4 months ago ·
by alan ·
Good news! We could all use some these days, right? Well if you are a Medicare beneficiary enrolled in Part B, here you go. Your Part B premium increase next year will be about $4.
Last week, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office announced that Congress had reached a budget agreement which would add enough funds to Medicare to keep Part B premium increases largely in check for the next year. This is especially welcome news, considering that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services had previously calculated that 2021 premiums could increase by as much as $50 per month from the current 2020 base premium of $144.60. Such a single-year increase would have been larger than all the increases of the previous decade combined, and could leave many with limited means unable to pay. This alarming projection was largely in response to increased emergency Medicare spending to battle the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Speaker’s office said that premium increases were expected to average around $4 per month instead of the previously projected $50, which is especially important to the roughly 2/3 of Medicare beneficiaries who have the premium deducted from their monthly Social Security income. The Social Security Administration last week announced a 1.3% cost of living adjustment for 2021, which will average around $20 per month for most recipients, meaning that recipients may actually get to see a little bit of that increase in their pockets. It also means that the “hold harmless” provision won’t kick in, meaning that extra costs above the COLA won’t be redistributed to beneficiaries who are not yet drawing Social Security, and that’s good for everybody.
The annual Medicare Part B premium increase has been one of the fastest-growing costs of retirement in recent years, increasing 218% in the last 20 years, compared to a corresponding 54% inflation rate. It increased 7% last year alone. So this relief will certainly come as welcome news to seniors at a time they need it most. Congress finally did something right.
As always, contact us with your concerns about anything to do with your Medicare.
5 months ago ·
by alan ·
Walmart made a lot of waves in the insurance world last week by announcing that its in-house brokerage unit, known as Walmart Insurance Services, would begin selling Medicare Advantage and Part D plans for the 2020 Annual Enrollment Period this fall. This understandably created concern among independent insurance agents that we would now be directly competing with Walmart for our clients, a position that clearly not many people whose name doesn’t begin with “Amazon” are anxious to be in. Indeed, there are very few who can compete effectively with Walmart for most products.
But there are a couple of factors that make Walmart insurance very different from other types of products they sell. Generally, Walmart only has one bullet in its marketing gun – low prices. If Walmart were to become an insurance carrier like Aetna, Humana, or Cigna, and begin underwriting their own Walmart branded policies and paying claims, it’s possible they might be able to offer lower prices on their policies because they would control the underwriting and premiums. But that isn’t what they are doing. Walmart is a broker (i.e., agent), and they are selling the exact same Humana, United, and Wellcare policies that every broker in the country has access to. That means you pay the exact same amount for your policy whether you buy it through Walmart or an independent agent, and thereby Walmart loses their one weapon – the ability to control price.
The other thing that makes insurance different is the basic economic difference between products and services. Walmart products are commodities – things that you can buy virtually anywhere. It doesn’t matter whether you buy your peanut butter at Walmart, Kroger, Dollar General, or Sprint Mart. It’s still the exact same peanut butter, and the only difference is how much you pay at the different outlets. Commodities is where Walmart steamrolls everyone. But insurance is not a product; it’s a personalized service. A good agent has to take the time to develop a relationship with you in order to thoroughly understand your needs and recommend the product that is right for you, even if it means a lower commission for the agent. Most insurance products also have varying underwriting requirements, and the simple fact is that a lot of applications that get submitted through Walmart will be denied because the agent either didn’t understand the client’s needs or have the experience to know which companies have the most favorable underwriting. You can’t just choose a policy based on a price tag, and insurance is a relationship business that can’t be run through the express checkout lane.
Products are easy, and Walmart is good at them. Services are hard and require time, experience, and relationships in order to be provided the way they are supposed to be, and Walmart is not good at that. When was the last time you got quality, personalized service at Walmart? Right, that’s what I thought. So while there will unquestionably be some people who find Walmart insurance compelling, they are almost certainly the same people who would never have gone to a quality independent broker anyway. Our business will always be built on personal relationships, trust, and expertise.
So, self-checkout insurance? I don’t think so.
5 months ago ·
by alan ·
Social Security scammers are at it again. Remember – never give out any personal or banking information over the phone, no matter how much the caller insists or threatens.
In recent days, a number of our clients have received a scam telephone call related to their Social Security. While these phony calls are not new and have been a persistent threat for years, there does seem to be a new wave currently underway in our area. The call may come in several different variations, but typically will begin with a recorded message informing the recipient that his or her Social Security number has been compromised and is being used for identity theft or other criminal purposes, and then ask the recipient to hold for an operator.
The operator will typically claim to be from the Social Security Administration or other government agency and begin asking for detailed personal information including Social Security numbers, bank account numbers, or other financial information in order to safeguard the recipient’s Social Security benefits. In some cases, the caller may claim to be from a law enforcement agency and threaten the recipient with fines, imprisonment, or other penalties for failing to pay a fee immediately. DO NOT GIVE OUT ANY PERSONAL INFORMATION OVER THE PHONE, no matter how much the caller insists.
As a reminder, the Social Security Administration will never:
- Call to threaten you with arrest or legal action;
- Tell you that your Social Security number has been suspended or revoked;
- Offer to resolve identity theft issues in return for a payment;
- Offer to increase your benefits in return for payment of a fee;
- Demand secrecy in handling a matter related to your Social Security;
- Send you a text message about a problem with your Social Security number or benefits;
- e-mail you documents containing personally identifiable information;
Generally, the Social Security Administration will communicate with you via postal mail, and if you ever need to submit payments for any reason, the SSA will send you an official letter with details and instructions. Never make payments via pre-paid debit or gift cards, Internet payment services, wire transfers, or cash. Scammers ask for these types of payments because they are difficult for law enforcement to trace.
If you receive a suspicious call, your best course of action is to hang up and report it to the Office of the Inspector General using a dedicated online form located here. If you are unable to access the form for any reason, call your local Social Security Administration office for instructions on how to report the incident.
As always, you may contact us with questions related to health or disability benefits and we will point you in the right direction.