By Aaron of Allsup
The long-awaited news is here. Most Medicare beneficiaries will see their premiums stay the same in 2016, but over 15 million people will have to pay more.
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid confirmed that 70 percent of 52 million beneficiaries will continue to pay $104.90 per month for Part B, which covers medical services.
The other 30 percent, primarily individuals who are new to Medicare in 2016, will pay a higher base premium of $121.80 for Part B, with individuals who have higher incomes paying more than that.
If you are new to Medicare, or if you have paid an income adjustment amount in the past, see the chart below for details on what you are likely to pay in 2016. Your 2014 tax return is what will be used to determine your Medicare adjustment amount.
2016 Changes To Income-Based Premiums for Medicare Part B
|Individual tax-return filers’ annual income
|Joint tax-return filers’ annual income||2016 premium||2015 premium
|$85,000 or less||$170,000 or less||$104.90||$104.90|
|$85,000 or less AND
new to Medicare, or pay premium directly
|$170,000 or less AND
new to Medicare, or pay premium directly
|More than $214,000.01||More than $428,000.01||$389.80||$335.70|
Worried About Higher Costs?
If you are worried about higher Medicare costs next year—this is your best opportunity to take a look at your options.
Medicare annual open enrollment is now through Monday, Dec. 7, and you have the option to switch plans.
More people are choosing Medicare Advantage plans as an alternative to Original Medicare because they can benefit from savings for their healthcare costs.
For example, you may be able to find a Medicare Advantage plan that has comparable coverage to Original Medicare, Part D prescription drug and a supplemental plan (or Medigap)—and yet will cost you less money.
To get a handle on these costs, consider working with a Medicare specialist. Allsup Medicare specialists can help you evaluate your options, your personal needs and budget to find the combination of Medicare coverage that is a match for what you need.
Click here for an easy online form to get started with the Allsup Medicare Advisor®. An Allsup Medicare specialist will contact you and help answer your questions.
All veterans returning home from service must adjust to a new life, but the adjustment process is even more challenging for veterans with disabilities.
As Veterans Day approaches next week, Allsup is honoring veterans and providing free online access to veterans and advocates who are experts in VA disability claims, Social Security Disability Insurance, mental health and Parkinson’s disease.
True Help for Veterans With Disabilities is Tuesday, Nov. 10, from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. CT, and it can be found at Webinar.Allsup.com.
It’s open to any veteran—you, friends and family—who would like to sign up and attend online.
Featured panelists will be available to answer questions on a range of topics important to veterans with disabilities.
- Brett Buchanan, an Army veteran and VA-accredited Claims Agent, who helps veterans with their VA disability compensation appeals.
- Susan Gulas, a registered nurse and coordinator of the American Parkinson Disease Association’s Dedicated Veterans Information and Referral Center.
- Ingrid S. Herrera-Yee, with the National Alliance on Mental Illness and manager of the association’s Military & Veterans Policy and Support program. She also is founder of Military Spouse Behavioral Health Clinicians program.
- Ray L. Stratton Jr., U.S. Navy (Ret.), a veteran representative with the St. Clair County Suicide Alliance Group.
- Peter Dodge, an Army veteran with NAMI-Southwestern Illinois and a project leader for Military Family Outreach.
Veterans and their families are invited to register and come to this live event. Bring your questions and participate in the discussions that take place. Visit Webinar.Allsup.com for more information.
Click here to register for this free, online event for veterans.
To all of the veterans and your families who have sacrificed in service to this country: Thank you.
RSDSA is a not-for-profit organization that has been helping the RSD/CRPS community for more than 31 years.
If you are not familiar with these abbreviations—the condition is called complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) and reflex sympathetic dystrophy (RSD). These terms refer to a chronic, systemic disease with severe pain that may include changes in the skin and swelling.
Our group provides hope and support by creating educational opportunities, awareness and fundraising events, and by being a driving force behind research for better treatments and a cure.
But many people only see what we post online. We do so much more. We want you to give you an insider’s glimpse into some of our ongoing initiatives.
Insider’s View To How We Help
RSDSA has developed a continuing medical education (CME)-accredited educational program for physicians, physician assistants, nurse practitioners, nurses, and other clinicians on the diagnosis, treatment, and management of CRPS.
Currently, most individuals with CRPS will see five doctors before being properly diagnosed.
We want to ensure that all individuals who develop CRPS receive an earlier diagnosis. Our goal is that medical professionals identify CRPS quickly, treat it appropriately or refer to a specialist.
We also commissioned an emergency department physician to write Tips for Managing Complex Regional Pain Syndrome, http://rsds.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/Tips-for-Managing-Complex-Regional-Pain-Syndrome.pdf.
