What can you tell me about Social Security and Medicare?

In response to my question about what you would like to talk about, Sadie made this suggestion:

“How about a PSA to ‘welcome the new and old/er’. I think many of us have taken care of aging parents with love and kindness, but we’re also taking care of current and retiring representatives, who pay only a fourth of the cost of medical insurance compared to the graduating class of 2011 will have to. The House had no problem enacting health careless for the rest of us, but never touched their own perks.

“I hear that the first wave of baby boomers, at the pace of 10,000 daily for the next 19 years, will begin January 1, 2011. I think a nice cover letter welcoming them to the world of Social Security and Medicare is in order with the caveat…  

“Welcome to the ‘golden years’ and remember all that glitters is not gold and not always covered, unless you’ve been elected to the 112th House of Reps. or served in any other.”

Sounds like a great topic and, as a 58-year-old, a topic that I’m interested in.  Problem is, I am profoundly ignorant in all things Social Security and Medicare.  I’m especially ignorant about what changes are being made to Medicare to save have a trillion dollars (at least that’s what I think I heard was happening).  Can anyone please enlighten me?

Also, as to Sadie’s last comment, I doubt there is a reader in the Bookwormroom who doesn’t think the Congress should be bound by the rules they impose on the rest of us.  But does anyone think that is ever going to happen?

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  1. SADIE says

    The last paragraph from the linked article is singularly the most important. There is an abundance of unknowns from one year to the next with changes to the ‘system’ and changes in our own personal lives health wise. Unlike choosing auto insurance annually on the same vehicle with the same coverage, this is personal and the impact can be costly depending upon ‘original’ condition. That is to say, if you are a relatively healthy person, the costs can be minimized, if you are not and don’t have lots o’ money – it’s expensive. Think of it as a deductible for collision and comprehensive for your wheels.
    I can’t stress enough the importance of speaking with a Medicare specialist before making a decision as well as friends and family, who are in the ‘system’. Not mentioned in the link is Part D (Prescription coverage) and with all the changes known and unknowns, Part D/Pharmaceuticals is another maze to walk through and I can dispense the basics. All prescriptions drugs are classified as ‘tiers’ 1 through 4. Tiers 1/2 being generics and less expensive. Note: There is no standard classification and varies from one insurance company to the next. To add misery and frustration, I’ll share the following:
    Annually, you can change insurance/coverage (yes, there can and most probably will be a penalty). In fact, if you don’t sign up for Part D and B when you become eligible, you will incur a penalty monthly for the rest of your days. Friends of mine, were looking to change their Part D insurer (you can buy it separately as well as a package with Part B). Anyway, said friend called an insurance company to clarify the ‘tiers’ of her current list of prescriptions so that she could make a comparison to her current plan. On the first call, she was told that drug ‘x’ and drug ‘z’ were in one tier group and on a follow up phone call was told the opposite. In other words, unless you have it in writing, you can’t trust that that the person on the other end of the phone has the foggiest idea of what’s what.
    “Please note that the explanation of the rules for Medicare paying for Part -A and Part – B are beyond the scope of this article.
    It should also be mentioned that since Medicare has considerable benefit limitations, there are private insurance policies called Medigap Insurance Plans where these insurance policies complement the gaps that Medicare does not cover. It is highly recommended to consult a Medicare Specialist to coordinate which one of these Medigap Plans is suitable for your personal needs”.

    I’ll save my rant for later.

  2. SADIE says

    The link below describes all of the supplemental plans Part B and Part D in clear enough terms. As I mentioned, depending upon your ‘health status’ making a determination using a plan with/without co-pays is something to consider. If you’re seeing a doctor, once/twice a year, the co-pays are not a monetary consideration. If, you have a chronic condition that requires one/two visits a month to specialists, the costs can add up very quickly. By the time you stop working, who knows, there may be more or less choices. The irony is that when we are less capable of making executive choices, we are forced into making some very important ones. You live in California today, but will live elsewhere down the road and that must factor into the decision as well.  Where you live, including the county within a state should be part of any decision.


