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What is the status of healthcare reform?

After the recent failures of the GOP attempt to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, it is clear that the future of healthcare reform is up in the air.  Here are a few of the issues that seem to be on the GOP short list for reform.  Getting the plan paid for seems to be the priority, rather than changing coverage.  Many popular provisions are not touched by any of the popular reform proposals, including allowing children up to 26 to remain covered by their parent’s insurance, support for Medicare expansion and preexisting coverage guarantees.

One of the issues is that the GOP wants to stop the state and federal subsidies for the lowest income plan members which will make some of the plans cost prohibitive to offer.  The insurers have only two months to decide if they will continue to provide a plan in the exchanges for 2018.  If they stay in, premiums are likely to rise considerably which will result in many people to drop out due to costs.   And if they don’t, then we will see states and localities having fewer and fewer options for their residents.

Another issue is the mandate.  The reform plans all include plans to loosen restrictions on waivers for the individual mandate.  Without the mandate many who feel that they don’t need insurance would simply opt out of coverage.  Again, causing fewer people to get coverage and thereby spreading the costs over a smaller pool of people.

Bottom line is that we need to figure out how to pay for healthcare coverage.  Even the CBO has provided estimates if the current health care law does not change that indicate that our deficit will increase to over 10 trillion within the next ten years.  So, while we would love to have quality low cost healthcare coverage, we clearly have not gotten there yet.

 

Medicare is incredibly confusing!

Although most of us are aware of the four primary parts to Medicare, there are actually 10 different “letter” plans.  In addition to the plans, there are also Medicare Supplement Insurance policies (also called Medigap policies) that exist to cover gaps not covered by Medicare.  And there are plenty of gaps.  For instance, Plan A covers hospital visits, Plan B covers the Doctor, Plan C is a combination of A & B, and Plan D is for prescription drugs.  The other plans can be found on Page 10 and 11 of this great resource, “Choosing a Medigap Policy.”

Unfortunately, medical insurance does not get easier as we get older.  In fact, since it begins to take a greater and greater share of your income, it clearly is one of the most important decisions you will make.  Many experts suggest you review your plan every year and adjust accordingly.  However, it is not that simple, as some of the medigap policies go up in price considerably if you don’t lock them in when you are 65.

Another resource, My Medicare Matters, helps you determine which of the Medicare plans you actually need.  Once you figure that out, then it is a bit easier to think about which medigap policy would work for you.  However, you first need to find out which medigap policies are available in your area.

After you have made your decision, quickly look through some of the local government resources in your area to see if you qualify for other programs in your state or locality.

 

 

Most Americans are not prepared for retirement

We have all heard that Americans are increasingly unprepared for retirement.  Do you respond with sympathy, because you’re not prepared either?  Or do you scoff because you have sacrificed for all of your working years to diligently sock away the recommended 20%?

If you are not prepared, or even underprepared, you are not alone.  A 2015 study by the Government Accounting Office found that, “about half of households age 55 and older have no retirement savings (such as in a 401(k) plan or an IRA).”  As staggering as this number is, the bigger concern is that among those that do have retirement savings, the median amount is just $104,000 for households under 64 and $148,000 for households above 65, this comes out to $310 and $649 per month.  Bottom line is that the majority of seniors live primarily off of their Social Security income!

Given that, it is even more critical than ever that we fight with all that we have to protect Social Security benefits.

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