Counting on Medicaid to avoid life in a nursing home? That’s now up to Congress

Esther Ellis sits on her bed at home in Hawthorne, Calif., on July 18, 2017. She received a new mattress earlier this year from Partners in Care, a nonprofit that runs four of the dozens of sites in California's Multipurpose Senior Services Program, a Medicaid-funded home services program. (Heidi de Marco/KHN)

Esther Ellis sits on her bed at home in Hawthorne, Calif., on July 18, 2017. She received a new mattress earlier this year from Partners in Care, a nonprofit that runs four of the dozens of sites in California's Multipurpose Senior Services Program, a Medicaid-funded home services program. (Heidi de Marco/KHN)

Ten years ago, a driver ran a stop sign as Jim McIlroy rode into the intersection on his motorcycle. Serious injuries left McIlroy paralyzed from the chest down. But, after spending some time in a nursing home, he returned to his home near Bethel, Maine.

McIlroy does most of his own cooking since Maine’s Medicaid program paid for a stovetop that he can roll his wheelchair underneath to reach the food-prep area. His new kitchen sink has the same feature. Wheelchair-friendly wood flooring has replaced McIlroy’s wall-to-wall carpeting.

The alterations plus a personal care aide — all paid for by Medicaid — enable McIlroy to stay in his house that he and his wife, who has since died, “worked really hard to own,” he said. The arrangement also saves Medicaid roughly two-thirds of what it would cost if he lived in a nursing home.

McIlroy depends on the federal-state program’s growing support of home-based care services — along with 2 million elderly or disabled Americans who rely on them to live at home for as long as possible.

However, that crucial help could face severe cuts if congressional Republicans eventually succeed in their push to sharply reduce federal Medicaid funds to states.

States can choose whether to offer Medicaid services at home, but nursing home coverage, which is more expensive, is a required benefit. Optional benefits like home services would likely be first to go if states face budget troubles, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) warned in an analysis in May.

Children with special health needs, older adults and people with disabilities greatly value home- and community-based assistance, said Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), who chairs the Senate Select Committee on Aging.

“That’s why I am deeply concerned with proposals that would significantly cut Medicaid, forcing governors and state legislators to confront difficult budget choices, including how to maintain these critical, but optional, services,” said Collins, one of three Republicans whose votes early Friday helped defeat the Senate’s “skinny repeal” measure that would have scuttled the Affordable Care Act.

While home services are not a required part of Medicaid, they represent a large share of Medicaid spending. Medicaid expenses for long-term care consumed a third of the Medicaid budget nationwide in 2015, and more than half of that amount went to optional home-based care, according to a government report. Nursing homes got the rest.

“Staying at home is so incredibly important,” said McIlroy, 73, who grows cucumbers, peppers and tomatoes on the deck of his house. “You can do what you want to do when you want to do it, and you don’t have to share a room with somebody else and have your meals brought to you.”

Yet demand for home-based services is outpacing supply. In Maryland, more than 20,000 people were on a registry awaiting openings for Medicaid home-based services last month. About 160,000 older or disabled people across the country were waiting for home services in 2015, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation report last year. (Kaiser Health News is an editorially independent program of the foundation.)

Esther Ellis, who lives outside Los Angeles, received a new mattress this year from Partners in Care Foundation, a nonprofit that runs four of the 38 sites in California’s Multipurpose Senior Service Program and provides Medicaid-funded home services.

The mattress helps relieve her back problems after surgery. Partners also provided a couch, a microwave and an emergency call button to summon help that she wears as a pendant around her neck.

“If it wasn’t for them, I don’t know what I would do,” said Ellis, 79.

Advocates argue that home-based services can make a big difference for health. “It’s all well and good to discharge people from the hospital with a list of medications to take,” said Camille Dobson, deputy executive director of the National Association of States United for Aging and Disabilities, which represents state departments of aging. “But if they go home to a refrigerator that doesn’t work so that they can’t store their medications or have no way to get to their appointments, all of that great medical intervention goes for naught.”

Medicaid home services usually include a visiting nurse or nurse practitioner, a home health aide or someone to help with dressing, eating and other daily activities, light housekeeping and transportation to doctor’s appointments. But that’s just the beginning.

The programs also pay for home modifications, which include minor renovations such as grab bars in the bathroom to prevent falls and wider door frames to accommodate wheelchairs. To overcome potentially treacherous stairs, states may provide wheelchair ramps and some — including California and Ohio — will install a stair glider or chairlift.

Carolyn Gilliland, 81, has lived in her home in central Ohio’s farm country since she was 4. She receives home-based services to help with chronic health problems through a Medicaid managed-care plan called MyCare Ohio. It provides two weekly visits from a nurse, a personal care aide and a chairlift to reach her second-floor bedroom. Until it was installed in April, she couldn’t go upstairs.

“It relieves the stress on my knees,” she said.

Home health services, plus any appliances, electronics and other items, must be medically necessary and part of an individual care plan. Recipients must receive Medicaid, and in most cases must be sick enough to qualify for nursing home care.

Among them is Cynthia Dutil, 60, who lives near Waterville, Maine. Because she has cerebral palsy, she depends on a personal care aide for help with dressing and other daily activities. Maine’s home-based services program also provided a small food processor to puree her foods, a large-print keyboard for her computer and a two-sided toothbrush.

