Tag Archives: Social Security

Webcast will cover implications of federal spending deal on Medicare

Pia Christensen

About Pia Christensen

Pia Christensen (@AHCJ_Pia) is the managing editor/online services for AHCJ. She manages the content and development of healthjournalism.org, coordinates AHCJ's social media efforts and edits and manages production of association guides, programs and newsletters.

AHCJ webcastMedicare reform is a hot topic on the agenda for the bipartisan congressional budget committee whose Dec. 13 deadline for a compromise deal on a federal spending plan is looming. Both political parties have proposed raising the Medicare eligibility age and premiums on older adults, among other changes.

In the midst of this debate, two policy experts will join AHCJ’s topic leader on aging, Liz Seegert, to help members understand: Continue reading

Low interest rates affect seniors’ ability to pay medical expenses

Judith Graham

About Judith Graham

Judith Graham (@judith_graham), is a freelance journalist based in Denver and former topic leader on aging for AHCJ. She haswritten for the New York Times, Kaiser Health News, the Washington Post, the Journal of the American Medical Association, STAT News, the Chicago Tribune, and other publications.

A lot is written about people who don’t save enough for retirement. But what about older adults who saved diligently, only to find the value of their nest eggs depleted in this low-interest rate environment?

Judith GrahamJudith Graham (@judith_graham), AHCJ’s topic leader on aging, is writing blog posts, editing tip sheets and articles and gathering resources to help our members cover the many issues around our aging society.

If you have questions or suggestions for future resources on the topic, please send them to judith@healthjournalism.org.

I’m not talking here about stocks that take a tumble, slicing into their value. I’m talking about the interest rates that older people earn on money put away in bonds, money market funds, or certificates of deposit – and that they count on to supplement Social Security payments in their retirement years.

When these interest rates are at historically low levels, as they are now, people who counted on earning 5 percent to 7 percent annually from their savings can find themselves instead earning instead 1 percent to 2 percent. That can make a real difference in the affordability of their retirement plans and their ability to handle expenses such as payments for housing, food, prescription medications or out-of-pocket medical expenses.

For a really good examination of the issue, look at this story in the Minneapolis Star Tribune by Jennifer Bjorhus. It’s full of detailed analysis and personal stories that illustrate this problem which, it’s safe to say, is playing out with seniors in every community across the United States. Continue reading

Medicare gets the headlines but future of Social Security will affect seniors’ health

Judith Graham

About Judith Graham

Judith Graham (@judith_graham), is a freelance journalist based in Denver and former topic leader on aging for AHCJ. She haswritten for the New York Times, Kaiser Health News, the Washington Post, the Journal of the American Medical Association, STAT News, the Chicago Tribune, and other publications.

The future of Social Security isn’t commanding center stage in this election season. But it’s an important topic sure to receive considerable attention in the years ahead as baby boomers age and begin to rely on this government entitlement program.

If you need a crash course on the basics – what key issues confront Social Security, what trends are most worth following – a recent Associated Press series on Social Security is a great place to start.

Judith GrahamJudith Graham (@judith_graham), AHCJ’s topic leader on aging, is writing blog posts, editing tip sheets and articles and gathering resources to help our members cover the many issues around our aging society.

If you have questions or suggestions for future resources on the topic, please send them to judith@healthjournalism.org.

Some of what you’ll learn from the AP series:

The essentials

Social Security is a primary source of income for most older Americans. “About one-quarter of married couples and just under half of single retirees rely on Social Security for 90 percent or more of their income,” reports the AP’s Stephen Ohlemacher, who was responsible for this multi-part effort.

Without this income, large numbers of seniors would be impoverished, without money to pay for medications, their share of the cost of doctors’ appointments or items not covered by Medicare such as eyeglasses or hearing aids. Even with income from Social Security, a significant subset of older people find it difficult to secure adequate food and housing – both of which are essential to their health.

Nearly 56 million people get Social Security benefits. That number will swell to 91 million in 2035.

Social Security pays benefits to the elderly (36 million, average monthly benefit of $1,235), people who are disabled and unable to work (8.7 million, average benefit $1,111), spouses, children and widowers. Continue reading

Waiting period affects 2 million disabled Americans

Pia Christensen

About Pia Christensen

Pia Christensen (@AHCJ_Pia) is the managing editor/online services for AHCJ. She manages the content and development of healthjournalism.org, coordinates AHCJ's social media efforts and edits and manages production of association guides, programs and newsletters.

Nearly 2 million disabled Americans “fall into a twilight with the first monthly Social Security disability payment, for they then must wait two years to become eligible for Medicare,” according to The Oregonian‘s Anne Saker.

With at least 15,000 in that position in Oregon, Saker tells the story of Sue Sherman, diagnosed last year with pancreatic cancer, who discovered she must wait two years for Medicare to cover her. “Only 20 percent of pancreatic cancer patients live more than a year past diagnosis,” Saker reports.

Saker outlines the history of the waiting period, statistics about how many people in that situation go without insurance and the machinations in Washington, D.C., over the waiting period, but weaves it all into Sherman’s story, keeping a human face on the issue.

She looks at how Sherman’s illness and lack of coverage affects her family and includes an observation by Sherman’s daughter that the costs of her care will be passed on to everyone else.

As Trudy Lieberman says in her blog at CJR.org, “Her plight illustrates the traps that snare the disabled in every state.” Lieberman explains how people get caught in this waiting period and will be stuck with another waiting period with today’s launch of high-risk insurance pools.

With 2 million people affected, this is a story that should be told in every state. Lieberman wrote in 2008 about putting a human face on the proposed health reform plans. Reporters would be smart to heed that advice as they report on how the new law will be enacted.

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