Medicare and Social Security

Medicare and Social Security. Having a birthday? Turning 65? Did your Medigap rates increase? Medicare open enrollment? This is a good time to review your plans and happy birthday 65 300x167 Medicare and Social Securitymake changes where possible. Are you collecting Social Security or have you deferred your benefit? When is Medicare Part A free? Can you collect Social Security if you refuse Medicare? When can you enroll in Medicare? Do you need Medicare Part A and B? If you have an employer health insurance plan, do you still need Medicare? What are the Medicare penalties? Should I file for Social Security early or wait? Medicare and Social Security, like a horse and carriage, you can’t have one without the other.

Medicare looks complicated but is reasonably simple, once you understand how it all works.

Social Security looks simple, but is complicated.

I believe the government does it this way just to test our resolve.

georgia medigap button Medicare and Social Security

Georgia Medigap plans & Prices

 

Social Security

At one time Social Security was simple. You turn 65. You collect Social Security.

Then they changed the rules.

Congress spent all the money they took from our paychecks during our working years and spent it. Yes, they told us it was in a trust fund, but the truth is they BORROWED against the fund and replaced it with IOU’s.

In order to keep the promised benefits they had to change the rules. They did this in 1983 when most of us weren’t paying attention and some of us thought we would never live to 65.

retire 5 yrs after I die2 300x210 Medicare and Social SecurityBaby Boomers

For the Baby Boomer generation (born between 1943 and 1954) collecting FULL Social Security at age 65 isn’t possible. We have to wait until age 66 before we can get our full benefit. We can still collect at age 65 but our benefit is 7% less than it would be at age 66.

We can still go on Medicare at age 65, earlier if disabled, but if we want the full retirement amount we have EARNED we have to wait until age 66.

We can collect Social Security as early as age 62 if we don’t mind taking a 30% pay cut. If your Social Security benefit at age 66 is $1200 per month your age 62 benefit will be $840. Other than COLA increases, or if you continue to work while receiving Social Security, your pay cut will remain in effect for as long as you live.

Should you collect your benefit early?

It depends on how long you are going to live.

If you started receiving Social Security at age 62 it will take you (on average) to age 80 to collect the same total amount if you had waited until age 70 to receive benefits.

Up to 85% of your Social Security benefit can be taxed if you have other income. Social Security benefits are also subject to an earnings test and your benefit can be reduced if you have other income. If you have a spouse you may want to consider a file and suspend

What happens if you are receiving Social Security and you want to opt out of Medicare at age 65?

You forfeit your Social Security benefits. The courts have ruled you cannot collect Social Security if you refuse Medicare.

If you have coverage through an employer group plan that continues past 65 you may not want or need “automatic” enrollment in Part B.

Don’t allow your current health insurance carrier to auto-enroll you in a Medicare plan they have “chosen” for you.

 

Medicare

Most people will qualify for Medicare at age 65, and for most, Medicare Part A is “free”.

ee card like wine we get better with age 300x210 Medicare and Social SecurityWell, not really free. You paid for it all the years you worked but the government still tells you it is free.

And they say that with a straight face.

Medicare Part A is free, but Part B isn’t.

In case you missed it earlier, not only did Congress spend most of the money in the Social Security trust fund, they also mismanaged our Medicare taxes.

In 2014 your Medicare Part B premium is $105 ………… unless you earned a lot of money 2 years ago …………… then you pay more.

This is another trick cooked up by Congress to collect more tax dollars to make up for the ones they wasted studying the sex life of termites in Africa.

What does Congress consider rich?

 

 

Medicare Penalty Tax

If your MAGI (Modified Adjusted Gross Income) from two years ago was $85,000 or higher ($170,000 if married filing jointly) you pay a penalty tax in addition to your Medicare Part B premiums. In 2014 your wealth tax could be as much as $231 in addition to your Part B premium. Ask your tax preparer about what is counted in your MAGI.

You will also pay more for Part D. Your wealth tax for your drug plan can be up to $66 in addition to your regular Part D premium

These amounts are DEDUCTED from your Social Security check.

If you have income after age 65 your wealth tax could continue for as long as you live.

