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What to Know When Choosing a Medicare Plan

Category: Health and Wellness Issues

October 20, 2021 – As we pointed out last week we are now in the Medicare Open Enrollment Period, which ends December 7. This is the time to re-evaluate your plan and change it if your circumstances have evolved, or you are unhappy with the plan you have. To help out with that process, we going to give a brief summary of some key points from an excellent article that came out last week in the Wall Street Journal, “8 Things to Know When Choosing a Medicare Plan“.

Neal Templin wrote this helpful article and we recommend reading it for more detail (we hope the link above will allow you to access it without being a subscriber). Templin says that when it comes to Medicare you have three choices: Regular Medicare (Parts A, B, and D), Medicare plus a private supplemental plan (some people call it Medigap or traditional Medicare), and Medicare Advantage (Part C). The decision for which one to pick is complicated and depends on your own personal situation.

Supplemental (Medigap) plans are generally better for affluent and older people. You will pay higher monthly premiums, but you usually don’t have to worry about going out of network or running up against spending caps. As you age, chances are you are going to have serious health issues, so a supplemental plan is probably better.

Medicare Advantage plans might be better for healthy people. If you are healthy and don’t anticipate many medical expenses, Medicare Advantage might be the best option. In many cases you can get a zero premium plan instead of one that might cost $200 or even much more per month, and get many extra coverages like Part D (prescription drugs) or vision care as well. Not paying a premium can make up for a lot of deductibles. Recently Medicare Advantage plans began to outsell supplemental plans for these reasons.

Going with traditional Medicare alone (Part A and B) is risky. Part A covers hospital expenses and Part B the doctor’s part. But if you are in an accident or have serious health issues you could have a big financial exposure, particularly if you end up in a hospital or long term nursing facility for more than 20 days. You also need Part D to cover your prescription drug cost exposure.

Switching from Medicare Advantage to supplemental can be tricky. In some states insurers have the right to question you or deny coverage. So thinking you will start out with Medicare Advantage and switching to a supplemental plan down the road might not be an option.

Medicare Advantage plans differ. Some are HMO plans, where you must stay in network. PPO plans, which can have higher premiums of up to $10,000 per year, give more flexibility about who you choose for your health provider.

People who travel or snowbird might be better off with a supplemental plan. That is because you could find yourself having to use an out of network provider and not be covered.

Bottom line

Choosing which type of plan is tricky, complicated, and can change over time. So use this Open Enrollment Period to re-evaluate what you have. Talking to a qualified insurance professional is a great idea. It won’t cost you anything, and they have loads of experience to help you make the smart choice for you.

For further reading:

Comments: What type of plan do you have? Are you thinking about switching? Please share your thoughts in the Comments section below.

Posted by Admin on October 19th, 2021

I’m Thinking About Retiring in: New Hampshire, Vermont, or Maine

Category: Best Retirement Towns and States

October 18, 2021 – Editors Note: This is part of our series comparing various states as places to retire, such as “Dueling Carolinas: NC vs. SC for Retirement“. There is a list of all of “Dueling” comparisons at the end of this article. We welcome ideas for future ones.

Not everybody heads to the Sunbelt once they hit retirement age. Many people don’t mind cold weather, and they love the idea of being in a state with mountains and a beautiful natural environment. Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont are extremely popular choices that fit that bill; each state has many admirers. Many snowbirds live in these northern New England states and get the best of both worlds by heading south in the winter (and a few people do the reverse).

This article will first compare some basic facts about retirement in each state. In Part 2 you will see the actual (slightly edited for space) words of Topretirements Members who have lived or retired in each state, so you see what they are like straight from the horse’s mouth. Concerning those comments, we got a big surprise using a new tool that allowed us to see which states were mentioned the most. We assumed the most popular state in the comments would be New Hampshire, which has a reputation for being tax-friendly. To our surprise, Maine, with 287 mentions, was overwhelmingly the most discussed. Vermont had 69, and New Hampshire came in last with 56. When we looked at readership of other Topretirements pages by state, Maine came out on top there too – a lot of people are intrigued by it. So much our popularity predictions!

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Posted by Admin on October 17th, 2021

Record Social Security COLA Coming

Category: Financial and taxes in retirement

October 13, 2021 — Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) beneficiaries will receive a record 5.9 percent Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) for 2022. It is the largest COLA since 1982. The increase is based on the Consumer Price Index (CPI-W) from the third quarter of 2020 through the third quarter of 2021. It translates to a $92 monthly increases for the average Social Security recipient, which will be welcome news to people seeing consumer prices rising all around them because of the pandemic and worldwide shortages. According to the SSA, 37% of men and 42% of women get at least half their income from Social Security.

The maximum taxable earnings (OASI) for 2022 will increase from $142,800 to $147,000 in 2022. The retirement earnings exemption limit increases by $600 to $19,560 ($1 withheld for every $2 dollar over that until Full Retirement Age). In the year someone reaches Full Retirement Age the exemption limit increases by $1,440 to $51,960 ($1 deducted for every $3 over the limit). Here is a link to the Social Security Fact Sheet.

Comments? Do you think the COLA will be enough to offset what you are seeing happen to your budget? Please share your thoughts in the Comments section below.

For further reading:
Overlooking Spousal Benefit Could Leave Him Clipping Coupons

Posted by Admin on October 13th, 2021

Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period Starts

Category: Health and Wellness Issues

October 13, 2021 – The Open Enrollment Period for Medicare starts this week on October 15 and ends December. 7. It is an important event for eligible people not currently enrolled in the plan, or who want to change plans or some component of their current plan.

