Social Security Announces 2.0 Percent Benefit Increase for 2018

Monthly Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits for more than 66 million Americans will increase 2.0 percent in 2018, the Social Security Administration announced recently.

The 2.0 percent cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) will begin with benefits payable to more than 61 million Social Security beneficiaries in January 2018. Increased payments to more than 8 million SSI beneficiaries will begin on December 29, 2017. (Note: some people receive both Social Security and SSI benefits) The Social Security Act ties the annual COLA to the increase in the Consumer Price Index as determined by the Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Some other adjustments that take effect in January of each year are based on the increase in average wages. Based on that increase, the maximum amount of earnings subject to the Social Security tax (taxable maximum) will increase to $128,700 from $127,200. Of the estimated 175 million workers who will pay Social Security taxes in 2018, about 12 million will pay more because of the increase in the taxable maximum.

Information about Medicare changes for 2018, when announced, will be available at www.medicare.gov.

The Social Security Act provides for how the COLA is calculated. To read more, please visit www.socialsecurity.gov/cola.

Here is a fact sheet showing the effect of the various automatic adjustments.

The Flu | Yep, this could be a bad year.

A page one article in today’s Morning Call (Allentown, PA) warns, “A nasty flu season in Australia — where flu cases more than doubled this year — could signal a bad flu season here, health experts say.”

And this STATnews article echoes that, “Flu experts see potential for a nasty winter season.”

Original Title: 76-132-Flu.tif:Influenza A viruses F. A. Murphy/CDC

Click here to go to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Flu Website.

 

“Drug Companies Make Eyedrops Too Big — And You Pay for the Waste” – ProPublica

“The makers of cancer drugs also make vials with too much medication for many patients. The excess drugs are tossed in the trash — another reason health care costs are so high.”

eyedrops-waste-3x2Gregory Matthews, who is partially blind because of glaucoma, uses eyedrops every day to preserve his remaining sight. (Matt Roth for ProPublica)

by Marshall Allen

“If you’ve ever put in an eyedrop, some of it has almost certainly spilled onto your eyelid or cheek.

“The good news is the mess doesn’t necessarily mean you missed. The bad news is that medicine you wiped off your face is wasted by design — and it’s well-known to the drug companies that make the drops.

“Eyedrops overflow our eyes because drug companies make the typical drop — from pricey glaucoma drugs to a cheap bottle of Visine — larger than a human eye can hold. Some are so large that if they were pills, every time you swallowed one, you’d toss another in the garbage.

“The waste frustrates glaucoma experts like Dr. Alan Robin, whose patients struggle to make pricey bottles of drops last. He has urged drug companies to move to smaller drops — to no avail.”

Click here to read this ProPublica article in its entirety.

 

 

“6 in 10 doctors report abusive remarks from patients, and many get little help coping with the wounds” – STATnews

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This story was produced in collaboration with WebMD and Medscape.

by Bob Tedeschi

“Most doctors have absorbed racist, sexist, and other bigoted verbal remarks from patients under their care, according to a new national survey. And in interviews, physicians say these ugly incidents, while not frequent, can leave lasting scars.

“African-American doctors told STAT they had been called racial epithets and been asked to relinquish care for white patients by family members — and even colleagues. Asian-American physicians reported being demeaned with longstanding cultural and racist stereotypes, and female doctors being sexually harassed by patients during physical exams.

“A wide-ranging survey of more than 800 U.S. physicians, conducted by WebMD and Medscape in collaboration with STAT, found that 59 percent had heard offensive remarks about a personal characteristic in the past five years — chiefly about a doctor’s youthfulness, gender, race, or ethnicity. As a result, 47 percent had a patient request a different doctor, or ask to be referred to a clinician other than the one their physician selected.

“Fourteen percent said they had experienced situations in which the patient complained, in writing, about the doctor’s personal characteristics.”

Continue reading this STATnews article here.

“The Ethics of Adjusting Your Assets to Qualify for Medicaid” – a column at The New York Times

medicaid

Credit Robert Neubecker for The New York Times

by Ron Lieber

“At any given moment, there is a large group of citizens who want nothing more than to make absolutely certain that they are impoverished enough to qualify for Medicaid sooner rather than later. Someday, you might be one of them.

“Welcome to the (perfectly legal) world of Medicaid planning, the plain-vanilla term for the mini-industry of lawyers and others who help people arrange their financial lives so they don’t spend every last dime on a nursing home. Once properly impoverished under the law, then Medicaid, which gets funding both from your state and the federal government, picks up the tab.

“Whatever twists and turns the health insurance debates in Washington take, Medicaid will be at the center, and the program will probably affect you and your family more than you know. After all, if you run out of money in retirement, it is Medicaid that pays for most of your nursing home or home-based care.”

Click here to continue reading this column at The New York Times.

“The little red pill being pushed on the elderly | CNN investigation exposes inappropriate use of drug in nursing homes”

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by Blake Ellis and Melanie Hicken; Data analysis by Sergio Hernandez, CNN Investigates

“The maker of a little red pill intended to treat a rare condition is raking in hundreds of millions of dollars a year as it aggressively targets frail and elderly nursing home residents for whom the drug may be unnecessary or even unsafe, a CNN investigation has found.

“And much of the money is coming straight from the federal government. The pill, called Nuedexta, is approved to treat a disorder marked by sudden and uncontrollable laughing or crying — known as pseudobulbar affect, or PBA. This condition afflicts less than 1% of all Americans, based on a calculation using the drugmaker’s own figures, and it is most commonly associated with people who have multiple sclerosis (MS) or ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.”

Continue reading this CNN report, click here.