Dutil said she’s living life on her terms. She began to explain why she prefers that to living in a nursing home, but stopped midsentence. “How much time do you have?”

For more information about Medicaid home-based services, go to www.eldercare.gov or call 1-800-677-1116.

KHN’s coverage related to aging & improving care of older adults is supported by The John A. Hartford Foundation and its coverage of aging and long-term care issues is supported by The SCAN Foundation.

Kaiser Health News (KHN) is a national health policy news service. It is an editorially independent program of the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.

Posted on July 31, 2017 .

Even without Congress, Trump can still cut Medicaid enrollment

By PHIL GALEWITZ

After the Senate fell short in its effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act, the Trump administration is poised to use its regulatory powers to accomplish what lawmakers could not: shrink Medicaid.

President Donald Trump’s top health officials could engineer lower enrollment in the state-federal health insurance program by approving applications from several GOP-controlled states eager to control fast-rising Medicaid budgets.

Indiana, Arkansas, Kentucky, Arizona and Wisconsin are seeking the administration’s permission to require adult enrollees to work, submit to drug testing and demand that some of their poorest recipients pay monthly premiums or get barred from the program.

Maine plans to apply Tuesday. Other states would likely follow if the first ones get the go-ahead.

Josh Archambault, senior fellow for the conservative Foundation for Government Accountability, said absent congressional action on the health bill “the administration may be even more proactive in engaging with states on waivers outside of those that are already planning to do so.”

The hope, he added, is that fewer individuals will be on the program as states figure out ways “to transition able-bodied enrollees into new jobs, or higher-paying jobs.” States need to shore up the program to be able to keep meeting demands for the “truly needy,” such as children and the disabled, he added.

To Medicaid’s staunchest supporters and most vocal critics alike, the waiver requests are a way to rein in the $500 billion program that has undergone unprecedented growth the past four years and now covers 75 million people.

Waivers have often been granted in the past to broaden coverage and test new ways to deliver Medicaid care, such as through private managed-care organizations.

But critics of the new requests, which could be approved within weeks, said they could hurt those who are most in need.

The National Health Law Program “is assessing the legality of work requirements and drug testing and all avenues for challenging them, including litigation,” said Jane Perkins, the group’s legal director.

The administration has already said it favors work requirements and in March invited states to suggest new ideas.

Before taking the top job at the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, Seema Verma was the architect of a Kentucky waiver request submitted last year.

Not all states are expected to seek waivers, because Medicaid enjoys wide political support in many states, particularly in the Northeast and West.

Medicaid, the nation’s largest health insurance program, has seen enrollment soar by 17 million since 2014, when Obamacare gave states more federal funding to expand coverage for adults. It’s typically states’ second-largest expense after education.

This year, Senate and House bills tried to cap federal funding to states for the first time. Since the program began in 1965, federal Medicaid funding to states has been open-ended.

Health experts say allowing the waiver requests goes beyond the executive branch’s authority to change the program without approval from Congress.

“The point of these waivers is not for states to remake the program whole-cloth on a large-scale basis,” said Sara Rosenbaum, a health policy expert at George Washington University who chairs a Medicaid group that advises Congress.

Rosenbaum noted that states received waivers for different purposes under the Obama administration.

In Iowa, state officials won the authority to limit non-emergency transportation. Indiana received approval to charge premiums and lock out enrollees with incomes above the federal poverty level if they fell behind on paying premiums.

“Now there is concern these more extreme measures would hurt enrollees’ access to care,” Rosenbaum said.

Three states seeking waivers today are home to three key GOP players in the Senate health debate: Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (Kentucky), Sen. John McCain (Arizona) and Vice President Mike Pence (Indiana).

If states add premiums, as well as work and drug testing requirements, the result would be fewer people enrolling and staying in Medicaid, said David Machledt, senior policy analyst for the National Health Law Program.

“How does that serve the purpose of the Medicaid program and what are the limits of CMS waiver authority?” he asked.

Wisconsin, where Republican Gov. Scott Walker wants his state to become the first to require some Medicaid enrollees to undergo drug testing, is a prime waiver candidate.

State officials stress the effort is not to deter drug users from the program but to help provide treatment for drug users.

Wisconsin is also one of five states seeking a waiver to add a work requirement. People could meet the mandate through volunteering, job training or caring for an elderly relative.

In addition, Wisconsin wants to limit enrollees’ Medicaid benefits to 48 consecutive months, unless the beneficiary is working.

Enrollees with incomes from 50 percent to 100 percent of the federal poverty level, or between $6,030 and$12,060, would have to pay an $8 monthly premium.

All of these rules would apply to about 12 percent of people currently enrolled in Medicaid — adults who are not disabled and don’t have dependent children.

Wisconsin Medicaid Director Michael Heifetz said the main goal of the proposed changes is not to shrink the size of Medicaid but to get people into the workforce.

“The proposal is not designed to have folks leave the program except for positive reasons,” he said.

If the waiver is approved, the state anticipates annual savings of nearly $50 million and a drop in enrollment of 5,102 over five years.

Wisconsin now spends $7 billion on Medicaid and has 1.2 million recipients.

