Top 5 States in Which to Grow Old

Many people have a vision of what their retirement will look like. For some people, geography can play a huge role in determining your quality of life after retirement. The kind of healthcare you get plays a huge role in your retirement as well, so be sure to take the time to review all the Medicare options available to you.

The following list lays out the best states to grow old in along with the cost of living and home health aide costs.

5. Nebraska

This Midwestern state boasts more than just prairies. It also has a very high population of happy residents. Nebraska consistently ranks in the top 10 states measuring overall well-being, including emotional, physical, and mental health. From Lincoln to Omaha, the state’s larger cities have popular shopping and dining districts and plenty of parks for those who enjoy the outdoors.

Average cost of assisted living: $42,000
Average cost for home health aide: $53,000

4. Washington

When people age, they often have mobility and vision issues which can make it dangerous to drive. The Evergreen State has pedestrian-friendly cities and towns with reliable public transit, making it a great choice for retirees who don’t drive. Washington also offers major cities, mountains, the Pacific Ocean, and a plethora of parks.

Average cost of assisted living: $54,000
Average cost for home health aide: $56,000

3. South Carolina

This coastal southern state has more than summer vacation spots. It also has history, culture, and great food. South Carolina also has mild winters and stunning architecture. With a low cost-of-living and the 9th lowest tax burden in the country, it’s a great choice for retirees on a budget.

Average cost of assisted living: $36,000
Average cost for home health aide: $42,000

2. Iowa

Iowa has more than just corn. The Hawkeye State has the lowest tax burden for seniors in the country due to Social Security being tax exempt. It’s also safe and affordable with major cities like Des Moines and Cedar Rapids to choose from, or smaller towns like Boone and Fort Madison if you prefer a slower pace of life. Either way, this Midwestern state is a great choice for retirees who don’t mind a bit of cold.

Average cost of assisted living: $42,000
Average cost of home health aide: $48,000

1. Utah

Utah rounds out the top of our list for several reasons: low cost-of-living, low tax burden, and low crime rate. Utah also boasts stunning scenery and one of the highest life expectancies in the country at 80.2 years. State parks like Cayonlands, the Great Salt Lake, and Lake Powell make this a great choice for those who love the outdoors, and the famous Sundance Film Festival is held in Park City every year. A low population and cost of assisted living makes Utah a great place in which to grow old.   

Average cost of assisted living: $35,000
Average cost of home health aide: $48,000

Top 10 Medicare Terms to Know

Having trouble understanding Medicare terms? Medicare is the national health insurance program for seniors and some people with disabilities. The program can be complex and hard to understand. Use our glossary of commonly used Medicare definitions and terms to help you understand your Medicare coverage.     

  1. Annual Enrollment Period  – The period from October 15 to December 7 when you can enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan with Part D, a stand-alone Prescription Drug Plan, or switch Medicare plans.
  2. Appeal – A process to request your Medicare health plan to reconsider or perhaps change the decision of denying your request for coverage or payment.
  3. Coverage Gap – A stage in the Part D drug benefit during which you pay a certain percent of prescription drug costs set by Medicare. Also known as the “doughnut hole,” the gap begins after your costs reach an initial coverage limit and ends after you have paid enough to become eligible for catastrophic coverage. 
  4. Catastrophic Coverage – The part of the prescription drug benefit that kicks in after you have paid a certain amount in a calendar year. For 2020, that’s $6,350.
  5. Durable Medical Equipment (DME) – Certain medical equipment that is ordered by your doctor for use in your home. Some examples are walkers, wheelchairs, and hospital beds.
  6. Extra Help – Financial assistance from Medicare to help cover Part D drug plan costs. Also known as the low-income subsidy (LIS). To determine if you are eligible for Extra Help or other government assistance, click here.
  7. Formulary – A plan’s list of covered prescription drugs.
  8. Initial Enrollment Period (IEP) – The 7-month period when you first can enroll in Medicare (3 months before you turn 65, the month of your birthday, and the 3 months afterward).
  9. Medigap – Plans sold by private companies to supplement Original Medicare coverage by helping you cover some of the out-of-pocket costs of Medicare. Not to be confused with Medicare Advantage (Part C) or Cost plans.
  10. Special Enrollment Period (SEP) – A time other than the annual enrollment period or initial enrollment period when you may join, change, or drop a Medicare plan. An SEP can be triggered by certain events such as a change in residence.