There is also a penalty tax if you do not enroll in Medicare Part B and Part D when the government says you must. It’s called an LEP (late enrollment penalty). There are ways to get around the penalty if you know the rules.

 

When to Enroll in Medicare?

If you qualify for Medicare and are not working the simple answer is age 65. But if you have coverage under an employer health plan the answer is, it depends.

If your employer coverage is a retiree plan, Medicare pays first. If the coverage is for an active employee (you or your spouse) Medicare might pay first, or your group plan might pay first.

It depends. 8 macomb blog post image 20130227084955 Medicare and Social Security

If you have double coverage (employer health plan and Medicare) you may not need Part B or D.

It depends.

You might be able to delay Medicare Parts B and D without penalty.

It depends.

Confused? Go ahead. Pour a glass of wine. You might need it.

 

Medicare supplement or Medicare Advantage?

Now the real fun begins.

Original Medicare or private insurance?

Some enroll in Medicare Advantage because of the low premiums. Nothing wrong with that as long as you understand what lies ahead. Advantage plans are high maintenance and require you to review your plan every year and every time you move. When your plan is discontinued if you don’t pick a new plan within the prescribed time frame you are automatically enrolled in original Medicare.

Advantage plans have moving parts and limited networks. Many doctors and some hospitals do not participate in any Advantage plans. Most cancer treatment centers, many skilled nursing facilities and most psychiatric professionals do not accept Advantage patients.

grammarly reading is how to install new software in your brain 300x300 Medicare and Social SecurityOriginal Medicare typically does not have those stumbling blocks. Most providers have no problem accepting Medicare. When they accept Medicare they also will accept ANY Medicare supplement plan.

Medicare is simple. No networks. Keep your existing doctor(s). Very few changes from year to year and if you pick the right Medigap plan, most of the changes are nominal or are absorbed by your supplement plan.

There are over 170 different Medigap plans in Georgia from roughly 40 different carriers. Picking the right one is not as easy as it seems, but it is very easy to make the wrong choice.

My rule of thumb is this. Avoid any carriers that have not been in the Medigap business at least 5 years. Avoid the “big name” trap. All plans with the same letter are identical in every way except price. When you pay more you don’t get more, you simply paid too much.

Conversely, a low premium may be only temporary. Some carriers are notorious for offering low “sucker” rates that blow up on you in two years.

Medicare + Medigap is the perfect choice for some people and for others Medicare Advantage is the right choice. Understand the merits and costs of each before forging ahead.

It’s OK to ask your friends for advice but keep in mind they probably bought what their friends suggested. A plan that works for Alice may be totally wrong for Mary.

Almost everyone we talk with had bad advice, do not really understand what they have, and in the case of a Medigap plan, are paying way too much.

Don’t make the same mistakes!

georgia medigap button Medicare and Social Security

Georgia Medigap plans & Prices

 

Medicare Open Enrollment

Every year, beginning on October 15th and ending on December 7th (unless the government decides to change the dates), Medicare open enrollment comes around. Take advantage of this time to review your Medicare Part D drug plans or your Medicare Advantage coverage.

Advantage plans come and go. What you had this year may not be available next year. New plans may crop up in your area ……… or not.

Both Advantage plans and drug plans have sneaky provisions so you must be careful. Premiums may rise or fall and lull you into a sense of security.

Don’t fall for it!

The premium you pay for your Advantage plan or drug plan is insignificant. The REAL cost associated with these plans is how much you pay for care and your medication.

Doctors, hospitals and other providers are routinely dropped from Advantage networks. Do not assume that, just because a provider you use is in network this year they will be in network next year.

Drug plans have preferred pharmacies. Changing pharmacies can alter your copay’s up or down by quite a bit. A simple change in your drug or Advantage plan can save or cost you hundreds or thousands of dollars over the course of the year.

Some plans will offer the Lantus SoloSTAR for less than $25 while others will charge you over $170 for the same pen.

We ran a report for one of our diabetic clients and found his annual cost ranged from just over $3,000 to almost $9,000 for the exact same medications!

Review plans carefully for changes and pay extra attention to your out of pocket costs. Failure to do so can put a severe dent in your wallet.

One of the free services available for clients of Georgia Medicare Plans is an annual review of your drug costs. Savings can range from a few hundred dollars to thousands.

