Consumer protection is something most people don’t think about. However, the U.S. Government does have special consumer protection laws set in place for people as they get older. Most of these protections are specifically for seniors, but you should know about them even if you haven’t entered your “golden years” just yet.
State Protections Against Abuse
Each state has become part of an initiative to protect seniors from abuse and neglect. As a result, each state lists a hotline number. This hotline number is not for emergencies but rather for ongoing abuse. Abuse can be both physical or mental and includes physical abuse, verbal abuse, sexual abuse, exploitation, neglect, and abandonment. You can report abuse or you can call this number yourself if you think you’ve been a victim of a scam. A report will be taken and someone will follow up with you about your case.
The National Center on Elder Abuse is a federal agency directed by the U.S. Administration on Aging and provides an additional layer of protection at the federal level. The NCEA provides a wealth of resources and information for you and your family to make sure you are never a victim of abuse.
Nursing Home Advocates
You and your family believe that you will be safe in the hands of a qualified skilled nursing facility. However, reports of abuse are commonplace. It’s unfortunate, but some certified nurses assistants and even nurses themselves may not treat you with the full respect that you deserve. Even if they don’t, there’s no excuse for physical or verbal abuse. The state protects you, or your loved ones, if you’re admitted to a facility and are abused by the staff.
Avoiding scams is sometimes as easy as running stopping and thinking about what is being offered. If something sounds too good to be true, it often is. Scams come in all shapes and sizes, but are normally cloaked in promises of high investment returns or offshore tax havens. While these aren’t the only types of scams out there, the common thread running between them is that they promise some secret method of achieving some kind of success that isn’t available to other people. Often, scam artists want you to keep your activities a secret, and they won’t be totally upfront and transparent about how their system, strategy, or offering works.
You should not have to push too hard for answers. The scam artist doesn’t like being pushed for answers, however, and will likely become increasingly evasive about what he’s doing. Don’t settle for partial answers. Always demand full disclosure and regular progress updates and statements (if applicable). Lastly, you should understand the strategy being suggested. If there is any part of an investment, tax, or other financial strategy you don’t understand, don’t do business with the seller of such advice. Move on. You’ll be glad you did
Health Care Costs
Health care is the administration of diagnostic and medical treatment services. With the recent changes to health care laws, insurance companies are now required to pay for some of the services that you used to have to pay for. These services include both preventative and non-preventative services. Seniors are especially at an advantage under the new health care laws since they receive a long list of new free-of-charge services that were not previously available under the old laws.
Preventative Services Covered:
- If you’re over 50, then the insurance company must now pay for colon cancer screening tests.
- You receive free mammograms every 12 months.
- You receive cervical cancer screenings, including a pap smear test and pelvic exam.
- You receive free cholesterol and other cardiovascular screenings.
- You get free diabetes screenings.
- You receive medical nutrition therapy to help manage diabetes or kidney disease.
- You receive prostate cancer screening.
- You get an annual flu shot and the hepatitis B vaccine.
- You get free bone mass measurements.
- You receive abdominal aortic aneurysm screenings to check for bulging blood vessels.
- You also receive HIV screening tests (this is option and available only if you ask for it)
Non-Preventative Services Covered:
- Routine measurements like height, weight, blood pressure, and body-mass index
- A review of your medical and family health history
- A personal physical and mental health risk assessment
- Screening for depression, and a review of your functional ability and level of safety (including cognitive impairment)
- Scheduling of a series of Medicare’s screening and preventative services for the next 5 to 10 years and,
- A referral service to help treat any other potential health risks
The new health care law also makes prescription drugs more affordable. The law forces the cost down. The result is that your out of pocket costs are lower. For example, in 2012, consumers pay just 50 percent for prescription drugs and 86 percent for generics. However, in subsequent years, these costs are pushed lower and lower until 202, when brand-names will cost just 25 percent and generics will also cost 25 percent.
The new health care law also makes changes that are expected to reduce waste and fraud. The Medicare Trust Fund will be extended to at least 2024 and your premiums should go down during this time. Included in the changes is better coordinated care so that the odds of you being readmitted for the same condition drop significantly. Hospitals will also be given strong incentives, like the Hospital Value-Based Purchasing Program, to improve your quality of care. These incentives reward hospitals by paying them based on the quality of the care they give you, not just the quantity of the services offered. Finally, significant reductions are will be made in regards to administrative costs, insurance company profits, and other overhead costs. All of this translates into lower out-of-pocket costs for you.
Different Types of Insurances
Insurance might not be at the top of your priority list, but it’s important to pay attention this this aspect of your finances – especially when you’re over 50. Think of insurance as a special type of savings for you and your spouse. This “savings” is really just you leasing money from an insurance company. You sign a contract, called an “insurance policy.” The insurer then promises to give you money when certain events – spelled out in the contract – occur. Car insurance, for example, may pay if you’re in an automobile accident. Health insurance pays when you’re in the hospital or go to the doctor.