What is SilverSneakers?

SilverSneakers is a nationwide program dedicated to helping seniors get fit and stay healthy through routine exercise. It was created by Mary Swanson in 1992 after her father survived a heart attack at 51 and pledged to improve his health with regular physical activity. Now offered at more than 14,000 fitness locations across the country, you can choose between Zumba classes at one gym, free weights at another, and swim laps at yet another.

SilverSneakers offers more than 70 types of classes to choose from, including boot camp, circuit training, strength and balance, tai chi, yoga, and water aerobics. With SilverSneakers, you truly have everything you could ever want out of a fitness program at your fingertips. You’ll never run out of choices or get bored of your exercise routine again.

Who covers it?

Although it’s not offered through Original Medicare (Part A and Part B), over 60 Medicare Advantage (Part C) and Medigap plans offer coverage of the program. Find out if your Medicare plan covers SilverSneakers here.

What do they offer?

SilverSneakers provides options beyond the gym, offering classes at community centers, churches, parks, and other local venues. And if you prefer a traditional gym experience, many gyms offer a free tour and equipment training in case you step into the gym and feel overwhelmed by the options and confusing equipment.

SilverSneakers also offers something most traditional gyms don’t: social support. Many SilverSneakers members report building strong relationships with other members and participating in potlucks and other community outings with people they’ve met through the program.

SilverSneakers reports that 94% of members rate their health as excellent, very good, or good, and 91% of members say the program has improved their quality of life. With SilverSneakers, you can strengthen your physique and social nature at the same time to assure you stay happy and healthy longer.

Where can you find SilverSneakers programs?

SilverSneakers can be found at over 14,000 fitness locations nationwide at no cost to you. That means if you go on vacation within the U.S., you don’t have to settle for sub-par hotel gym equipment.

Why settle for a membership at one gym when you can have access to thousands across the country? Over 67% of members have a SilverSneakers location within 5 miles of their home, so physical fitness and health is never far out of reach.

For more information about SilverSneakers, visit their website here

10 Things to Know about Medicare Advantage

Medicare Advantage, or Medicare Part C, is an alternative to Original Medicare that offers Part A, Part B, and sometimes Part D coverage through private insurance companies approved by Medicare. Plans vary by state and by county, so do your research and know what’s offered in your area.

Nearly one-third of Medicare beneficiaries (over 19 million people) use Medicare Advantage. The types of plans offered by Medicare Advantage include HMOs, PPOs, SNPs, and PFFSs, so you have plenty of options available to you.

10 things to know about Part C

Here are 10 important things to know when considering a Medicare Advantage plan:

  1. Under Medicare Advantage, you pay a monthly premium in addition to your Part B premium.
  2. You can’t have Medicare Advantage and Medigap (Medicare supplement) at the same time.
  3. You cannot have Medicare Advantage with prescription drug coverage and a stand-alone Medicare Part D plan at the same time.
  4. If you have End-Stage Renal Disease (ESRD), you are not eligible for Medicare Advantage.
  5. Some plans offer vision, hearing, dental, and prescription drug coverage.
  6. Fitness memberships are included in some Medicare Advantage plans.
  7. Under a Medicare Advantage plan, you must use the doctors and hospitals that are in-network. (With PPOs, you can use out-of-network doctors, but you will usually pay more.)
  8. Unlike Original Medicare, Medicare Advantage plans have annual out-of-pocket limits.
  9. With Medicare Advantage, you still have Medicare and all the rights and protections that come with it.
  10. Plans and coverage can change. Be sure to do your research annually to assure your plan is still the best one for you. Also check the deductibles, star rating, and travel coverage to make sure your plan meets all of your needs.

If you are thinking of switching to Medicare Advantage, you can do so during the fall Open Enrollment Period from October 15 to December 7. If you are enrolling for the first time, you may do so during your Initial Enrollment Period: the three months before your 65th birthday, your birthday month, and the following three months. If you need to disenroll from a Medicare Advantage plan, you may do so during the Medicare Advantage Disenrollment Period, January 1 to February 14.

Top 5 Medicare Mistakes to Avoid

Medicare mistakes are common due to the complex nature of Medicare, the national healthcare system for people over 65 and some disabled people. Here are five costly Medicare mistakes to avoid.

