Saturday, February 29, 2020

High Healthcare Costs Sink Retirement of Many

If you have paid into Medicare for most of your working years, you may be surprised to learn that after retirement a couple could still spend an estimated $285,000 or more on their out-of-pocket healthcare expenses.   If you are a single man, you should expect to spend approximately $135,000 for future healthcare costs; a single woman could need $150,000, since women tend to live longer.

The amounts mentioned above are what people commonly spend for their Medigap supplement premiums, plus their co-pays, deductibles, dental care, eyeglasses, hearing aides, prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, and other out-of-pocket expenses from the time they begin Medicare at age 65, until their death. These estimates DO NOT include your basic Medicare premiums or the money you will spend on long-term care at the end of your life, which can become a devastating expense for many families. Most people are not prepared for the high cost of their medical care after they retire.  In fact, because people think their healthcare costs will go down after they are on Medicare, they are often shocked by how much their medical expenses actually are!

In addition to the costs mentioned above, many newly retired seniors are also surprised to discover that they will have to pay monthly premiums for their basic Medicare, and it is likely to be deducted from their Social Security benefits. They will not be getting nearly as much income as they planned. The high cost of healthcare has been known to virtually wipe out the life savings of many retirees.

Even if you believe you have saved plenty of money, paid off your debts, and prepared to cover your living expenses during retirement, you may not have adequately prepared to cover all your future healthcare costs.  In fact, people over the age of 75 spend an estimated 20 percent of their total income on out-of-pocket medical expenses and this amount often grows even faster than their income, according to a 2018 report by Rutledge and Sanzenbacher, which was published by the Center for Retirement Research.

Below are some of the expenses you need to be aware of:

Medicare Premiums

Even though you spent years paying into Medicare, the only part of the program which is free is Part A or hospitalization.  Even then, only 80 percent of hospital costs are covered. You will pay a premium for Part B, which covers your doctor and other health care providers' services, outpatient care, durable medical equipment, home health care, and some preventive services.

In 2020, the Part B premium started at about $144.60 a month. The premium is deducted from the Social Security benefits of most retirees each month.  If the retiree receives a public pension (such as retired teachers and government employees), they may pay an even higher premium directly to the Social Security Administration to cover their Medicare benefits.  High income retirees are also expected to pay a higher Medicare premium.

The Medicare premium rises most years and it is not unusual for the premium increase to entirely wipe out any increase in Social Security benefits.  Consequently, the increases in Medicare premiums often cause people to gradually fall behind inflation, making it even more difficult for them to keep up with other expenses, including their growing medical costs.

If Medicare confuses you, do not be embarrassed.  It confuses most people.  If you are planning to apply soon and want to understand the program better, it may help you to get one of these Medicare books (Ad) which can help clear up your confusion.  There are several good choices and any one of them would be well worth reading, especially if you are new to Medicare.  Most of the books are updated annually.

Medicare Supplements or Medigap Policies

As mentioned above, basic Medicare only covers approximately 80 percent of your medical bills.  Deductibles and co-pays are paid by the retiree.  Because of this, many people buy a Medicare Supplement or Medigap policy to "fill in the gaps."  There are a number of plans available and the cost can add several hundred dollars a month to your monthly bills.  This is in addition to the premium you are required to pay for basic Medicare.

Even if you have a supplement or Medigap plan, it will usually not provide dental benefits, eyeglasses, contact lenses, hearing aids and other common medical necessities.


Prescription drug costs are covered under Medicare Part D, and like Part B, there is an additional premium which you must pay to have a drug plan.  You can get a Part D policy from the same company which provides your Medigap plan, or you can purchase a plan from a different company.  Your pharmacist may help you choose the best plan for you. Like the premium for your basic Medicare Part B, your Part D prescription plan can be deducted from your Social Security benefits and may range from about $12 to $77 a month.  You should also know that most Part D prescription drug plans also require patients to pay a co-pay, or a portion of the cost of their medications.  Without a prescription plan, however, your medications could cost you hundreds of dollars a month, so it is important to have a prescription drug plan.

