Thursday, November 27, 2014

Answers to Every Possible Thanksgiving Health Question For 2014

Source: Fan favorites and responses from
James Hamblin at The Atlantic

This is going to be an okay Thanksgiving. 
Here's what everyone is asking.

Does turkey really make you sleepy, or does that just happen because we're all fatties and eat too much at Thanksgiving dinner? —Delaney Chambers, Washington, DC

Overeating and boredom and a paradoxical response to stress lead to sleep. The turkey-tryptophan story is one of the greatest lies ever in all of history.

What's all this about spatchcocking? Sam Wells, Flint, MI

It lets you cook a turkey in 45 minutes, and all you have to do is remove the spine. Why is anyone not doing this? Spatchcocking got really popular in 2012, but it's been around a lot longer.

What's a good recipe for pumpkin pie if I'm on the Paleo diet? Chet Woodhaul, Hammond, IN

None. You either eat like a real caveperson or you eat pumpkin pie, but you don't get to do both. Not this time.

How much turkey do I have to consume to absorb the drinks I need to survive Thanksgiving, and not get "too drunk"? —Tanvi Misra, Washington, DC

The protein and fat in turkey will slow the absorption of alcohol more than carbs will. You could also just drink less and eat less? But then! It wouldn't be a holiday, now, would it. [Cackles]

If I eat my Thanksgiving meal over the course of two hours instead of 10 minutes, is that healthier? Will I gain less weight and have fewer heart attacks? —Alana Semuels, New York, NY

Yes. If you eat more slowly you'll probably eat less. How many heart attacks are you having right now?

Has your stance on Tofurkey changed? I know the company sent you a big box of Tofurkey after you made fun of their name last year.Steve Perkiss, Hillsboro, KY

It's just such a terrible word. I really can't eat it without telling like 10 people "I had Tofurkey for lunch" and then laughing like a weirdo. Hearing that demon word come out of my own mouth just shakes my whole sense of who I am as a person, my sense of ease and safety in my own body. But it's actually not terrible stuff.

For purposes of plate balancing, pumpkin pie counts as a vegetable, right? Carl Johnson, Washington, DC

For purposes of plate balancing, yes.

Are there any health concerns I should be aware of when my children cover every one of their fingers with black olives? —Alan Taylor, Boston, MA

Only the health concern of that being too adorable! And the possible development of another serious health condition I won't get into here.

If you accidentally forget to remove the plastic bag filled with giblets from inside your turkey, and cook the whole thing, will the toxic plastic fumes ruin the whole bird, or can a simple airing-out make things both palatable and healthy? —Alan Taylor, Boston, MA

This one I looked up before: According to the FDA, if you forget to take out the bag of giblets, and it melts "or changes shape in any way," you shouldn't eat the turkey. I got a sort of similar question from Rose, too:

What is the relative risk of getting food poisoning from cooking stuffing inside the bird compared to the relative risk of having not-as-tasty stuffing when it's cooked outside the bird? —Rose Eveleth, New York, NY

The CDC says you can cook it inside of the turkey, as long as you put a thermometer into the stuffing and make sure it gets to 165 degrees Fahrenheit to kill the bacteria. Also, you guys know that the USDA has a "meat and poultry hotline"? 1-888-MPHotline. Who knew that poultry wasn't meat?

The best part of green bean casserole is the strange mini-onion-ring topping. How unhealthy is that part of the casserole, or is it balanced out (along with the cream of mushroom soup) by the massing of green beans? Also, what a weird dish, when you think about it. —Alan Taylor, Boston, MA

Alan, I love your questions. Next year let's do the whole thing between you and me. You can do the answers, too. I'll just watch. Okay, so, the green beans in green bean casserole never did anything for anyone. If the topping is your favorite part, just make sure you sit close to the casserole and then scrape off a few big spoonfuls before you pass it.

If I run a Turkey Trot in the morning can I eat the turkey skin?Sophie Gilbert, Washington, DC

You know I am pro skin, even gravy-filled skin bowls. I thought my town was the only one with a Turkey Trot! I didn't know that was a thing. Yes, that's how exercise and food work.

Is it better to eat earlier in the day (say, 1:00 p.m. versus 5:00 p.m.) so that there's more time to burn off calories, or is that offset by the inevitable scrounging for leftovers around 7:00 p.m.? —Libby Bawcombe, Washington, DC

Don't worry about calories, but, yes a later meal is better because anticipation is such a valuable thing.

People are always nervous their family members will say something embarrassing. Could anxiety be good for digestion? —Derek Thompson, New York, NY

It's actually terrible for digestion. Your bowels are just an extension of your brain. Good luck!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

All about that baste...