1.      Not enrolling when you first become eligible

Most people will automatically be enrolled in Medicare Part A when they turn 65. If you are not already receiving Social Security benefits, you will need to enroll in Medicare Part B during your Initial Enrollment Period. This is the three months before your 65th birthday, your birthday month, and the following three months. If you don’t enroll when you first become eligible, you could face late enrollment penalties later on.

2.      Failing to read your Annual Notice of Change

This document arrives in the mail each September and notifies you of any changes to your current Medicare Advantage or Medicare Part D plans, like increasing premiums, deductibles, or changes in covered services. It’s important to read this document in case you need to change plans during the Open Enrollment Period. Failing to do so could mean you’re stuck with an expensive plan that doesn’t give you the coverage you need in the following year.

3.      Assuming Medicare will cover everything

While Medicare will probably cover most of your healthcare expenses once you turn 65, it doesn’t cover everything. For example, Medicare doesn’t cover deductibles, premiums, copays, or coinsurance. If you have a chronic illness or expect recurring doctor visits, this could mean you’re paying a lot out-of-pocket. Thankfully, Medigap exists to help you cover some of the out-of-pocket costs of Medicare.

4.      Not picking the right Medigap plan

Medigap currently offers 10 plans (standard in most states) to help you save on out-of-pocket Medicare costs, so knowing which one is right for you can be tricky. Do you choose the one with the most coverage with higher premiums? Or one with fewer coverage options and lower premiums? Consider consulting your local State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP) to help you decide.

5.      Not doing your research for Medicare Advantage

Original Medicare is made up of Medicare Part A (hospital insurance) and Medicare Part B (medical insurance), which most Medicare beneficiaries have. Original Medicare doesn’t cover services like dental, vision, and hearing care. However, many Medicare Advantage (Medicare Part C) plans do cover these services. If you know you’ll want coverage of these services, it would be wise to research your Medicare Advantage options before enrolling in Medicare coverage.

Additional Medicare resources:

·         Visit

·         Call 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227), TTY 1-877-486-2048, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week

·         Call your local State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP) to see if you qualify for any financial assistance.

Everything You Need to Know about Medicare Part A

Original Medicare consists of two parts, Medicare Part A and Medicare Part B. Part A (Hospital insurance) covers inpatient care, care at a skilled nursing facility, and at-home care (in limited circumstances).

To be eligible for premium-free Part A, you must be entitled to receive Medicare based on your earnings or those of a spouse, parent, or child. You must also have 40 of quarters of coverage (QCs) and file an application for Social Security or Railroad Retirement Board (RRB) benefits. Most people will be automatically enrolled in Part A once they turn 65. You may also be automatically enrolled in Part B if you are already enrolled in Part A and receiving Social Security benefits.  

In general, Medicare Part A covers inpatient hospital care, limited home health services, hospice care, and skilled nursing facility care. These benefits are covered based on your specific situation and only if certain conditions are met.

What Part A covers

  • Hospital Care
    • Acute care 
    • Critical access
    • Inpatient rehabilitation facilities
    • Long-term care
    • Mental health care
    • Qualifying clinical research study
  • Home Health Care
    • Part-time or intermittent skilled nursing care
    • Part-time or intermittent home health aide care
    • Physical therapy
    • Occupational therapy
    • Speech-language pathology services
    • Medical social services
  • Nursing Home Coverage
    • Semi-private room
    • Meals
    • Skilled nursing services
    • Rehabilitation services
    • Medical social services
    • Medications received while in SNF care
    • Medical supplies and equipment used in SNF
    • Ambulance transportation
    • Dietary counseling
  • Hospice
    • Doctor services
    • Nursing care
    • Pain relief medications
    • Social services
    • Durable medical equipment
    • Medical supplies
    • Hospice aide
    • Homemaker services
    • Physical and occupational therapy
    • Dietary counseling
    • Short-term inpatient care
    • Short-term respite care

What is not covered?

Medicare doesn’t cover everything, so you may have to pay out of pocket for certain services. Even if Medicare covers the costs of a service or piece of equipment, you will most likely still have to pay your copayment, coinsurance, and the Part A deductible, which is $1,408. Talk to your doctor to find out specifics about what Medicare won’t cover.