  3. SADIE says

    DQ – add this to you reading list. Where you live, down to the county within a state, should influence any decision as choices vary. Anyway, it explains all the plans, including the world of co-pays. If you’re using a specialist once/twice a month for a chronic problem, it can become costly and one needs to select a plan that omits or mitigates the costs.


  4. suek says

    I’m reminded of a story about an older man who was found near death in his upstairs bedroom with his window open.  Checking the yard below (why was the window open??), they found his bottle of heart medication unopened, with all pills still in the bottle.  The first assumption was that he had committed suicide.  That was later changed when they learned that he was unable to open the bottle of pills due to the child safety top and threw the bottle out of the window in total frustration.
    I can definitely imagine not getting medical care due simply to frustration with trying to figure out the system.
    And it makes no sense besides.  Why is the “enrollment” limited to period x to period y?  I understand having an expiration date based on when you enroll, but why should everybody be required to enroll at  the same time?  Sort of why is tax due on April 15?  Why not spread it out alphabetically?  or based on some other measure…zip code, maybe.

  5. SADIE says

    Why is the “enrollment” limited to period x to period y?
    The auto deduct from Social Security (currently starting at $110.50/month) it’s more, I think up to $155 depending upon income, goes into some bureaucratic pot. From the pot they dole out the reimbursement to doctors. My best guess is that there ‘may’ be some system whereby they know how much is in the pot for a fiscal year and probably why the enrollment period is November 15-December 31.
    I think the tax date reflected, once upon a time, how many days you worked to pay your local/state/fed taxes while still breathing. Of course, there’s more even after you stop the inhale/exhale thing, then your kids get to pay more. The idiots didn’t childproof the bottles, they adult proofed them. Imagine arthritic hands trying to depress and twist off the top.

  6. bizcor says

    I am about five years away from having to do anything about it I think. Those of us born 1950 or later must wait until 65 to get early social security and 70 to get the full deal. I do not know if Medicare and social security eligibility occur at the same time. I do however have a friend who specializes in these areas but haven’t been able to talk to him about it because he is straight out between November 15th and December 31st. I will check in with him to see if he can shed some light on the subject. He is a conservative too and I might even get him to log in. I will also will table the rant.
    What has been particularly helpful for me these last two years is getting involved with the New Hampshire Republicans and working for the conservatives who represent what the Republican Party is supposed to be. It helps to quell the frustration you get from feeling helpless. I am a member of the town, county, and state committee. These are the people who encourage candidates to run. We are the same people who keep our representatives accountable. It also gets me a direct line into my representatives and they have to listen because I am not a faceless name on a voting roll. There are many people like me who are so concerned they too are involved. I have also attended several Tea Party events. We are getting out into the community and waking people up. We took a break after November and begin anew January 4th. I encourage you all to do the same. At first I felt a little lost but as I rolled up my sleeves and pitched in I found my niche. I am a struggling small businessman who has little money to invest but gave my time. Now people are coming to me to ask my thoughts on this candidate or issue.  
    Those of you in Marin County have to be going nuts with Boxer, Feinstein, and Pelosi. The cherry on top is of course Jerry Brown. I just know that we are going to have to bail California out because it represents a huge part of the national economy. (Too big to Fail.) California is in the fix it is in because of liberal policies that have killed the economy. New York, Massachusetts, and few other states are not far behind. I know debating with liberals seems hopeless but it is not. Many of them suffer from ignorance especially the young ones. Some can be enlightened. We all read a “convert’s” blog so this alone tells you it can happen.

  7. says

    Sadie,  thanks for all your help and suggestions.  You’ve been so helpful the system decided you’ve been spamming me.  I hope I’ve freed up everything you wrote.  Keep sending things along and I’ll try to be diligent in checking to see you get posted okay.

