In light of the unrest in France over changes to the mandatory retirement age, as well as the ongoing discussions in this country of the effect of retirement age on Social Security, Extend Health last week polled our retiree panel for their opinion on the issue.  CNBC picked up on the results this morning in a story on why retirement age matters.

We learned that most people (85%) don’t think there should be a mandatory retirement age. Of the 15% minority who think there should be a mandatory retirement age, 42% say it should be 65; 31% say it should be 70; 21% say it should be 67; and the remaining 6% say it should be 72.

Out of the total, 17% are still working at a paying job or have their own business; the majority of that group (62%) say they do it to stay active and engaged.

Click on the link to see the full results, based on responses from 431 retirees over the age of 65. Read the rest of this entry »

As part of our ongoing effort to make sure people aging in to Medicare have the information they need, Extend Health just put out a press release titled “For Seniors Turning 65: With the Medicare Annual Enrollment Period Less Than a Month Away, Five Things You Should Know About Medicare and Your Coverage Options.”  The press release provides a link to our free guide to Medicare, which includes a section on eligibility rules, explains the different parts of Medicare, the advantages of different private Medicare options, and how to enroll, and contains a glossary of Medicare terms. If you’re a person aging in to Medicare, or an employer with Medicare-eligible employees or retirees asking questions about Medicare, this guide is a very useful resource.

Update 2/14/2011: See this post for more about the Part D premium charges, and a link to the table on the Social Security web site where you can figure out what your amount will be.

Update 11/4/2010: A reader called Social Security to find out what his IRMAA would be (see comment below) and was told that he needed to call Medicare to get that information. Maybe he got hold of someone who was uninformed about Social Security’s role in determining the fee? If anyone else calls Social Security and DOES get an answer, we would be very appreciative if you’d leave a comment here to let other readers know about it.

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We just posted this in a reply to a question from a reader, but it seems like it might be useful to many individuals and to benefits managers who may be getting questions from their retirees.

The healthcare reform bill (the PPACA) created a requirement that as of Jan 1 2011, higher income people will pay an extra amount in addition to their monthly prescription drug premium. This extra amount is called the Income Related Monthly Adjustment Amount (IRMAA). IRMAA will affect those people whose modified adjusted gross income is $85,000 or more (for singles) and $170,000 or more (for couples filing jointly) in 2009 and later.

The extra amount will be deducted automatically from Social Security checks.

We called Medicare to see if they could provide more specifics. They explained that individuals should call Social Security at 1-800-772-1213 to learn what the exact amount will be and to learn if they qualify for assistance with the IRMAA.

Reuters writer Donna Smith takes a look at the discouraging financial picture facing many Social Security recipients in 2011. With the announcement this week that there would be no COLA increase for the second year in a row, coupled with low returns on their savings, many retirees will be forced to tighten their belts as their real costs – for food, energy, and medical care – continue to rise. “The average Social Security benefit is around $14,000 and experts say about one-third of retirees rely on the payouts from the government-run program for more than 90 percent of their income,” according to Ms. Smith. 

Fortunately, we’re seeing some good news on the Medicare premium front – on top of a predicted average 2011 decrease in Medicare Advantage premiums of 1 percent, a new report out today from Avalere predicts that Part D premiums for the top ten most popular plans will grow by just .23 percent- a sharp drop from the consulting company’s prediction a month ago that they would rise by 10 percent in 2011.

According to a new report from Avalere Health, a healthcare consulting firm located in Washington D.C., the average 2011 Part D premium increase for the top ten prescription drug plans will be just o.23 percent – about 8 cents a month.  The top ten plans enroll about 11.7 million people representing 71 percent of all Part D plan beneficiaries. For all PDPs combined, premium increases are expected to be 9.5 percent – growing from $37.19 to $30.72 per month. The top three plans, which enroll more than 7 million people, will actually see premiums go down by 5.3 percent, from $37.47 to $35.50.

This report updates Avalere’s earlier prediction that the top ten plans’ premiums would rise by 10 percent – a result of one plan with a very high premium increase that was initially expected to be among the most popular dropping out of the top ten.

The analysis was based on data released by CMS on September 21st and Avalere’s own proprietary DataFrame(r) database.

Benefits and human resources consulting firm The Segal Company has just published its yearly survey of health care plan cost trends. Based on responses from 60 insurance carriers, the report offers a wealth of helpful data on the outlook for plan costs in 2011 and compares 2009 actual results to forecasts. The 6-page report is chock full of data on medical plans for active employees, pre-65 retirees, and Medicare-eligible retirees, prescription drug carve-outs, and dental and vision plans.

The report projects cost trends for Medicare Advantage PFFS and PPO plans with prescription drug coverage to increase in 2011 by 7%, vs. an expected 9.5% for 2010. MA HMO plans with RX are projected to grow by 7.4%, vs. a projected 8.2% in 2010. Interestingly, forecasts in the past have erred on the high side, as “…actual trend rates in 2009 for MA HMOs…were significantly lower than forecasted…” and “Actual prescription drug trend rates continue to be lower than forecasted.”

Towers Watson this week published results of a new survey  on attitudes toward retirement risk. The survey of nearly 9,100 employees shows that 4 in 10 U.S. workers are planning to delay retirement. One telling finding: a large majorty of respondents said they would be willing to pay more now for greater certainty in their future benefits. From the press release summarizing the results:

“The survey, conducted in May and June of 2010, found that 40% of workers are planning to retire later than they were two years ago. Older workers and those in poor health comprise the largest percentage of employees planning to delay retirement. In particular, 45% of employees in poor health plan to postpone their retirement. When asked why they are choosing to retire later, more than two-thirds (68%) of older workers said to keep their health care coverage, while 62% said the higher cost of health care. Six in 10 older workers (61%) blamed the decline in the value of their 401(k) plan.”