we spend. Some of the money we spend may not really register because we use it to take care of others’ needs; what we may deem to be a necessary expense certainly doesn’t feel like discretionary spending.

But spending is spending, and we all need to take a careful look at how much of our money we use on caring for others, or “care management.” These expenses could include the money we spend raising our children, or helping them out when they’re older and nearly independent, but still need extra cash now and then.

We also should consider the amount of money we spend on elder care, whether for ourselves or loved ones. One recent study found that it costs families more to care for a frail older adult than to raise a child in the first 17 years of life.1 Many families are taking care of seniors diagnosed with Alzheimer’s at home for as long as possible, given the increasing price tag of providing full-time care.2  Some insurance products, such as life insurance and annuities, provide various options you may want to considerto help cover the potential costs of some of these care needs. If you’d like to find out more, please give us a call toll-free at 1-888-272-1099. We’d be happy to discuss options based on your unique situation.

Charitable donations are also a care management item, and going forward, there may be a greater call for private donations if the government cuts the budget in areas like the cultural arts. There is also concern that reduced funding on the environment could have long-ranging impacts on care issues. For example, scientists note climate change can impact the spread of infectious diseases carried by animals and insects, such as Rocky Mountain spotted fever, West Nile virus, Lyme disease, Zika and dengue. Further, compromised water systems can lead to waterborne infections like cholera and other gastrointestinal conditions.3

To end on a brighter note, here’s a heartwarming story related to caring and making someone’s day. Students of White Bear Lake Area High School in Minnesota have an annual tradition of staging a runway march through a local senior center in their fancy dress on the way to prom night.4 Just imagine the post-march chats among seniors about their high school days! It’s an engaging idea that demonstrates it doesn’t take a lot of money to stage a caring moment between generations.

Content prepared by Kara Stefan Communications.

1 Howard Gleckman. Forbes. Jan. 18, 2017. “Families Spend More to Care for Their Aging Parents Than To Raise Their Kids.” https://www.forbes.com/sites/howardgleckman/2017/01/18/families-spend-more-to-care-for-their-aging-parents-than-to-raise-their-kids/#924f7e6f4a50. Accessed May 12, 2017.

2 Bruce Jaspen. Forbes. March 7, 2017. “Alzheimer’s Staggering $259B Cost Could Break Medicare.” https://www.forbes.com/sites/brucejapsen/2017/03/07/u-s-cost-of-alzheimers-eclipses-250-billion/#294c3f5471e5. Accessed May 12, 2017.

3 Peter Grinspoon. Harvard Medical School. March 29, 2017. “Our planet, ourselves: Climate change and health.” http://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/planet-climate-change-health-2017032911481. Accessed May 12, 2017.
4 White Bear Press. May 10, 2017. “Students take a prom march through Cerenity Senior Care Center.” http://www.presspubs.com/white_bear/article_67400d02-35a8-11e7-b749-731700102e0f.html. Accessed May 12, 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.

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