Open enrollment is also a good time to check your Medigap plan premiums. If you bought from a carrier that was new to the market last year and offered a low, introductory rate you may be surprised to find your renewal premiums are no longer competitive.

Two new carriers, Omaha Insurance Company and Manhattan Life entered the Georgia market in 2013 with very competitive rates. In some cases they are so far below market they will be forced to increase rates to make up for losses. Shop and compare your Medicare supplement plan now. We have access to over 170 different plans, many more than you will ever find by yourself, and we also track 5 year renewal rates to see who is stable and which carriers are subject to wild rate increases.

 

 

Questions that need answers

If you have coverage through an employer group plan that continues past 65 you may not want or need “automatic” enrollment in Part B.

Don’t miss your enrollment periods, especially for Advantage or Medigap.

Understand the limits of Medicare plans if you travel outside the country.

Make plans for paying for Part B if you are not receiving Social Security.

Know exactly when your Medicare benefits begin so you don’t overpay for double coverage.grammarly never make same mistake 271x300 Medicare and Social Security

In addition to the publications from Medicare, this booklet from SSA sums up Medicare in an easy to follow form.

If you need to enroll in Medicare Part B only, you cannot enroll online.

Don’t underestimate your total maximum cost for health care, especially if you choose an Advantage plan.

Annual enrollment is only for certain plans. Some Medicare plans have only one “free” enrollment period.

When considering Advantage plans, look beyond the low premium.

All Medicare drug plans have donut holes. Understand the ways to work around or completely avoid the donut hole.

Do you need extra coverage to fill the gaps in Medicare Advantage? If you think you do you probably don’t really understand what you are buying.

When you turn 65 and go on Medicare you may only have one chance to set up your coverage correctly. Choose wisely.

 

Ready to shop?

If you are ready to shop for plans, we have a convenient quote engine for our visitors. Shop and compare plans online in the comfort of your home. Instant quotes. Click the image below to get started.

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#medicare #age65 #medicareopenenrollment

Do You Know the Secret to Increasing Your Social Security Check?

There is a little known secret to increasing your Social Security benefits check. Don’t expect the Social Security office to tell you. If they did it wouldn’t be a secret, would it? FB Groucho Marx3 Do You Know the Secret to Increasing Your Social Security Check?

Actually there are 4 ways to boost your Social Security payments. All very simple and legal.

Add as much as $1000 per month to your monthly benefits.

We can also show you ways to save money on your Medicare supplement premiums. Shop and compare up to 40 plans in 60 seconds. > > > >

shopCompareBig Do You Know the Secret to Increasing Your Social Security Check?

 

Increasing your Social Security Benefits by Beginning Again

What if you could take a Mulligan on your Social Security filing? A do-over. Start all over again and begin immediately collecting more money each month from Social Security.

My guess is no one at Social Security ever mentioned form 521

Out of the 32 million retirees who collect Social Security benefits, Rothenhoefer was one of just 71 people this fiscal year to take advantage of an obscure option that lets you halt your current benefits, pay back all you have collected interest-free, and restart your benefits at a new, higher rate based on your current age.

It’s perfectly legal, says Mark Lassiter, a spokesman for the Social Security Administration. But don’t expect the claims representatives at your local Social Security office or the employees who answer the agency’s toll-free number (800-772-1213) to be familiar with the details.

Kiplinger

John Rothenhoefer was 70 years old when he learned the secret about increasing your Social Security benefits with form 521. Using this tactic he increased his monthly check by almost $1000 per month.

Not only does he enjoy the additional money each month, but if his wife survives him she will receive the same amount for the rest of her life.

John Greaney, creator of Retire Early discovered another benefit to the Social Security do-over.

When Greaney took the time to research it last summer, he realized that it was an even better deal than he had first thought. That’s because when you repay your Social Security benefits, you can claim either an itemized deduction or a tax credit (whichever results in bigger savings to you) for the taxes you paid on your benefits in previous years. The calculations are complicated, but you can get all the details in IRS Publication 915, Social Security and Equivalent Railroad Retirement Benefits

 

You May Qualify for a Tax Refund

You could increase your Social Security benefits PLUS get a tax refund from prior years where you paid taxes on your Social Security benefits.

