Friday, November 22, 2013

New York Times questions conventional wisdom on Social Security reform proposals

Paul Krugman offers an important op-ed in the New York Times Friday, “Expanding Social Security”, link here
Krugman challenges some conventional conservative debate points on entitlement reform.
One bullet point is that the longer lifespans argue for raising eligibility age. Longer lifespans occur largely with higher income individuals, whereas poorer people, who may have worked in dangerous occupations involving manual labor and hazardous conditions and who may “need” benefits more, have seen relatively little increase in life span.
The other argument is that conservatives tend to understate poverty among seniors, and that such poverty is likely to increase in the future because lifelong stable employment with one or few employers offering defined benefit pensions is going away.  He describes the conversion to defined contribution 401(k)’s as a failure.  My own worked out all right, although some of the value of my own employer’s stock (ING) had lost value (after 9/11) before I sold it.  

Monday, November 18, 2013

Why not subject all wages to FICA, some Democrats ask

The Washington Post has an important editorial on Monday November 18, 2013, “Liberalism gone awry: Why not spend more money on poor children instead of seniors”, and online it is titled “Social Security proposals are wrongheaded”, link here
The editorial refers to a proposal by Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-CA) to make all wages, without limit, subject to Social Security FICA “tax” even though much of it would go way above what would support one’s own future income from Social Security.  The editorial suggests that this would be a “massive transfer of wealth from upper income Americans to the retired” and would further penalize wages at the expense of other income.  If you’re going to increase taxes, why not help poor children, it asks.  But should FICA really be viewed as a “tax” even if the Supreme Court says it is so, technically?

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Do bitcoins belong in a retiree's portfolio?

According to the Wall Street Journal’s Marketwatch, it’s possible to put bitcoins into your IRA, with a “Bitcount Investment Trust”, with story link here
The best advice I find today is that retirees with ample assets (at least a few hundred thousand dollars saved) could well consider putting about 1% of their portfolio into bitcoins, in order to learn the market, and possibly as a future hedge against loss of confidence in the dollar because of US political brinksmanship (the Stansberry theory).  US News has a discussion here and there are a lot of conversations about the matter on Reddit.  

Remember, when capitalized, "Bitcoin" requires to the system; the units of digital currency are called bitcoins.  

Friday, November 15, 2013

ABC reports on over 1 million teen caregivers in the US

ABC News reported tonight, after noting that November is national caregiver’s month, presented a teen as person of the week, Chris Miller, in West Palm Beach, FL, who, at age 13, takes care of a 63 year old grandmother. The report said that 1.4 million teens under 18 serve as primary caregivers.  The link to the story (with video) is here. Obviously, keeping up with school could be a problem.  I recall a scene in the movie "October Sky" where the oldest brother volunteers to go to work in a coal mine when the father gets black lung.  That's how it is for some families. 

The report introduced the American Association of Caregiving Youth (AACY), link here
Chris was also shown practicing the violin, with considerable talent.  

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Medicare Advantage cuts with Obamacare might hurt some seniors (probably not me)

Free Enterprise has an interesting perspective on the cuts that are likely in Medicare Advantage programs, meaning that seniors who buy these programs may face higher premiums and have fewer benefits.
I have occasionally been contacted about the idea of buying one, and was approached a couple times a few years ago about selling them.  No, I don’t like to peddle things. 
It could make sense, to have some dental care added (I seemed to get the vision care I need with regular Medicare and supplemental). 
An article by Sean Hackbarth is arguing that many seniors even on regular Medicare will see premiums rise (perhaps means testing), but Obama is saying that preventive screening is improved.  Hackworth writes that part of the funding of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act came from cuts to subsidies of Medicare Advantage.
The link for the article is here.

I just got my own annual physical results back, and they were OK.  I have not taken advantage of the colonoscopy, because of the prep; but the standard bloodwork is quite extensive (all the various sugars and various cholesterols; liver and kidney function;  PSA;  a pancreatic cancer protein test probably will be available and standard in maybe three years).   Electrocardiogram was included.  

Saturday, November 09, 2013

Forced guardianship could be forced on seniors who live alone and get into trouble

It is possible for a local government to order guardianship for an “incompetent” (older) citizen living alone, as shown in a front page Washington Post story Saturday, November 9, 2013 by Amy Brittain, about a 58-year-old woman with excessive 911 calls, the story link here

The case occurs in Washington DC and the case is being pressed by the city’s Department of Behavioral Health.  In many jurisdictions, the relevant agency would be Adult Protective Services. There are other issues that might create this sort of situation, such as hoarding. 

Monday, November 04, 2013

Would Obamacare affect retiree health insurance from ex-employers before Medicare eligibility?

Are retirees who buy health insurance from their former employers (as I did until I went onto Medicare) affected by Obamacare? 
It’s a good question.  My own individual policy from ING with United Health Care cost about $165 a month and covered only 70% if hospitalization, which I never needed.  It did get good pre-discounts on outpatient tests (about 70% off).  I doubt that it covered maternity, mental illness, or drug addiction issues.  Would it have to now?
NPR has a link  on how Obamacare affects people already on Medicare – not a lot.  They may have more coverage on annual physicals and by 2020 some closure of the doughnut hole in prescription drug coverage.
Self-employed seniors under 65 who are self-employed (that’s a lot of people) may want to check the article Monday morning November 4, 2013 I the Washington Post by Arianna Eunjung Cha and Lena H. Sun about the “sticker shock” and “anger” about higher premiums for many who aren’t likely to use all the services and qualify for aid, link here. Again, it sounds as though maternity and drug abuse coverage, of no value to many in this population, could be an issue.  The print version refers to the health care law’s “losers”.
Okay, in the Army, we used to make fun of the adage, “From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs”.