2014 Medicare and Social Security Figures Announced

New figures announced

The Social Security Administration (SSA) has announced that Social Security and SSI beneficiaries will receive a 1.5% cost-of-living (COLA) adjustment for 2014. According to the SSA’s announcement, after the COLA adjustment, the estimated average retirement benefit will rise from $1,275 in 2013 to $1,294 in 2014.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has also announced next year’s Medicare costs. The standard monthly Medicare Part B premium will be $104.90 in 2014, the same as in 2013. However, beneficiaries with higher incomes (individuals with taxable incomes of more than $85,000 and couples with taxable incomes of more than $170,000) will pay more than $104.90 per month because they must pay an income-related surcharge.

Other important Social Security and Medicare figures are listed below.


2014 Social Security figures

The amount of taxable earnings subject to the Social Security tax (called the maximum taxable earnings limit) will increase to $117,000 from $113,700 in 2013.

The annual retirement earnings test exempt amount for beneficiaries under full retirement age will increase to $15,480 from $15,120 in 2013. If a beneficiary has earnings that exceed the exempt amount, $1 in benefits will be withheld for every $2 in earnings above the exempt amount.

The annual retirement earnings test exempt amount that applies during the year a beneficiary reaches full retirement age will increase to $41,400 from $40,080 in 2013. If a beneficiary has earnings that exceed this amount, $1 in benefits will be withheld for every $3 in earnings above the exempt amount.

The amount of earnings needed to earn one Social Security credit will increase to $1,200 from $1,160 in 2013.


2014 Medicare figures

The Medicare Part B deductible will be $147, the same as in 2013.

The monthly Medicare Part A premium for those who need to buy coverage will cost up to $426, down from $441 in 2013. However, most people don’t pay a premium for Medicare Part A.

The Medicare Part A deductible for inpatient hospitalization will be $1,216, up from $1,184 in 2013. Beneficiaries will pay an additional daily co-insurance amount of $304 for days 61 through 90, up from $296 in 2013, and $608 for stays beyond 90 days, up from $592 in 2013.

Beneficiaries in skilled nursing facilities will pay a daily co-insurance amount of $152 for days 21 through 100 in a benefit period, up from $148 in 2013.

5 Statistics About American Healthcare that may Shock you!



We all know healthcare in the United States is an incredibly hot topic right now- and for good reason. The enactment of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) has everyone shaking in their boots. Not only does the U.S. rank 46th out of 48 countries in healthcare efficiency according to a study posted on Bloomberg (http://bloom.bg/14pcTXZ), but the launch and epic fail of the Healthcare.gov website lends to the rating of efficiency. These other healthcare stats may surprise you as much as they shocked me:

1. The US’ Five biggest for-profit health insurance companies made a combined profit of 12.2 BILLION dollars in 2009.

2. US Healthcare Administration costs account for 8 percent of all healthcare costs nationwide.

3. There are more than 2 dozen pharmaceutical companies that made over a BILLION dollars in profits in 2009.

4. It is estimated that hospitals in the US overcharge Americans by about 10 BILLION dollars each year.

5. Pharmaceutical companies spend about two times as much on marketing – around $60 billion annually — as they do on research. And what they do spend on research is largely for drugs that merely treat diseases, and compete with other drug companies’ treatment drugs, not drugs that cure diseases (curing disease would be highly unprofitable for them!)

So as you can see, our country has a long way to go before being healthcare efficient. Your best bet is to work with non-captive healthcare insurance companies to prepare your wallet for the hurt of healthcare costs.



Sources: http://www.losethebackpain.com/blog/2011/11/10/prescription-drug-statistics/


How Does Medicare Participation Work? Breaking Down Medicare Contractual Obligations of Physicians



The world of Medicare can be very confusing for the average senior- it’s tricky language, underlying politics and ambiguity makes it difficulty to fully grasp. Finding a participating doctor can also be a daunting task- especially when the participation isn’t very clear. There are three contactual options for physicians: Participating, Non-Participating and Opt-Out. 

