Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Half Of Households Receive Some Government Benefit

According to the findings, these benefits came from a variety of programs, but Social Security and Medicare are the giants among these programs.

The report claims that about 28.4 million households, or 24 percent of the U.S. total, received means-tested benefits – either cash or non cash – in an average month during the quarter.

Medicaid (21.1 million), free or reduced-price school meals (11.5 million) and food stamps (9.3 million) were the most widely received such benefits. (Means-tested programs are those that provide cash or services to people who meet a test of need based on income and assets.)

However, it was two non-means-tested programs, Social Security and Medicare, which affected the largest number of households. There were 33.6 million receiving Social Security or Railroad Retirement benefits and 30.8 million receiving benefits from Medicare.

The percentage of households receiving any type of means-tested benefit climbed from 23.2 percent to 24.7 percent between May and November of that year, with the percentage receiving food stamps increasing from 7.6 percent to 8.8 percent and the share of those receiving Medicaid climbed from 17.5 percent to 18.5 percent.

“As the nation embarks on a new government program providing long-term care benefits the percentage who rely on taxpayer supported programs will likely increase,” explains Jesse Slome, executive director of the American Association for Long-Term Care Insurance. Medicaid pays the largest share of long-term care costs according to the Association. “The only alternative to a government program will be savings or private insurance,” Slome notes.

Among the 67 percent of the working-age population engaging in some labor force activity, median monthly household cash income was $5,500; for those without labor force activity, such as retired people, this income was $2,979.

On average, about 143 million of the 157 million people in the labor force had a job the entire month. Such individuals had an average median monthly household cash income of $5,751. For those with a job only part of the month, it was $4,001, while it was $2,510 for those without a job the entire month who were looking for work or who were laid off.

Non cash means-tested benefits went to 28.2 million households in an average month. The majority of these households (54 percent) participated in two or more programs. A prevalent form of multiple recipiency (at least 4.6 million households) was the combination of food stamps and Medicaid coverage.

Receiving means-tested government benefits was significantly more common among households with unemployed members or with no labor force participants than among those with job-holders only.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Chronically Ill Older Adults Rely On Others For Care

According to a new report, a majority of those who are married have spouses with at least one chronic illness that can affect their ability to provide support. The findings the importance of health care professionals directly addressing the roles that family members play in the care of their aging parents or other relatives.

The study looked at U.S. residents who were age 51 or older with chronic health problems who participated in the 2006 Health and Retirement Study, a national longitudinal study conducted at the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research and funded by the National Institute on Aging.

Researchers found that 93 percent of the chronically ill older adults had adult children, but for half of them, the children lived more than 10 miles away.

Roughly 19 million older chronically ill Americans have adult children living at a distance, explains Jesse Slome, executive director of the American Association for Long-Term Care Insurance. “Even when a spouse is available, the vast majority struggle with their own chronic medical needs and functional limitations,” Slome adds.

University of Michigan staff are working to develop telephone monitoring systems that involve family members in a relative’s care through e-mail alerts or automated phone calls. The “CarePartners” program has been developed for patients with heart failure, diabetes, depression, and cancer chemotherapy.

The program is being studied as part of randomized trials and community demonstration programs throughout mission as well as internationally.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

New, Low Cost Way to Predict Alzheimer’s Disease

According to scientists a low-cost behavioral assessment can clue someone in to Alzheimer’s disease at its earliest stage. The experts report the ability to detect changes in the progression of mild cognitive impairment (MCI).

MCI is a condition that affects language, memory, and related mental functions. It is distinct from the ordinary mental degradation associated with aging and is a likely precursor to the more serious Alzheimer’s disease. Both MCI and Alzheimer’s are linked to a steady decline in the volume of the hippocampus, the area of the brain responsible for long term memory and spatial reasoning.

MRIs (magnetic resonance imaging) are a reliable and direct way to detect hippocampal atrophy and diagnose MCI. But for many, the procedure is unavailable or too expensive according to Jesse Slome, executive director of the American Association for Long-Term Care Insurance.

Researchers created a much cheaper alternative, based on a memory test, that correlates with hippocampal degradation. From a computer model of an atrophying hippocampus, the researchers determined how to estimate capacity with a statistical measure of how quickly tasks are completed. Applying this analysis to a memory test for people with MCI, the researchers were able to gauge their hippocampal capacity and compare it to the progression of their ailment.

