July 7, 2021 — Not so long ago the two most common types of supplemental medical insurance for retirees were employer sponsored plans and Medigap insurance. Medical insurance for retirees is increasingly rare, with very large corporations and governments about the only employers providing it. Medigap plans, which cover additional expenses over and above their Part B (doctors and other medical) coverage insurance, are being eclipsed by the increasing popularity of Medicare Advantage plans (Part C). Run by insurance companies and funded by subsidies from the government, Medicare Advantage has doubled its enrollments in the past decade.
The main reasons for Medicare Advantage’s increased popularity are their low cost and extra coverages. According to kff.org, about 60% of Medicare Advantage enrollees pay no premiums, and another 34% pay less than $100/month. Advantage plans also usually offer a wide number of other coverages not available under Medigap policies. For example, about 3/4 of Advantage plans include vision, dental, fitness, over the counter drugs, and hearing benefits. Nearly all (90%) Advantage plans include prescription drug coverage.
June 26, 2021 — Getting around on a bicycle is becoming more and more popular. People use their bikes to get to work, for exercise, or just for fun. Biking is inexpensive transportation, gets you outside, parking is a cinch, and it’s a healthy activity. The growing popularity of electric bikes, with the extra help they provide on long rides and hills, has helped to get even more people into cycling. So, just as they do for every popular activity, publications are coming out with lists of the cities and towns that are “best for biking”. We will highlight some of their choices here.
But first, what makes for a great biking town? The website Lawnstarter used a long list of considerations to score and rank the largest 200 U.S. cities on biking. Their multiple rating criteria fell into five categories: climate, bike lanes and routes, bike shops and bike share programs, safety, and community support. Safety features like bike lanes separated from car traffic and dedicated crossings were among the most important considerations, since biking isn’t fun and can be dangerous if speeding cars get too close. Icy cold winter weather, steamy hot summers, and car traffic were negative factors used in the ratings. PeopleforBikes.com rated even more towns, including smaller ones, to find out which are the best for biking. It used similar criteria to rate the towns it considered, such as the number of bike lanes and trails, ability to use multiple routes to get to the same place, bike parking, number of bike shops, safety, and slow speeds for cars. See video below from PeopleforBikes on what makes a best biking city. When you are checking out places to retire, don’t forget to keep your eyes open to what it would be like if you wanted to get around there on two wheels.
May 12, 2021 — Just about everyone struggles with a word or a name occasionally. As in, the name of person coming toward you in the supermarket is right on the tip of your tongue, but it just won’t come out. So embarrassing, and yet so common. The Alzheimer’s Association has some great information that can help differentiate between normal age-related change and the more serious signs of approaching dementia. We will recap some of those points here, but their article, Early Warning Signs and Symptoms of Alzheimer’s, has even more detailed information that everyone will find useful. It seems that the difference between Alzheimer’s and ordinary age-related change are degree (how serious the behavior is), and length of time it is displayed.
Alzheimer’s is a brain disease that causes a slow decline in memory, thinking and reasoning skills. There are many other forms of dementia as well. Here are 10 warning signs, along with examples of normal age-related changes:
March 6, 2021 — Thanks to the 300 people who took our Covid Vaccine Survey. Everyone in this community is in your debt for the few moments you donated to let us know about your vaccination trials and successes. Here are the results of the survey, with several surprises mixed in with findings that were more predictable.
It is also interesting to compare the results of this survey with a similar one we conducted last September. The biggest change from then to now is the new willingness to take the vaccine: while 29% of Members said in September they would not take the vaccine, only 2% in this latest survey said they would decline it. There is continued caution around willingness to eat inside a restaurant. Mask compliance around non-family members remains high, although at slightly lower levels than in our September survey.
The overwhelming majority of our Members want to get the shots, with only 2% saying they won’t get them. Almost half have already had two doses, with a third reporting they have had one dose.
Folks are evenly split about the difficulty or ease of getting the vaccine.