Participating: If a physician is a participating physician, this means that they agree to take assignment on all Medicare claims- meaning they agree to the terms of Medicare and fully accept it. There are incentives in place for physicians to be participating, including being listed in directories as participating, better rates and more. Participating doctors are not hard to find, problem is that Medicare only covers 80% of costs, which is why most people would benefit from owning a supplemental Medicare insurance plan. 

Non-Participating: If a physician is non-participating, it means that they still accept Medicare, but on a case by case basis. This also means that they can charge over and above what Medicare covers if they choose to. They also pay higher rates- so it is in their best interest to weigh out their total annual revenues before deciding whether to be PAR or NON PAR. 

Opt-Out: This means that the physician has chosen to use health care services outside of the Medicare system. They do not acknowledge Medicare as a form of payment and in fact, once a physician has opted out, they cannot submit any Medicare claims. 

Whichever physician you choose, make sure it is the right fit for your needs! And remember- when you’re on a basic Medicare plan paired with a supplemental insurance, you have great coverage. 

Truths About Medicare Revealed

Guest blogger and Medicare expert Johnny Branstetter writes about some of the truths of Medicare supplemental insurance.

Many seniors have the misconception that they can only change their Medicare Supplements once a year during the annual enrollment period, which runs from Oct. 15 to Dec. 7. The truth is that only Medicare Advantage and Medicare Prescription plans are restricted to the annual enrollment period when it comes to switching plans—you can switch from Medicare Supplement to Medicare Supplement at any time.

All Medicare Supplement programs are standardized by the government, meaning that plans must carry the same set of benefits from carrier to carrier.  The only difference from carrier to carrier is how good the company’s customer service is, how quick they pay claims and how much they charge for their coverage.

Buying a Supplement is similar to buying gas for your car in some respects.  Would you drive to the gas station across the street if it was $1.00 cheaper for the same gas?  I’m guessing you would, and so would any smart consumer.

However, shopping for a supplement solely by premium can be dangerous too.  As I stated above, seniors also need to consider the quality of the company as well.  A supplement with a very low premium isn’t worth much if your carrier isn’t paying claims on time and as a result you’re getting bills that you aren’t supposed to.

If you’re thinking about making a switch, keep in mind that if you’re outside of your open enrollment, you will have to answer medical underwriting questions to qualify for new coverage.   However, if you’re healthy enough, there’s no reason not to shop around and see if there is a different Medicare Supplement plan out there that will save you money.

The Government is Cracking Down on Medicare Fraud

Today, I discovered this article from the Chicago Sun Times and it brought my attention to a developing trend under the topic of Medicare. I was amazed to read about all of the convicted counts of Medicare fraud that have recently popped up in the media. It got me to thinking- why is Medicare fraud so common? Companies are scamming and the people that actually need their coverage, have to fight harder to get it and keep it. 

This is a big issue that has to do primarily with ethics. If healthcare providers were all held to the same ethical standards and didn’t try to find any way possible to cheat the system, Medicare would be able to work as it was designed. Paired with a supplement, Medicare is the best insurance coverage you can have. Let’s hope that these fraudulent providers don’t ruin a good thing for the rest of us. 

Here’s the link to the article, form your own opinion! http://www.suntimes.com/news/crime/20107061-418/local-health-care-professionals-caught-in-medicare-fraud-sting.html 

Tips to Save a Little Money at the Grocery Store



We all know there are some costs that just can’t be avoided- most of which are the costs of living. Grocery shopping is one of those costs that can be controlled and regulated. Here are some tips for keeping to a budget and saving a little green at the grocery store. 

Tip One: Always Make a List- and Stick to It! If you make a well-thought out and organized grocery list, it is much less likely that you will impulse buy and overspend. Stick to items that are multipurpose and stock up when items you use regularly when they go on sale. Going along with this is the idea to NEVER shop when you’re hungry! If you do you will be more likely to buy items you don’t need. Stick to your list and be diligent when comparing brands. Better brands, aren’t always a better buy!