Asked why childless adults — not parents — are the focus of the waivers, Heifetz said Wisconsin wanted to test the provisions on a smaller population first and focus on adults who should be able to find work.

But the Wisconsin effort has sparked broad outrage from hospitals, doctors and advocates for people with disabilities.

The Wisconsin Council of Churches said the state would be punishing the poor with its waivers — and undermining the vitality of communities.

“We are concerned the proposed changes to the program will be detrimental for the health of our most vulnerable neighbors … and undermine the social fabric and vitality of our state,” said Peter Bakken, public policy coordinator for the group in Sun Prairie, a suburb of Madison.

Kaiser Health News, a nonprofit health newsroom whose stories appear in news outlets nationwide, is an editorially independent part of the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Posted on July 28, 2017 .

Protecting seniors online from scams, hacks and tax fraud

(NewsUSA) - The vast majority of seniors today are using the Internet at least once a week to check email, pay bills online and keep in touch via social media. But all that time online puts them at risk for scams and hacks, such as tax fraud.

In fact, a new survey by Home Instead, Inc., franchisor of the Home Instead Senior Care network, found that 67 percent of surveyed older adults have been the victim of an online scam or hack.

Encouraging seniors to practice cyber security can go a long way toward protecting their identity and sensitive financial information. Home Instead collaborated with the National Cyber Security Alliance to create Protect Seniors Online, available at www.ProtectSeniorsOnline.com, a free resource that educates older adults about cybersecurity. Here, seniors can test their cybersecurity skills with the "Can You Spot an Online Scam?" quiz.

Older adults can take the following steps now to protect themselves online:

*Password protect and secure devices, accounts. Lock all devices (including computers, tablets and smartphones) with secure passwords in case devices are lost or stolen. 

*Think before clicking. When faced with an urgent request -- like emails asking for money -- think before clicking or get a second opinion. Clicking on links is often how scammers get personal information. When in doubt, trash an unusual message.

*Share with care. More than half (51 percent) of seniors surveyed by Home Instead use social media to stay connected. Use care when sharing personal information, adjust privacy settings to limit who can see your information, and turn off location sharing.

*Use security software. Install anti-virus and anti-spyware software and program it to run regularly. And be wary of pop-up ads or emails, many of which contain malware that can infect computers.

*Log out. Log out of apps and websites when you are finished. Leaving apps and websites open on computer screens could make you vulnerable to security and privacy risks.

*Recommend support. Older adults who live alone may need help from a trusted source -- such as a family member, tech-savvy friend or professional caregiver --to serve as a second set of eyes.

To explore additional Protect Seniors Online resources, including the interactive quiz, visit www.ProtectSeniorsOnline.com

A Home Instead office near you can be found by visiting www.homeinstead.com/state.

Posted on July 24, 2017 .

Finding resources for older adults

Older people can get help and advice on a number of topics from one special source.

Older people can get help and advice on a number of topics from one special source.

If you or someone you care about is an older adult, you should know about the Eldercare Locator. The Eldercare Locator, a public service of the Administration on Aging, an agency of the U.S. Administration for Community Living is a nationwide service that connects older adults and their caregivers with information on aging services.

Callers to the Eldercare Locator receive information about federal, state and local services such as transportation, in-home supportive services, and health and wellness programs. Information Specialists are there to help guide callers to the correct resources.

You can call the Eldercare Locator at (800) 677-1116 Monday through Friday, 9:00 am to 8:00 pm ET to speak with a knowledgeable Information Specialist, or you can visit the website, www.eldercare.gov to find local resources on a broad range of topics. - NAPSI

Posted on July 18, 2017 .

Tips to prevent slips, trips and falls

Slips, trips and falls that cause injury and death are all too common, and they disproportionately affect older people. Indeed, one-third of older U.S. adults suffer falls each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. What’s more, a fear of falling can alter habits, negatively impacting one’s quality of life.

Fortunately, many such falls are highly preventable. Changes in vision, balance and muscle strength that can occur as one ages can be addressed, and other external risk factors can be prevented.

Staying Vital

Regular exercise is important for maintaining the physical strength and mobility needed to reduce the risk of falls. Taking classes to improve balance, such as tai chi, has also been shown to reduce the risk of falls.

Many community centers and fitness clubs offer classes designed for older individuals, so be sure to consult your healthcare provider for an exercise routine that is appropriate for you.

“Set a reminder to get regular health screenings for bone density, vision and other fall risk factors. Staying aware of these physical changes and adapting to them, can help you remain healthy and independent,” says Carrie Nie, director, Safe Communities America, National Safety Council.

Home Modifications

“Most falls happen at home, so it’s important for individuals, caregivers and loved ones to focus on keeping the home free of safety hazards that increase the likelihood of falls,” says Nie.

Installing grab bars, additional handrails and extra lighting can make it easier to maintain balance, improve vision and avoid tripping hazards. You should also free walking areas of tripping hazards, such as electrical and phone cords and open drawers and cabinets. To avoid slips, use non-skid rugs, clean up spills immediately and wear proper footwear.

Community Engagement

Individuals and loved ones should look into local resources available that can help prevent falls and maintain older adults’ independence, as well as get involved in efforts to make their community more accessible.