Some examples of services that Part A does not cover are:

  • A private room (unless medically necessary)
  • Private-duty nursing
  • Personal care items, like razors or slipper socks
  • Extra charges, like a telephone or TV in your room
  • Non-donated blood
  • Meals delivered to your home
  • 24-hour-a-day care at home
  • Homemaker services
  • Personal care
  • Custodial (long-term) care

2020 Part A premium, deductible, and coinsurance

Premium. Most enrollees will not have a Part A premium, but those who don’t have 40 quarters of work history or a spouse with 40 quarters of work history will need to pay a premium. For 2020, the premium for people who have between 30 and 39 quarters of work history is $252 per month. For people with fewer than 30 quarters, it’s $458 per month. 

Deductible. The Part A deductible for 2020 is $1,408 (up from $1,364 in 2019) and applies to each benefit period rather than calendar year, but many beneficiaries have supplemental coverage, such as Medigap, that pays for this deductible. 

Coinsurance. If you need inpatient care, the deductible will cover your first 60 days. After that, you will be charged a daily coinsurance charge of $352 per day for days 61-90. After 90 days, the coinsurance rate is $704 per day.

Understanding Medicare Part A

Medicare Part A covers inpatient care like a skilled nursing facility, care received in a hospital, and some limited in-home care. You will probably be automatically enrolled in Part A whenever you turn 65. If you are not already enrolled in Part B and need to enroll manually, you can do so during your initial enrollment period, which is a six-month window that begins three months before you turn 65. 

If you still have questions about your coverage or health care pertaining specifically to you, call 1-800-MEDICARE.

Everything You Need to Know about Medicare Part B

What is Medicare Part B coverage?

Original Medicare is made up of two parts: Part A and Part B. While Part A covers hospital stays, Part B focuses on medical insurance.

Medicare Part B helps cover medically necessary services and supplies needed for the diagnosis or treatment of your health condition. This includes outpatient services received at a hospital, doctor’s office, clinic, or other health facility. Medicare Part B also helps cover many preventive services to thwart illnesses or detect them at an early stage.

Medicare Part B benefits

Medical services and supplies covered by Medicare Part B include (but may not be limited to):

  • Doctor visits
  • Clinical research
  • Laboratory tests and X-rays
  • Emergency ambulance services
  • Mental health services
  • Durable medical equipment (DME)
  • Preventive services, such as pap tests, flu shots, and screenings
  • Getting a second opinion before surgery
  • Rehabilitative services, including physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech-language pathology services
  • Some outpatient prescription drugs

If in doubt, check to find out if Medicare covers a service or item.

Medicare Part B costs

Medicare Part B involves costs. You’ll pay both a monthly premium and a yearly deductible for Medicare Part B. The monthly premium amount may vary depending on your specific situation:

  • The standard Part B premium for 2020 is $144.60.

You may have to pay a higher premium if your yearly income is above a certain amount, as reported on your tax return from two years ago. In addition, if you didn’t enroll in Medicare Part B when you were first eligible, you may have to pay a late-enrollment penalty in the form of a higher premium, unless you’re eligible for a Special Enrollment Period.

  • In addition to your monthly premium, you’ll pay $198 for the yearly Part B deductible in 2020.

For individual services and supplies, your Medicare Part B costs may vary. Some preventive services are completely covered if your provider accepts Medicare assignment. If the Medicare Part B deductible applies, you must pay all costs until you meet the yearly deductible amount before Medicare begins paying its share.

After your deductible is met, you typically pay 20% of the Medicare-approved amount for the service. You may also owe a copayment for certain outpatient services.

Alternatives to Original Medicare Part B

If you feel you might need extra help paying your expenses, you can purchase a Medigap plan to help cover expenses for drugs for a chronic illness or other medical needs.

There are also Medicare Advantage plans (Medicare through a private insurer that covers Parts A and B and sometimes D) if you choose not to go with Original Medicare. You may not have Medicare Advantage and Medigap at the same time.

These alternatives incur the same Part B premium costs (plus the extra premiums of these programs). However, with Medigap you have the peace of mind of knowing your extra costs are covered, and with Medicare Advantage there is a maximum limit on what you can spend out of pocket per year on Part A and B expenses.

5 Things to Know about Medigap

Most people are aware of Original Medicare (Part A and Part B), but there can be some confusion when it comes to supplemental and alternative plans. 

Do you have a chronic illness or recurring doctor visits? Are you worried about how you’ll pay for your Medicare copays, deductibles, and premiums? Medigap can help with that.

