The Cost of Medicare

Those of you who particiapte in Medicare have probably heard that the monthly premium for Part B will be $134 in 2018.  Although this figure has not increased from 2017, it does not mean that Medicare will cost the same in the coming year.

A large percentage of Part B enrollees have been covered by a “hold harmless” provision in the law that assures that the premiums can’t increase more than the Cost of Living increase for Social Security benefits.  Since those increases have been very small in the past several years, their Part B premiums have been held at a lower number (usually about $109 per month).  Now that Social Security will be increasing by 2% for 2018, those participants’ Part B premiums will increase as well.

The annual deductible for Part B of $183 will be the same in 2018 as it has been in 2017.  However, the deductible for a hospital stay covered by Medicare Part A will increase by $24 to $1,340 in 2018.  For participants who remain in the hospital for more than 60 days per benefit period, the daily co-pay for days 61-90 will increase by $6 to $335 per day. And the daily co-pay for a stay in a skilled nursing or rehab facility covered by Medicare Part A after the first 20 days is increasing by $3 to $167.50 per day.

New White House Hotline for Veterans

The Veterans Administration has announced that the White House VA Hotline is now staffed with live agents who can answer veterans’ calls 24/7, 365 days a year.  In an effort to assure that the agents can relate to the callers’ experience, 90% of them are either veterans themselves, or have a family member who has served.

The agents can answer questions, provide assistance in connecting to the correct person within the VA, documents the callers’ concerns about VA care, benefits and services, and expedite referrals necessary to resolve those concerns.  Following the calls, the agents will generate real-time reports to VA experts who can address the concerns that have been raised.

The hotline can be reached at 855-948-2311.

 

Estate and Gift Tax Exemptions for 2018

Whether there will still be an estate tax in 2018, and what is will look like, is  much in the news this week, as the House of Representatives released its Tax Reform Proposal. Meanwhile, based on the laws that are still in effect today, the … [Continue reading]

Veterans May Be at Higher Risk for Alzheimer’s Disease

A group called Veterans Against Alzheimers recently released a report indicating that Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Traumatic Brain Injury and even brain injuries that appear to be relatively minor when they occur are linked to a higher risk of … [Continue reading]

Social Security Announces Cost-of-Living Increases for 2018

The Social Security Administration has announced that SSI, SSDI and Social Security Retirement benefits will increase by 2% for 2018.  This is the largest increase since 2012. Last year's increase was less than 1%, and some years had no … [Continue reading]

When Can you Expect Your VA Benefits?

The Veterans Benefits Administration recently sent a reminder about when recipients can expect to recieve their VA cash benefits, including disability compensation, pension, survivor's benefits and education benefits. These benefits are deposited … [Continue reading]

Court Approves Class for Lawsuit About Medicare Observation Status

Last month, in the case of Alexander v. Price, 3:11-CV-1703 (MPS), the US District Court in Connecticut certified a class of Medicare beneficiaries who suffered financial loss because they had been hospitalized under "Observation Status" at some time … [Continue reading]

Use Your Smartphone to Document Your Advance Directives

Earlier this summer, I published a post (probably not for the first time!) about the importance of documenting your wishes for end-of-life care.  Currently, only about 30% of adults over age 50 have done so. As reported n the May-June issue of … [Continue reading]

Another Wake-up Call to Document End of Life Care Decisions

A couple of weeks ago, our extended family came together to celebrate my mother's 95th birthday.  My mother has always loved a party, so even though she suffers from several chronic conditions, and then had a pretty serious health scare 2 weeks … [Continue reading]

Hospitals Must Keep Patients Informed About Observation Status

I've written before about making sure you have been "admitted" when you have been in the hospital for a night or two. Medicare recipients who have been evaluated in the hospital, received care and perhaps even stayed overnight may have been … [Continue reading]

VA Acknowledges Presumption of Illness from Camp Lejeune Water Exposure

In the early 1980s, chemicals that are used in dry cleaning and metal  degreasing, along with benzene and vinyl chloride, were discovered in the water supply system at Camp Jejeune and MCAS New River.  The contaminated wells were finally shut down in … [Continue reading]

Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Reconfirms Guidelines for Skilled Care

In a previous post, I have described the 2014 settlement in the case of  Jimmo v. Sebelius, in which the Court confirmed that Medicare is obligated to pay for physical, occupational and/or speech therapy that is necessary to keep a medicare … [Continue reading]

Whose In Charge When You are in the Hospital?

My 94 year old mother was just released from the hospital following a 13-day stay, precipitated by a serious infection. First, the good news - the infection has cleared and she is back home,  thinner (not a good thing) and more easily fatiged, but … [Continue reading]

A New Kind of Employment Discrimination?

More and more employees are finding that they need to take time away from their jobs to care for their elderly loved ones.  It may be for a short time around a medical crisis, or they may need to provide ongoing care services to someone who is unable … [Continue reading]