Two other income-boosting strategies give couples a way to maximize their Social Security benefits. A recent paper by the Center for Retirement Research recommends that the spouse who is eligible for lower benefits collect them early, while the higher-earning spouse delays taking benefits until they are worth more. Then, when the primary breadwinner dies, the spouse with the lower benefit will “step up” to a much higher survivor benefit as the smaller retirement payment drops off.

As they say on TV, but wait, there’s more!

 

About Those May-December Marriages

Additional benefits for the older man, younger woman.

Older men who are widowers or divorced often get remarried to younger women, and it’s not uncommon for them to start second families. So when these do-over dads start collecting Social Security benefits, they may still have minor children at home. More than 500,000 children currently receive monthly payments based on a parent’s Social Security retirement benefits.

This can apply to women who re-marry as well.

So there you have it. Four secrets to increasing your Social Security benefits without cheating.

And don’t forget to check out your Medigap options. Find affordable Medigap rates with our free, instant quote. We also have rates offline that may be even lower.

Social Security Disability

SSDI Social Security DisabilitySocial Security Disability Income (SSDI) is available to those who are totally and permanently disabled and have at least 20 Social Security credits in the last 10 years. Most full time workers will have 4 credits for each year worked.

In order to be eligible for Social Security disability, you must be  “disabled.” For Social Security purposes, a you are “disabled” if you have a  medical problem that prevents you from performing “substantial gainful activity.”  Substantial activity can be employment, volunteer work or even school.  In addition, your medical problem must be severe enough that it has lasted or will last at least a year.  Social Security disability does not pay for short term problems.

As a practical matter, I can tell you that Social Security disability is primarily about your capacity to work.  Stated another way, in order to  prove that you are disabled, you often need to prove that you cannot work even a  simple, unskilled job. For example, imagine yourself working as an packer, where  you sit at a table and pack items in a box; imagine yourself as a cashier at a  parking lot; imagine yourself as a nighttime security system monitor. Could you  perform one of these very simple, low stress, low exertion jobs 8 hours a day, 5  days a week?

Jonathon Ginsberg – Georgia Social Security Disability Attorney

Before you can file an SSDI claim, you must have been totally and permanently disabled for 5 consecutive calendar months.

Most initial SSDI claims are denied and the average wait time from filing to approval is roughly 18 months.

If you do not have enough quarter hours of coverage for SSDI, then you may be eligible for SSI, which is a welfare program that pays a set amount (currently $710 per month in 2013).  In addition if your medical condition left you unable to work months or years in the past, you sometimese can get payments dating back to the time when you left your last job – this may amount to tens of thousands of dollars payable as a lump sum. 

Just because you cannot work, there is no reason to lose your dignity.

Money is available through federal programs and you have every right to claim your share.

Social Security Disability Income is for those who genuinely deserve the assistance. It is not a “gimme” nor is it an entitlement. Jonathon Ginsberg lists 6 Common Mistakes to Avoid if you expect to collect Social Security Disability.

If you are found disabled and you have enough credits to qualify for SSDI, you automatically become eligible for Medicare.  However, you do not get Medicare immediately.  Instead, you become eligible beginning with the 25th month after your first SSDI payment.

Once you qualify for Medicare, you will be eligible to purchase a Medicare supplement plan or enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan. You should also consider Medicare Part D (drug plan), especially if you require several prescription medications.

Georgia Medicare Plans will be glad to advise you on your options.

Medicare, Social Security, Medicaid – All Discretionary Spending

 

George Will says all federal spending is ultimately “discretionary”

Members of Congress are actively working to cut the federal budget and bring down spending. But they’re steering clear of the politically difficult, big-ticket items such as Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, interest on the debt and national defense.

“It’s not being debated because they say we’re only going to debate discretionary spending. We should ban that word,” said conservative commentator George F. Will on This Week with Christiane Amanpour.

“It’s all discretionary, other than interest on the national debt. Social Security is discretionary. We have the discretion to change the law. Same is true with Medicare and Medicaid,” Will said.

We thought Will’s statement was a provocative and interesting way to frame the debate. But was it true? We decided to check it out.

