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Changes come to Social Security and Medicare

‘Tis the season for changes to Social Security and Medicare. Read on for details on what’s changing and how it may affect you.



Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits for nearly 69 million Americans will increase 1.6 percent in 2020.

The 1.6 percent cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) will begin with benefits payable to more than 63 million Social Security beneficiaries in January 2020. Increased payments to more than 8 million SSI beneficiaries will begin on December 31, 2019. The Social Security Act ties the annual COLA to the increase in the Consumer Price Index as determined by the Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Some other adjustments that take effect in January of each year are based on the increase in average wages. Based on that increase, the maximum amount of earnings subject to the Social Security tax (taxable maximum) will increase to $137,700 from $132,900.

Security and SSI beneficiaries are normally notified by mail in early December about their new benefit amount. Most people who receive Security payments will be able to view their COLA notice online through their my Security account. People may create or access their my Security account online at www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount.


4 Ways Medicare Part D is Changing in 2020

If you have Medicare and are looking for ways to save on the ever-increasing cost of medications next year, consider adding a prescription plan known as “Part D.” By making medications more affordable, Part D plans can help you stay on track to achieve your 2020 health goals.

Choosing the plan that’s best for you can seem daunting at first, so familiarizing yourself with how Part D plans work is essential. First, compare how much you can expect to pay as you go through the “four stages” of a plan’s coverage, as the cost of your prescriptions will increase or decrease depending on the phase you are in. Then, find experts that can help you make an informed decision about the plan that will work best for you and take time to learn how the changes happening in 2020 will impact your bottom line.

Read on for a brief summary of the changes that will affect each stage of coverage next year.


Deductible Stage

You may need to pay more before your plan kicks in. A deductible is the amount you need to pay before your plan starts paying its share of the cost. Next year, the deductible could be as high as $435. That’s an increase of $20 from 2019.


Initial Coverage Stage

Your plan may cover more of the cost before you reach the “Donut Hole.” During this stage, you pay a set amount for your medications. Your plan covers the difference. In 2020, the initial coverage limit is up to $4,020. That’s an increase of $200 from 2019.


Coverage Gap Stage

You will receive higher discounts for branded and generic medications. You will receive a 75 percent discount when purchasing a brand-name medication. For example, if your medication costs $100, you will only pay $25. If you need a generic, you will never pay more than 25 percent of the total cost of the drug. In 2020, you will remain in this stage until your total out of pocket costs of your covered medications is $6,350.


Catastrophic Stage

You will only have to pay a minimum amount. Once you reach this stage, your costs will remain the same through the year. During this stage, you pay $8.95 for brand-name drugs and $3.60 for generics, or 5 percent of retail costs, whichever is higher.


Next Steps

If you are currently enrolled in a Part D plan, be sure to check the Annual Notice of Changes (ANOC) mailed by your plan. The ANOC details how these and other 2020 changes may impact your wallet next year. You can also go to roadmapformedicare.com for more detailed information about these changes, where you’ll find a free easy-to-use tool that will help you compare plans and choose the one that works best for you.

Don’t let Open Enrollment pass you by. Compare plans now and choose the one that best fits your needs and budget – this may save you money next year. For more Information about Medicare visit www.medicare.gov.


Making the Most of the Medicare Annual Election Period

Medicare Advantage (MA) plans are increasingly popular, offering robust benefits including vision, health, dental, drug coverage and more. For the more than 22 million people with an MA plan, the Medicare Annual Election Period (AEP), running from Oct. 15-Dec. 7, is the only time each year when they can shop for alternate plans.

“Health care is one of the most important investments you’ll ever make,” says Brian Evanko, who heads Medicare for Cigna, which serves more than 3 million Medicare customers nationwide through its various plans. “For those unsatisfied with their MA plan, the AEP provides a valuable opportunity to shop for a new one that better meets their specific needs.”

Weighing your options this AEP? Consider the following tips from Cigna:


  • Review changes. In late September, health plans send their current MA customers a document known as the Annual Notice of Change (ANOC) with information about plan changes for the upcoming year, including costs, benefits, available doctors and facilities. Don’t overlook this important document in the mail. It can help you determine if you need to change plans.
  • Weigh extras. When comparing plans, pay attention to extra benefits not available in Original Medicare and consider whether you’re likely to use them. Some of the most popular are dental, vision, hearing and no-cost access to fitness programs. Others include over-the-counter drug coverage and no-cost transportation to doctors and pharmacies.
  • Consider other factors. Beyond cost, consider the doctors and facilities included in any given plan, making sure it includes your favorite physician. Check drug coverage, prices on your regular maintenance medications and whether it’s easy to see specialists. Also pay attention to copays (how much you’re required to pay out-of-pocket for doctor visits) and the deductible. Are they affordable?
  • Know yourself. Learn as much as you can about the different plan types and choose one that best suits your budget, lifestyle and health status. Of course, priorities change, which could prompt a need for a plan change.
  • Don’t forget prevention. Many MA plans cover health screenings beyond those covered by Original Medicare. Talk to your doctor about which screenings are important for you given your age and health status. Some MA plans may even provide rewards, such as gift cards, for completing certain screenings.
  • Get assistance. Plan Finder, found at medicare.gov/find-a-plan, is an online tool available through the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services that helps you compare premiums, costs of medications and more. You can see how plans are rated from one to five stars based on different quality measures. Additionally, many insurance plans offer seminars at no cost and with no obligation to sign up. You can also check health plans’ websites or customer service for information. Local and state agencies on aging also connect older adults with resources.

“Medicare can be complicated, especially for those new to it,” Evanko advises. “Seek out third-party resources and talk to friends and family who have been through the process, asking questions until you understand your options.”



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