Many communities are already engaged in such efforts. For example, counties, cities, towns and universities accredited by the National Safety Council Safe Communities America program, put initiatives into place to raise awareness of the risk of falls and increase older adult independence and safety at the local level. The program also works with volunteer groups to make the homes of older adults safer. For example, one such volunteer group, “Team Handyman,” installs grab bars, hand rails and other safety features in the homes of older adults in Midland, Michigan.

To learn more about fall prevention, as well as community safety efforts, visit nsc.org.

While aging itself is not the cause of falls, older people are at greater risk of taking a spill. To reduce your risk of falling, keep your home safe, your body strong and your community engaged.

Posted on July 15, 2017 .

Attorney General DeWine warns of elder abuse

COLUMBUS—Ahead of Elder Abuse Awareness Day (June 15), Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine is warning Ohioans to beware of signs of elder abuse.

“Elder abuse can affect any family in any community,” Attorney General DeWine said. “It often involves a person in a position of power or trust who takes advantage of an older adult. Sadly, many elder abuse cases are never reported. The good news is that we can help protect our neighbors, family, and friends by bringing attention to the problem and taking steps to prevent and stop it.”

An estimated one in 10 older adults have experienced elder abuse, but only a portion of elder abuse cases are believed to be reported to authorities. Elder abuse can include physical abuse, emotional abuse, sexual abuse, financial exploitation, or neglect. It often is committed by someone the person knows, such as a family member, friend, or caregiver, and it can occur in the older person’s home, in a residential facility, or elsewhere in the community. 

Warning signs of elder abuse include:

  • Changes in an older adult’s physical appearance, such as weight loss or unexplained bruising or bleeding
  • Changes in an older adult’s personality or mood
  • Changes in an older adult’s finances or money management
  • A dominating, threatening caregiver or new “best friend” 
  • Exclusion from other family members or friends
  • Changes in an older adult’s home environment

Risk factors include social isolation, bereavement, cognitive decline, dependence on another for care, and depression or other mental issues. Victims may be reluctant to report abuse for fear of being moved from their home or being harmed. 

Ohio’s population of adults age 60 or older, which stood at 2.28 million in 2010, is expected to grow to 3.37 million by 2030, according to the Scripps Gerontology Center at Miami University. As Ohio’s population of older adults grows, so too could the potential for elder abuse.

To protect Ohio’s older adults, the Ohio Attorney General’s Office works with local authorities in the investigation and prosecution of elder abuse cases and investigates patient abuse and neglect in long-term care settings. For example, following investigations by the office, a Kentucky man was sentenced to four years in prison for stealing from elderly and/or disabled nursing home residents, and an Ohio man was sentenced to four years in prison for stealing more than $2 million in timber from property owned by an elderly man. 

Through the Ohio Attorney General’s Elder Justice Initiative, which Attorney General DeWine launched in 2014, the office also provides support, education, and outreach services to combat elder financial exploitation and abuse. Training for law enforcement, attorneys, social workers, and other professionals is available.  

To request assistance, training, or more information about elder justice issues, contact the Ohio Attorney General’s Office at 800-282-0515 or visit www.OhioAttorneyGeneral.gov.

Posted on June 14, 2017 .

Be careful. Con artists at work.

Investment fraud schemes are taking a devastating toll on the life savings of Ohio investors. Unfortunately, this fraud often comes at the hands of a con artist masquerading as a trusted friend, neighbor or associate. An investment promoter can play on something they have in common with a potential investor—such as attending the same place of worship, being a member of the same race or ethnic group, or sharing common friends or hobbies. No matter who is promoting the investment, Ohioans should investigate before they invest. Investors can call the Division of Securities Investor Protection Hotline at 1-877-NVEST411 to ask if a seller is licensed and if the investment product is registered.

The Division of Securities encourages investors to:

 

  • Avoid blind reliance on family and friend testimonials regarding a particular securities salesperson or investment, call the Division and perform your own research.
  • Take the time to understand what you are purchasing, which means reading the relevant prospectus or offering circular and, if needed, consulting a licensed investment adviser.
  • Be skeptical when promised unusually high or unrealistic returns—especially when other investments or financial products are not generating similar returns.
  • Keep notes on conversations relating to your investment accounts and carefully review all mailed monthly or quarterly account statements as well as online account information.

Posted on June 12, 2017 .

Ohioans urged to watch for signs of elder financial exploitation

Division of Securities Recognizes World Elder Abuse Awareness Day

COLUMBUS - In recognition of World Elder Abuse Awareness Day on June 15, the Division of Securities is urging Ohioans to keep a watchful eye for signs of elder financial exploitation and to promptly report possible abuse to appropriate officials.

“The rapid aging of America’s population means elder financial abuse is rising, due in part to the amount of wealth seniors have accumulated throughout their careers,” said Securities Commissioner Andrea Seidt. “Additionally, many in our older population are vulnerable due to social isolation and distance from family, caregivers and other support networks. The days of aging in communities surrounded by generations of family members are fading into the past.”

According to research from the Scripps Gerontology Center at Miami University, Ohio’s population of adults age 60 and older will grow 30 percent from 2010 to 2020, and 50 percent by 2040. Adults over the age of 50 control 70 percent of the nation’s wealth, which makes older Americans the No. 1 target of financial con artists. Nationally, financial exploitation is the third-most frequent form of abuse, after physical neglect and emotional abuse.