Finding out how and where to get their shots has not been easy – they have had to use a variety of sources to score them. This seems to confirm what most of us experienced: America’s vaccination effort has had a very chaotic start, with no central central clearing house either on the federal or state level.
Respondent generally rate their states as poor for fairness and information about how and where to get a shot, and this includes their websites. But the sites where the shots are being administered get high marks for convenience and customer service.
People report that their lives will change once they are fully vaccinated, but not in a huge way. Most said their lives would be “somewhat” improved, with “travel” being the activity they most look forward to. Eating inside in a restaurant is still considered risky by most respondents, and mask wearing around non-family members will remain high.
Have You had your shot yet?
Yes, two doses
Yes, one dose
Had shot yet?
2. How difficult was it for you to get your shot?
3. How did find out how to get your vaccine appointment?
No one place dominated where people found out how to get their shots.
4. How would you rate your state’s handling of the vaccination rollout?
The aspect of the vaccine rollout that got the highest favorable ratings concerned the actual administration of the shot – “Got shot in convenient location” was rated highly, and “Customer Service” was off the charts. “Information on where to get a shot”, “Fairness to all”, and Statewide websites were the lowest rated aspects.
5 and 6. States doing a Great job with vaccinations; those doing a Poor job:
There were a number of write-ins for states doing great or poorly with vaccine administration. Almost every state was mentioned for one or the other, with most getting both good and bad ratings (Florida had an equal number for both). One state that did garner mostly positive reviews was Connecticut.
7. How much will your life change once you have had both doses of the vaccine?
The answers to this question were a little surprising; we thought that more people would say a “great deal”. Perhaps that means that people have become accustomed to life in a pandemic, and have found ways to maintain normal activities.
A great deal
8. What one or two activities are you looking forward to the most once you become immunized?
Again, we were a little surprised that visiting grandchildren was not rated higher on this question. It could be that travel and visiting grandchildren are correlated, or it is possible that many people either don’t have grandchildren, or they live nearby.
Eating at an indoor restaurant
Going to the gym
9. Once you have had the vaccine, will you eat inside at a restaurant this summer?
Back in September we asked this question slightly differently, but the outcome is roughly similar. Back then 47% said they would go to a restaurant, but 28% said they would only do it if they could eat outdoors there.
10. Once vaccinated, will you wear a mask around non-family members through this summer? It appears that willingness to wear a mask all of the time around non-family members will go down slightly once people are fully vaccinated. Back in September 49% said they would wear masks all of the time around non-family members.
All of the time
Most of the time
Only if indoors
Some of the time
11. If you plan on flying in the next few months, what precautions will you take?
Air travel does not appear to be in the immediate plans of our survey takers.
Don’t plan on flying
Mask and face shield
12. Once you are vaccinated, will you feel comfortable being around non-vaccinated people.
Caution and uncertainty remains about being around other people, even if everyone has been vaccinated. It seems like it might take a while for the world to return to normal and all aspects of this pandemic are better understood.
Comments: See the Blog article inviting participation in the survey (it’s not too late to fill it out!) for more comments about Covid vaccinations. If you have more thoughts about it or your coronavirus experience, please post them in the Comments section below.
February 25, 2021 – By now most of the Topretirements audience has probably had a chance to get at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine. Please take our quick survey of how that experience went for you. There are just a few questions on how you found out where to get your shot, how good a job your state did on that, and how your life and activities might change once you have been administered both doses and your immunity is established.
February 5, 2021 — Any time the subject of The Villages (TV) in Central Florida comes up in conversation, the chances are that someone will chime in with the tidbit that the popular active community is the STD capital of the US. In many circles this bit of false news is taken as the gospel. Everyone chuckles and they move on.
