CMS Issues Call to Action Based on New Data Detailing COVID-19 Impacts on Medicare Beneficiaries

Jul 3, 2020 /

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) is calling for a renewed national commitment to value-based care based on Medicare claims data that provides an early snapshot of the impact of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic on the Medicare population. The data shows that older Americans and those with chronic health conditions are at the highest risk for COVID-19 and confirms long-understood disparities in health outcomes for racial and ethnic minority groups and among low-income populations.

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Social Security Agency Launches Redesigned Online Portal

Jun 30, 2020 /

The Social Security Administration announced the first of several steps the agency is taking to improve the public’s experience on its website. The newly redesigned retirement benefits portal, at ssa.gov/benefits/retirement, will help millions of people prepare for and apply for retirement.

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Building Better Retirement Systems

Jun 26, 2020 /

In the wake of the global pandemic known as COVID-19, retirees, along with those hoping to retire someday, have been shocked into a new awareness of the need for better risk management tools to handle longevity and aging. This paper offers an assessment of the status quo prior to the spread of the coronavirus, evaluates how retirement systems are faring in the wake of the shock. Next we examine insurance and financial market products that may render retirement systems more resilient for the world’s aging population. Finally, potential roles for policymakers are evaluated.

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Will Stimulus Checks Increase Social Security Taxation?

Jun 23, 2020 /

It sure was nice getting that stimulus check in the mail (or deposited directly into your bank account)! Hopefully, your clients put the money to good use. But after getting that much money unexpectedly, retirees might be wondering how it could impact their taxes for the year—especially the tax on Social Security benefits. The short answer: Stimulus checks are really just advanced payments of a new “recovery rebate” tax credit for the 2020 tax year. As such, they aren’t included in taxable income.

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Social Security Administration Expands Online Medicare Enrollment Process

Jun 19, 2020 /

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) and the Social Security Administration (SSA) recently expanded the functionality of the Medicare enrollment process to accommodate more online applications during the coronavirus pandemic. Previously, only people applying for Medicare Parts A and B at the same time could use the online portal. People who were already enrolled in Part A and were using a Special Enrollment Period (SEP) or seeking Equitable Relief to enroll in Part B had to submit documentation to SSA in person or via fax—an option made available during the current public health emergency.

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Half of Retirees Report Paying Taxes on Social Security Benefits

Jun 16, 2020 /

Half of retirees participating in a new survey by The Senior Citizens League (TSCL) say they paid income taxes on a portion of their Social Security benefit income for the 2019 tax year. “There was no change from previous years in the 50 percent of retiree households who report that they pay tax on a portion of their benefits, despite the 2017 tax reform law,” says Mary Johnson, a Social Security and Medicare policy analyst for The Senior Citizens League. The revenues from taxation of benefits are earmarked for funding Social Security and Medicare benefits. “Those revenues take on new importance in 2020, as the coronavirus takes a significant toll on Social Security and Medicare payroll tax revenues with more than 40 million people out of work,” Johnson says.

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Value of Social Security Benefits Even Higher Now

Jun 12, 2020 /

The stock market has been erratic, real estate is hurting, bond yields are painfully low and dividends are shrinking. In the coronavirus recession, most financial assets have been disturbingly volatile. But one widely held financial asset, perhaps the most important one for the vast majority of Americans, has performed splendidly: their stake in Social Security. It hasn’t merely been a solid support for millions of people in a difficult time. While the income-producing power of so many other assets has been sapped by economic weakness and low interest rates, Social Security payments have held steady. And thanks to those rock-bottom interest rates, the market value of the Social Security income stream has soared in a measurable way.

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How Has COVID-19 Impacted Retirement Plans?

Jun 9, 2020 /

For those hoping to retire soon, the pandemic’s financial repercussions may delay their plans. Even mid-career professionals are anxiously eyeing their accounts. Among those who have already retired, the crisis may have decimated their savings, possibly requiring a return to the workforce. A new report from Personal Capital covers the results of a survey where over 1,000 Americans shared how COVID-19 was affecting their plans for retirement, surveying individuals in various age groups and stages in their careers. The results reveal a mix of anxiety and optimism and a range of reactions to economic uncertainty.

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Social Security Fraud Boosted by COVID-19 Fears

Jun 5, 2020 /

Social Security fraud was already a problem when the global COVID-19 pandemic hit the United States early this spring. But now fraudsters have added brand-new ploys involving the public health crisis to exploit unsuspecting victims. Financial advisors can help their clients, and the public, by using their esteemed positions in the community to distribute information about the prevalence and occurrence of these types of frauds.

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The Impact of the Coronavirus Pandemic on Social Security Finances

Jun 2, 2020 /

The coronavirus pandemic has had human and economic costs, with nearly 100,000 total deaths in the United States and more than 36 million new claims for unemployment benefits. The pandemic and policy responses to it will have long-term consequences for the federal budget and economy. The annual Social Security Trustees Report, released on April 22, 2020 relied on a pre-pandemic baseline. This post presents Penn Wharton Budget Model (PWBM) projections of how the coronavirus pandemic will affect the finances of the Social Security program.