Insurance takes the burden off of you to come up with an endless amount of money so that you don’t have to plan for every contingency. In this sense, insurance is essential. If you didn’t have it, you would probably never be able to realize your retirement dreams. There are several different types of insurance that are especially important as you get older.
Health insurance is often available through your employer or in the individual market until you are eligible for Medicare. Medicare is government-sponsored health insurance that covers all seniors who are either:
- age 65 or older
- under age 65 but have certain disabilities or
- people of any age with end-stage renal failure
There are four parts to Medicare:
- Part A: This part of Medicare is also called “hospital care” and covers inpatient hospital visits, skilled nursing care, hospice, and home health care.
- Part B: This part of Medicare helps cover doctors’ visits and other health care providers’ services, outpatient care, durable medical equipment as well as home health care. It also provides coverage for some preventative services like pap tests, flu shots and mammogram screens.
- Part C: This part of Medicare is run by Medicare-approved private insurance companies. It’s known as “Medicare Advantage” and provides a way for you to get the benefits for services covered under parts A and B. Most plans have prescription drug coverage and may also include extra benefits at an extra cost.
- Part D: Medicare part D helps cover the cost of prescription drugs. It may also lower the cost of those drugs and help protect against higher costs in the future. This part of Medicare is also run by Medicare-approved private insurance companies.
Long-Term Care Insurance: No one likes to think about the worst-case scenario, but it’s a fact of reality. Internal reports of some of the largest life insurance companies in the world consistently find that roughly half of all people over the age of 65 may need some type of long-term care. This is what this insurance is for. You can play the odds on this, but the costs of private or skilled nursing care are awesome and can easily bankrupt you.
Long-term care insurance is a specialized form of health insurance sold by private insurance companies. This type of insurance provides you with a daily allowance and pays for your expenses associated with a skilled nursing facility or with private home health care.
You can choose lifetime plans, that provide coverage for your entire life, or plans that only cover you for a specific period of time. While Medicaid may provide you with coverage in your old age, this is becoming less common and harder to get, since you must essentially be put into poverty before you get government help of any kind. Long-term care is one of the most neglected types of insurance yet it is possibly the most important.
Dental Insurance: Dental insurance is often available through private insurers. The coverage works similar to how any dental plan would work. If you qualify for coverage, an insurance company will pay for the costs associated with regular cleanings as well as for things like dentures or other related work.
Automobile Insurance: Most automobile insurance companies offer discounts for people over 50. This is due, in large part, to the experience you’ve gained over the years as a responsible driver. Insurers, statistically, know that you are less likely to be involved in an automobile accident than people who are younger than you. Be sure to ask for a discount based on your age.
Homeowner’s Insurance: Homeowner’s insurance covers damage done to your residence as well as liability coverage if someone is injured on your property. Damage or loss to your home is spelled out in the policy contract along with any deductibles that are required before the insurance company kicks in any money to pay for your claim. Damage to others is covered under a liability part of the policy. Your personal property, additional living expenses if you have to move out of the home while repairs are being made, and medical expenses can all be covered. One thing that’s not covered in flood and earthquake damage. You must ask for these types of coverages specifically or you won’t get them.
Life Insurance: Who needs life insurance when the kids have moved out? You do. Life insurance is the Swiss army knife of financial products. When your kids are grown and gone, the policy still provides additional income for your spouse if you predecease her. A new life insurance policy purchase can also make it easier to choose what type of pension payment to receive if your company offers a pension.
The strategy for this is simple: take your full pension payment, with no spousal benefit payment, and use some of your pension income to buy a high cash value life insurance policy. These types of policies will build an unusually high amount of cash value that acts like a savings similar to traditional whole life insurance. The difference is in the rapid growth of the cash value in the policy. The policy also provides a traditional death benefit. Because of this, it doesn’t matter what happens to your spouse. If he predeceases you, you can reclaim all of your pension savings through the life insurance cash value. If you predecease him, then he gets the death benefit that would equal the total value of the pension payments available from your company’s pension. This concept is called “pension maximization.”
Some life insurance policies also offer comprehensive long-term care insurance riders and other benefits that might reduce or eliminate the need for multiple, and separate, insurance policies. Finally, life insurance makes it easy for your heirs to pay for your funeral and burial costs.
An annuity is a type of insurance policy that converts your savings to monthly payments. These payments are guaranteed for your lifetime or a set period of time. Annuities are often regarded as a retirement planning tool because the product helps you budget your entire life’s savings during retirement. Once you’ve converted your savings to guaranteed monthly payments, you cannot get your savings back. However, some annuities, called deferred annuities, act more like a savings account with the insurance company with the option to convert some or all of that savings to monthly payments in the future. This type of insurance is one of the most important policies you can buy when you retire, since it ensures you’ll never run out of money regardless of how long you live. The insurer just keeps paying (even if you otherwise would have depleted your savings).