Thursday, January 31, 2013

KidneyDonation Past Age 70? Desperate Patients Saying, "Yes, Please."

Monday, January 28, 2013

7 New Social Security Rules for 2013

The Social Security Administration has implemented a variety of new rules and features for 2013. The two-year payroll tax cut has officially ended, and paper Social Security checks will soon cease to be printed. A growing number of Social Security services will also be online this year. Here's a look at some of the recent Social Security changes that go into effect this year:

Payroll tax cut ends. The temporary payroll tax cut was allowed to expire at the end of 2012. Workers who paid 4.2 percent of their income into the Social Security system in 2011 and 2012 will now resume contributing 6.2 percent of their earnings in 2013, up to the payroll tax cap of $113,700.

Higher payroll tax cap. The payroll tax cap increased by $3,600, from $110,100 in 2012 to $113,700 in 2013. Workers who earn more than this threshold don't need to pay Social Security taxes on that income.

More online services. A trip to the Social Security office is no longer necessary to start your Social Security payments. A growing number of retirees are claiming Social Security payments online, largely thanks to an advertising campaign starring actors Patty Duke and George Takei. For the first time in 2012, workers could access their Social Security statements online, including their complete earnings history and expected payments, and about 3 million people have already done so. In early 2013, Social Security added online services including the ability to access a benefit verification letter and payment history. Retirees can also change their address and start or change direct-deposit information online. "The ability to do this online, it will be a real convenience for the people who are required to have these benefit verification letters," says Social Security Commissioner Michael Astrue. "It is going to allow us to focus on the kind of conversations that we really do need to have face to face."

Reduced office hours. Social Security offices are reducing the hours they are open to the public to save money and avoid paying overtime to workers. Social Security locations nationwide have been closing 30 minutes early each day since Nov. 19, 2012, and they began closing to the public at noon every Wednesday on Jan. 2, 2013.

Paper checks will end. On March 1, 2013, the Treasury department will stop mailing paper checks to Social Security recipients. Retirees will be required to choose to have their Social Security payments either directly deposited into a bank or credit union account or loaded onto a prepaid Direct Express Debit MasterCard. "If you already have a bank account or credit union account, we encourage you and it's our preference that you sign up for direct deposit," says Walt Henderson, director of the electronic fund transfer strategy division at the Treasury Department. "The debit card is primarily for unbanked benefit recipients. We don't want people who already have a bank account to feel that they have to get the debit card." New Social Security beneficiaries have been required to choose an electronic payment option since May 2011, and approximately 93 percent of Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) payments are already being made electronically.

Higher earnings limit. People between ages 62 and 66 who work and collect Social Security benefits at the same time might have part or all of their Social Security benefit temporarily withheld. Workers between ages 62 and 65 can earn up to $15,120 in 2013, after which $1 in benefits will be withheld for every $2 of income above the earnings limit. People who turn 66 this year can earn up to $40,080, and then $1 of benefits will be withheld for every $3 earned above the limit. However, once you turn age 66, the earnings limit no longer applies. And benefits may be recalculated at age 66 to reflect the withheld benefits and continued earnings.

Bigger payments. Social Security beneficiaries began receiving payments that were 1.7 percent larger in January 2013. The average monthly Social Security benefit in January increased from $1,240 to $1,261 as a result of the cost-of-living adjustment.

Article Source: Yahoo!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

A Common Mistake About Retiree Health Coverage

Retirees are often very loyal to their former employers. But, retirees should NOT assume that their company provided health care coverage is better than coverage that they can get on their own. In terms of value for your money, a common rule of thumb is if you are spending more than $200 to $250 a month, you should shop around. 

The decision to drop retiree coverage can be irreversible so take your time making your decision.

Because I am affiliated with a number of the most respected insurance companies in the nations, I can compare plans and prices so you're sure to get the plan that's right for you. Give me a call at 440-255-5700 for a no-obligation review of your health insurance.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Save Money on Pet Medications

Did you know that many pharmacies can fill commonly used prescription drugs for dogs and cats?  It often translates into lower prices than those charged by many veterinarians or the online pet-medication suppliers. 

In addition, Costco members can save even more on pet meds. Costco offers a Costco-members-only program for anyone without prescription drug coverage through their insurance plan.

"Since pets are not eligible under their owner's medical plan, essentially they are uninsured and qualify for the Costco Member Prescription Program. Your Costco pharmacy will automatically initiate CMPP for your pet prescription and you will get the lowest possible Costco price on that medication.*"

* The Costco Connection, January 2013, Page 30, 31.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Tips to Save Money on Prescriptions

Want to cut down on your prescription costs and avoid going into the Medicare
Part D 'donut hole' in 2013?  Here are a few tips that may help.

1.   Choose generic drugs. New generic drugs are made available every year. Even if you have asked your doctor in the past, ask again if any of your drugs are available as a generic. 

2.   Drugs in Tier 1 and Tier 2 (most generic drugs) may work just as well for your condition as drugs in Tier 3 or Tier 4, but cost less money.  Ask your doctor if there is a lower-tier drug that could work for you. 

3.   Order by mail. You can save time and money when you order prescriptions you take on a regular basis through your plan’s mail pharmacy.

4.  Check the cash price your pharmacy charges for medications you take regularly, then check that price against your current co-pay for the same drug.  Many of the larger pharmacies offer hundreds of medications at a significant savings over your plan's
     co-pay for the same drug. 