“Temporary Assistance for Needy Families | The Rapid Re-housing demonstration has completed its first year – 22 families who experienced homelessness were rapidly re-housed.”

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Rapid re-housing is a promising intervention designed to quickly connect families and pregnant women temporarily experiencing homelessness to permanent housing and services. Studies show significant gains in long-term success and housing stability when a family is able to quickly leave homeless shelters and get stabilized immediately.

A YEAR AGO, the Department of Human Services partnered with the City of Philadelphia’s Office of Homeless Services to administer this demonstration over a two-year period in West Philadelphia. The first participating families were rapidly re-housed and connected to needed services and employment with the goal of helping them attain self-sufficiency and ultimately reduce or eliminate their need for assistance in the future. In addition to receiving permanent housing, all 22 families from Year One received housing stabilization services, which included the completion of a stabilization plan. All of the families also received job development services, and as a result, 33 percent of families exiting the program also increased their income. As more families exit the program, we anticipate the growth of increased-income families to reach to 50 percent. All families who have exited the program thus far have remained in stable housing.

YEAR TWO OF THIS DEMONSTRATION started July 1, 2017, and will rapidly re-house 28 TANF-eligible families experiencing homelessness. Upon exiting the program, additional emphasis will be placed on securing employment and increasing income to better ensure families can maintain housing. Program evaluation and data collection will continue for 12 months. The demonstration is evaluated on a variety of performance measures to inform future efforts and explore best practices to better serve vulnerable TANF-eligible families experiencing homelessness.

SUCCESS STORIES

Ms. W entered the TANF Program as a single female with a child. Ms. W’s highest grade of education is 11th grade and her monthly entry income was $316. Ms. W obtained employment but had to resign when she became pregnant. After giving birth, Ms. W obtained full-time employment and increased her income from $316 to more than $1,000 a month, contingent upon an increase in hours. When the subsidy ended, she was able to maintain her rent without assistance. She also receives SNAP benefits to supplement food for her family. The Housing Stabilization Specialist negotiated a reduction in the rent from $900 to $800. Ms. W is still in the same apartment and is paying her rent independently.

Ms. J entered the TANF Program as a single female with an adopted child. Ms. J’s income at the beginning of the program was $480 a month adoption assistance. Ms. J is also partially disabled, but was not receiving disability payments when she entered the program. Ms. J did not have full use of her left arm which caused her to lose her job and, consequently, become homeless. The Housing Stabilization Specialist requested a rent reduction from $900 to $800 a month. Ms. J is currently employed through her church making $50 to $75 plus tips, varying by engagement. Due to her partial disability, she is in the process of getting her SSI/SSDI benefits. Ms. J also receives SNAP benefits to supplement food for the family. Ms. J is still in her apartment and is paying her rent independently.

SOURCES: Pennsylvania Department of Human Services / City of Philadelphia

 

“Watch Your Mailbox: A Guide to Open Enrollment [Part 1]”

This article is the first installment in our 2017 “Preparing for Open Enrollment” series. To stay up-to-date on the latest Open Enrollment blog posts, subscribe to our mailing list. For a complete overview of Open Enrollment, check out our “Guide to Open Enrollment” page.

medicare enrollment

“It’s finally fall! For many people, that means football, foliage, and delicious pumpkin-flavored treats. For Medicare recipients, fall also signals a slightly-less-fun (but equally important) event: the annual Medicare Open Enrollment Period (OEP). Open Enrollment occurs every year from October 15th to December 7th. During Open Enrollment, anyone with Medicare can change their prescription drug plan or Medicare Advantage plan for any reason.

“You may be thinking, ‘But I already chose my Medicare plan! Why change plans and go through all that again?’”

Click here to read this article in its entirety.

Read the second OEP blog post: “Gather Your Things: Preparing for Open Enrollment [Part Two] »

Read the third OEP blog post: “Go Shopping: Preparing for Open Enrollment [Part Three] »

“Five things that might surprise you about the fastest-growing segment of the housing market” – The Urban Institute

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“One of the most pronounced shifts in the housing market since the financial crisis has been the evolution of the single-family rental (SFR) market. Today, single-family rentals (one-unit, attached and detached) account for 35 percent of the country’s 44 million rental units, compared with 31 percent in 2006. More than half of renters live in structures with less than four units.

“The Urban Institute’s Housing Finance Policy Center recently hosted a panel discussion with three single-family rental experts: Douglas Bendt from Investability, Sandeep Bordia from Amherst Capital Management, and Calvin Schnure from the National Association of Real Estate Investment Trusts (NAREIT). Their conversation illuminated five important facts everyone should know about this growing market:

“1. Single-family rental is the fastest-growing segment of the housing market.

“Growth in SFRs has outpaced growth of single-family owner and all multifamily housing in recent years. Data from NAREIT shows the SFR sector has seen growth every year since the crisis and has lingered around a 30 percent growth rate for the past three years, compared with less than a 15 percent growth rate for the multifamily market during that same period. The single-family owner market began to grow again in 2016, after declining for seven years.

“The number of households in the US is continuously increasing, but …”

To continue reading this article at The Urban Institute, click here.

Finding affordable housing – Senior Planet

Model home made of money

by Greg Perlman

“It’s no secret that we’re getting older. Over 76 million Americans are either at or approaching retirement age, and for some of us, getting older and retiring means getting poorer. More than 25 million Americans over 60 are economically insecure.

When you’re living on a fixed income, it can be a struggle to keep up with rising costs of living, and especially housing. Affordable housing programs exist, but how do you find the right program? And what does that process look like?

Click here to see a quick guide to options.