Money in the Middle

Sandwich Generation Talking About Money Up, Down and Across Generations

Archive for November 2009

Consider Retirement Housing Choices Carefully

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The housing crash has hit more than individual homes – it is hitting retirement communities as well, especially some continuing care retirement communities.

Continuing care communities (CCRCs) are usually geared to people 60+ and provide a range of housing solutions from independent living to assisted living to nursing in one area. They are generally active communities with lots of activities readily available, onsite health care and transportation to local shopping and events. The idea is that the individual can move along the continuum to the type of housing and support that they need as they age.

But, CCRCs have not been immune to recession’s impact on real estate.  Many are facing higher vacancy rates as people are unable to sell their homes to buy into the new community.  That can lead to increased fees, reduced benefits and an inability to get back a deposit in a timely manner.  Not what you thought you signed up for! 

Here’s an article from the Washington Post about the challenges some CCRC residents are facing as they worry about the financial security of their retirement home and the possibility of higher fees than they planned for when entering the CCRC.

If you are considering a CCRC for yourself or a family member, make sure you ask about the financial stability of the company that owns and manages the property (it might be different organizations as is the case with the Erickson CCRC communities mentioned in the Post article.)

 If the pundits are right and real estate values will be slow to recover, you want to understand very clearly what you are buying into now and in the future.

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Written by Laura Rossman

November 5, 2009 at 4:17 pm

Switching Medicare Plans? Get Info Now!

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Even if you aren’t eligible for Medicare, you know that something is going on with the volume of advertisements about Medicare Advantage and Medicare Supplement plans.  It must be about every other ad on cable TV.

What’s going on?

We are in the annual enrollment period for Medicare Part D Prescription Drug plans and Medicare Advantage plans. Marketing started October 1. Plans can be switched from Nov. 15 to Dec. 31.

So if you’ve already got coverage, why would you want to switch or help your elder change plans?  Because the marketplace is changing – and will probably be changing some more if and when the health care reform bill passes.

While many have found Medicare Advantage to be cost effective and packed with extras (gym memberships, vision and dental discounts), but the product is changing.  So read your benefits carefully.

Some insurance companies have cancelled Medicare Advantage plans leaving policy holders to find new coverage.  Others have increased premiums or co-pays.  So that now the price difference between a Medicare Advantage plan and some of the Medicare supplement plans may not be as great.

It’s not clear what we’ll see in the future, but many of these plans may look much different from when you shopped them two or three years ago.

Here’s a good article from the NY Times about examining your Medicare health plan options.

I’d add to their recommendations to make sure you get quotes from a couple of different companies.  For example, Medicare Supplement plans are standardized which means plan benefits are the same no matter what the company.  But the prices sure aren’t. Over a year you could be paying hundreds of dollars more from one company than another.  So shop and compare Medicare health plans. 

If you’ve had retiree insurance from your employer and this is your first venture into the Medicare health plan maze, you might want to work with a broker who specializes in Medicare health plans.  Make sure they are experienced and can show you a couple different companies and plans.

And Part D plan formularies – the list of drugs that are covered at what rate – change too.  So if your medications have or will be changing, you might want to look at other part D plans to see if the one you have is still right for your needs.

And always check with your doctor accepts the plan you are considering.

So don’t delay. the sooner you get the information, the sooner you can make a decision and not get caught in the last-minute chaos of getting your application in on New Years Eve.

Written by Laura Rossman

November 4, 2009 at 8:05 pm