Hearing and Vision Exams

Half of Americans over the age of 75 have a disabling hearing loss.  Millions of senior citizens have some type of vision loss.  Medicare Parts A, B and D do not cover exams for these health issues; nor do they cover eyeglasses and hearing aids.  Many retirees also have dental problems, and the out-of-pocket expense can run quite high, especially if they need crowns, caps, dentures or implants.   None of this is covered by Medicare.  You may want a separate dental plan to help with some of these expenses ... one more premium to pay.

A Medicare Advantage Part C Plan May Be the Most Affordable Choice

There is one way you may be able to substantially reduce your medical costs during retirement. If you are willing to join an HMO medical network and use doctors and medical facilities which are part of that network, you could save hundreds of dollars a month in Medigap and Part D premiums by signing up for a Medicare Advantage plan.  These plans are also referred to Medicare Part C.

Most Medicare Advantage Part C plans only charge their members the same premium as you would be paying anyway for basic Medicare, or they may charge a small additional fee in the range of $40 to $50, but this is not nearly as much as the cost of a Medigap plan, plus an additional Part D plan and other uncovered medical expenses.

If you decide to choose a Medicare Advantage Part C plan, such as SCAN, Kaiser Permanente, Humana, Aetna or one from another company, the insurance provider is required to provide all the services which basic Medicare covers.  In addition, they often include a prescription plan for no additional premium.  Frequently, the plan also includes a discount on dental work, vision care and/or hearing aids.  However, even if you choose a Medicare Advantage plan, you should still expect to pay some deductibles and co-pays.  In addition, while the policy may give you discounts on vision, dental and hearing care, they will not fully cover those items and you will still be expected to pay large portions of the cost yourself.  Despite these remaining expenses, you will almost always find that a Medicare Advantage plan is much less expensive than basic Medicare, plus a Medigap plan, a drug plan and a dental plan. You could save hundreds of dollars a month.

Personally, my husband and I use the Kaiser Permanente Medicare Advantage plan (called Senior Advantage) and it saves us thousands of dollars a year compared to what we spent early in retirement on basic Medicare, an Anthem Blue Cross Medigap plan, and a drug plan.  We have been very happy with Kaiser.  The downside is that we are limited to Kaiser's in-network doctors and facilities, except in an emergency.  However, when my husband became ill in another state where Kaiser did not have a presence, Kaiser reimbursed us for our expenses.  For us, the savings has been well worth it.

A Health Savings Account Might Also Help Cover Out-of-Pocket Expenses

Another way to deal with the high cost of healthcare after retirement is to prepare years in advance by saving money in a Health Savings Account.  Currently, an individual can contribute $3,000 a year into an HSA and a family can contribute $7000.  People over the age of 55 can save an extra $1,000 a year.  While people can make withdrawals prior to retirement, the money in these accounts can also be invested and allowed to grow until needed after retirement. However, the money can only be used in conjunction with a high-deductible HSA eligible health plan.  This takes some advance planning, but it can be a solution for people who do not want to use a Medicare Advantage plan.

It is recommended that you do your research and work carefully with a medical insurance agent to find the plan which is best suited to your needs.

Long-Term Care is the Big Unknown

Most of the expenses mentioned above, including premiums, deductibles and co-pays, can be estimated fairly well as part of your retirement planning.  However, if you or your spouse needs long-term care at home or in an assisted living or memory care facility as you age, the expense can be disastrous.  Your best bet is to purchase long-term care insurance or a hybrid life insurance policy that includes long-term care coverage.  The other option is to save an extra $300,000 or so in a separate account just for your future care, so you have the money available when you need it.

It is said that the very rich and the very poor do not need long-term care insurance.  This is because the rich can afford to pay for the help they need.  At the other end of the spectrum, those who have a low income and few assets will find that their long-term care might be covered by Medicaid.  Ironically, it is the Middle Class who are the most seriously affected by the cost of long-term care.  If you fall into this group, you need to prepare ahead.  By the time you need long-term care, it is too late to get the insurance.  You need to buy it years in advance.