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Americans Take a Dim View of Raiding Their Social Security to Cover Pandemic Expenses

May 29, 2020 /

Americans could use a financial boost. How to get that money into people’s hands has been a hot topic of debate. Democrats have proposed expanding unemployment insurance and giving Americans as much as $2,000 per month to get back on their feet. Meanwhile, one Republican proposal has called for giving Americans $11,000 now in exchange for every year they agree to delay their Social Security benefits and Medicare coverage. Now, a poll conducted by Data For Progress and Social Security Works, an advocacy organization, asked Americans which of those two options they would pick. They also asked if people think the government has already done enough.

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Lost Wealth Today Vs. The Great Recession

May 26, 2020 /

For older workers starting to think about retiring, the economic maelstrom the coronavirus set in motion is a reminder of that sinking feeling they experienced just over a decade ago. In 2008, the stock market plunged nearly 40 percent, accelerating the steep decline that was underway in U.S. house prices. The unfolding 2020 recession is playing out differently. But both downturns have one thing in common: Social Security as a stabilizing influence on older workers’ retirement finances.

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Older Adults Are Hit Hard by COVID-19—and Also Losing Jobs

May 22, 2020 /

The scale of the economic crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic just came into clearer view with the release of the latest unemployment numbers. The unemployment rate among people age 65 and older quadrupled between March and April 2020 from 3.7% to 15.6%. By comparison, the overall unemployment rate tripled from 4.4% to 14.7%. From March to April, 1.2 million adults age 65 and older lost jobs, as did another 2.4 million people ages 55 to 64. Altogether, people 55 and older account for just under one fourth of all Americans who lost their jobs in April, which is proportional to their share of the workforce. More than 1 in 5 of the nearly 23 million Americans who are now unemployed are older adults (55+).

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Social Security Benefits Lose 30% of Buying Power Since 2000

May 19, 2020 /

Social Security benefits have lost 30% of buying power since 2000, according to the latest Social Security Loss of Buying Power study released last week by The Senior Citizens League (TSCL). “This year’s study found a three percentage point gain in the buying power of Social Security benefits over 2019,” says study author Mary Johnson, a Social Security policy analyst for the League. “That should indicate that most retirees may have seen at least some prices come down on certain items.” However, based on consumer price index (CPI) data through April of this year, Johnson estimates that the COLA for 2020 will be zero.

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SSA Employees Improve Productivity By Teleworking

May 15, 2020 /

The coronavirus pandemic has forced many people to work from home, and that includes some 53,000 workers at the Social Security Administration. Social Security field offices are closed. But the shutdown hasn’t stopped the agency from processing claims for new benefits and appeals of benefit denials. And according to statistics that the SSA sent its workers, the agency has been doing so at a faster pace than before.

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Celebrate Older American’s Month

May 12, 2020 /

Every May, the Administration for Community Living leads our nation’s observance of Older Americans Month. The theme for 2020 is “Make Your Mark.” This theme was selected to encourage and celebrate countless contributions that older adults make to our communities. Their time, experience, and talents benefit family, peers, and neighbors every day. Communities, organizations, and individuals of all ages are also making their marks. This year’s theme highlights the difference everyone can make—in the lives of older adults, in support of caregivers, and to strengthen communities.

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Medicare Applications Raise Anxiety for Seniors

May 8, 2020 /

At greater risk from COVID-19, some seniors now face added anxiety due to delays obtaining Medicare coverage. Advocates for older people say the main problem involves certain applications for Medicare’s “Part B” coverage for outpatient care. It stems from the closure of local Social Security offices in the coronavirus pandemic. Social Security handles eligibility determinations for Medicare, and while many issues can still be resolved online, some require personal attention. That can now entail hold times of 90 minutes or more to reach Social Security on its national 800 number, according to the agency’s website.

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Is Delaying Social Security Still Smart?

May 5, 2020 /

Among financial planning cognoscenti, the standard advice for Social Security is to delay filing past full retirement age for as long as you possibly can in an effort to enlarge your eventual benefit. After all, you can increase your benefit by about 8% for each year you wait past full retirement age up until age 70. But is the advice to delay still sound amid the current coronavirus crisis and market drop? After all, the pandemic has introduced some new challenges, both for investor portfolios and arguably for the program itself.

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How COVID-19 Might Affect Health Care Costs

May 1, 2020 /

As the coronavirus spreads rapidly across the United States, private health insurers and government health programs could potentially face higher health care costs. However, the extent to which costs grow, and how the burden is distributed across payers, programs, individuals, and geography are still very much unknown. This brief lays out a framework for understanding changes in health costs arising from the coronavirus pandemic, including the factors driving health costs upward and downward. We also highlight some special considerations for private insurers, Medicare, and Medicaid programs.

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SSA Releases Annual Trustees Report

Apr 28, 2020 /

The Social Security Board of Trustees released Wednesday its annual report on the long-term financial status of the Social Security Trust Funds. The combined asset reserves of the Old-Age and Survivors Insurance and Disability Insurance (OASI and DI) Trust Funds are projected to become depleted in 2035, the same as projected last year, with 79 percent of benefits payable at that time. Notably, projections do not reflect potential implications of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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