I hope you had enjoyable and healthy holidays. Also, I hope you and your family have a healthy and more normal 2021. Here is some information to help make it a better year.
Changes. As you probably already know, your Medicare Part B premium went up to $148.50 a month (for most people). The Medicare prescription Part D donut hole that is now a 25% copay will begin after using $4,130 in drugs and not end until you hit the $6,500 out of pocket maximum. I thought it was interesting that you pay 25%, the drug company writes off 70% and the insurance company only pays 5% but that’s the way the government set it up.
LIS (Low Income Subsidy) or “Extra Help” qualifying numbers are changing. This “extra help” is to help people with their prescription drug costs who have a lower income. If you are single and have monthly income under $1,440 or married and its under $2,175 and your assets are under $8,000 (single) and $30,000 (married), you may qualify. If you are close to those numbers, you should apply because they make many exceptions. To apply go to www.ssa.gov. At the top right select “Extra Help with Medicare…” then select “Apply for Extra Help…” or try calling Social Security at 800-772-1213 M-F 7 to 7. Another benefit to getting the extra help besides lower prescription costs is that you can change your Medicare Advantage plan during the year if needed.
I am sure you have seen the commercials this fall urging you to call for free benefits and to get your Part B premium back (the $148.50). These commercials are deceiving and they are a “Bait and Switch” tactic. Only people on Medicare and Medicaid can get these plans. So, if you don’t have Medicaid, they tell you “sorry you don’t qualify BUT we can sell you something else”. Do not fall for it. They will sell you a plan that’s not as good as you have now.
Another note: The reason you are still seeing these commercials now that AEP (Annual Election Period) is over is because we are now in Medicare OEP (Open Election Period). OEP allows people on a Medicare Advantage plan to make one switch to another Medicare advantage plan or back to original Medicare during the first quarter of the year. You could also switch a prescription only plan once as well. So, if you know anyone who is not happy with their current plan – please have them call me.
A little good COVID news. A doctor recently told me they now know to treat covid patients so well that if a person ends up in ICU they stand a 93% chance of recovery compared to last spring when it was less than 50%. Not that COVID isn’t serious or that we shouldn’t take precautions but I thought some good news would make it a little less scary for some people.
Scammers They are now setting up fake shopping sites online to get your financial information. So be sure to shop at trusted sites. Also monitor your accounts and never use a debit card online. Personally, I recommend using credit cards and cash for everything as a debit card is an entry way into your bank account.
Be careful how much info you put on social media like Facebook. Scammers mine the info to help them crack security questions to gain access to your accounts.
Beware of text messages saying something like “You received a direct deposit of $600 from COVID-19 Treas Fund. Further action is required to accept this payment into your account”. It then links to a fake site where they will steal your information. Do not open the link. Report it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
As you probably know the IRS never calls you. So now you need to be on the lookout for fake letters from the IRS. There should be a barcode on letters from the IRS now. You can use a smartphone to scan the code for information or go to the IRS website. If the letter says you owe money and there is no barcode, its probably fake. Even if there is a barcode, I would verify with the IRS that it is a legitimate letter.
President Trump signed an executive order for a “Most Favored Nation” policy for 50 Medicare Part B drugs. These are drugs you get at the doctors office or the hospital. Rather than we taxpayers spending eight times more for a drug than they do in Europe, we will now spend the same. There will be legal challenges as the drug companies are very upset.
The IRS issued new life-expectancy tables to calculate RMD’s (Required Minimum Distributions) starting in 2022. They reflect the fact that people are living longer. This means the required amount to be withdrawn every year will be smaller leaving more money in the accounts to continue growing.
If you have not received your second stimulus check you can track it online at irs.gov/coronavirus/get-my-payment. You will not receive a stimulus check if you are claimed as a dependent on someone’s tax return. Stimulus checks are not taxable (unlike the unemployment benefits which are taxable). Also, if you had a spouse that passed away in 2020 and you get a check for them, do not spend it. The IRS has not made it clear if this will be allowed and they could ask for the money back.
My family and I are doing well and staying healthy. My son Andrew took a job at a church in North Canton as a youth pastor last month. We moved him and his wife Allie before Christmas. He is very busy and likes it a lot. My other son Nathan and his wife LaRee have been doing well as new parents. Their son Elijah will be one year old next month and is still such a cutie (not that I am prejudice or anything). Its hard to believe it’s been a year already. I think the calendar is getting shorter as I get older. My wife Cathy is starting her busy tax season now. We are staying busy with the kids, helping on her dad’s farm and helping take care of my mom. Our church is having their Sportsman’s Dinner on January 30th. If you are interested, you can attend in person or virtually online. We will have a speaker and raffle off dozens of prizes including guns, outdoor equipment, and raffle baskets. Tickets can be purchased online at portagechapel.com or in person at Portage Community Chapel on State Route 14 in Ravenna from 10-2 M-Th. Because this is a church event it will not be canceled.
Let me know if you have questions on anything. And please keep the referrals coming as this is the main thing keeping my business moving with covid closing many other avenues of business.
Have great new year,