Tip Two: Shop Seasonally. This tip goes mostly for produce. When produce is in season, it is significantly less expensive. Try to plan your meals around seasonal items and you will be more likely to save a buck. Not to mention, produce that is in season tastes better! It’s a win-win. 

Tip Three: Pick a Store That Offers Rewards. Local grocery stores that offer rewards programs can help you save money on items that normally don’t go on sale. Be choosy though- not every sale is really a bargain. But when a good sale arises, take advantage of it and stock up! Freezing produce and other items will help it last longer. 

Let’s Get Active This Summer!



The sunshine, birds chirping and climate changes that come with summer are well on the way. As it warms up outside, it seems almost wrong to sit inside! Here are some great ideas for getting active in the outdoors this summer- that require minimal expense and maximum exhilaration! 

      Take a nature walk. Go to a local park and just walk. Find a place to walk with a great landscape to appease your eyes and walking trails that accommodate your body! Don’t pick terrain that’s rough or hilly- find a trail, take your dog or your spouse or grandchildren and walk it. You will find peace in the serenity of nature and you’ll be exercising without even trying. 

        Plant a garden. You don’t have to make it big, but even a small potted garden is a great outdoor activity in the summer. Seeds and small plants are inexpensive, and if you look for good bargains you can get pots and potting soil for good prices as well. Taking care of plants is a great use of time, it gets you outside and it bares fruit- LITERALLY. Not to mention, fresh veggies and fruits save you money with a delicious reward. 

          Patio/lawn game. Games like bocce ball, badminton, beach volleyball and shuffleboard are great ways to get outside and to get active in the summer time. All of the above are easy and fun games to play, and make a great activity to do with your grandkids, friends and family. 

        Have a picnic. Pack a nice basket and take someone you love outside to share it with. Whether you find a nature trail leading to a perfect picnic spot or just a cozy spot under a tree in your yard. A picnic gets you outside and makes an ordinary meal feel special with someone you love! 

Happy Spring!


How to Choose the Right Doctor for Seniors or Caregivers to Seniors



Whether you are an independent senior citizen or the caregiver of a senior, you know that choosing medical support can be a challenge- especially when you add in the stress that comes with understanding your Medicare insurance. 

We have come up with a few tips that make the search for a doctor or specialist that much easier. These tips involve using proactivity and preparedness as tools to ensure your family is in great medical hands. 

Tip One.  Make a list of recommendations from family, friends, coworkers, or anyone else whose opinion you trust. Once this list is made, do your own research to determine which of these healthcare providers work with your insurance plans. Also, check on their reviews online from a third party source. This will help ensure accurate information. 

Tip Two. If the list of medical providers you collected from friends and family is shorter than you’d hoped, go to your local library. The Directory of Physicians in the United States and the Official American Board of Medical Specialties Directory of Board Certified Medical Specialists are available as references at many public libraries. The books don’t actually recommend specific doctors, but they do give a list of doctors that you can consider. It’s a good start, aside from personal recommendations. 

Tip Three. Try to seek a “Board Certified” doctor. These doctors have had extra training in certain areas and have passed an exam certifying their specialization. Doctors with a board certification in geriatrics will know the most about what you or your parents may be facing in the years to come. This is not to say that it is impossible to find a good doctor who is not board certified, it just ensures that little extra knowledge and support. 

Tip Four. Do some digging! Sometimes negative information or complaints about a doctor are well hidden, but that does not mean they don’t exist. Make sure to call and check with local and state medical societies to determine if there have been any complaints about the physician you’re looking into. Some may be applicable to your medical needs, some may not. But it is still worth the call to add a little more protection for you. 

Tip Five.  There are MANY medical providers to choose from so make sure, when all is said and done, that you get along well with the physician you choose, that they have YOUR best interest in mind and that they are available for new patients. Remember, you can always get a second opinion if you feel you have not been given accurate or helpful information. Don’t settle based on principle. Make sure you are getting the care you want and deserve. 

Understanding your insurance is a big part of ensuring you choose the right doctor. Stay tuned for this week’s next article “Medicare 101″ which explains the basics of Medicare and how to understand the physician office “lingo” for Medicare participation.