What are the odds that you or your spouse will need long term care?  For the most part, it depends on how long you live and your medical condition.  It can also make a difference whether or not you live alone.  People who live alone may need care sooner than someone who has a spouse or family member who will care for them during the final years of their life.  People who have chronic health conditions, such as COPD or other lung problems, diabetes, chronic kidney disease, heart disease, a history of strokes, severe osteoporosis, or cancer are more likely to need long-term care.  So are those who live long enough to develop memory problems. At age 80, a person has a 10 percent risk of serious cognitive impairment.  By age 85, the risk jumps to 20 percent.  At age 90, your risk is 40 percent and continues to rise as you age.  Even without other chronic conditions, simply the possibility of getting old can increase your need for long-term care.

Basically, nearly everyone needs to plan for a period when they will need long term care because of age related debilitating health problems which will eventually make it impossible for them to care for their own needs.  Overall, a person who is currently age 65, has a 70 percent chance of eventually needing some type of long-term care services!  Are you prepared?

Are You Prepared for High Healthcare Costs?

The general consensus is that retirees need to be prepared for high medical expenses in the final two or three decades of life.  Depending on their needs, they can prepare by saving enough money in advance, signing up for an affordable Medicare Advantage plan, and/or including long-term care insurance in their plans.

Part of your retirement planning should also include a plan to stay as healthy as you can for as long as possible.  Over and over again, research has shown that the people least likely to need long-term care are those who have taken care of themselves. This means they have eaten a healthy and varied diet, exercised outside in nature regularly, learned to handle stress, managed to sleep seven to nine hours a night, avoided smoking or heavy drinking, and followed the recommendations of their personal physician.

You can get more tips about healthy aging by reading the Blue Zones books.  (Ad) The Blue Zones are places in the world where the residents regularly live long, healthy lives.  However, research has shown that you need to do virtually everything they recommend, not just a couple of their suggestions.  As it is, simply by living in a typical American community, with air pollution, stress, isolation, easy access to frozen meals, and few places to walk, it will be harder for you to get all the same health benefits as people who lived their entire life in a Blue Zone.

The Blue Zone life is one of exuberance. They are people who enjoy delicious food with plenty of herbs, spices and olive oil, eaten often with large groups of friends and family, often accompanied by a glass of red wine.  They are people who encorporate exercise into their normal daily routine, getting outside to enjoy nature in the early morning sunshine and fresh air.  They believe in a bountiful earth. It is a wonderful way to stay healthy and live long.  It is worth a try to follow their lifestyle.  It can also save you a lot of money on healthcare during retirement!

To learn more about Medicare, Social Security, common medical problems as we age, financial planning, where to retire and more, use the tabs or pull down menu at the top of the page to find links to hundreds of additional helpful articles.

Disclosure: This blog may contain affiliate links. If you decide to make a purchase from an Amazon ad, I'll make a small commission at no extra cost to you.

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Saturday, February 22, 2020

Your Attitude about Retirement and Aging Can Make all the Difference!

We have often heard the expression "attitude is everything."  We know this can be true whether we are trying to start a new relationship, build a business, or raise a family.  Unsurprisingly, it is also true of the way we approach retirement and aging.  The more optimistic and positive our attitude, the more likely we are to enjoy the last years of our lives.

How do we develop the right mindset, though?  Does it only happen if we have plenty of money and good health, or can we have a pleasant, positive outlook, even when everything does not go exactly as we would like?  As I have aged, I have observed that many people are enjoying their retirement, whether or not they are able to experience a luxurious, healthy lifestyle, while other people seem bitter and unhappy, regardless of how fortunate they may seem to outsiders. The difference seems to be when people have learned about "Attitudes of Gratitude: How to Give and Receive Joy Every Day of Your Life." (Ad) We are all more likely to have a happy retirement when we learn how to have the right mindset, and these are skills we can learn at any age.

