A recent study by the Kaiser Family Foundation examining current and projected trends for out of pocket expenses related to care provided by Medicare found the country’s elders and those living with disabilities can expect those payments to increase. Those out of pocket expenses include health care services such as insurance premiums, deductibles, cost sharing for Medicare-covered services, as well as spending on services not covered by Medicare, such as long-term services and supports and dental care.

The study assessed the current and projected out of pocket expenses for those receiving Medicare benefits by averaging out of pocket spending relative to Social Security income and then estimating increases over the next several years. What the study found was that older Americans can expect to pay much more in out of pocket expenses as a share of their social security income over the next 12-years.

In 2013, Americans receiving Medicare benefits paid on average 41 percent of their Social Security income to out of pocket expenses not covered by the program, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation report. Those costs are expected to climb as high as 50-percent by 2030 and may affect women 85-years and older especially hard.

With massive winter storms sweeping across the country, older adults and their loved ones need to take special precautions against conditions that can lead to potentially serious accidents or adverse medical conditions. Even in areas of the country where most of us may already be used to frigid temperatures, this year’s particularly extreme weather can take its toll on some of our most vulnerable citizens.

First and foremost, it is always a good idea to check in on our elderly relatives, neighbors, and friends during especially cold weather. Because older people lose heat from their bodies faster than younger people, it can be more difficult for elders to tell how cold they may actually be and taking prescription medication can further desensitize elders to colder temperatures.

Cold weather can bring icy precipitation that can leave not only roads slippery but also stairs and sidewalks so folks need to take precautions and wear non-skid shoes and weatherize any assistive devices like walkers. Take the time to shovel driveways, sidewalks, and stairs and lay ice-melting solutions down further prevent slips and falls. If you or your loved one has a medical condition like a heart condition, osteoporosis or trouble with balance may need to hire someone to clear driveways and sidewalks.

A recent article by the New York Times covered some of the trends in aging and the economy that could have a tremendous impact on how families, particularly women and millenials, care for elder family members in the future. While it is no secret an increasing percentage of America will become older with the wave of Baby Boomers entering their golden years, the societal and economic impacts are less discussed and more profound.

According to data cited in the article, an estimated one in five working age adults in the U.S. is retired, approximately 15 percent of the population. Of those retirees, as many as 14 million adults may not be able to live independently and require some sort of in-home or skilled nursing care to survive.

Experts studying the issue believe the burden of caring for older family members may be one reason by women have less earning power over all than men. The article points out that about a quarter of women 45 to 64 years old and one in seven of those 35 to 44 are caring for an older relative.

Starting January 1, 2018, most employees who work in New York State for private employers will be eligible to take paid family leave to care for a newborn child or a sick family member. If you are a public employee working for the state, your employer may choose to offer paid family leave so check to see if your office is eligible.

Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the law in 2016, giving New Yorkers the country’s strongest and most comprehensive policy for paid family leave. As a result of the bills passage, working families will no longer have to choose between caring for their loved ones and risking their economic security.

New York’s Paid Family Leave provides job-protected, paid time off so workers can:

Most of us understand we are supposed to save for our retirement but many still make the mistake of underestimating the cost of long term healthcare should we develop a serious medical condition or be unable to live independently. While the estimates for both in-home and assisted-living care can be staggering, some basic planning for the future can go a long way towards reducing the financial burden of living comfortably while receiving the vital medical care you need in your later years.

According to recent estimates, living in an assisted living facility can cost more than $43,000 per year and living in a nursing home can cost more than $83,000 or even $92,000 for a private room. The financial answer for some can be purchasing long-term care insurance to help offset the enormous cost of years of long term care at an assisted living facility.

For people living in their 50’s, the time to save for healthcare costs is right now. While yearly premiums can cost as much as $3,400 for a married couple, those premiums will seem like a drop in the bucket compared to the tens of thousands of dollars in out of pocket costs seniors who do not qualify for Medicaid funded nursing home and assisted living facility care.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recently put the country on alert, warning that this year’s flu season and the H3N2 virus could be one of the worst in recent years as hospitals experience record setting hospitalization rates. Physicians for the CDC warned Americans over the age of 65-years old are being hospitalized at a higher rate than any other segment of the population and elders need to take care to ensure they do not fall victim to complications with the virus.