The article suggested an IV ketamine protocol to quell CRPS pain flares with people who end up in the emergency department (ED). Not opioids—ketamine. Recently, when we exhibited at the American College of Emergency Physicians meeting, we discovered that many ED physicians were already using the suggested protocol just one month later!
Young People and RSD/CRPS
This summer, RSDSA co-sponsored the first pediatric pain camp at the Center for Courageous Kids. Nineteen children along with their families enjoyed three days of horseback riding, boating, fishing, archery, and so much more. It was a dream come true for all. We will be co-sponsoring this camp again in 2016, and we are hoping to help even more families will attend.
We are developing literature to help young adults with CRPS. We are designing a brochure to help people with CRPS continue their education by helping colleges understand what accommodations will ensure success. We also are designing a brochure to help young adults with CRPS enter and succeed in the workforce.
Research And Personal Aid
RSDSA has launched an International Research Consortium (IRC) to encourage much more CRPS research, and 40 established laboratories are involved. The treatments of today must not be those of tomorrow.
In conjunction with the Jenkins Family, RSDSA has established an emergency assistance fund to aid individuals and families financially devastated by CRPS.
In less than three years, RSDSA has provided over $40,000 in emergency financial grants (usually a grant of $500). We have provided money for emergency fuel assistance, to stop evictions, for travel and lodging to see out-of-state CRPS specialists, for security deposits, for medicine and insurance co-pays—the list is endless.
RSDSA is dedicated to helping all those affected by CRPS. Please visit our website rsds.org or call us toll-free at (877) 662-7737. We are here.
By Tai of Allsup
If you’ve been reading the experiences and perspectives that have been shared during this Breast Cancer Blog-a-Thon, you know that in addition to physical and emotional stressors, individuals with breast cancer face significant employment and financial challenges.
A recent Center for Disease Control and Prevention study found that from 2008-11, female cancer (all types) survivors had $8,400 in annual medical costs per person and $4,000 in productivity losses compared to females without a history of cancer at $5,100 and $2,700, respectively.
The impact may be even more significant for women with breast cancer.
Two-thirds of breast cancer patients who’ve had surgery endure six to seven weeks of radiation therapy even though studies suggest that a three-week course of higher-dose radiation is just as effective, according to a Penn Medicine study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Prolonged treatment means more time away from home and work, making Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits an important resource for breast cancer patients.
SSDI was created to help individuals in these circumstances by providing a monthly cash benefit based on their contributions to the program with their FICA taxes. It guarantees former workers an income if their condition does not improve.
SSDI Helps with Finances
The average individual monthly SSDI payment in 2015 is $1,166 and $1,983 for a disabled worker with dependents. Filing for SSDI also can help cancer survivors protect their retirement income by “freezing” their Social Security earnings records during their period of disability. Because the years in which they collect SSDI benefits are not counted when computing future benefits, Social Security retirement benefits may be higher than if earnings were averaged over a greater number of years.
Click here to see Allsup’s detailed explanation of the full range of SSDI benefits, including information on dependents’ benefits.
SSDI Helps with Healthcare
Regardless of age, 24 months after the date of entitlement to SSDI benefits, SSDI recipients are eligible for Medicare.
SSDI Helps with Re-employment
When and if they are able to re-enter the workforce, breast cancer survivors who receive SSDI also are eligible for Social Security’s Ticket to Work program, which offers career counseling, vocational rehabilitation, and job placement and training.
Breast cancer patients and survivors who have not been able to work or anticipate not being able to work for 12 months or more may be eligible for SSDI benefits. Allsup provides complimentary eligibility screenings at Expert.Allsup.com or by phone at (888) 841-2126.
Thanks for joining Allsup during the Breast Cancer Blog-a-Thon in October. Feel free to click here and share additional resources on Facebook.
A diagnosis of breast cancer can be scary and confusing.
However, with improved detection methods, increased awareness, and laws protecting individuals from discrimination—survivors now live longer and remain very productive throughout treatment and recovery.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), passed in 1990, is a pivotal piece of legislation that helps individuals with cancer continue working. The employment provisions of the ADA protect workers with cancer from discrimination and entitle them to reasonable accommodations.
Where can an individual with cancer go for guidance? The Job Accommodation Network (JAN) is a confidential service that provides free technical assistance on the ADA and job accommodations. We are funded by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy.
Job Accommodations During Treatment
Our services are available to individuals with cancer and employers of those with cancer. We find that remaining on the job is vitally important financially and to recovery for those who contact JAN.