Because I have seen how important it is to have a positive mindset as we approach retirement, I invited Chris Ryan of The Next Phase of Life to share what he has learned during his years as a life coach about how much better we age when we adopt the right retirement mindset.  The  information he provides below may help you approach the final quarter of your life with greater enthusiasm and joy.  You may also want to check out his website and sign up for his free newsletter.

Enjoy his guest post:

Why You Need the Right Retirement Mindset

by: Chris Ryan

As the founder of I am always seeking experts like Deborah-Diane to share their wisdom on how baby boomers (those born 1946 to 1964) and the silent generation (those born before 1946) can have a fun, fulfilling and healthy retirement. We talk about the five pillars of a great retirement as:
.     Good health 
.     Adequate financial resources
.     A sense of purpose
.     Supportive community
.     A positive mindset

Many articles, books and videos about retirement cover the first four pillars of a great retirement, but neglect the fifth. Yet, I believe that your attitude about this important phase of your life can be as important, or more so, than even the issues of health and finances. We all know retired people who have money, good health, and plenty of friends and family around, yet spend much of their time acting miserable. I used to play tennis with a retired guy who seemingly had all the necessary assets, yet he was so gloomy his nickname was ‘Cranky Bob’. Who wants to go through life with the moniker ‘Cranky’? I can think of a hundred other words I’d rather have describe me than cranky. 

By contrast, there are others with limited resources and health problems, who are still cheerful and optimistic. You think: if I were that person, I would hate life. Yet they are positive beacons who spread joy. So, in this sense, it is obviously not the circumstances that determine one’s disposition, but rather the mindset. This is good news, because you may not have that much control over factors such as your health, finances and family. Sure, you can exercise and eat right, but if you have a genetic disposition to illness, robust health may not be in your future.
Once you reach retirement age, there are plenty of options for work or starting a business, but you may not have the ability (or desire) to put in the hours and energy needed to totally turn your financial ship around. Likewise, with your community. You may have few or no close friends, and few family members nearby. 
Regardless of whether you give yourself a "10" in each of the other four criteria (health, finances, purpose, and community), your mindset can vastly improve your overall happiness and sense of well-being.  Fortunately, if you get the mindset part right, the other good stuff tends to fall into place. Your health improves, people want to be around you, and you can more easily find and express your purpose. Even your finances may start to improve. Life just gets better.  
Focus on the Gain

A smart guy and seasoned citizen named Dan Sullivan talks about the importance of teaching yourself to focus on the “gain” instead of the “gap”. To put it another way, if you practice the art of gratitude for what you already have, instead of bemoaning what you don’t have, you are more likely to get more of the good stuff (the gain) instead of the bad stuff (the gap). Mr. Sullivan explains the concept in this YouTube video.  The video is worth watching several times until you get the concept – it is a potential life changer. 
One of the big caveats to a positive mindset is to not expect that just because you feel a certain way, life is always going to cooperate. This demand that your expectations will be fulfilled can do a lot of harm. The truth is that you can be both a realist and an optimist. In other words, you expect good things to happen but accept the reality of whatever actually happens. We all have sunny days and rainy days – days when it seems everything is going our way, and others when the opposite is true. Either way, you are just one more person doing life. 

Jenkin Lloyd Jones expressed this concept exactly right: “Anyone who imagines that bliss is normal is going to waste a lot of time running around shouting that he has been robbed. The fact is that most putts don’t drop, most beef is tough, most children grow up to be just people, most successful marriages require a high degree of mutual toleration, and most jobs are more often dull than otherwise. Life is just like an old-time rail journey … delays, sidetracks, smoke, dust, cinders, and jolts, interspersed only occasionally by beautiful vistas and thrilling bursts of speed. The trick is to thank the Lord for letting you have the ride.”

