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Medicare Blog | Medicare News | Medicare Information

Seniors Getting Crushed Under the Weight of Credit Card Debt

Posted by Richard Ybarra on Fri, Jul 31, 2009 @ 12:09 PM

Demos, a liberal public policy group, released a study earlier this week showing consumers age 65 and older are increasing their credit card debt faster than any other demographic. The study details how in 2008, low and middle-income seniors carried $10,235 in average credit card debt last year – a 25% increase from 2005.

According to the study, half of households stated that medical expenses contributed to their credit card debt. Though the report doesn’t specifically state it, one could draw the likely conclusion that this is a result of Medicare not covering all expenses from medical treatment that seniors receive.

The Demos survey, with a margin of error of plus or minus 3.7 percentage points, was conducted by phone from April through August 2008. It questioned 1,205 low and middle-income households, defined as those with 50% to 120% of local median income. The survey additionally stated that the average interest rate is 20% and an average of four late fee charges were paid during a 1 year period.

An additional research group – Employee Benefit Research Institute – confirms the rapid increase in seniors’ credit card debt, as its data from 1992 – 2007 shows senior credit card debt grew faster than that of the overall population. A senior researcher for the institute said that people near or in retirement have the highest probability of becoming disabled or to take on a serious illness, requiring a significant amount of medical care.

In other news, the big news this week in the ongoing health care reform drama, is that House “Blue Dogs” and other, less fiscally conservative Democrats agreed to health care legislation. This signals that a vote is coming sooner rather than later. For more information click here

Sources: USA Today, NPR

Tags: senior market blog, senior market news, Medicare Advantage, Medicare Supplement, Senior Market, senior insurance market news, health insurance news

Obama Conveys His Vision for Health Care Reform

Posted by Richard Ybarra on Fri, Jul 24, 2009 @ 10:30 AM

This week most of you likely watched President Obama's prime time speech on health care reform. His speech is apart of his continued attempt to gain some action on the issue. One of the overall themes of the speech was that America is doomed to fiscal disaster if the current system is not changed. He made the analogy that America "...may go the way of GM; paying more, getting less, and going broke."

A key point of his speech was that his vision allows Americans to keep the plan they have if they like it. He made some pretty brash comments regarding special interest groups who he says are using fear and misinformation to trick the American public into thinking his reform plan will socialize medicine.

President Obama also directly addressed doctors and the issues facing them. Though he didn't get into the details, he said his vision allows doctors to focus on healing rather than on paperwork, and that the system can be made much more efficient through using technology to improve information flow to doctors about what works. He received some boos when he said he doesn't support caps on malpractice awards.

A Health Insurance Exchange system was another big part of President Obama's speech. This system would mimic the current program for federal employees where they can choose from a list of insurance plans approved by the government. He strongly voiced his support that a public option be included in this system as a means of promoting competition in the marketplace. The President then spent the last part of his speech explaining how he proposes to save nearly $1 trillion to pay for his vision.

One night after President Obama's speech, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announced that a compromise on health care reform legislation is unlikely before the fall. This comes as a setback for the president, who has been aggressively pushing the legislative branch of government to meet an August deadline. President Obama is now reiterating his intent to sign a health care reform bill by the end of the year. Senator Reid cited Republicans as the cause of the delay, with Republicans asking for more time to work out financial issues.

Let us know what you think of President Obama's speech and the ongoing health care reform issue in our comments section.

Entry sources: ABC News, CNN

Tags: senior market blog, senior market news, Medicare Advantage, Health Insurance, Medicare Supplement, Medicare Discussion, senior insurance market news, health insurance news

Health Care Reform Battle Rages On

Posted by Richard Ybarra on Fri, Jul 17, 2009 @ 01:30 PM

Health care reform continues to be at the forefront of legislative agenda. No doubt you have heard or read many reports through various news outlets. With so much going on in recent days, it can get pretty confusing. The biggest news thus far is the advancement of a bill in the U.S. House of Representatives by two committees.

The 1,018-page bill maintains the employer-based health insurance system, and extends coverage to all uninsured with a public option. It also requires private insurers to offer policies to all willing buyers and bars them from charging higher premiums based on pre-existing conditions.

To pay for it all, the bill requires individuals who earn enough to file taxes to have insurance or pay a 2.5% penalty on the difference between one's adjusted gross income and the tax filing threshold. It also requires that businesses provide insurance, and that a tax be imposed on such employer-provided benefits. Businesses that don't will pay a payroll tax ranging from 2-8%. The bill also implements a 1% to 5.4% surtax on individuals who make $280,000 or more annually. This is all in addition to the Medicare and Medicaid cuts discussed here previously.