The researchers gave this test to five groups of participants: college students, healthy middle-aged adults, healthy elderly individuals, people with diagnosed cases of MCI, and a control group of age-matched individuals without MCI. The first three groups each had 100 members and the last two each had 50.

They analyzed the response times for the tasks and the number of items that were recalled, with and without additional cues. The MCI group showed the greatest sensitivity to added cues — the additional input either substantially helped or inhibited their performance. But like the computer model, estimates of capacity highlighted the greatest cognitive difference between the MCI group and the others.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Self Administered Tests Could Screen Early Dementia Risk

The handwritten self-assessment takes less than 15 minutes to complete and is a reliable tool for evaluating cognitive abilities. Findings confirming the validity of the tool are reported in the current issue of the journal Alzheimer Disease and Associated Disorders.

“This is great news for adults in their 50s and early 60s who can still qualify for long-term care insurance,” explains Jesse Slome, director of the American Association for Long-Term Care Insurance. Dementia and alzheimer’s are the most costly conditions among aging seniors. “Once a cognitive condition is diagnosed, there’s no way an individual will qualify for insurance,” Slome notes.

Ohio State University Medical Center medical experts developed the Self-Administered Gerocognitive Examination (SAGE) to help identify individuals with mild thinking and memory impairments at an early stage. The research shows four out of five people (80 percent) with mild thinking and memory (cognitive) issues will be detected by this test, and 95% of people who are normal thinking will have normal SAGE scores.

Many of the assessment tools for cognitive disorders being used today, while accurate, have aspects that deter their use. Other diagnostic tests require the patient to use a computer, which can add heightened anxiety to some older adults who may be infrequent users of technology.

The SAGE self-assessment is a practical tool for a busy primary care office said the test developer who makes the tests available free of charge to healthcare personnel. It only takes a paper, pen and a few minutes to take the test and because it’s self-administered, it doesn’t necessarily take time away from the appointment. “They can take the test in the waiting room while waiting for the doctor,” said Scharre.

The study involved 254 study participants, 59 years of age or older, who took the SAGE self-assessment. Sixty-three (63) individuals were randomly selected to have a one-day clinical evaluation utilizing a battery of physical, neurological and cognitive tests.

SAGE scores compared favorably with the mini-mental state examination (MMSE), a brief questionnaire test that is commonly used in medicine to screen for cognitive impairments and dementia.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Small Business Owners Unaware of Long-Term Care Tax Deductions

The majority of small and mid-sized business owners are not familiar with the tax deductible benefits available when offering long-term care insurance plan to employees. According to one insurance company executive, tax-deductible long-term care insurance remains the best-kept secret and employers are missing out on billions of dollars of potential tax savings.

Federal and a growing number of states now offer tax deductions and tax credits for the purchase of long-term care insurance. The cost of coverage may be fully tax deductible to the business and a great deal of flexibility can be offered when initiating a plan. In addition, corporate pricing breaks of 5 percent to 10 percent, in addition to substantial spousal or couples discounts, are the norm.

According to the 2009 edition of A Business Owner’s Guide To Long-Term Care Insurance, any form of business ownership can enjoy deductions for a long-term care insurance premium. Benefits received are, as a rule, always tax-free. Premiums might be considered imputed income to an employee depending on how the company is held.

Insurers offer various forms of long-term care insurance plans designed specifically to meet the needs of either small or large employers. Policies can be personally owned but company-paid, thus staying with the insured after he or she leaves a company or retires.

Long-term care insurance offers great design flexibility for employers. For example, employers can pick and choose who participates in a plan. Properly done, there are no ERISA issues, unlike group health insurance, according to tax experts. These plans are often called “carve-outs” which allow employers to be “selective” when determining who would be covered under a long-term care insurance benefit.

Policy design provisions enable employers to pay premiums for fixed periods of time, at which point the policy is paid up for life. One of the significant benefits is that policy benefit amounts keep increasing under inflation protection options with no risk of future long-term care insurance rate hikes.

According to American Association for Long Term Care Insurance experts, policies available to employers may allow two spouses to share one benefit pool. This has the potential to double the benefit any single insured might have and eliminates much of the problem as it pertains to the benefit period chosen. At the death of one spouse, the other typically inherits the other remaining benefits free of charge.