  8. SADIE says

    I believe it’s 67 if you were born after 1960. I’ve linked the chart from the belly of the beast. You reminded me that the ‘specialist’ are booked for the 6 week period and the need to address all the questions and issues well in advance of the November 15th date, since time is also booked to speak with corporate retirees. I read an article in WSJ that a very high percentage of even this group were completely uninformed nor did they understand exactly what ‘perks’ would continue and what would not. If you have a spouse, there are additional questions, too.


  9. SADIE says

    WHAT! As if I don’t have enough to rant about .. and now the system deemed me to be SPAM. Is it something I said? Was it the quality of a pun – then we could call SPUN (full rejection of a pun).
    You’ve seemed to have covered it all of it from what I can see and remember.

  10. SADIE says

    Oops, almost overlooked my real favorite  on Medicare. As a reminder, to the uninformed, Social Security is considered income by those swell guys n’ gals at the IRS and is taxed.
    Members of Congress are allowed to allot a portion of their pay to be used to pay their premium.  The allotment is made on a pre-tax basis, which means the money is not subject to federal income, Medicare or Social Security taxes, and in most cases, state and local taxes.  The allotment reduces their taxable income.

  11. suek says

    This may have been linked before – but if not, it’s worth saving for reference.
    >>Is it something I said? Was it the quality of a pun – then we could call SPUN (full rejection of a pun).>>
    I think I’d call that “_UN_SPUN”_  …!
    I think the ages required for SS are changing by one month increments or so.  They were 62 for an early SS, 65 for “normal” SS and 70 for an increased payment.  Our bookkeeper recently applied – and the “normal” is apparently up to 66 now.  Don’t know about the others.  However….just for the info files… when I applied originally, my husband decided he was going to wait till he was 70.  Among other things, we did the math and realized that he’d have to live till nearly 90 to make up the difference in the total dollars paid out.  Regulations are such that if he didn’t retire until he was 70, I had to be able to retire on my own meager lifetime earnings…you can’t be paid as a spouse unless the aforementioned spouse also retires.  So I started my process, we did the math and a couple of months later, he started the process.  At some point, I received notice that I was entitled to two payments – one in my name individually, and one as spouse.  Payments went into a joint account that Hubby controls, so no thought was applied.  Until last year, I think, when I looked at the year end statements and realized that the dollar amounts didn’t figure.   I went to the SS office, filled out more forms and got a letter to the effect that yes indeed, I was entitled to more, but due to SS policy, I was entitled to only 6 months “backpay”.  Hmmmm.  Well, 6 months is better than none, and going forward would be good so…signed the papers and set the thing in motion.  Much to my surprise, a couple of months later my husband told me that for some reason, we’d just received a big chunk of money from the SS.  My ship had arrived!  A welcome surprise, and will probably be helpful in getting daughter’s problems straightened out – but bear the initial fact in mind – they will theoretically only correct errors back 6 months.  So why did I get the back payment???  I have _no_ idea.  I intend to let sleeping dogs lie.  Or lay.  Or whatever!

  12. SADIE says

    Ymar – In that case, this is for you…Happy Sleepy New Year : )
    Many families spend the cold Japanese winter together underneath the kotatsu, reading manga, watching TV, or snoozing.  Spending the New Year under the kotatsu watching TV is called “neshougatsu” (寝正月, ねしょうがつ), literally meaning “sleepy new year”.
    suek ..
    So why did I get the back payment???  I have _no_ idea.
    Who knows, certainly not the SS office. Hmm…wonder if there’s a Social Security specialist. I took my Social Security at 62, at the reduced rate to take care of my mother. As I recall, I think it takes 17 years to balance out the ‘penalty’ of minus 30% and there’s certainly no guarantee that you live the next 17 years. We all know, that there are some who never live to see the first check.

  13. bizcor says

    I have to book mark this blog so I can read up on Sadie’s information. And let me say to Don Q thank you for your efforts while the bookworm was away. She delegated wisely.

    Happy New Year to you all!

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