Calorie count to appear 
with many prepared foods

Calories don’t count on holidays. Apparently, the FDA didn’t get the memo since yesterday, it served up rules for nationwide nutritional information labeling. The rules apply to all US restaurants and movie theaters with more than 20 locations. That also includes grocery stores and places where take-out-meals are sold. And no, your cocktail isn’t safe. The new standard also applies to alcoholic drinks listed on menus. My eyes! My eyes! These rules have been a long time coming – menu labeling became a requirement in 2010 as part of the Affordable Care Act, but the final rules were delayed after pizza and movie theater chains put up a fight. The new rules (cough, the end of blissful ignorance, cough) will be go into effect within a year.

Wait... there's more

WASHINGTON (AP) — "Americans eat and drink about one-third of their calories away from home, and people today expect clear information about the products they consume," FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg said.



Calorie content will appear on menus and menu boards in chain restaurants, bakeries, coffee shops, pizza delivery stores, movie theaters, amusement parks and any other locations that are part of a larger chain and serve prepared foods. They will also apply to some prepared foods in supermarkets and convenience stores.
The idea is that people may avoid that burger and fries if they add up the calories — and retailers may make their foods healthier to keep calorie counts down.
The menus and menu boards will tell diners that a 2,000-calorie diet is used as the basis for daily nutrition, noting that individual calorie needs may vary. Additional nutritional information beyond calories, including sodium, fats, sugar and other items, must be available upon request.


Calorie labeling became law as part of health overhaul in early 2010, almost five years ago. Hamburg says writing the rules was challenging because of the need to navigate concerns of the varied establishments that sell food. Supermarkets, convenience stores and pizza deliverers lobbied hardest against the rules.
Restaurant chains went along with the rule as a way to dodge an uneven patchwork of local rules and pushed for the other establishments to be included.


Representatives of supermarkets have said the rules could cover thousands of items in each store, far more than restaurants. To address that, FDA excluded prepared foods that are typically intended for more than one person to eat and require more preparation, like deli meats, cheeses or bulk deli salads. But a sandwich sold in a grocery store would have to have a calorie label.
In some cases foods will have to be labeled in one part of the store but not in another. Cut fruit would be labeled in a salad bar, for example, but not in a container for sale, because that is generally meant to take home and eat over a period of time. The FDA says the idea is to label calories of foods that are meant to be eaten at the store or as takeout, rather than for further preparation at home.
Leslie G. Sarasin, president and CEO of the Food Marketing Institute, said the group is extremely disappointed in the rules, which she said will affect stores' offerings of "fresh, minimally processed, locally produced items" such as cut cantaloupe, mixed salads or steamed seafood.


One surprise in the final rules is that alcoholic drinks will have to be labeled if they are listed on menus. Alcohol had been exempted in rules proposed three years ago.
Nutrition advocates say customers often don't realize how many calories they are drinking when they order beverages like margaritas and ice cream drinks. Drinks ordered at the bar won't have to be labeled if they aren't on a menu.


New York City was first in the country to put a calorie-posting law in place, and other cities and states have followed. McDonald's and other restaurant chains already put calorie labels on menus and menu boards. The labels are popular with many, but it's too soon to know whether they'll affect obesity rates.
A recent Agriculture Department study found the diets of people who use nutritional information are markedly better than those who don't, and healthy eaters had more interest in the labels. The USDA paper concluded that it "may be too optimistic" to expect that those who don't use nutrition information will adopt healthier diets if exposed to it.


Even before the new rules were announced, some Republicans in Congress had expressed concern that they would be too burdensome.
Sen. Roy Blunt, a Missouri Republican, introduced a bill in the Senate earlier this year that would narrow the scope of the labeling. He said in a statement Tuesday that the regulations could hurt job growth and impose unnecessary costs on some businesses. He said he would "continue to push back" on the rules.
Source: All about that baste: theSkimm- November 26th, 2014; Chron- Calorie count to appear with many prepared foods

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Lung cancer awareness month

November is lung cancer awareness month.