Though the bill was pushed through by House democrats, it was met with criticism by two unlikely, but influential individuals - Douglas Elmendorf, chief of the Congressional Budget Office and President Obama. President Obama opposes taxing employer-provided benefits, and Mr. Elmendorf says the overall bill doesn't reduce the cost of health care to the federal budget over the long-term. Politicians drafting the bill are now re-working the bill to appease President Obama and other influential critics. According to the Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, Sen. Max Baucus (D-Montana) "Basically, the president is not helping us."

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Blog entry sources: Wall Street Journal, CNN, Associated Press

Tags: senior market blog, senior market news, Medicare Advantage, Health Insurance, Medicare, Medicare Supplement, Senior Market, Medicare Discussion, Medicare News, senior insurance market news, health insurance news, health insurance industry, Medicare Advantage News, insurance companies

Identity Thieves Target Insurance Agents

Posted by Richard Ybarra on Tue, Jul 07, 2009 @ 10:29 AM

As you all know, identity theft is a rapidly growing problem. The Javelin Strategy and Research Center found that 10 million Americans fell victim to this crime in 2008. You may think identify theft is primarily caused by using the latest and greatest technology, but according to the Center, low-tech methods are still the most popular among identify thieves. Online methods only account for 11% of all cases.

One growing, low-tech method used to commit identity theft that may directly affect you are thieves posing as state insurance department employees. Recently, Oklahoma Insurance Commissioner Kim Holland warned insurance producers and adjusters to beware of scammers posing as state insurance department employees seeking personal information. According to reports, these fake employees called insurance agents and asked them to fax personal tax information. Similar cases were also reported in Nevada and California where imposters were calling agents and telling them that their licenses were going to be suspended for filing improper paperwork. The imposters then would ask for personal information, such as birth dates, social security numbers, and credit card info to correct the problem.

We remind you to remain vigilant about protecting your personal information. Here are several actions you can take to minimize your chance of becoming a victim (source: www.ftc.gov):

  • Review your credit reports at least once a year, or every three months if you have already been victimized

  • Place passwords on your credit card, bank, and phone accounts; don't use easily available info for your passwords such as maiden names, birth dates, phone numbers, and last four of SSN

  • Secure personal information at home, especially if you live with others

  • Always ask how your personal information will be secured by those who require it to do business

  • Don't give out personal information over the phone, through the mail, or on the Internet unless you've initiated contact or have established trust with the entity you are dealing with

  • Shred your docs with sensitive info

For a full list of actions you can take to help prevent identify theft, click here.

Tags: Success Tips, senior market blog, senior market news, Health Insurance, senior insurance market news, health insurance news, health insurance industry, insurance news

CMS Proposes 21.5% Medicare Payment Cut

Posted by Richard Ybarra on Thu, Jul 02, 2009 @ 10:26 AM

Doctors across America will see their Medicare payments cut by 21.5% starting January 1, 2010 if a proposal by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) is passed. CMS is also proposing to remove physician-administered drugs from the formula used to calculate Medicare's fee schedule for doctors.

The latter proposal is backed by the American Medical Association. AMA president J. James Rohack claims such changes to the Medicare physican payment formula are "...a major victory for America's seniors and their physicians."

The 21.5% cut in 2010 will occur unless Congress strikes down the proposal as it has in the past. The large cut is a result of the sustainable growth rate (SGR) factor in the Medicare payment formula, and from Congress stalling earlier proposed payment cuts.

As an example of what could happen under the cuts, the Michigan State Medical Society estimates that physicians in the state could lose roughly $610 million in 2010. Furthermore, in a 2008 survey the society found that 12% of doctors in the state would stop seeing medicare patients, 44% would decrease the number of Medicare patients they saw, and 40% would see still see the normal amount of Medicare patients, but have to cut investments in staff, technology, or quality improvement efforts. The remaining 4% said it would have no effect. Stay tuned for the decision.

Precision Senior Marketing will be closed beginning at noon on Thursday and all day Friday. Operations will resume as normal on Monday, July 6. Have a great holiday weekend!

Tags: senior market blog, senior market news, Medicare Advantage, Health Insurance, Medicare, Medicare Supplement, Senior Market, Medicare Discussion, Medicare News, senior insurance market news, health insurance news, health insurance industry, Medicare Advantage News, Medicare Advice, CMS

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