CDC Director Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald cautioned that although infection rates appear to be peaking, many more Americans will be diagnosed with the flu in the coming weeks before flu season ends across the country. While recent years have been categorized as “active” flu seasons, where large numbers of people become sick, this year is expected to be “severe” with an unusually number of patients being diagnosed with some form of the flu virus.

Fortunately, this year does not appear as though it will be as bad as the 2015 flu season where infection rates were as high as 29.9 people out of every 100,000. The flu typically hits populations at the ends of the spectrums, the very young and the very old, with at least 20-children succumbing to the virus this season so far. The only silver lining to these tragedies is that the numbers are far less than in years past, 110 last year and 92 in 2016.

Seniors 65-years and older now make up 8 percent of those filing for bankruptcy across the country, up from 7 percent a decade ago. Much of that increase is due to the burden of crippling medical debt older Americans are struggling with. Furthermore, a combination of the 2008 recession and state laws that allow creditors to garnish as much as 25 percent of an individual’s disposable income left many Baby Boomers in financial dire straits.

One of the other reasons for the increase in bankruptcy amongst older Americans may the attributed to the rise in credit card use by seniors. With less people relying on pensions, decreased retirement benefits, and rising healthcare costs, more and more people are relying on credit cards to pay their bills and put food on the table. Sadly, social welfare programs like Social Security and Medicare do not cover all of an individual’s cost of living and health care needs as Americans are living longer and longer.

Even worse than the financial hardship can be the emotional toll many experience as they navigate through a complicated bankruptcy process and deal with creditors calling day and night to recoup a debt. A report from the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau found that debt collection was the most-complained about product or service for consumers over 62.

Seema Verma, the head of the Centers of Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), recently signaled the current administration’s intention to impose requirements on some adults receiving Medicaid benefits. The move would be a major department from the previous administration’s policies and is already being decried by Democrat leaders across the country at the state and federal level.

Arizona, Arkansas, Indiana, Kentucky, Maine, New Hampshire, Utah and Wisconsin have already submitted requests to CMS Medicaid enrollees to either work or provide community service. While those requirements would vary from state to state, Arizona for example would require those receiving benefits to either be working, seeking work or attending school or job training for at least 20 hours a week.

New Hampshire’s requirements would go even further, asking program recipients to spend more time working, engaging in job training or acquiring education for more hours the longer they are in Medicaid. First year enrollees would need to put in 20 hours, second year enrollees would need to put in 25-hours, and third year enrollees would need to put in as many as 30-hours per week.

A recent study by a University of Wisconsin–Madison professor of family medicine indicates seniors who practice yoga on a regular basis may dramatically decrease their risk of falls and potentially serious injuries. According to the study, the number of falls in older adults dropped 48 percent in the six months after yoga classes began, compared to the six months previous.

The study looked at older, rural adults who attended yoga classes in Western Wisconsin and were asked to perform several different types of yoga poses in biweekly classes for eight weeks. The average age of the 38-participants was 70-years old, well within the risk zone for older adults.

In the six months prior to the yoga classes, 15 of the participants reported 27 falls. In the following six months after the start of classes, 13 people reported 14 falls. Those numbers are statistically significant and a longer study is now under consideration will likely last 12 or 16-weeks.

In the wake of rising drug prices over years for Medicare patients, federal officials appear ready to finally take some kind of action to help with out of pocket costs many seniors and disabled persons struggle with. Recently, federal officials have begun to explore the possibility of achieving lower drug prices by getting some of the same discounts insurers and pharmacy benefit managers (PBM) that administer Medicare’s Part D drug program already get for themselves.

Supporters of the idea hope the approach could reduce the overall price tag of prescription drugs and save Medicare the cost of making up the gap. Under the plan, the Center for Medicaid and Medicare Studies (CMS) would apply those fees that PBMs and insurers pay and apply those to what enrollees pay for their prescriptions.

Unlike the health insurers and PBMs able to negotiate with manufacturers willing to pay discounts so their products land a spot on a health plan’s list of approved drugs, CMS cannot haggle on drug prices. The restrictions have long been criticized by critics and supporters of how CMS is currently administered. Advocates for the pharmacy industry have also criticized the current drug price exchange which allows PBMs and insurers to recoup their benefits from pharmacies at a later date.

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