To paraphrase the Rolling Stones, you really can’t always get what you want. Sometimes you do and often you don’t. Wanting what you get is more important to happiness than getting what you want. The trick is to accept what you get and, like Jenkin Lloyd Jones says, enjoy the ride. 

About the author: Christopher Ryan is founder and CMO of Next Phase of Life and a certified life coach. For more information, visit

If you are interested in learning more about financial planning for retirement, where to retire, Social Security, Medicare, common medical issues as you age, and more, use the tabs or pull down menu at the top of the page to find links to hundreds of additional helpful articles.

Disclosure: This blog may contain affiliate links. If you decide to make a purchase from an Amazon ad, I'll make a small commission at no extra cost to you.

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Photo credit:   Provided by Chris Ryan

Saturday, February 15, 2020

Medicare vs. Medicaid - Different Government Programs

Are you confused by the differences between the two most common government healthcare programs ... Medicare and Medicaid?  If so, you are not alone.  To make matters even more confusing, both programs were established in 1965 as an amendment to the Social Security Act, and some Americans are entitled to be covered by both health insurance plans at the same time, while others are only eligible for one or the other.  As a result, it might be helpful to read an overview of the two programs and learn how they work.

Medicare is Usually an Age-Based Healthcare Program

Medicare was designed to help people over the age of 65, as well as people under the age of 65 who have certain medical disabilities or diseases.  It is an individual healthcare program, not one which covers the entire family of a qualified person.  It is a federal program and your basic Medicare coverage is the same regardless of where you live in the United States.

You must apply for Medicare during specific enrollment periods, usually during a window just before or after your 65th birthday, unless you are still being covered by an employer plan at the time you turn 65.  Then, you must enroll as soon as possible after your employer plan ends.  If you apply outside your official enrollment period, you may have to pay a higher premium for the remainder of your life.  Each year in the late fall there is also a specific period of time during which you may be eligible to make changes to your Medicare Advantage plan, if that is the form of Medicare you are using.

Original Medicare does not include most types of dental care, such as cleanings, fillings, tooth extractions, dental plates, dentures or similar devices. Medicare does include a basic vision test as part of your yearly wellness visit, but not the cost of glasses or contact lens.

If you choose a Medicare Advantage plan to administer your Medicare health insurance, your plan may include some dental, vision and hearing benefits. Some dental care may also be covered under original Medicare if you are in a hospital and it is considered medically necessary because of your special circumstances.  If you are not in a Medicare Advantage plan, you may want to purchase a Medicare Supplement or Medigap plan in addition to original Medicare, because it will cover many of the medical expenses which are not covered by original Medicare.

The Parts of Medicare

Medicare is Divided into Parts.  Each part covers different types of medical expenses.

Part A is hospital services.  It is usually free, although there may be a premium if you did not work long enough for you to be covered.

Part B covers Medical Services.  Everyone pays a premium for Part B and the premium usually increases every year.  If you are on Social Security, the Part B premium is deducted from those benefits.  If you are not on Social Security, for example if you are a retired government employee or waiting to apply for your Social Security benefits later than age 65, you may pay for your Medicare premiums separately.

Part C is also called Medicare Advantage and covers both Medicare Parts A and B, and may include additional services such as vision, dental and hearing care, depending on the plan your choose

Part D is prescription coverage and usually requires a separate premium.  However, if you have a Part C Medicare Advantage plan, then Part D may be included, depending on your plan.

You can learn more about these programs in the helpful book:  "Social Security, Medicare and Government Pensions: Get the Most out of Your Retirement and Medical Benefits." (Ad)  Getting all the right information before you apply for these benefits can save you money in the future, so it is important to educate yourself before you apply.

Medicaid is for Low Income Families and Individuals

Medicaid was set up to help people who have limited financial resources get healthcare for themselves and their family.  It is run jointly by state and federal governments and your eligibility is based on your income.  Because of the state and federal collaboration on the program, there may be slight differences in how the plan is implemented, depending on the state where you live.  For example, when the Affordable Care Act was passed, some states chose to expand the number of people who were eligible to receive benefits under Medicaid, and other states did not.  As a result, not only are your benefits determined by your income, but also by the state where you live.