According to the American Lung Association, lung cancer is the nation’s top cancer killer.
Most lung cancer is found in its later stages when it may be treatable but is not curable.
People at high risk for lung cancer should be screened.
High risk criteria includes people between the ages of 55 and 74, who have smoked within the past 15 years, are healthy enough to tolerate cancer treatment if lung cancer is found, and smoked for at least 30 pack years. Pack years are calculated by multiplying the number of packs smoked each day by the number of years someone has smoked – for example, 2 packs a day for 15 years equals 30 pack years.
In 2015, many private insurers will be required to cover lung cancer screening in this high risk group.
Also, recently the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, or CMS, proposed that lung cancer screening be covered by medicare in this group as well. A final determination is expected in the next few months.
While screening may catch lung cancer early, quitting smoking to prevent lung cancer in the first place is best.
It’s common for small lung nodules to turn up in a lung cancer screening scan which can lead to additional procedures, scans and emotional distress.
That’s why only those at highest risk show the most benefit from screening.
Source: WWSB My Suncoast Health Lung Cancer Awareness Month

Friday, November 21, 2014

Brokers predict increase in employers dropping group health coverage

As renewal data for 2015 group health plans roll in, benefit advisers say they’re seeing double-digit premium increases and a wave of employers electing to drop group health coverage altogether. That trend, they say, is expected to accelerate in 2015.

Seventy-eight percent of brokers surveyed by the San Francisco, Calif.-based technology solutions company Benefitter say they’ve had clients drop group health coverage this year, with a surprising 17% saying they expect to lose more than one-quarter of their business.
“That’s a faster acceleration than we would have expected,” says Benefitter’s CEO Brian Poger, but understandable since individual rates are rising at a more manageable level.
“The fact that rates are continuing to climb significantly in the small-group market, even faster than health care inflation, we believe will cause this trend to accelerate,” he adds.
Kelly Fristoe, an adviser with Financial Partners in Wichita Falls, Texas, says he has several clients considering dropping health care coverage and sending employees to the exchange.
“I’m working on several Jan. 1 2015 effective rate renewals and three out of the eight on my desk right now are considering dropping health care coverage altogether. One of those is definitely dropping it,” he says.
For some employers, health insurance is no longer affordable. One-third of brokers surveyed by Benefitter observed rate increases above 60%.
Further, “a small group that has 15 lives usually doesn’t have the HR resources to manage the notifications and reporting requirements of the ACA, not to mention ERISA requirements.”
Fristoe adds, “All these employers want to do is go back to their business. They don’t want to be in the insurance business anymore.”
He says some employers would rather not assume the risks involved with offering group health care coverage and are choosing to increase salaries as an effort to help their employees purchase individual coverage. For some employers, their employees can actually find more affordable options on the individual market, particularly if they qualify for subsidies under the Affordable Care Act.
Fristoe cautions, however, that employers considering dropping coverage and sending their employees to the exchanges need to make certain their employees won’t be disqualified for subsidies through an offer of coverage from a spouse’s employer.

Employer size matters

Brokers told Benefitter that double-digit increases were affecting 77% of small-group employers (10-50 lives) and 75% of mid-size clients (50-250 lives), with 60% of large employers seeing double-digit increases.
Barry Fields, vice president of employee benefits with the Holmdel, New Jersey-based agency Jacobson Goldfarb Scott Insurance, handles mostly midsize to large employers and says none of his clients have dropped group health coverage this year. In fact, he says, many are expanding coverage to employees working 30 hours a week or more, who may not have been covered previously.
For small employers, however, Fristoe says, the numbers dropping group coverage will likely increase, especially in 2016 when grandfathered and grandmothered plans will no longer qualify as acceptable coverage.
Still, he says that while some of his firm’s small-group clients have decided to drop coverage, they still remain clients of the firm.
“When a small-group employer decides to drop health care coverage, there’s a morale issue to deal with amongst the employees,” he says. “We’ve helped our clients through that. The successful brokers are the ones that are going to be able to do that.”
“We’re trying to be strategic in how we approach our renewals,” he says. “They still want us to come in and we’re not ready to lose that business. But we may have to work a little harder.”
Fristoe says for his small employer clients that drop coverage, he walks each employee through the process of enrolling for individual coverage on and off the exchange.
Benefitter also works with brokers who want to move employees to individual coverage, offering a range of Web-based tools that help administer employee notices and guide employees to the individual market and through the insurance-selection process.
In the changing post-ACA insurance environment, Poger says brokers have three choices: They can watch their book of business dwindle as employers drop coverage, be reactive by setting up shop to help enroll individuals; or create and use new approaches to enrolling their clients,
“The existing approach isn’t working anymore,” he adds.
Source: Employee Benefit Adviser- Brokers predict increase in employers dropping group health coverage.

Has your employer dropped healthcare coverage?

If your employer has cut back on provided healthcare benefits, contact Solidarity Health Network today to review your options.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Why can't employers pay for employees to go to the exchanges?

On November 6, the Department of Labor issued FAQ Part 22, which directly addresses some recent efforts by employers to reimburse employees for participation in the exchange through Code Section 105, or through some type of other arrangement. Here are the questions, with shortened answers.