Many workers, both men and women, with breast cancer need no or few accommodations to continue working. However, for those who do need accommodations, short periods of leave can be helpful.
Fatigue from two of the more common types of treatment, radiation therapy and chemotherapy, often can be accommodated with a flexible schedule or telework. In addition, surgery, hormone therapy, bone marrow, or stem cell treatments can be accommodated similarly.
Some individuals may need accommodations during treatment. The following examples of individuals who contacted JAN illustrate that accommodations can be low cost, effective, and easy to implement.
- An employee was undergoing radiation therapy for breast cancer. The treatment caused skin irritation, which was exacerbated by her work uniform. JAN suggested alternative clothing materials.
- An employee was undergoing chemotherapy for breast cancer. The treatment caused sensitivity to cold temperatures. The individual worked in an area that was susceptible to drafts. JAN suggested various heated clothing.
- An employee who was undergoing hormone therapy for breast cancer experienced lapses in concentration due to the medication. JAN suggested giving her uninterrupted time to work, including part-time telework.
Some individuals may need accommodations during follow-up care.
- An employee who was recovering from breast cancer was experiencing lymphedema, and wanted suggestions on ergonomic equipment. JAN provided the employee with resources to improve workstation ergonomics.
- An employee who was recovering from breast cancer had depression. Her depression was exacerbated by her breast cancer diagnosis. She wanted suggestions to help her prioritize. JAN suggested that her supervisor provide a written set of daily tasks via email.
For more information on the ADA and reasonable accommodation solutions for individuals with cancer, visit http://askjan.org/media/canc.htm.
Tomorrow: Breast cancer and Social Security disability benefits.
By Leia of Allsup
To us, she was Grandma Pat. Her first name was Patricia, and it was a way to differentiate between grandmothers.
Grandma Pat was a beautiful woman, even in her older age. She was tall and had a giant smile on her at all times. She had a unique scent and a very calming voice, with a thick Ohio-creole accent that she got from growing up in Ohio, but then moving to Louisiana for a lot of her adult life.
I found out about Grandma Pat’s breast cancer in 1999. I was only 15 years old and didn’t quite understand what it meant or how it would affect her long term. She was lucky. They caught it early enough that she could have surgery. In early 2000, she had a lumpectomy.
We went to visit her in the spring, right after her surgery. She was still healing from the surgery and taking care of my ailing grandfather, all at the same time. She wanted to show my sisters and me her scars and explain to us what happened. Looking back, I don’t think I understood why I needed to see this and probably thought less about it than I should have.
I can’t ask her what the meaning was behind her showing us her scars and talking to us about her breast cancer. But I think it was to say that a lot of women and men will have to deal with breast cancer at some point in their lifetimes.
Do not be afraid of sharing your story and explaining to future generations how this cancer impacts so many people.
My grandma was in remission for a few years until she died in 2005 from myelodysplasia. Treatment-related myelodysplasia is caused by previous treatment with chemotherapy or radiation therapy, which she received for her breast cancer.
She fought until the very end, like so many others battling cancer, and ultimately succumbed. I miss my Grandma Pat and find comfort in knowing how brave she was throughout this fight. And now, looking back, I realize that it took the same amount of bravery to fight the disease as it did to show us the scars.
Even during her struggle, she was still teaching us—never give up, never hide, and never forget that we are in this together.
Osteoporosis is a condition in which bones become less dense and are more likely to break or fracture. It is known as a silent disease because there are no symptoms until a bone breaks. Anyone can get osteoporosis or have bone loss, but it’s most common in older women.
One of the most common types of osteoporosis occurs when the body’s level of estrogen declines, as happens at menopause. Some medicines used to treat breast cancer also can cause a decline in the levels of estrogen.
Increased Risk With Breast Cancer
Women who have had breast cancer treatment may be at increased risk for osteoporosis and fracture for several reasons.
One factor is that estrogen has a protective effect on bone and reduced levels of the hormone trigger bone loss.
Many breast cancer survivors experience a loss of ovarian function due to chemotherapy or surgery, and, consequently, a drop in estrogen levels. Different treatment options for breast cancer—including surgery, chemotherapy and drug treatments—often reduce estrogen levels, as well.
Do not stop taking your breast cancer treatment because you are worried about your bones.
These drugs are very effective for treating breast cancer and preventing it from coming back. If you have concerns, discuss them with your healthcare provider.
Strategies For Bone Health
Several strategies can reduce your risk for osteoporosis or lessen the effects of the disease.