During Open Enrollment, eligible people can sign up for Medicare. They can compare coverage options like Original Medicare and Medicare Advantage, and choose health and prescription drug plans for 2021. Medicare Advantage plans have started to outsell original Medicare policies because of their increased coverages and low (even zero) premiums. If you are thinking about switching to a Medicare Advantage plan (or type of plan within Medicare Advantage), this is the time to do it. See Original Medicare Vs. Medicare Advantage – Which Is Better for You?

Medicare Plan Finder. Medicare health and drug plan costs and covered benefits can change from year-to-year. CMS urges Medicare beneficiaries to review their coverage choices and decide on the options that best meet their health needs. CMS’s Medicare Plan Finder makes it easier for beneficiaries to:

  • Compare pricing between Original Medicare, Medicare prescription drug plans, Medicare Advantage plans, and Medicare Supplement Insurance (Medigap) policies;
  • Compare coverage options on their smartphones and tablets;
  • Compare up to three drug plans or three Medicare Advantage plans side-by-side;
  • Get plan costs and benefits, including which Medicare Advantage plans offer extra benefits;
  • Build a personal drug list and find Medicare Part D prescription drug coverage that best meets their needs.
  • Free, personalized counseling on Medicare options is also available through the nonprofit State Health Insurance Assistance Program, or calling 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227). TTY users can call 1-877-486-2048.

Highlights for 2021 Open Enrollment include:

  •  The average premium for Medicare Advantage plans will be lower in 2022 at $19 per month, compared to $21.22 in 2021, while projected enrollment continues to increase. The average 2022 premium for Part D coverage will be $33 per month, compared to $31.47 in 2021.
  • Part B Medicare premiums for 2022 have not been released yet, but some experts predict an estimated 6.2% premium increase, with monthly costs jumping from $148.50 to $157.70.

Note: Most of the above information is from the Medicare.gov website. For more about see Medicare Open Enrollment.

For further reading:

What Is Your Medicare IQ

What You Need to Know About Medigap Insurance

Original Medicare Vs. Medicare Advantage – Which Is Better for You?

Comments? Do you ever change your Medicare plan, or do you tend to stick with the same one over and over? Please share your experience in the Comments section below.

Posted by Admin on October 12th, 2021

Finding the Best State for Retirement Is Personal

Category: Best Retirement Towns and States

October 11, 2021 — Moving to a new state when you retire is not a decision to be made lightly. Only a tiny percentage of retirees make a move that significant, but when they do they usually do it for important reasons.  Often they trade in a valuable home in a high-priced market for a less expensive but nicer one in the Sunbelt somewhere, getting warmer winters and a friendlier tax environment in the bargain. They might move to a more age-appropriate home in a state where they can live the lifestyle they dreamed about. Or they might change states to be near family or friends.

If you choose to move or not, this is a very personal decision. Consulting lists of the “best states for retirement” might give you some ideas, but ultimately you need to choose based on the lifestyle, cost of living, taxes, politics, and culture, that will lead you to a happy retirement.

The most popular states for retirement

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Posted by Admin on October 11th, 2021

Most Snowbirds Are Renters, Travel by Car

Category: Retirement Planning

October 6, 2021 — The results of last week’s survey on snowbirds are in. Many thanks to the community spirited folks that filled it out! While we can all speculate about snowbird behavior, it is satisfying and interesting to find out what people like you do in the real world. The results are roughly consistent with our 2018 survey on this topic, which had a much larger response rate. You can compare those results as well as find a link to Part 2 of that report, which lists ideal snowbird pairings and many comments from people who snowbird, here.

Overall

Most of the people who completed it are snowbirds, which reflects a natural interest in the topic. The results show a great variety of when people leave for the winter and how long they stay. Some of the most interesting results were comments about how people found their winter place, and how Covid has affected their plans. We have summarized the results for each question below, which we hope might be useful in your own snowbirding lives.

  1. Will you go somewhere warm this winter (be a snowbird), and for how long.

Most of the people taking the survey were snowbirds. There were roughly equal numbers who will go away for periods from 1 to six month. One fourth plan on snowbirding for less than a month.

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Posted by Admin on October 5th, 2021

Daily Alert Miscues

Category: General Retirement Issues

October 3, 2021 — Subscribers to our Daily Alert were probably confused on Sunday, Oct. 3 when they received 3 copies of the same email. We are sorry about that. Probably as a result of our server being bombarded by someone try to index our content, the Oct 1 and Oct 2 emails were delayed or didn’t go out at all. Then the system tried to catch up and sent all 3 on Sunday.

We think we have found the problem and apologize for the delays and occasional multiple copies.

Posted by Admin on October 3rd, 2021

Are Better Hearing Aids in Your Future?

Category: Health and Wellness Issues

October 1, 2021 — No one wants to wear a hearing aid. They can be unsightly, embarrassing, and usually don’t work well in noisy situations. They are also very expensive ($2,000 to $12,000 a pair), and generally not covered by any kind of insurance, including Medicare. Unfortunately, if your hearing is bad enough, not wearing one leads to being shut out of the conversation and social isolation. Fortunately there might be less expensive, and more effective ones coming on the market.

Jane Brody recently wrote an article in the NY Times that promises some hope: “Will Hearing Aids Ever Be Hip“. While two thirds of people over 70 suffer from hearing loss, only 20% of adults who could benefit from a hearing aid use one. Clearly there is a demand for a better product.

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Posted by Admin on October 1st, 2021