“In most of the financial fraud cases we investigate that involve seniors, we find that they have a very limited amount of time to recover their financial losses,” Seidt said. “We need as many eyes and ears as possible watching and listening for signs of suspected elder financial exploitation to prevent seniors from losing their life savings.”

Seidt suggests Ohioans watch for the following warning signs of suspicious behavior that may indicate potential financial exploitation:

·       Has a senior moved away from existing relationships and toward new associations with other “friends” or strangers?

·       Has a new person entered the senior’s life and shown an excessive interest in their finances or accounts?

·       Are you unable to speak directly with the senior despite repeated attempts at contact?

·       Does the senior display unexplained excitement over a financial windfall but is reluctant to discuss details?

If these sound familiar, Commissioner Seidt recommends contacting your local adult protection services agency. If you or someone you know suspects they may be a victim of securities fraud, call the Division of Securities’ Investor Protection Hotline at 1-877-683-7841. Tips for seniors to avoid being scammed can be found on the Division’s website at:http://com.ohio.gov/documents/OlderAmericanFraud.pdf

Posted on June 12, 2017 .

More grandparents are raising grandkids: 3 things they need to know

From single parents to traditional and multigenerational households, modern families come in all shapes and sizes. But did you know there’s an uptick in the number of grandparents raising grandkids? According to data from The Pew Charitable Trusts, 2.9 million grandparents were raising their grandchildren in 2015 compared with 2.5 million in 2005.

Oftentimes, grandparents become primary caregivers due to unforeseen circumstances. Here are three things those taking on this responsibility should consider.

Protect their Financial Future

A recent study found 30 percent of all households don’t have life insurance, according to LIMRA, a life insurance research organization. Grandparents should be sure this coverage is up to date.

They might also consider purchasing term insurance -- life insurance issued for a limited period of time. More affordable than a whole life policy, it provides financial security for the golden years, helps supplement retirement income and can assist with final expenses. A term life insurance policy can even help pay off a mortgage -- so grandparents have peace of mind knowing that dependents have a roof over their heads -- and can also be used for other child-rearing expenses, such as college tuition.

Keep Them Safe

Accidental injury is the leading cause of death for children up to 14 years old, and more than a third of accident-related deaths happen in the home, reports KidsHealth.

To create a safe living environment for younger children, secure large furniture to walls, purchase safety gates for staircases, and install outlet covers, corner protectors, security locks and appliance latches. It might also be a good time to update in-home safety features for grandparents, too. Handrails provide better grip on staircases, and anti-slip mats and grab bars in the bathroom can add extra stability.

Promote Smarter Driving

As teens get behind the wheel, encourage them to drive safely. A 2015 statistic from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says six teens die every day in car crashes in the US, and this is the number one killer of teens. Distracted driving is the cause of 58 percent of teen-involved traffic crashes, according to the National Organization for Youth Safety. Remind grandkids about the dangers of texting, using apps and changing the radio station while driving.

Also, reevaluate your auto insurance policy. Talk to an agent about whether it makes more sense to add grandchildren to an existing policy or take one out for them specifically. Grandparents may be able to add grandkids as secondary drivers on a policy, but should be prepared to pay higher rates since teens may be considered high-risk. Look for a cost-effective solution, such as the Youthful Driver Discount offered by Erie Insurance. Eligible licensed drivers 20 and under can save up to 20 percent on their car insurance. Plus, drivers under age 21 who complete an accredited driver’s education course may also be eligible for discounts.

Caring for grandkids can be overwhelming. However, preparation can help ensure your family’s safety and security. - StatePoint

Posted on June 11, 2017 .

Social Security online Retirement Estimator

How the Retirement Estimator Works

The Retirement Estimator gives estimates based on your actual Social Security earnings record. Please keep in mind that these are just estimates. We can’t provide your actual benefit amount until you apply for benefits. And that amount may differ from the estimates provided because:

  • Your earnings may increase or decrease in the future.
  • After you start receiving benefits, they will be adjusted for cost-of-living increases.
  • Your estimated benefits are based on current law. The law governing benefit amounts may change because, by 2034, the payroll taxes collected will be enough to pay only about 79 cents for each dollar of scheduled benefits.
  • Your benefit amount may be affected by military service, railroad employment or pensions earned through work on which you did not pay Social Security tax.

Who Can Use the Retirement Estimator

You can use the Retirement Estimator if:

  • You have enough Social Security credits at this time to qualify for benefits and
  • You are not:
    • Currently receiving benefits on your own Social Security record; 
    • Waiting for a decision about your application for benefits or Medicare; 
    • Age 62 or older and receiving benefits on another Social Security record; or 
    • Eligible for a Pension Based on Work Not Covered By Social Security.

If you are currently receiving only Medicare benefits, you can still get an estimate. For more information go to this link for our publication Retirement Information For Medicare Beneficiaries.

If you cannot use the Retirement Estimator or you want a survivors or disability benefit estimate, please use one of our other benefit Calculators.

Estimate Your Retirement Benefits

Important

You cannot use the Retirement Estimator if you blocked access to your personal information.

How Long Can You Stay On Each Page?

For security reasons, there are time limits for viewing each page. You will receive a warning after 25 minutes without doing anything, and you will be able to extend your time on the page.