Unlike Medicare, you can apply for Medicaid whenever your financial situation has changed, for example if you lose your job and your insurance.  You do not have to wait for a special open enrollment period if you have just experienced a financial catastrophe.

Dental care under Medicaid varies from state to state.  It may cover preventative dental care for adults, and even various dental treatments in some states.  Medicaid will cover dental care for your children, regardless of the state where you live.  Medicaid also covers eye exams and glasses in most states for both adults and children.  You need to check with your state administrator of the program.

How to Qualify for Medicare

Nearly all Americans are eligible for Medicare.  The rule is that you are eligible for Medicare if you are a citizen of the United States or have been a legal resident for at least 5 years and you are age 65 or older and you or your spouse has worked for at least 10 years (or 40 quarters) in Medicare-covered employment.  You may also be eligible if you are under the age of 65 but have certain disabilities or diseases.  Even if you have not met the work requirement, you may still be able to buy into the program.  You may also be eligible because of the work history of a former spouse.

How to Qualify for Medicaid

In order to qualify for Medicaid, the government will consider your income, household size, whether or not you or a family member is disabled, and your family status.  Among those who may be eligible are pregnant women, teenagers living alone, parents who are caregivers of sick children, people with unusually high medical expenses, blind or disabled people, or most low-income families and individuals.  The exact income level to be considered low-income varies from state-to-state, depending on whether or not your state has expanded their Medicaid coverage.

Included Medicaid Benefits

Among the services which must be provided by Medicaid are:

Lab tests and x-rays
Hospitalization and clinic treatment
Doctor visits, nursing services
Medical and Surgical dental services
Midwife and family planning services
Pediatric and Family Nurse Practitioner services
Screening, diagnosis and treatment for persons under age 21
Home healthcare for people eligible for nursing home facilities
Nursing home facility services for people age 21 and older

Medicare vs. Medicaid for Nursing Home Care

The last two items in the above list of Medicaid benefits are especially important, because Medicare will NOT cover long-term stays in a nursing home, but Medicaid will.  This is a significant difference between the two programs.  While you may be expected to contribute to the cost of your stay in a nursing home, and could have to spend down family assets, your healthy spouse is not expected to give up their home or private business.  Medicaid is one of the largest payers for nursing home services in the United States, and many people do not realize they are eligible to receive this financial benefit when they or a loved one needs to be placed in a skilled nursing facility. If you or a family member needs to be admitted to a skilled nursing facility, it is important to apply for Medicaid as soon as possible.

If you or a loved one is facing an extended stay in a nursing home, you may want to read "How to Protect Your Family's Assets from Devastating Nursing Home Costs: Medicaid Secrets." (Ad)  It is a very helpful book and could save you and your family a significant amount of money. 

Combining Medicare and Medicaid

If you are "dual eligible" for both Medicare and Medicaid (because you meet the age or disability requirements for Medicare, and the income requirements for Medicaid), you can use Medicaid to help cover the cost of your Medicare premiums and other out-of-pocket expenses such as deductibles, which can be a significant savings for low-income senior citizens.  You need to contact your local Social Security office, Social Services department, or other local agencies to find out whether or not you are eligible for both of these programs.  Everyone is entitled to have the most comprehensive and affordable medical insurance they can find.  Take the time to make sure you are getting all benefits for which you are eligible.

Disclosure: This blog may contain affiliate links. If you decide to make a purchase from an Amazon ad, I'll make a small commission at no extra cost to you.

If you are interested in learning more about Social Security, Medicare, common health issues as we age, financial planning or where to retire, use the tabs or pull-down menu at the top of the page to find links to hundreds of additional helpful articles.