We’ll begin with a brief lesson on the terms Congress uses to describe the federal budget.

Discretionary spending means government spending that Congress sets every year through a process known as appropriations. It includes spending for most federal agencies, such as transportation and health. It includes foreign aid and defense spending. And it includes most grant programs administered by the federal government.

Non-discretionary spending, on the other hand, is spending that is controlled by legislation that sets eligibility criteria or spending formulas. It includes entitlement programs such as Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security in which you are legally entitled to benefits as long as you meet certain criteria. It also typically includes programs for which individuals automatically qualify, such as farm subsidies or military benefits. Sometimes non-discretionary spending is called mandatory spending or direct spending.

We ran Will’s comments by four experts on the federal budget. They all said that Will was essentially correct, that non-discretionary spending can be changed at any time by passing new legislation that changes the particular program.

A recent example of this is the health care law supported by President Obama and Democrats in Congress. The law made many changes to Medicare, to reduce its spending, in order to offer subsidies for health care insurance to the uninsured.

“There is no constitutional roadblock to Congress changing any spending at any time. In that sense, all spending is discretionary,” said Marc Goldwein, policy director for the nonpartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget.

The reasons members of Congress are now so focused on discretionary spending is because it’s more politically difficult to change programs that affect benefits for so many voters.

“But you can’t stabilize the debt by focusing on only 12 percent of the budget,” Goldwein added. “Trying to do so is going to make the cuts far more painful than what would be necessary if we were to look more broadly.”

Both Medicare and Social Security were on the table in previous years when the budget needed adjustment, said the experts we consulted on both sides of the political aisle. Jim Horney of the left-leaning Center on Budget and Policy Priorities noted that “every major deficit reduction plan in the last 20 years has made significant changes to Medicare.” Brian Riedl of the conservative Heritage Foundation pointed out that Social Security was changed significantly in 1983 in a deal between Democrats in Congress and President Ronald Reagan.

Interest on the federal debt is a required payment unless the government is willing to default, a highly unlikely scenario. There are a few other contractually obligated payments the government has to make, typically for insurance programs such as mortgage insurance, flood insurance, and federal deposit insurance. But those payments are relatively small.

“I would add that even interest on the debt is in some way discretionary, because levels of debt can be changed by decisions to tax and spend and not run budget deficits,” said Josh Gordon, policy director of the Concord Coalition, a nonpartisan group that wants to eliminate deficits.

Will said that federal spending is “all discretionary, other than interest on the national debt. Social Security is discretionary. We have the discretion to change the law. Same is true with Medicare and Medicaid.” Will is making a broad statement here and leaves out a few details. But he’s largely correct, and we rate his statement True.

http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2011/mar/15/george-will/george-will-says-all-federal-spending-ultimately-d/

Turning 65 – Need to Buy Medigap Insurance

Buy Medigap insurance in Georgia when you turn 65. Do you want the best rate for plan F? Georgia Medicare Plans is an excellent resource for low cost plans when you need to buy Medigap in Georgia.

U. S. News and World Reports offers 7 tips for seniors and baby boomers retiring at age 65 in 2012.

Sign up for Medicare on time. You can first enroll in Medicare during a seven-month window beginning three months before the month you turn 65. Sign up during the months leading up to your 65th birthday if you want your coverage to begin the month you turn 65. (If your birthday is on the first day of the month, your coverage can start as early as the first day of the prior month.) If you don’t sign up for Medicare Part B during this initial enrollment period, your premiums may increase by 10 percent for each 12-month period that you delay enrollment. If you are still working and covered by a group health insurance plan at work, sign up within eight months of leaving the insurance plan to avoid the penalty. Make sure you buy Medigap coverage to protect you against huge medical bills.

Schedule your free physical. Beginning this year, Medicare provides a one-time free physical exam within the first 12 months you have Part B coverage by a doctor who agrees to be paid directly by Medicare. The visit may include a review of your health, vision and blood pressure screenings, education and counseling about preventive care services covered by Medicare, and referrals for treatment you may need. Other preventative services you may be able to get at no out-of-pocket cost include cardiovascular and breast cancer screenings, bone mass measurements, and flu shots.