Q1: My employer offers employees cash to reimburse 
the purchase of an individual market policy. 
Does this arrangement comply with the market reforms?

No. If the employer uses an arrangement that provides cash reimbursement for the purchase of an individual market policy, the employer’s payment arrangement is part of a plan, fund, or other arrangement established or maintained for the purpose of providing medical care to employees, without regard to whether the employer treats the money as pre-tax or post-tax to the employee. Under the Departments’ prior published guidance, the cash arrangement fails to comply with the market reforms because the cash payment cannot be integrated with an individual market policy.

Q2: My employer offers employees with high claims risk a choice between enrollment 
in its standard group health plan or cash. 
Does this comply with the market reforms

No. PHS Act section 2705, as well as the nondiscrimination provisions of ERISA and HIPAA prohibit discrimination based on one or more health factors. Offering, only to employees with a high claims risk, a choice between enrollment in the standard group health plan or cash, constitutes such discrimination. Also, because the choice between taxable cash and a tax-favored qualified benefit (the election of coverage under the group health plan) is required to be a Code section 125 cafeteria plan, imposing an effective additional cost to elect coverage under the group health plan could, depending on the facts and circumstances, also result in discrimination in favor of highly compensated individuals in violation of the Code section 125 cafeteria plan nondiscrimination rules.

Q3: A vendor markets a product to employers claiming that employers can cancel their group policies, set up a Code section 105 reimbursement plan that works with health insurance brokers or agents to help employees select individual insurance policies, and allow eligible employees to access the premium tax credits for Marketplace coverage.
Is this permissible?

No. The departments have been informed that some vendors are marketing such products. However, these arrangements are problematic for several reasons. First, the arrangements are themselves group health plans and, therefore, employees participating in such arrangements are ineligible for premium tax credits for marketplace coverage. The mere fact that the employer does not get involved with an employee’s individual selection or purchase of an individual health insurance policy does not prevent the arrangement from being a group health plan. Second, such arrangements are subject to the market reform provisions of the Affordable Care Act, including prohibition on annual limits and the requirement to provide certain preventive services without cost sharing. Such employer health care arrangements cannot be integrated with individual market policies to satisfy the market reforms and, therefore, will violate PHS Act sections 2711 and 2713, among other provisions, which can trigger penalties such as excise taxes under section 4980D of the Code.
So if you are thinking the solution to compliance is to simply pay for your employee to participate in the exchange, make sure you understand the answers to these questions. Clearly the department is aware that employers have considered this as a solution and are giving it careful scrutiny.
Source: Employee Benefit Adviser- Keith R. McMurdy- Why can't employers pay for employees to go to the exchanges?

Monday, November 10, 2014

10 Excuses for Not Getting a Flu Shot Busted

Pregnant women, people with egg allergies, and those with a needle phobia can all be safely vaccinated against the flu.

When flu season rolls around, there are always some people who come up with reasons to not get immunized. The list of excuses is long, but not one of them is valid, according to Christopher A. Ohl, MD, a professor of infectious diseases at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.
Here are the most common excuses not to get a flu shot and why they don't hold any water:

1. I'm healthy. 
I don't need a flu shot.

"Even though you didn't get the flu last year, this may be the year," Dr. Ohl cautions. "No one wants to be sick. It's miserable." If protecting yourself isn't reason enough to get vaccinated, consider others who are at greater risk for flu-related complications, particularly young children, older adults, and those with chronic health issues. "These people are more likely to be hospitalized and have more serious problems," Ohl says, so if you protect yourself against the flu, you're also protecting those around you.

2. The flu shot 
can give you the flu.

The flu vaccine is made in more than one way. One version is made with an inactivated, or dead, flu virus. Because it's dead, the virus cannot give you the flu. The flu vaccine is also available in the form of a nasal spray or mist made with a weakened live flu virus that has been cold-adapted. It can't cause infection at the warm temperatures inside your body. Another type is made with recombinant DNA technology and an insect virus known as baculovirus. Since this vaccine doesn't contain any flu virus, it can't cause the flu. There are many other respiratory viruses going around during flu season that may be mistaken for the flu, Ohl points out. "People get rhinovirus or RSV [respiratory syncytial virus] and think it came from the flu shot," he says.

3. The flu shot is risky 
and doesn't work.

Severe allergic reactions from a flu vaccine are very rare. In fact, the chances of this happening are about 1 in a million, according to the United States Department of Health and Human Services. On the other hand, every year about 5 to 20 percent of people in the United States are infected with the flu, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports. The flu vaccine reduces the likelihood that you'll catch it. In some cases, it can prevent complications and save lives.