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Photo credit:  Getty Images

Saturday, February 8, 2020

GAIN Could Treat Alzheimers in Some Patients - How to be Part of the Study

Good news for those who are concerned about Alzheimer's Disease.  I recently learned about a trial for a new drug called GAIN which appears to have had some success in restoring memory and reducing signs of Alzheimer's Disease in certain patients. The drug is currently undergoing human trials, and researchers are looking for volunteers between the ages of 55 and 80 who have been diagnosed with mild to moderate Alzheimer's Disease.  Trial participants must also have a caregiver or family member who can attend study visits, report on how the subject seems to be handling daily living, and confirm that the patient is taking the medication.

It does not matter whether or not you are currently being treated with another medication in an effort to slow down the progression of your Alzheimer's Disease.  They will not ask you to stop any other medications you are currently using.  GAIN can be used alone or in addition to your current medications, not instead of them.  So far, the results of the study have been interesting and the researchers have been encouraged by what they have seen.   However, study samples have been small, so it is important that more people participate in the trial.

How Does GAIN Treat Alzheimer's Disease?

Readers of this blog will know that untreated gum disease in our mouth has been implicated in causing other health problems, included heart disease and an increased risk of dementia.  According to the website for GAIN, this drug trial, "is based on the growing body of scientific evidence that the bacteria P. gingivalis, commonly associated with gum disease, can infect the brain and cause Alzheimer’s disease." It is "an investigational drug designed to inactivate toxic proteins released by the bacteria and stop or slow further damage to healthy brain cells. A study in a small group of Alzheimer’s patients has shown promise in improving memory."

This is a revolutionary approach to treating Alzheimer's Disease.   While scientists have long suspected that toxic proteins in the brain contribute to Alzheimer's Disease, only recently have they discovered that some of those toxic proteins may be related to the gingivitis gum bacteria which also causes the loss of bone and teeth in the mouth, as well as other health problems.  In fact, they have learned that 90% of people who have been diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease have evidence of P. gingivalis in their central nervous system.

Where to Get More Information about GAIN

The trial is being conducted at 90 locations around the United States and Europe, as well as in the United Kingdom.  The researchers hope to find at least 500 study participants.  You can get more information about the drug and find out how to participate in the trial at  You can also download the study brochure which goes into even more detail about the drug and how you can participate in the trial, if you think you may be interested.  The study is being sponsored by Cortexyme.

More Ways to Cut Risk of Alzheimer's and Other Forms of Dementia

While this research on the effects of mouth bacteria on our brain is groundbreaking, there are additional ways you can help reduce your risk of developing Alzheimer's Disease, dementia and other types of cognitive decline.  Diet, exercise, socialization and many other factors are also important.

You can develop your own personal plan to protect your brain by reading  "The Alzheimer's Solution."  (Ad)  It contains a great deal of helpful information, and I highly recommend it, since none of us want to lose our memories and our independence as we age.

More Conclusions from this Research

One obvious result of this research is the importance of caring for our gums and teeth if we want to live a long, healthy life, free from heart disease and dementia. While gingivitis is not the only cause of these health problems, it is one of the risk factors we can reduce or eliminate.

If you are interested in learning more about financial planning for retirement, where to retire, Social Security, Medicare, common medical issues as you age, and more, use the tabs or pull down menu at the top of the page to find links to hundreds of additional helpful articles.

Disclosure: This blog may contain affiliate links. If you decide to make a purchase from an Amazon ad, I'll make a small commission at no extra cost to you.

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Photo credit:  Pixabay

Saturday, February 1, 2020

Free Cancer Screening SCAM - Do Not Fall For It!

Nearly all senior citizens in the U.S. today are aware of the Social Security scammers who are calling our homes and threatening to cut off our benefits if we do not immediately give them our Social Security number, date of birth and other personal data.  We all know that if someone calls and says they are from the Social Security Administration, we should immediately hang up.  The government does not randomly call retirees about their Social Security or other benefits.   If officials need to contact you, they will send you a letter.  However, now that the Social Security scam seems to be losing steam, scammers have moved on to a new way to steal our information.  It is called the "free cancer screening scam," which sounds perfectly innocent.

