Help Protect Elders from Economic Abuse

Senior citizenThe Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), which recently celebrated its first anniversary, continues to start new initiatives and programs. Most recently the CFPB’s Office for Older Americans issued a request for information asking for public input on issues affecting seniors.

The Office for Older Americans’ responsibilities include:

  • Monitoring certifications or designations of financial advisors who serve seniors and alerting the Securities Exchange Commission and state regulators of certifications or designations that are identified as unfair, deceptive or abusive;
  • Making legislative and regulatory recommendations to Congress on best practices for disseminating information to seniors regarding the legitimacy of certifications and designations, and methods through which a senior can identify the financial advisor most appropriate for the senior’s needs; and
  • Conducting research to identify best practices for educating seniors on personal finance management in order to develop goals for programs that provide financial literacy and counseling to seniors.

The CFPB’s request for information is seeking comments on: (1) evaluation of senior financial advisor certifications and designations; (2) provision of financial advice and planning information to seniors; (3) senior certification and designation information sources; (4) financial literacy efforts; and (4) financial exploitation of older Americans, including veterans of the Armed Forces.

The CFPB is encouraging comments, which must received by August 20, 2012, on any and/or all of these issues.

Please tell CFPB your thoughts.

Medicare Improving Fast

Helping Senior Citizen WalkThere is an intense debate over Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R. WI) proposal to scrap Medicare and turn it into a voucher program shifting costs to seniors, a debate that became even more intense when it was passed by the Republican-controlled House of Representatives. The Senate has not passed it, and the President has registered his opposition. The American people are also firmly opposed

But that debate has taken news focus away from the substantial improvements to the Medicare program that have been accomplished in just the last year under the Affordable Care Act, with more improvements soon to come. Costs are lower and care is better for seniors all over the country.

Here is what happened in 2010 and is about to happen in 2011 in Medicare under the Affordable Care Act. The numbers apply to Illinois, but the same impact is happening everywhere in America.

  1. Prescription drugs are more affordable. In 2010, 152,170 Illinois residents hit the Medicare prescription drug “donut hole” and received at $250 rebate check to defray their costs. Across the state, this came to $38 million in savings for seniors. In 2011, everyone in Illinois who hits the donut hole will receive a 50% discount on their brand name and generic prescription drugs. As of March, Illinois Medicare beneficiaries who had triggered into this benefit were getting about $800 a month in savings.
  2. Preventive services are free. In 2010, when this section of the new law had not yet taken effect, Medicare charged co-pays for preventive services like mammograms and other cancer screenings. In 2011 all of the 1.9 million Medicare beneficiaries in Illinois now get all recommended preventive services with no out-of-pocket costs.
  3. The annual checkup is free. In 2010, when this section of the new law had not yet taken effect, Medicare charged a co-payment for the annual checkup. Starting in 2011, Medicare beneficiaries can go to an annual wellness visit with no out-of-pocket cost. As of April 20, 17,508 Illinoisans have had a free wellness visit. 
  4. Premiums are lower. Under the new law, in 2010 Medicare Part B premiums were nearly $8 less per month than projected by the Medicare trustees. In 2011, the premiums are almost $5 less per month than projected by the Medicare trustees. The lower premium translates to $107 million in savings for Illinois Medicare beneficiaries in 2011.
  5. Medicare Advantage. In 2010 and 2011 all beneficiaries still retain the option of joining a Medicare Advantage plan if they so desire.

This is a story typical of many things in the Affordable Care Act. Improvements to the system are constantly rolling out, but the general public remains unaware of them. In part, this is because the subject matter is complex and hard to absorb unless you are directly affected. And in part it is a deliberate strategy of the opponents to keep the focus elsewhere and downplay the accomplishments of the law as they endeavor to repeal it and roll back its benefits. The intense reaction to Rep. Ryan’s proposal shows that at least the people directly affected – seniors who depend on Medicare – are well aware of the increasing quality of their program. 

An earlier version of this blog post inadvertently referred to Rep. Paul Ryan as "Jack" Ryan.  This has been corrected, and we apologize for the mistake.