The rampant STD rumor about The Villages first erupted in 2006 after a gynecologist who had moved to the area stated that she’d treated more cases of herpes and human papillomavirus in The Villages than when she practiced in Miami. She later modified her account, but the damage was done. The New York Post picked up the salacious report as did other media outlets across the country. Andrew Blechman’s Leisureville, which depicted Mr. Midnight’s late night adventures as a senior citizen Lothario, also helped to perpetuate the image of TV as Gomorrah in Central Florida.
January 23 — Outrage over media reports of Canadians and other foreigners paying big dollars for charter flights to Miami for coronavirus vaccine shots generated understandable blowback. Reacting, Florida Gov. DeSantis took steps to eliminate this form of medical tourism this week. While that made most residents happier, Florida’s many snowbirds became concerned that the new rules might effectively shut them out of getting inoculated. Fortunately the new rules for snowbirds and other seasonal visitors have been clarified, and most should be eligible for a shot (if they can get an appointment!)
Elsewhere, there is concern that groups with close ties to the Governor, who is touting his decision to prioritize residents age 65+ over essential workers, are getting priority access to the vaccine. Residents in communities like The Villages were quick to an allocation, while almost everyone in Century Village and Kings Point has had a chance to get their shots by now. Meanwhile, millions of other FL residents not so well connected are stymied by non-existent web sites, lengthy queues, and fragmentary information. This has led to speculation that the Governor or his staff is steering vaccines to organizations he has ties to. Speculation has also arisen over the Publix supermarket chain’s donation of $100,000 to the Governor’s political campaign. The chain has since become a major source of Covid 19 vaccines administered in the state. The Governor’s office has denied any connection, according to WUSF Public Media.
Who is Eligible for the Vaccine in Florida?
Eligibility for non-Florida residents starts with being able to prove that they reside in the state for at least 31 consecutive days. Then they have to scramble to come up with two other types of documents. The first document might be easy to come by, but the second could involve more effort.
January 23, 2020 — The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) issued a final rule that will allow enrollees to know in advance and compare their out-of-pocket payments for different prescription drugs. The changes are generally effective for the 2022 plan year and will potentially lower enrollee cost sharing on some of the most expensive prescription drugs.
The final rule will require Part D plans to offer a real-time benefit comparison tool starting January 1, 2023, so enrollees can obtain information about lower-cost alternative therapies under their prescription drug benefit plan. Enrollees would be able to compare cost sharing to find the most cost-effective prescription drugs for their health needs. For example, if a doctor recommends a specific cholesterol-lowering drug, the enrollee could look up what the co-pay would be and see if a different, similarly effective option might save the enrollee money. With this tool, enrollees will be better able to know what they will need to pay before they are standing at the pharmacy counter.
Thanks to Tom Cretella for letting us know about this new development.
January 3, 2020 — Hundreds of millions of Americans can’t wait to have a coronavirus vaccine pumped into their arms. The problem is the wait could be long, and the process to get one could turn into the wild west – every person for themself. Evidence of that is already happening in places like Fort Myers, FL, where seniors are camping out over night in a chaotic effort to get a shot because Lee county has no online system for appointments. Officials say that was necessary because eager vaccine seekers are crashing online vaccination systems. We earnestly hope the process of vaccinating America doesn’t turn into a disaster as the unprepared authorities botch the rollout.
The ball is in your court
Consider this: it is highly unlikely that you will get a phone call or person knocking on your door, telling you where and when to go to get your shot. How soon will you get one? Sadly, that probably depends on you. To help, here are some steps you can take and a few resources.
December 19, 2020 — A very popular retirement-age calculator now is Livingto100. Developed by Dr. Thomas Perls, it asks a raft of fairly predictable questions and then provides an estimate of how long you will live, along with tailored advice. The questions makes a lot of sense – if you are healthy and avoid most of the bad things (drinking, smoking, stress, obesity), and do the good things (exercise, have friends, brain activities, floss, wear sunscreen, etc.), and your parents lived to ripe old ages – you have a good shot at living to 100. Which leads us to the connection to Winston Churchill, who, despite legendary bad habits, lived to 90 years old. How did he do it, and what can we learn from his experience?