After the third warning on a page, you must move to another page. If you do not, your time will run out and your work on that page will be lost.

Note

If you turned JavaScript off in your browser, you will not receive these warnings. After you spend 30 minutes on a page, you must move to another page or you will be logged out.

Posted on June 6, 2017 .

Aging eyes: 3 ways seniors can protect their vision

While you may take healthy eyes for granted, it’s important to know that as you age, you become more susceptible to conditions that can impair your vision. The effects of vision loss can be devastating, harming one’s quality of life and independence.

Fortunately, there are proactive steps you can take to see better and help keep eyes healthy.

1. Annual ophthalmology appointment. Regular ophthalmological exams are critical, especially for seniors. Even if you think your vision is unchanged, it’s important to make an appointment annually. A thorough eye exam not only assesses prescription updates, it includes a range of tests looking for signs of cataracts, glaucoma and macular degeneration. Catching these issues early means earlier intervention and a greater chance at preserving your vision.

2. Monitor and treat macular degeneration. Over 15 million Americans have macular degeneration (AMD), a progressive disease which can lead to severe central vision blind spots in both eyes. In the most advanced form, End-Stage AMD, it becomes difficult or impossible to recognize faces, read, watch TV or complete tasks requiring detailed vision. However, new advances are helping those living with macular degeneration. For example, the CentraSight treatment program uses a pea-sized telescope implant. Implanted in one eye only, the FDA-approved and Medicare-eligible device is proven to restore vision and improve quality of life those 65 and older. The other eye remains “as-is,” to maintain the patient’s peripheral vision, because some is lost in the operated eye after the out-patient surgery.

“Remarkably, within a few weeks after the telescope implant surgery, my mom was able read her newspapers from front to back, every little thing. Thankfully, she is also back to knitting and together we are watching English football on the weekends. It’s a huge relief to both of us that the surgery and training was a success,” said Jennifer Rowe of North Carolina.

After surgery, people work with a low vision therapist to learn how to use their new vision, practicing looking at things that are stationary or moving. The telescope implant is not a cure for End-Stage AMD. As with any medical intervention, potential risks and complications exist with the telescope implant. Possible side effects include decreased vision or vision impairing corneal swelling. Individual results may vary.

To learn more, visit CentraSight.com or call 877-99-SIGHT

3. Eat right. Certain nutrients have been identified as good for eye-health. Be sure to get plenty of zinc, Vitamins E and C, lutein and zeaxanthin in your diet. While supplements can help you ensure you meet your daily requirements, you can also seek out foods that contain these nutrients. Sweet potatoes, flax seeds, leafy greens, eggs, citrus and nuts are all good choices. The good news is that these items can be good for your overall health as well. - StatePoint

Posted on June 5, 2017 .

Five steps to plan for dealing with diminished capacity and illness 

Aging can change many things in a person’s life, including the ability to manage one’s own money. That sobering reality is behind the creation of a new resource, “Planning for Diminished Capacity and Illness,” issued by the U. S. Securities and Exchange Commission and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). These organizations offer this key tip for how to prepare for your financial future: Hope for the best but plan for the worst.

The Problem

“Diminished financial capacity” generally refers to a decline in a person’s ability to manage assets to serve his or her best interests. When people of any age lose the capability to manage their finances, they may also become more vulnerable to investment fraud and other forms of financial abuse.

What You Can Do

These five steps can help you prepare.

Step 1: Organize your important financial documents. Store them in a safe, easily accessible location. Give copies to trusted loved ones or let them know where to find them. When it comes to bank and brokerage statements and account information, make a list of your accounts with account numbers. Keep a separate list of online bank and brokerage passwords and PINs, and keep both lists in a safe place. List the locations of your safe-deposit boxes and their keys. Keep your mortgage and credit information, insurance policies, retirement benefits and Social Security information easily accessible. 

Step 2: If you work with a financial professional, give that person emergency contact information in case he or she can’t reach you or suspects something is wrong. Discuss what you would consider to be an emergency and specify when your financial professional may contact someone on your behalf.

Step 3: Consider creating a durable financial power of attorney. A financial power of attorney gives someone the legal authority to make financial decisions for you if you cannot. That person is called your agent. A financial power of attorney differs from a health care power of attorney, which covers only health care decisions.

After signing a durable financial power of attorney, you can still manage your money and property as long as you have the ability to make decisions. Since you’re essentially giving financial decision-making authority to your agent, it’s critical he or she be someone you trust. 

Step 4: Keep things up to date. If something changes (for example, you open a new account), keep your information as current as possible. Your trusted contact may also change over time. Keep your financial professionals informed of changes regarding who has authority to review your account or whom they should contact in an emergency.

Step 5: Speak up if something goes wrong. If you ever think someone is taking advantage of you or that you’ve been the victim of a fraud, speak up. Sadly, sometimes even family members, financial professionals and other people they think they can trust commit financial crimes. If this happens to you or your loved one, you’re not alone—and the sooner you let someone know about it, the better chance there is of putting an end to it. - NAPSI

Posted on June 4, 2017 .

Health and well-being

Top tips to live a healthier, more active lifestyle well into your later years

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), by 2030, one in every five Americans will be over the age of 65. Whatever your age now, it’s wise to prepare yourself mentally and physically for growing older. Adults today, the CDC adds, are looking not only to extend their lives, but to enjoy a healthier, more active lifestyle well into their later years.

