Monday, November 28, 2011

Florida law firm explains class action suit over deficient long term care benefits

Steven M. Dunn, PA, or Long Term Care Law Office in Florida has a YouTube video (5 minutes, detailed, informative, spring 2011) explaining a class action lawsuit against an insurance company (or companies) for not honoring inflation protection that it says was implied in the language of some riders in the company’s policy.  He says the average age of the clients involved was 88 (with 98 the highest), and that the families of many clients had to go out and hire additional home health care. 

Here is his Facebook site.  Webroot plugin  ((in late versions of Mozilla-Firefox only) gives a yellow caution warning on his main corporate site (“”), other site rating companies are OK with it; I hope he checks up on this. 

Sunday, November 27, 2011

New York Times revisits rule on paying home health aides (and live-in's) overtime

The New York Times has a good editorial “Fair Pay for Hard Work” regarding the issue of overtime for home health aides often used to provide eldercare in the home, Nov. 25, link here.

The editorial discusses the 2007 Supreme Court ruling on the Evelyn Coke case, and explains the concept that Congress or the Labor Department, with a 1974 rule, had apparently made “companions” (that is, normally, "live-in's") exempt from normal overtime rules. Congress would have to change it. 

It also points out that stiffing home health workers, even if it seems to save Medicaid money, is bad public policy because it could lead to more nursing home use (and nursing homes are going to get full). 

It’s not too hard to put all this together with filial responsibility laws. 

I can recall, while still in Minneapolis, back in 2002, being told that people over 60 (I was 59 then) were being recruited as “senior home companions” and paid only a “small stipend”. 

Below is a YouTube "Trubute to Evelyn Coke".  It says that home care workers are not protected by minimum wage and overtime laws at all.  I thought that was true "only" for live-ins. 

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Long term care companies screen for anti-selection

Today, I underwent (or was “subjected to”) a 45-minute telephone interview with a nurse from an insurance company for a possible single-premium long term care policy.

Besides detailed, and sometimes repeated, questions (mostly Y/N) on medical history, there were memory exercises. The applicant is told not to write anything down during the interview (to cheat on the memory test).

The applicant is asked again at the end of the interview if he or she did “cheat”. 

The memory test comprises a list of ten words. A few times during the interview the applicant is asked to repeat as many words as possible.  During my mother’s care, a neurologist told me that most people have trouble remembering more than seven items at a time without cribbing, and I was able to do seven or eight at a time.  (If you got everything "right", that might suggest cheating.)  The applicant is also given triplets of objects, and asked which is different from the other three, and then at the end asked to enumerate as many of these objects as possible.  The applicant is also given a T/F test on whether a specific word was on the list.  That’s easier to get almost right. 

It’s easier to remember words that have some special significance. 

I wasn't asked a lot of detailed questions about medical monitoring. I wasn't asked to do an EKG stress test, or colonoscopy, for example. I was asked about daily activities, including housekeeping.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Wells Fargo finds many seniors expect to work until age 80, have less than $25000 net worth

A Wells Fargo study says that 25% if respondents say they expect to have to work to age 80, when life expectancy is 78.  30% of people in the 60s have saved less than $25000.

But are seniors better off than young people?  It's a very mixed bag.

The story is on eCredit here.

Picture: a horror movie set? 

Friday, November 18, 2011

Over 90 population is skyrocketing in US

USA Today, in a story Nov. 18 p 3A, reports on recently published Census data showing that the over-90 population has tripled in the last three decades.

The definition of “oldest old” moves up from 85 to 90. Most people in their 90s had at least one disability. 37% lived with others, 37% alone, 23% in what Census calls group quarters. A majority of the very old are female.

The public perception of the moral responsibility to learn to take care of others will change with increased lifespans.  No longer will it be just a matter of deciding to have children or not.  This social value system is more common in non-western cultures.  

The link for the story is here

Monday, November 14, 2011

Loney hearts columnist addresses filial piety

The “Ask Amy” coilumn on p C5 of the Monday Washington Post deals with filial responsibility. The caption is “Sons need to step up to care for aging mother”, link here. The letter comes from a niece who had “sacrificed plenty” for he own mother, and now wants her two male cousins in other states to step up. Yes, hire help. 

But I don't know if an email is a good enough way to for the niece to communicate this.  Could wind up in a spam folder.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Utah GOP Representative Chaffetz proposes means testing of Social Security benefits by 2019

On Nov. 8, Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) announced his own proposals for Social Security reform. The details are present on this Nov. 8 press release, here. Chaffetz is said to be shopping for cosponsors.

The story was mentioned in the Politco rag (see my Issues Blog yesterday), in conjunction with other GOP proposals from Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK), and James Lankford (R-OK) to reduce and means test entitlements for wealthier or high income individuals while keeping income taxes  and particularly capital gains taxes as low as possible while reducing federal debt. 

There is a lot of technical language about cost of living in the proposal. 

But the most controversial proposal is the last one, which means tests the benefit amount for retirees collecting benefits starting in 2019, for those who make over a certain amount a year (it doesn’t talk about assets testing, which would get very complicated when there are trusts).  It also boosts amounts for those over age 85, and also supplies a minimum benefit for low income people. Some rumors had suggested means testing could start immediately on wealthier retirees. 

For new retirees, starting in 2016, it also changes the formula for average earnings, including up to 40 years instead of 35.  

