Telling Tips is a series of articles from local experts to help you save money, make better decisions and plan for a better future.
Happy Holidays to our seniors. Here are a few of the benefits that the re-election of Obama has made possible for you:
The ‘Donut Hole’ is Being Eliminated: Seniors are responsible for a co-pay of their prescription drugs as well as for 100 percent of these medicines until they have paid an amount, known as the ‘gap,’ or ‘donut hole.’ This gap was projected to be $6,000 by the year 2020. Now, it will be totally eliminated by 2020. In 2010, Medicare recipients who hit the donut hole received a $250 rebate. In 2011, recipients received a 50 percent discount on covered brand-name drugs, as well as a discount on generic drugs. (In New York for 2012, 126,907 seniors are projected to save an average of $663.)
Annual Wellness Visits are Now Free: There are no deductibles or co-payments for essential preventive care such as screenings for pelvic exams, pap smears, or diabetes or prostate cancer.
Hospital Stay Policy: Many times a patient will pick up a condition they did not have before being admitted to the hospital. The new policy will reduce payments to hospitals that are in the bottom 25 percent of patients contracting new health conditions after being admitted.
‘Readmissions Reduction Program’: If a patient is readmitted for the same or similar condition shortly after being discharged, the hospital will have a ‘payment adjustment’ from Medicare.
Purchase of Durable Medical Aids: The cost is reduced significantly by allowing competitive bidding for the purchase of items such as wheelchairs, oxygen tanks, and nebulizers.
Support for Women: As of the policy renewal date on or after August 1, 2012, women will receive free preventive care for: wellness visits; gestational diabetes screening; ‘domestic and interpersonal’ violence screening and counseling; contraceptives as well as contraceptive education and counseling; breastfeeding support, supplies and counseling; HPV DNA testing (over age 29); sexually transmitted infections counseling; HIV screening and counseling; as well as mammograms, cholesterol screenings, and flu shots. (More info at www.healthcare.gov/prevention.)
Nursing Home Short-Term Medicare Coverage Progress Not Required: If a Medicare-covered patient has a chronic condition like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, ALS, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, hypertension, arthritis, heart disease, or stroke, Medicare coverage will continue, even if no improvement is shown. The coverage is still limited to 100 days, and only if skilled nursing care is required, but improvement is no longer a part of the equation.
‘Extra Help’ Program: This is estimated to be worth about $4,000 a year. The program requires the person to be receiving Medicare, enrolled in a Medicare prescription drug plan, have Medicare Part A and/or Part B, no more than $26,120 in savings, investments, and real estate if living with a spouse, $13,070 if not married or not living with spouse.
Personal homes, vehicles, personal possessions, life insurance, or burial plots are not counted towards that amount.
Protection of Patients who are Gay, etc.: Hospitals (including the V.A.) are mandated to grant visitation rights to gay men and lesbians. In addition, medical decisions for partners will be easier to make.
Medicare Prescription Drug Premium: There will be no increase in the Medicare prescription drug premium for the third straight year, which is about $30 a month.
Community Health Centers: These centers provide comprehensive and quality primary health care to communities which are medically underserved. Their plan is provide support services like education, translation, and transportation to promote access to health care. These services are available to the entire community, with fees adjusted based upon the ability to pay. Of the $128.6 million in new grants, L’Refuah Medical and Rehabilitation Center, the only one in Brooklyn, received $650,000.
Congress is now trying to figure out how to pay for this. Any thoughts?
Tax Tip: CP-2000 for Individuals and Businesses: Although there have been a number of CP-2000 notices telling taxpayers that some information reported to the IRS is not shown on their 2011 tax returns, many more are scheduled to be sent out this month. Last year, the IRS sent about 4.7 million notices, of which about half were not correct. In addition to notices to individuals, this year many businesses will receive letters because their credit card sales are less than their reported gross sales. (Want more tax tips. Sign up at www.TaxHelp1040.com.)
Joseph Reisman, of Joseph S. Reisman & Associates, has been serving tax prep and business accounting expertise from his Coney Island Avenue office for more than 25 years. Check out the firm’s website.