I hope you had a great Christmas and New Year’s. Other than the extreme cold, ours was pretty good and we were able to spend a lot of time with family. This letter is filled with a lot of reminders and things to consider for the new year.
For those of you with Anthem Blue Cross. The new card you received for your over-the-counter catalog benefit is a Master Card. This same card also has your Flex Dental/Vision/Hearing on it or the $50 a month grocery or utility benefit. If you have not received the card by now, call member services and have them mail it again.
Reminder. If and when you hear of “amazing” Medicare benefits with lots of free stuff, PLEASE remember to give me a call before you talk to anyone on the phone. I am familiar with all the plans in Ohio. There are plans out there that may have one or two benefits that are better than what you currently have, but not better than your plan overall. So please do not answer the phone or call any of the 1-800 numbers on TV. Every person you talk to is a salesperson trying to sell you and move you away from the plan you currently have. So just remember when in doubt call Chris.
Remember to use the benefits you have like dental, vision, hearing, over-the-counter catalog (OTC) and grocery card if you have it. Call or email me if you are not sure. Those with Anthem can now order brand name as well as generic products for the OTC benefit online at MyBenefits.NationsBenefits.com.
What is REACH? It is a new government pilot program that is supposed to increase services for underserved communities by giving better health care and also saving money thereby giving health care providers a percentage of the savings. It stands for Accountable Care Organization (ACO) Realizing Equity, Access, and Community Health (REACH). It’s a pilot program starting in January of this year and ending in December of 2026. It is supposed to only be for those on traditional Medicare. This program is new and from what I can find out not well defined on anything. You are supposed to be notified by mail if you end up on one of these programs. Looking at medicare.gov/aco-search, it looks like these ACO programs are all over the country. They started under the Affordable Care Act and now they’re moving them into Medicare. The Cleveland Clinic, University Hospital, and Summa all have ACO programs, but it does not mean that you are in one.
The idea is to have your primary care doctor do as much as possible for you thereby saving money so you don’t have to go see specialists and you don’t get “unnecessary testing”. The few reports I have read said it’s really not saving them money and there is concern some people are not getting the quality of care that they should be getting. I don’t think it’s anything to worry about but just be aware of. If you’re concerned just ask your primary care doctor if he or she is in this new ACO REACH program.
Is it a SCAM call? Medicare is pushing for the insurance companies to call you about your health to see if they can provide you with any assistance. At the same time, they are allowing some unethical insurance people to call you any time they want. It is hard to know the difference sometimes. If the calls are directly from the insurance company, you are OK. If they are from someone claiming to be a “third party” to your insurance company, they may be okay but if they start asking you for your date-of-birth or Medicare number — they are most likely scammers trying to switch you to their insurance company. NEVER give out that kind of information. If you are not sure, call me. In case you didn’t know, Anthem changed their name to “Elevance Health” so you may get calls from either caller ID name.
For those of you with IRA’s who are under age 72 by 12/31/2022, the age for Required Minimum Distributions (RMD) is now age 73 for 2023. Also, those of you who have IRA’s and are only taking the RMD or nothing at all may want to consider withdrawing money and paying the taxes on it over the next couple of years. We are at some of the lowest income tax rates in our lifetime and the current tax rate structure is scheduled to go back up again in 2025 unless Congress extends it. The government is looking for money and I don’t anticipate that they will extend it although it is too early to tell. It might be to your advantage to pull out money and pay the tax. Just keep your income under the 22% or 24% tax rate. Our lowest tax brackets right now are 10% and 12%.
People forget that less than 10 years ago our lowest tax rates were 10% and 15%. In the year 2000, the lowest tax brackets were 15% and 27.5%. John F. Kennedy lowered the maximum tax rate down from 90% to 70% and Ronald Reagan lowered it down from 70% to 40%. So having much higher tax brackets is not unprecedented for our country. In 2001, a single person making over $27,000 was in the 27.5% tax bracket and married couples making more than $45,200 were also in a 27.5% tax bracket. So as I said, by taking money out of your IRA now and paying tax on it with the low rates we currently have may be better than leaving it to your kids in the form of an IRA. They would pull the money out and add it to their current income which could put them in a much higher tax bracket. This could end up making the IRS your primary beneficiary. Of course, you should talk to your tax professional before making any moves because of the taxability of your Social Security.
New limits for Extra Help. The new income limits are out for people to qualify for extra help with their prescriptions. I have a detailed chart on my website at boringinsurance.com. In a nutshell, people with incomes under $1,850 a month for a single person or $2,500 for a couple should apply at www.ssa.gov/extrahelp or call Medicare. You also need to have assets under $17,000 for singles and under $33,500 for couples.
Turn your copays to zero. I have an insurance plan that will turn most of your major copays to $0 if you want to purchase it. It’s a guaranteed issue for people 64 1/2 through 67. At age 68 and older, there are health questions that may disqualify you from the plan. For the guaranteed age group, the plan is about $52 a month and turns your copays for hospital stays, emergency room/urgent care, ambulance, outpatient surgery, and outpatient therapy to $0. Call me if you would like more information.
Remember to use the mail order to save the most on your prescription drugs. I would also like to remind you that you do not have to use your prescription drug card if other options are cheaper such as paying cash or by using GoodRX.com. Singlecare.com is another good way to save money on prescriptions. Many times it’s cheaper than GoodRX.com.
Consider this, it is a good idea to carry a list of the prescriptions that you take. Don’t list the name brand but list the drugs you’re actually taking. This can be very useful in emergencies.
If you would like to review some of my old newsletters or would like general information on life insurance or annuities remember to visit my website BoringInsurance.com.
Car thefts skyrocketed. The main reason is for catalytic converters. They can be sold on the market for $1,000 or more. Thieves are more likely to hit high sitting trucks and SUV’s because they can get under them quickly and easily. Hybrids are also popular because they have high concentrations of expensive metals. Check Carfax for a list of the vehicles most likely to have their converters stolen. Top models include Equinox, Silverado, F-series, Accord, CR-V, Camry, and Prius.
Also, if you’re worried about scams and people using your information you could put a freeze on your credit accounts with the three major credit agencies so no one can fraudulently open a bank account or credit card in your name. This can be done for free.
Scams against seniors continues to increase. While scams originating with social media contact are significant, the largest losses were reported to have started with a phone call. I tell people if you don’t recognize the number on your caller ID don’t answer it. If it’s something important the person will leave a message. That’s what I do. Google “AARP scam reports” to see real reported scams and sign up for alerts for new scams in the area.
Things have slowed down for Cathy and I over the last few weeks – Finally. We were able to spend a lot of time with two of the cutest grandkids in the world (not that I’m biased). Cathy is helping me with my business while also caring for aging parents and working on the family farm. My oldest son Nathan is busy with his job, raising my two grandsons, helping me with Christian Service Brigade, and teaching Sunday school among other things. My son Andrew is also very busy working with the kids as a youth pastor and taking his seminary classes as well. Overall, we have all been very blessed. I hope you have a great and healthy new year. Thank you so much for all the referrals you have sent me. They are the biggest part of my business. I’m very thankful for the trust you have in me to make those referrals.