Sunday, January 13, 2013

Upcoming classes on Medicare

I'll be presenting "Getting Started with Medicare," a class designed to answer your questions and prepare you for your transition to Medicare, at the following locations in the coming weeks. I look forward to seeing you at one of these classes.

For the dates and times of additional classes, please visit my website at

Pre-registration is required for all classes. Please call the specific location to register and for any additional details. 

Thursday, January 17, 2013
Cleveland Heights-University Heights Libraries
Coventry Branch Library
6:30 – 8:30 pm
1925 Coventry Road
Cleveland Heights, OH 44118

Thursday, January 24, 2013
Kenston Middle School
6:30 pm- 8:30 pm
17425 Snyder Rd.
Betty Patton Room 229
Chagrin Falls, OH 44023
Call to register and for fee information
Monday, February 4, 2013
Lorain County Community College
Brunswick Campus
10:00am – 12:00pm
50 Pearl Road
Brunswick, OH 44212
Tuesday, February 5, 2013
Brush High School
7:00 pm - 8:30 pm
4875 Glenlyn Road
Lyndhurst, OH 44124

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Health Care Reform: What Does it Mean for your Business

Who has answers for you?

Healthcare Reform Legislation  that was signed into law March 23, 2010 provides the most sweeping changes we have ever seen in healthcare and health insurance in America.  It is something that will undoubtedly affect each and every one of us. Yet, very few people, including insurance industry professionals, can honestly say they fully understand how it will affect you and me.

That’s why I am taking steps now to become a Certified Healthcare Reform Specialist.  

The certification process is much more than a matter of reading and understanding the healthcare reform bill. It is my commitment to learning the regulations and developing the ability to interpret these rules as they apply to my clients, their employers and the businesses in our area. I want to be armed with the facts in order to answer the question I hear asked most often: “How will “Obamacare’ affect me?”

The next phase of Healthcare Reform will affect businesses and their employees as well as further changes to Medicare. The Affordable Care Act creates a whole host of new employee reporting and disclosure requirements. The heart of Healthcare Reform rolls out in 2014 so employers will need to start planning now for these changes to ensure they are not left behind.   

As a Certified Healthcare Reform Specialist, my goal is to become your most reliable resource to guide you through the process of adapting to the new health care regulations. 

Throughout the coming months, I will be sharing updates and information on Healthcare Reform  here in my blog at, on my website at and in future newsletters. If you have specific questions pertaining to you or your business, please send your questions to me at and I’ll do my best to answer them.


Monday, January 7, 2013

No More Paper Social Security Checks

Benefit payments for Social Security, VA Benefits, SSI and other federal benefit programs will no longer be issued in the form of a check as of March 1, 2013. 

Senior Citizens and other federal beneficiaries may choose direct deposit to their bank or local Credit Union or the Treasury-recommended Direct Express Debit MasterCard.  Getting your benefits in a check will no longer be an option . . . It is the law.

You can visit your bank or credit union, call the Treasury Department's Go Direct Call Center toll-free at (800) 333-1795 or contact the local office of the agency providing your federal benefits.

Please don't wait until the last minute on this. Learn all you can now and make the switch before March 1, 2013. 

Friday, January 4, 2013

+65 Homeowners: Are you paying too much on your taxes?

If you're age 65 or over and own your home, you may be in line for some savings on your homeowner taxes.The Homestead Exemptions provides a tax credit on the first $25,000 of market value of your home.
According to Cuyahoga County’s website, qualified Ohio homeowners who take advantage of the Homestead Exemption should save an average of about $400 per year. And before you say, "I probably don't qualify" please read this . . .

Who is eligible for the Homestead Exemption?

To qualify for the Homestead you must:

-       be at least 65 years old during the year for which you first file, or be permanently and totally disabled;

-       own and occupy the home (or manufactured home) as of January 1st of the filing year as your principle place of residence.

There are no income limits.
Let me repeat that  . . . there are no income-related limits or requirements. Any homeowner age 65 and older living in the home whose name is on the deed is eligible. Changes in the tax laws in 2007 eliminated all income guidelines.

When do you file for the Homestead Exemption?
Applications for the Homestead program are processed by the County Auditor's Office and may be filed beginning the first Monday in January.

Complete details are available through your County Auditors office or their website. For more information and guidelines for the Homestead Exemption, call your local County Auditor’s Office:
Cuyahoga County             216-443-7010

Western Lake County       440- 918-2532

Painesville                        440-350-2536
Madison                            440-428-4348

Ashtabula                         440- 576-3793

Geauga                             440-285-2222


Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Unwanted Prescription Meds

Next time you clean out your medicine cabinet, here's a safe easy way to dispose of unwanted prescriptions or over the counter medicines.

The City of Mentor Police Department has a special collection bin for your unwanted and expired medications. The bin is for any of your unwanted or expired prescriptions, cold/flu medicines, pain relievers, pet medicines, vitamins and creams. Simply remove or black out any personal information on the label, leave the product in its original container and drop it in the bin.

Mentor's bin is located in the Police Station at 8500 Civic Center Blvd. 

Call your community to ask if they have a collection bin in your city, too.  This is a much more environmentally friendly way to dispose of these substances and prevent them from being dumped in landfills or getting into our water supply.