How Does the Free Cancer Screening Scam Work?

In this scam, people receive a phone call from someone who offers them a free DNA test to check their cancer risk.  It sounds easy.  They will mail you a DNA kit, similar to the ones you might get from Ancestry or 23andMe.  You provide them with your saliva or a cheek swab, along with your 11-digit Medicare number and other identifying information, and mail the package back to them. DO NOT DO IT!!

In some places, they are doing more than calling people.  Instead, the scammers drive around and offer senior citizens $20 in exchange for their DNA sample and Medicare information.  In other cases, they have even gone to senior centers or assisted living facilities and offered to swab people's cheeks for the genetic material necessary for the cancer screenings.  Again, they ask for the client's Medicare ID and other personal information or, if the residents are not yet on Medicare, they agree to accept any type of medical insurance information.

Once the scammers have what they want, the patients never receive the results of the "test," which is actually never performed. What they really wanted was not your DNA sample. They wanted your Medicare or insurance information.

Do not put yourself at risk. Everyone should educate themselves about common scams.  A good way to do that is to read the AARP book "Outsmarting the Scam Artists: How to Protect Yourself from the Most Clever Cons."  (Ad) Thieves change the way they operate often, so it is up to you to learn when to be suspicious and how to protect yourself.

Why Do Scammers Want Your Medicare ID Number?

Your insurance information, particularly your Medicare number, is valuable to scammers.  It can be used to create some of the $60 billion in fraudulent claims which Medicare receives every year. Other insurance information can be used to steal medical care or defraud insurance companies, too.

These scammers start by charging Medicare anywhere from $6,000 to $30,000 for these unnecessary, fake DNA tests. In contrast, Ancestry and 23andMe will charge between $60 and $100 and will not ask you for your Medicare or insurance information.  In addition, they actually perform the tests!

When these scammers offer people the fake DNA tests, the victims are typically unaware that their Medicare account has been charged for the tests until the fees show up on a statement.  Since some people do not review their statements, especially if they have not been ill, they have no idea that Medicare was charged for the test.  Even if the victims notice the charge, they may believe the charge was legitimate, since they gave their DNA sample to the scammer.

Once the scammers have billed Medicare for the DNA test, they may also try to use your insurance number to obtain medical care, or they may sell your number to other people who want to use your number to get medical services for themselves.  For example, your number could be used to obtain a prescription for opioids or other narcotics. There are dozens of ways they can use your Medicare and insurance information to get money, drugs or medical care.

How to Protect Your Medicare Number

Never give your Medicare number out to anyone other than your regular medical providers.  Give your new Medicare number only to those providers you trust, such as your doctors, pharmacists, insurers, and those who work with Medicare on your behalf.

Say "no" to any offers of free medical tests from anyone other than your normal medical practitioners if the offer is contingent on providing them with your personal information. This doesn't mean you should avoid common tests at community health fairs where local nurses perform checks of your blood pressure, bone density, and simple scans.  Those community health fairs can be life saving. However, only participate if the services they offer are truly free and they do not require you to provide them with any financial or medical information.  They may ask for your phone number or email, so they can contact you about your results.

Be careful not to give your Medicare number to anyone who supposedly wants to offer you "free" medical services.  If their services are free, they should not need your Medicare or other insurance numbers.

Once you have given your Medicare information to your personal medical providers, do not carry your Medicare ID card in your wallet where it could be stolen and used by strangers.

Read your Medicare statements carefully and notify the Social Security Administration if you suspect Medicare has been charged for any services which you did not personally receive.  You can go to your local Social Security office or call them at 1-800-772-1213.

If you are interested in additional Social Security and Medicare information, retirement planning, where to retire, or wish find out about common medical issues as you age, use the tabs or pull down menu at the top of the page to find links to hundreds of additional helpful articles.

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Photo credit:  DNA image from Google images