Monthly Archives: November 2013

Health Insurance Coverage

With Medicare open enrollment ending on December 7th this year and the health care marketplaces gaining enrollees, health insurance coverage is the topic of the day.  For those eligible for Medicare, the National Council on Aging (NCOA) has launched more of their Web tools.  MyMedicareMattersLogoTheir Medicare Web site, My Medicare Matters, has a Medicare Quick Check tool in which you enter some basic information about your current Medicare plans, and the tool returns suggestions for how to save money on your coverage and where to go for help.  One caveat: NCOA appears to be encouraging the use of one healthcare navigator, AON Hewitt Navigators, although other options for assistance are also listed.   It appears that AON Hewitt has agreed to meet NCOA standards of service in return for supporting an NCOA subsidiary firm, NCOA Services.

Another NCOA tool now available is a prescription drug savings estimator.  For this to work, you enter your zip code, the name of your Part D plan, and your prescription drugs.  When you enter the drugs, a window will open with dosage options for you to select.  The estimator will tell you whether you may be able to save on the drugs, and approximately how much, by choosing a different Part D plan.  However, not all drugs are included in the estimator’s database.  For example, I tried Advair, a commonly prescribed asthma medication, and it didn’t show up.

MichiganDrugPricesLogoFor those who are uninsured, don’t qualify for Medicare or Medicaid, and haven’t managed to complete enrollment through the Marketplace, the Michigan Department of Community Health has a useful Website called MichiganDrugPrices.com.  It has three parts: a search engine to compare drug prices among pharmacies, a list of retail discount drug programs, and a list of assistance programs for uninsured persons.  For the drug prices comparison, you enter your zip code and your drugs.  For each drug, a window will open with the drug name.  When you select it, in another window, there will be a list of the drug in each of its dosage strengths.  Unselect all but the dosage needed.  Then you’ll get a list of the pharmacies in the area with their price for the drug.  The drug database contains the 150 most prescribed medications in the Michigan Medicaid program, so a number of drugs are not included.

Even if you don’t live in Michigan, the site may be helpful, since the retail discount drug programs may be regional or national, such as Walmart or Kroger, and several of the assistance programs are national in scope.  There are also Helpful Links, which include some of the drug company assistance programs.  There are many more options than I had imagined.  Now people need to know how to find and apply for the assistance that’s available.  Sue Sweeney, Chair, Gerontology Department, Madonna University

Planning for Retirement

A lot of people, whether younger or older, are anxious about retirement because of the various proposals to change Social Security and because of the number of businesses and governmental entities that are curtailing retiree benefits and eliminating pensions.  With these uncertainties, it makes sense to take advantage of any retirement accumulation programs each of us can manage, and to plan for the future.  The AARP has a Retirement Calculator that I found to be easy to use.  Included is a tool that allows you to make changes to your assumptions and plans to see how they will affect your income in retirement.  For example, the amount of a likely shortfall is adjusted if you elect to retire later, work part time in retirement, put aside a larger proportion of your current salary, or reduce your lifestyle in retirement.

The Social Security Administration has a Retirement Estimator that will work for many individuals.  It assumes that you already have enough work credits to qualify for benefits and that certain other conditions do not pertain, such as already collecting Social Security benefits.  You have to enter identifying information, then you can see what your monthly benefit will be depending on the age that you choose to retire.  The same page has links to other calculators, but they are not derived from your earnings record, as the Retirement Estimator is.  There’s also a link to a document that discusses when to start taking your benefits.

Bankrate, an aggregator and publisher of bank rate information, has made a number of calculators available that allow a person to compare their retirement prospects depending on the retirement instrument he or she uses, such as traditional IRA, Roth IRA, 401(k), 403(b), or annuities.

It may be scary to see what would be needed to have a comfortable retirement, but I think it’s better to know what one’s prospects are rather than be painfully surprised when it’s too late to do anything about it.  Sue Sweeney, Chair, Gerontology Department, Madonna University