Nutrition: For your bone health, a well-balanced diet rich in calcium and vitamin D is important. Good sources of calcium include low-fat dairy products; dark green, leafy vegetables; and calcium-fortified foods and beverages. Vitamin D plays an important role in calcium absorption and bone health. Food sources of vitamin D include egg yolks, saltwater fish, and liver.
Exercise: The best activity for your bones is weight-bearing exercise. Examples include walking, climbing stairs, weight training and dancing. Regular exercise, such as walking, may help prevent bone loss and provides many other health benefits.
Healthy lifestyle: Smoking is bad for bones as well as the heart and lungs. Those who drink heavily are more prone to bone loss and fracture. This is because of both poor nutrition and an increased risk of falling.
Bone density test: A bone mineral density (BMD) test is safe and painless. It can detect osteoporosis before a fracture occurs and can predict one’s chances of fractures in the future. The BMD test can help determine whether medication should be considered. A woman recovering from breast cancer should ask her doctor whether she might be a candidate for a bone density test.
Medication: There is no cure for osteoporosis. However, several medications are available to prevent and treat this disease. Bisphosphonates have demonstrated some success in slowing the progress of osteoporosis and also may be used to treat breast cancers that have spread to bone.
Learn more about osteoporosis and how to strengthen your bones at www.NOF.org.
By Tai of Allsup
Pain exists. You know it does because you’ve felt it. Everybody has. But what does it look like? How can you see pain in your shoulder, arm, back or foot? What form does pain take in your internal organs?
Debilitating pain can be an invisible disability, and it’s just one of many invisible disabilities that you can hear about this week as the Invisible Disabilities Association (IDA) raises awareness.
The IDA is celebrating 2015 Invisible Disabilities Week with a variety of activities that celebrate the strength and perseverance of those with disabilities that aren’t obvious to the naked eye.
This can be true for our nation’s veterans who wore their uniforms proudly, but their wounds are often unseen. Post-traumatic stress disorder, hearing loss and joint pain are just a few of the invisible disabilities connected to military service.
On Friday, Allsup is sponsoring four veterans to attend the IDA’s 2015 Awards Gala at the Denver Marriott Tech Center in Denver. This year’s theme is, “Hearing Is Believing.” Learn more at http://hearingisbelieving.info.
It’s an important week to recognize those individuals whose courage and pain are frequently overlooked. Allsup has helped tens of thousands of individuals with debilitating, severe and invisible disabilities to receive their Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits when they couldn’t continue working.
In addition, the Allsup Veterans Disability Appeal Service® helps veterans to appeal their claims for service-connected disability compensation benefits to receive higher ratings.
Here are a few examples of conditions that you can’t see on the outside, but whose impact on the inside can cause severe life limitations:
- Traumatic brain injury
- Chronic kidney disease
- Chronic liver disease
- Heart disease
Consider telling a friend Tuesday about Invisible Disabilities Awareness Week or wearing blue on Wednesday. Join Allsup and the IDA in celebrating Invisible Disabilities Week at #InvisibleDisabilitiesWeek.
Click here for a list of the IDA’s activities, and be sure to tell your story, too.
We are all completely aware that breast cancer exists.
We don’t need pink ribbons on every package in the store. We must stop pink washing and lining the pockets of businesses who profit from cause marketing sales of breast cancer products.
We know one in eight women will be diagnosed, someone dies every 14 minutes, and approximately 40,000 lives are lost each year. We must end breast cancer.
Most people don’t truly understand a breast cancer diagnosis. There is more than one type of breast cancer. There are numerous treatment plans for breast cancer.
The bottom line is…there is no cure. Once someone has been diagnosed, they will live with the knowledge that their breast cancer can return at any time. No one can say: “I made it five years…I’m a survivor.” Tumor dormancy is real and the cancer can recur in the breast or worse, it can become metastatic, when breast cancer cells spread to the lungs, brain, liver or bones.
Surgery and treatments can cause severe collateral damage and additional health issues. Some types of breast cancer respond to chemo and some do not. Triple negative breast cancer (not estrogen, progesterone or HER2 positive), does not respond well to current targeted chemotherapies.
It is time to stop people from getting breast cancer in the first place and stop people who have had the disease from dying due to metastasis.
Fund research, not the corporations selling pink products. It is time for people to learn the truth, stop accepting the status quo, and take action to end breast cancer before it takes another life.
Support the National Breast Cancer Coalition: www.deadline2020.org. They have set a deadline to eradicate breast cancer by Jan. 1, 2020. They will do so through innovative, targeted research utilizing a vast array of passionate professionals from across the globe.
Are you with me? Find more at www.cedarvalleybreastcancer.org.
Up next: The link between breast cancer and osteoporosis.