Here are a few simple tips to incorporate into your daily routine to ensure healthy aging: 

1. Tailor your diet to include lots of organic fruits and vegetables, as well as healthy fats such as omega-3s, and limiting your intake of processed foods and added sugar.

Smart decisions you make today will have a significant effect on your aging process in the long run.

Smart decisions you make today will have a significant effect on your aging process in the long run.

2. Exercise three to four times a week, including a mix of moderate-intensity activity like brisk walking or water aerobics, along with vigorous-intensity activities such as playing tennis or hiking. Adding strengthening activities that work all major muscle groups is important to consider as well. 

3. Work with your health care provider to introduce a foundational supplement regimen into your daily routine. Nutritional supplements contribute to adequate intake of vitamins, minerals and other beneficial compounds such as antioxidants, resveratrol and other phytonutrients to keep your cells healthy. In addition to multivitamins, other top supplements that are considered beneficial for healthy aging include:

• Omega-3 fatty acids such as fish oil that help to balance inflammation and support joints, as well as cardiac and cognitive function

• A multistrain probiotic to support healthy gut bacteria, leading to improved digestion and strengthened immunity

• Co-enzyme Q10, an antioxidant beneficial for cellular repair and increased energy.

Healthy aging is not just exclusive for the older generations. Now, people across all generations are making long-term lifestyle changes to feel good from the inside out. Different age groups, however, have different needs.

The 30s: Whether focused on getting that next promotion or raising a family or both, many people in their 30s find the demands of daily life require all hours of the day. Nutritional supplements, especially probiotics and those that boost energy and immunity, provide support for their fast-paced lifestyles.

The 40s: People in their 40s know that smart decisions today pay off later. In what is the peak career decade for many, 40-somethings want to stay sharp to make the most of each day, but have developed an appreciation for simplicity. For them, supplementation often includes fish oil and plant-based proteins.

The 50s: Today’s 50s are not slowing down. They’re all about vibrancy and continued growth. However, as the natural effects of aging begin to take their course, hormone levels often diminish, so it’s important to regulate levels of sex, thyroid and adrenal hormones to feel and function your best. Also, supporting musculoskeletal system health can help enhance mobility and joint function.

The 60s and 70s: People in their 60s and 70s know that aging is about getting the most life out of their years. During these decades, nutritional supplements can support healthy vision, cognition, and digestive health.

Expert Advice

“Aging is a beautiful, healthy process,” explains Registered Dietitian and Director of Product Development and Education at Douglas Laboratories, Kristi Belohlavek. “With the right nutrition regimen, people can look and feel their best, no matter how many candles they’re adding to their birthday cake. With a balanced diet, exercise and proper supplementation, busy bees can stay mobile and active later in life, despite changes in muscle function and decreases in bone density.” Many of the top-quality supplements that can protect your health come from Douglas Laboratories, a nutritional supplement company dedicated to helping people lead healthier, active lifestyles well into their later years.

Learn More

It is recommended to consult with your health care practitioner before introducing any new changes to your current nutritional supplement routine. For more information, visit www.douglaslabs.com/healthyaging. - NAPSI

Posted on June 4, 2017 .

Are you banking on Social Security for your retirement income?

If you’re a middle-income baby boomer, chances are you’re still struggling to recover from the financial crash that began in 2007. You’re not alone: According to a new study, only two percent of boomers feel the economy has fully recovered, and 65 percent say they have not felt personal benefit from any recovery. 

If that sounds like you, then you’re also likely worried about where your retirement income is going to come from. According to the Bankers Life Center for a Secure Retirement, middle-income baby boomers are increasingly reliant on Social Security for their primary source of retirement income. Before the crisis, 43 percent planned to rely on personal savings or earnings for their primary source of retirement income. That number has dropped to just 34 percent, with the difference mainly moving to Social Security.

As generous as the program is, Social Security was never designed to fully replace your wages. And the lesson from 2007 is to be prepared for anything. There are many steps you can take to plan ahead, protect yourself and achieve the retirement you are looking for.

Proper planning and professional advice now can help you have a better retirement.

Proper planning and professional advice now can help you have a better retirement.

Understand What Your Retirement Really Looks Like

While nearly all boomers say they still plan to retire, they are adjusting retirement expectations to meet their new reality. This new reality is primarily focused on a decrease in financial independence. To address this, try to:

• Pay off debt: Debt payments should ideally be no more than 10 percent of your income when you retire. 

• Work part-time: Whether you choose to work full-time, part-time or on a seasonal basis, employment income will relieve pressure on your other sources of income. 

Meet with a Financial Professional

No matter what your savings level is, a professional can help you create an investment strategy that fits with your personal situation, and find savings products that can provide a reliable monthly income. Boomers who sought the help of a financial professional felt more confident in their financial decision-making and more optimistic about their retirement expectations. 

Diversify Your Retirement

Planning Tools

There are a wide range of affordable and secure options available to help you save for your retirement, provide income, and protect your assets. Annuities are designed to help you accumulate money for retirement or turn your retirement savings into an income stream. Other investment options to explore include mutual funds, IRAs and Roth IRAs. 