Delay Social Security until next year. While Medicare eligibility for 1946-born baby boomers begins this year, they still will not qualify for the full amount of Social Security benefits they are entitled to. Boomers will have to wait another year, until age 66, if they do not want their entitlement checks to be reduced. Retirees who claim Social Security this year when they turn age 65 will get about 93.3 percent of their full monthly benefit, because they will be getting payments for an additional 12 months. Social Security payouts further increase for each year boomers delay claiming up until age 70.

Develop a retirement spending strategy. Before you plunge into retirement, develop a plan for how you will spend down your assets. Recognize that you will need to pay income tax on withdrawals from traditional 401(k)s and IRAs and withdrawals from those accounts become required after age 70½. Retirees who don’t withdraw the correct amount will face a 50 percent tax penalty on the required withdrawal amount. Also, consider adding some inflation-fighting investments to your portfolio, such as Treasury Inflation-Protected Securities (TIPS), or some exposure to the stock market, commodities, or real estate. “You are probably better off trying to work a little bit longer, recover some of the losses in your retirement plan, and let the market do a little bit of the work,” says Robert Baxter, CEO of Dryden Mutual Insurance Company in Dryden, N.Y., and a 1946-born baby boomer who will turn 65 in August 2011. “If you think about retirement at 65, you may end up living 20 or 25 more years and could outlive your income.”

Keep your job skills sharp. Baby boomers who haven’t saved enough to retire may need to spend several more years in the workforce. Make sure you stay on top of training and computer skills and continue to pursue new projects and opportunities at work. You don’t want to get pushed out of the workforce before you are a ready to retire. Also consider offering to mentor younger employees and pass along your skills to upcoming workers within your organization. “We have all of this great experience and knowledge in a lot of different industries and everyone is going to retire and we’re not passing it on to anyone,” says Andrew Seybold, a 1946-born baby boomer in Santa Barbara, Calif., who runs his own mobile wireless industry consulting business. “I think we owe it to people following us to try to pass some of that information on to them.”

Negotiate a new work schedule. Instead of retiring completely, many baby boomers are interested in working a more flexible and less demanding schedule. When asked about the life changes they have planned for the next few years, more than half (55 percent) of employed baby boomers turning 65 this year say they are interested in cutting back on their work hours, according to a recent AARP survey of 801 adults born in 1946. And about 15 percent of the retired baby boomers plan to go back to work. “People are going to use the guise of retirement to get a break, rest up, and essentially get ready for a new phase of life,” says Marc Freedman, founder and CEO of Civic Ventures and author of the upcoming book The Big Shift: Navigating the New Stage between Midlife and Old Age. “Retirement is becoming a transition, rather than a destination. True retirement is going to get deferred to much later in life.”

Plan your new life. Develop a plan for the activities you would like to try next. Baby boomers turning 65 this year say their top priorities for the next few years are maintaining their physical health (84 percent) and spending time with family (81 percent), AARP found. Other popular planned retirement activities include interests and hobbies (76 percent), doing things you have always wanted to do (74 percent), and travel (61 percent). Although you may need a rest after decades in the workforce, eventually you will want to channel your energies and abilities into a new project.

In addition to signing up for Medicare Part A and Part B, you should buy Medigap coverage, or a Medicare Advantage plan.

Original Medicare and a Medigap plan allow you access to almost every doctor and hospital in the country. There are no networks. No referrals. You can choose any doctor (including your own). You never have to worry about your coverage when you have Medicare and a supplement plan. Many Medigap plans cover almost all of your routine medical expenses with little or nothing out of pocket.

Medicare Advantage plans have networks that require you to use THEIR doctors and hospitals. Most medical services require you to pay a deductible, copay or both out of pocket. Advantage plans are not portable. If you leave the state or even travel to another part of Georgia away from your home you may have difficulty finding a doctor or hospital that accepts your plan. Even still, you may have to pay a significant portion of your medical bills that are not fully covered by your Advantage plan.

You can find information about Georgia Medigap rates and plans, guaranteed issue, initial enrollment period and more on our site.

When you are ready to buy Medigap coverage, Georgia Medicare Plans has the best Medigap rates in the state for seniors turning age 65.