Medigap, or Medicare Supplement, exists to help you fill in the gaps in your Medicare coverage by paying for things like copays and deductibles. In order to qualify for Medigap, you must have Original Medicare (Part A and Part B). Medigap is sold by private insurance companies and offers 10 standard plans, with the exception of Massachusetts, Minnesota, and Wisconsin which have their own standard plans.

Here are five things you need to know about Medigap:

1. A Medigap plan only covers one person.

Medicare beneficiaries can’t add a spouse to their Medigap plan. Medigap offers 10 standard plans (A-N), so it’s wise to choose a plan that works best for you and your healthcare needs.

2. You must have Medicare Part A and Part B to enroll.

Once you have Medicare Part B, you enter the Medigap Open Enrollment Period. This is a six-month window in which you can purchase a Medigap plan for the same price as a healthy person. Outside of this window, there is no guarantee of coverage, and if you do receive coverage, you could be charged a higher premium.

3. You can’t have a Medicare Advantage plan and a Medigap plan at the same time.

It is illegal for an insurance broker to sell you a Medigap policy if you have Medicare Advantage. If you switch from Original Medicare with Medigap to a Medicare Advantage plan, you will need to drop your Medigap plan.

4. You will have to pay a premium for Medigap on top of your Part B premium.

You cannot use a Medigap plan to pay your Medicare Part B premium, and Medigap carries a separate premium you will have to pay in addition to your Part B premium.

5. Shop around Medigap plans before signing up.

Medigap coverage is standard across the country. For example, Plan N in Tennessee gets the same coverage as Plan N in Washington. However, prices may vary depending on where you live and which private insurance company provides your coverage.

The most popular Medigap plan, Plan F, is being phased out in 2020. If you are enrolled in this plan before then, you’ll be grandfathered in. Plan F also has the highest premium, so shop around before committing to a plan. 

Top 10 Medicare FAQs

Medicare is a complicated topic. It makes sense that there are a lot of questions floating around. Some of the most common Medicare related questions are answered below.

Top 10 FAQs

  1. Will preexisting medical conditions work against me in Medicare? No. The one exception is that those with advanced kidney failure (End Stage Renal Disease or ESRD) can’t enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan. However, they can still receive coverage under Original Medicare.
  2. Are my out-of-pocket expenses capped in Medicare? No, not in Original Medicare. You can purchase a Medigap plan to help with those costs, however. Alternatively, under Medicare Advantage plans, there is an annual cap on how much you can spend out of pocket.
  3. Will Medicare cover my spouse or dependents? No. Medicare covers only you. A person must be age 65 to join or have a certain disability. If you are married, both you and your spouse need to join Medicare separately and must pay separate premiums.
  4. Will my Medicare benefits end? No. Your Medicare coverage will last as long as you need it, as long as you live.
  5. How can I get dental and vision coverage though Medicare? Original Medicare does not cover vision or dental, but some Medicare Advantage plans do cover these services.
  6. Do I have to sign up for Medicare again each year? No, your choices will stay the same. However, you might want to review and make changes during the annual Open Enrollment period from October 15 – December 7 to make sure your coverage fits your exact needs.
  7. Will I be automatically enrolled in Medicare at age 65? If you are already receiving Social Security benefits, then yes. You’ll be enrolled in Parts A and B, and your Part B premiums will be automatically deducted from your Social Security checks. If you’re not already receiving Social Security, then you will need to sign up through Social Security. You can do this during your intial enrollment period: the three months leading up to your 65th birthday, your birthday month, and the following three months.
  8. What is not covered by Medicare? Original Medicare does not cover long-term care, dental, vision, hearing, or acupuncture and other alternative medicine practices. See our more complete list of what Medicare does not cover. Some Medicare Advantage plans do cover vision and dental – research plans in your area to find out.
  9. How much does Medicare cost? Costs for Original (not Medicare Advantage) Medicare in 2018 are almost the same as 2017, with a few small changes. The standard monthly premium for Part B in 2018 is $134 per month.
  10. How can I get help paying for my prescriptions under Medicare Part D? Extra Help provides help paying for prescriptions for those with low income and assets. Other ways to save are using generic drugs, choosing a plan with extra “donut hole”coverage, and Pharmaceutical Assistance Programs.