Full retirement age for new retirees increases gradually. Early retirement, with a more severe lifetime actuarial penalty based on increasing life expectancy, can still start at 62.

One item that ought to be addresses is the whole subject of Social Security Offset, imposed by many corporate pension plans to subtract from private pension amounts, and which often presumes the person starts collecting at 62.  This is another area for potential reform that both parties have missed. 

The proposal seems to respect the idea that Social Security is at least partially like a retirement annuity based on a person's contributions over the years. 

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Seniors have much higher net worth than young adults, inspiring "Jonathan Swift" satire

If you want to read a parody of Jonathan Swift’s “modest proposal”, try the Washington Post’s op-ed Saturday by Alexandra Petri, “A Modest Proposal for the Occupy Movement”.

It’s not “eat the rich”, it’s “eat the old”.  There are social insects that do just that.

She writes that households headed by those over 65 have 47 times the net worth of those under 35. She says the median net worth household for over 65, $170000. For under 35, $3700.  That’s partly because of student loan debt.  The link is here.

It's true, there are life insurance companies with division that focus only on those individuals with "high net worth".  It doesn't sound quite fair. 

It’s true, that those about 70 now grew up in a time when employment was more stable and their own parents could actually amass wealth with relatively conservative investments.  My own parents did that. Our family is lucky in that one member owned a gas well in Ohio (hence, high fuel prices help me). My father invested very heavily in utility stocks, because people will always need electricity. He was right. So I did the same thing at age 30 with Exxon stock, right before the first oil shock.  That’s only because of his example 

But go back to your ninth grade English literature for inspiration.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

What if taxpayers were garnished to pay for underfunded public pensions; Could super-committee hit current Social Security beneficiaries now?

MSN posted a blistering post from Smart Money by Jack Hough, “No Pension, You May Still Owe $30000 On One”, link here 

The writer calculates what taxpayers would owe if they had to make up the difference on underfunded public pensions.  He suggests that states and localities start collecting $1400 more per year from households now, almost like a garnishment.

The problem is that pension funds have been allowed to use default-prone investments in projecting their returns.  They should be required to use default-free investments.

Other problems include public employees gaming the system by using the highest years of earnings. 

There’s more.  Today, Nancy LeaMond, executive vice president of the AARP has a LTE on p A22 in the Washington Post about a Nov. 5 editorial “A menacing message: The Supercommittee should resist AARP’s attempts to take Social Security off the table” ( editorial copy link ), and writes (“AARP:A help or hindrance”?) “Until recently, most proponents of Social Security benefits weren’t talking about current beneficiaries, but they are a target today”.  The link for her letter is here. She goes on to talk about chained consumer price index and its effect on annual COLA and emphasizes that most seniors are relatively poor – but she doesn’t get into the biggest kahuna – that you could means test wealthier current beneficiaries right now.   Maybe unlikely, but it the current committee came up with that, there would be nothing seniors could do. This time, not even the ballot box.  

Another quote from her letter is appropriate: "The editorial said, “Social Security cannot pay all promised benefits, and a debt discussion is a useful place to make reasonable tradeoffs.” But the Social Security trust funds can pay all promised benefits until 2036."

Monday, November 07, 2011

MSNBC: Seniors may have it better than youngsters; Wash Post: Existing public employees need to accept cuts in future pension promises

MSNBC has a lead story today maintaining that those over 65 are often better off than younger workers.  Why?

Seniors are more likely to own older homes, either paid for or acquired long before the housing bubble.

Younger people are buying into a housing market that collapsed and is still sometimes falling. And younger people tend to have record student debt.

Despite claims of age discrimination, seniors may be more likely to be in second careers that they want, and may actually own their own businesses.

The MSNBC story is by John Schoen of its Lifeinc unit, here

In the meantime, The Washington Post has a major editorial Monday morning on the pension tsunami, especially how Democratic governors are handling it with public employees in California, Illinois and New York, link here. The inconvenient truth is that governors will have to start cutting back on future defined benefits to existing public employees, not just new hires. 

Saturday, November 05, 2011

A personal cautionary tale on PSA screening and followup

Here’s a little lifestyle tip.  At my last physical in October, at age 68, we found that my PSA had actually gone down.   An appointment with a urologist is no longer necessary.

Why?  Since my mother’s passing, there has not been help in the house and I have done my own cooking. I certainly eat less fat (particularly at breakfast). The lower fat diet probably explains the gradual reduction in the PSA number as well as better cholesterol numbers.

This could be a word to the wise in the medical debate over PSA screening and followup on elevated numbers for older men.  It could also have a bearing on Medicare expenses. 

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Greek, other European financial crises (specifically unsustainable pensions) affect value of US retirees' assets

The crisis in Greece affects US retirees. Specifically, the high public pensions in Greece (and other countries in trouble, with low birth rates) affect the value of American’s retirement savings.

That’s because as long as Greece shares the Euro currency, repudiation of its debt would affect the value of savings everywhere.  If Greece left the Euro and could have its own currency, which it could devalue, it would then have negligible effect outside its small borders (unlike in ancient times).

The president of Greece wants to put Europe’s bailout plan up for popular referendum.  But if the referendum fails, Greece, for a while, would still be part of the Union and dragging down the assets of everyone in the world.

The Greek financial crisis is related in many ways to high pensions, which are about double those in the US.  ABC news showed an example of a family where someone in Greece made twice as much in pension as her sister in the US, who would be personally affected by the lack of “shared sacrifice” in Greece itself.