Volume 18, No. 3, Summer 2010
By Sonja Brewer
The SHINE Program (Serving the Health Information Needs of Elders) is a statewide program that provides free and confidential healthcare information, assistance and counseling to Medicare beneficiaries of all ages and their caregivers. It’s part of a national effort partly funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Today I’ll try to answer some of our frequently asked questions.
HEALTH CARE REFORM
Just who will receive a $250 check in 2010?
Only Medicare beneficiaries with certain high drug costs in 2010 will be receiving a $250 check. And this applies only if the total retail cost of your Medicare covered prescription drugs reaches or exceeds $2,830 in 2010. (This is the start of the gap in prescription drug coverage or “doughnut hole”.)
You do not need to apply for this payment. It will be sent to you automatically if you qualify.
Also, not everyone who qualifies will receive this payment at the same time of the year. The first checks are due to go out in June.
MEDICARE COVERAGE OPTIONS
This is a great time of year to review your current coverage and learn what Medicare options may be available to you.
For most people, your next opportunity to change your Medicare coverage will be during the Annual Election Period November 15-December 31. All changes made during this timeframe will be effective on January 1, 2011.
While some specific changes are allowed during the year, most are made during this specific timeframe. While we can still review all your plan options during the Annual Election Period, NOW is a much better time to make an appointment with a certified SHINE Counselor to get a personalized overview of what’s out there.
We personalize this process by reviewing options that make good sense for you based on your medical condition, other insurances you may carry, the prescription drugs that you take and what you can afford.
We also review your eligibility for any of several moderate-to-low income assistance programs that are available. What works for your neighbor may not necessarily be the best choice for you.
Learn what is covered and not covered by “Original Medicare” under Medicare Part A and Part B. Learn what “GAP” coverage is. Learn what a Part C Medicare Advantage plan typically covers and how these plans work. Learn how to make good decisions regarding your prescription drug coverage.
MAKING A SHINE APPOINTMENT
To take advantage of this free and confidential counseling service, call your local senior center for an appointment with a Certified SHINE Counselor (they’re available at a few other locations as well). If you have any difficulty or if you live off Cape, call 1-800-AGE-INFO (1-800-243-4636). [Note that in many other states, the SHINE Program is called “SHIP” for State Health Insurance Program and you may be referred to a “SHIP Counselor.” Be assured that it is the same free and confidential national counseling program.]
(Ms. Brewer is the Cape & Islands Regional Director of SHINE, a division of the Massachusetts Executive Office of Elder Affairs.)
By G. Robert King II, CFP®, AIF®
You’re likely aware of how specific investments in your portfolio relate to your overall financial goals. But did you know that your investments can also reflect your personal values?
Socially responsible investing (SRI) offers an array of options designed to help you do good for society—and for your portfolio. Just as public consciousness of social issues has grown in recent years, the popularity of SRI has increased dramatically. In fact, the Social Investment Forum’s 2007 Report on Socially Responsible Investing Trends in the United States revealed that, of the $25.1 trillion in U.S. investments, socially responsible investments made up $2.7 trillion, or almost 11 percent.
The idea behind SRI—also called environmental, social, and governance (ESG) investing—is to help investors pursue their financial goals while promoting societal well-being. By choosing a socially responsible investment vehicle, you are essentially funding companies that support causes you care about while avoiding those that engage in practices that run contrary to your values.
The investment managers who create and oversee SRI portfolios evaluate companies according to specific values-based criteria, or “social screens.” As an individual investor, you can evaluate an SRI investment vehicle based on its objectives and the social screens it employs in a way that also may result in personal financial gain.
Asset allocation is the cornerstone of any investment plan, including a socially responsible one. Before you decide to work SRI into your portfolio, it’s important to consider its shortcomings, notably in the emerging markets asset class. Emerging markets investments are focused in developing countries, where many companies don’t meet SRI criteria.
The challenges of diversifying, however, shouldn’t deter you from pursuing SRI. To ensure that your portfolio is balanced, a good strategy might be to select only one—or a few—investments that adhere to strict SRI criteria. As always, it’s wise to refrain from putting all your eggs in one basket, even if it’s a socially responsible basket.
(Mr. King, President of The Capital Group, Inc., is a Certified Financial Planner in Hyannis, 508-790-7100 or firstname.lastname@example.org.)
By Deborah Del Negro, Realtor®SRES,ABR,RSPS
The decision of whether to age in place or move on to one of many retirement choices is a delicate and often difficult process. It is easy to understand why some seniors stay in their homes longer than they should. The thought of leaving the family home can be depressing.
Advanced planning, however, can greatly reduce the trauma of moving to a smaller home and even provide time for those who choose to stay put to make the necessary modifications to support that decision.
Other factors that should be considered in a pressure-free situation include getting financial and tax concerns in order with the help of elder care specialists and becoming educated about the myriad of retirement and lifestyle choices now available.
If the decision has been made to sell the home, planning ahead also provides time to prepare your property for the marketplace. Many no-cost and pressure-free Senior Real Estate seminars are available on Cape Cod directed by those real estate agents who specialize in this field.
Topics usually include analysis of the decision process, preparing your home for the marketplace, realistic current home values, title issues, retirement communities and other housing options and, perhaps most important, pitfalls to avoid.
(Ms. Del Negro of Cape Cod Senior Connection specializes in real estate for seniors. She can be reached at 508-367-0798 for information on upcoming Senior Real Estate Seminars or to schedule a private consultation. To schedule a seminar for your organization, contact her at Cape Cod Senior Connection, www.capecodseniorconnection.com or 508-568-8183.)
By Deborah E Scavotto
The only constant in life is change. Yet change consumes most of us with fear of the unknown, especially when it involves moving from a home filled with memories and years of possessions. This is especially true for adults over 55—the most rapidly increasing population on Cape Cod—many of whom live in homes that are too big, too isolated, or no longer safe for an aging solitary occupant.
When family members for a variety of reasons are unable help with a complicated and often wrenching moving process, professional moving services can be of assistance. With knowledge of local realtors, movers, estate sale coordinators, and senior housing options they can alleviate the stress for everyone in the family by orchestrating the process.
A typical senior move manager can make moving less overwhelming and less stressful by overseeing all the details, from sorting and packing (and decisions on what to leave behind) to settling in at the new location.
Should you be moving to or from a location inconveniently distant from the Cape, many local professional moving services can be of additional assistance through their affiliation with a national referral organization.
The not-for-profit National Association of Senior Move Managers (NASMM) is dedicated to assisting older adults and families with the physical and emotional demands of downsizing, relocating, or modifying their homes. It boasts a national referral network of nearly 500 senior move management companies throughout North America.
(Ms. Scavotto is Owner/Senior Move Manager of NASMM-affiliated Cape Cod & Islands Smooth Moving For Seniors in East Falmouth, 508-320-1518 or email@example.com.)