Visit www.BankersLife.com/TopTips to download a free booklet on Top Tips for Retirees, including Reducing Debt in Retirement, Medicare Enrollment, Managing Prescription Drug Costs and more.

To learn more about achieving financial security in retirement, visit www.BankersLife.com. - NAPSI

Posted on June 1, 2017 .

How some of the toughest guys on the planet can get help caring for the ones they love

Men are doing more than just managing finances or running errands. Sixty-three percent of male caregivers are the primary caregiver for their loved one, according to AARP, the nation’s largest nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to empowering Americans age 50 and older.

Men are doing more than just managing finances or running errands. Sixty-three percent of male caregivers are the primary caregiver for their loved one, according to AARP, the nation’s largest nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to empowering Americans age 50 and older.

Taking care of a family member who is aging or ill can be tough—but you don’t have to do it alone. Just ask actor Danny Trejo, who stars in a new PSA (public service advertisements) campaign supporting male caregivers.

“I’ve helped care for a friend of mine who had cancer, so I know how hard it can be,” explained Trejo.

The Facts: Men Are Providing Care, Too

Men represent 40 percent of the more than 40 million unpaid family caregivers in the U.S., representing 16 million sons, husbands, and friends caring for an adult loved one in need.

Men are doing more than just managing finances or running errands. Sixty-three percent of male caregivers are the primary caregiver for their loved one, according to AARP, the nation’s largest nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to empowering Americans age 50 and older. Many of these male caregivers help their loved ones with personal care such as eating, bathing, and dressing, as well as medical and nursing tasks. More than half find it difficult to help loved ones with these intimate care needs and feel unprepared. 

To help family caregivers, AARP and the Ad Council launched the Caregiver Assistance Campaign, directing people to free caregiving resources at aarp.org/caregiving. The latest PSAs are specifically targeted to men because they are less likely to see themselves as caregivers or to reach out for help. 

Celebrating the inner strength of caregivers, the TV ads feature Danny Trejo, an actor known for his “tough guy” persona. While Trejo performs feats of strength and daring, a caregiver performs acts of care for his father, such as preparing dinner and helping him shave. In a twist, Trejo praises the caregiver as “the toughest guy on the planet.” The PSAs feature the tagline “caregiving is tougher than tough” and remind caregivers that they can find help and support. 

“Caring for someone else is one of the toughest jobs there is,” said Danny Trejo. “There’s no shame in getting some help if that’s what you need to stay strong.”

Tips for Caregivers

The majority of caregivers (60 percent) juggle their caregiving responsibilities with a full- or part-time job, and that percentage is even higher for men. Juggling work and caregiving responsibilities can be highly stressful, putting caregivers at risk for depression, anxiety, and heart disease. A few quick tips to help caregivers in this role include:

• Falling victim to a scam could be a sign that a loved one needs support. Help them sort mail and throw out obvious scam threats.

• Create a daily caregiving checklist and check off items daily. You’ll stay on-task and communicate more easily with others involved in your loved one’s care.

• To ease stress and save time, do caregiving prep like selecting clothes or preparing food and medicines the night before.

• Caregiving brings many challenges but also many joys. Take time to savor the joyful, rewarding moments.

Learn More

For free caregiving resources, including practical Care Guides tailored to specific topics and challenges, visit www.aarp.org/caregiving or call (877) 333-5885. - NAPSI

Posted on June 1, 2017 .

Social Security launches first “National Social Security Month” in April 

Nancy A. Berryhill, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, invites everyone to celebrate the first National Social Security Month in April by taking five steps toward financial security at www.socialsecurity.gov/5-steps-toward-your-financial-security. During the month, Social Security will provide educational articles and video messages on its website featuring personal finance expert Suze Orman. Each message will provide the public with practical tips for developing a sound financial plan that includes Social Security as a foundation. 

“With retirement, disability, and survivors benefits, Social Security helps secure today and tomorrow for millions of people throughout life’s journey,” Acting Commissioner Berryhill said. “By hosting National Social Security Month, we hope to help the public understand their Social Security protections and promote financial education.” 

The National Social Security Month campaign will emphasize the agency’s five key steps toward financial security:

  1. Get to know your Social Security 
  2. Verify your lifetime earnings with a my Social Security account 
  3. Estimate your future Social Security benefits at my Social Security
  4. Apply online for retirement, disability, or Medicare benefits 
  5. Manage your Social Security benefits

On average, Social Security replaces approximately 40 percent of pre-retirement earnings. To enjoy a comfortable retirement, most people will also need income from other sources — like pensions, savings, and investments. Yet nearly a third of America’s workers have no money set aside specifically for retirement.

Throughout the month of April, groups and organizations will join Social Security across the country to help spread the word. The agency will be conducting social media outreach, including a Facebook Live Chat:

Social Security will participate in a Facebook Live Chat, hosted by USA.gov, on April 20, 2017, at 7:00 p.m. ET. The public may ask questions via livestream about the “5 Steps Toward Financial Security.”

To participate, follow USA.gov and Social Security on Facebook. 

Disclaimer: The Social Security Administration does not endorse any particular financial advisory product or service. 

To get more Social Security news, follow the Press Office on Twitter @SSAPress.

Posted on April 10, 2017 .