4. I got a flu shot 
last year.

Flu viruses are constantly changing so flu vaccines are updated every year to protect against the strains that scientists predict will be most common that particular year. After you get a flu shot, your immunity also declines over time, Ohl adds. Because of these factors, the flu shot you got last year won't protect you from the flu this year. You need to be vaccinated every year. 

5. I have an egg allergy

Although those with an egg allergy should not use the flu mist, most people with this allergy can safely get a flu shot made with the inactivated flu virus, according to the CDC. Those from 18 to 49 years old can also get the flu vaccine that's made using recombinant DNA techniques — that version doesn't use eggs at all.

6. I'm pregnant.

Pregnancy changes put women at greater risk for the flu and flu-related complications, according to the CDC. Pregnant women who get the flu are also at increased risk for preterm delivery. The flu vaccine protects you and your baby for the infant's first 6 months of life. Although pregnant women should not receive the flu mist or spray, the inactivated flu shot is safe, according to the CDC.

7. I don’t have time 
to get a flu shot. 
I'll do it later.

It takes about 2 weeks for the flu vaccine to become fully effective, Ohl points out. Putting it off increases your chance of being infected.

8. I waited too long.

Flu outbreaks can happen as early as October, though activity usually doesn't peak until January. However, some cases are even reported in the spring. Although getting vaccinated early is best, the CDC recommends getting the vaccine in December or January if you haven't already.

9. I don't like shots.

If a needle phobia is the problem, consider the intradermal flu shot, which is injected into the skin, not the muscle. As a result, it requires a much smaller needle than the regular shot. It's appropriate for adults 18 to 64 years old. Or, consider the nasal spray vaccine, approved for most people 2 to 49 years old.

10. There are drugs to treat the flu.

Although there are antiviral medications that can ease symptoms and speed recovery, they aren't the first line of defense, according to the CDC. Getting immunized is the best way to protect yourself against the virus.
Source: everyday Health: 10 Excuses for Not Getting a Flu Shot Busted- Mary Elizabeth Dallas

Thursday, November 6, 2014

November is Long-Term Care Insurance Awareness Month

Who needs it?

Given that the cost of long-term care can quickly deplete your life’s savings, you should seriously consider adding long-term care insurance to your financial plan. Plus, there’s about a 70% chance you’ll need some type of long-term care after age 65.
Should you ever require it, a home health aide visit costs about $20 an hour, while full-time nursing home care in a private room, the most expensive type of care, now has a median cost of almost $88,000 a year. In some regions of the country, like the Northeast, the cost may be well above that amount.1 While financial considerations cannot be understated, long-term care insurance is also about peace of mind and control. Having it ensures you’ll have access to first-rate care when you need it, and that you won’t have to be dependent on others or be a burden to your children. The odds you’ll need long-term care insurance are greater than you might imagine.
Long-term care services are not just for older people: Anyone who’s has been in an accident or suffers from a debilitating illness may also require round the clock care. In fact, 40% of patients receiving long-term care are under age 65. If you can afford to pay for care without significantly impacting your assets, you may not need long-term care insurance. Conversely, if your assets, not including your home, are less than $80,000 if you’re married, or $30,000 if you’re single, you may not be able to afford the premiums. But If you’re somewhere in between, long-term care insurance should be part of the discussion the next time you sit down with an advisor to review your financial plans.

Types of care

Long-term care insurance pays for a wide range of services and procedures that typically aren’t covered by medical insurance. The types of care fall into three categories: skilled, intermediate and custodial.
If you have a serious illness or injury that you can recover from, you will probably receive skilled care from nurses or professional therapists. Skilled care is provided daily, usually ordered by a physician, and involves a treatment plan. In short, skilled care helps get you better.
Intermediate Care
This type of care is similar to skilled care, but not provided on a daily basis. For instance, if you injured your leg and need to visit a physical therapist five times a week to help you heal, that would be considered intermediate care.
Custodial Care
Unlike skilled and intermediate care, which is used to improve your health, custodial care isn’t intended to heal you. Instead, custodial care includes assistance with daily activities like bathing, eating, dressing, toileting (getting on and off the toilet and other tasks associated with personal hygiene), continence and transferring (getting in and out of bed and chairs). Catheter or colostomy maintenance is also included. Custodial care can range from in-home care provided two or three days a week, to 24-hour nursing home care.

Cost of Care Map

Go to  to view a map showing the median annual cost of nursing home care, and the hourly/annual cost of home health care, for all 50 states.
Select which type of care you’re interested in from the drop-down menu and then roll over any state to see the costs

Getting Coverage

The three primary ways to get long-term care coverage are to buy it on your own with the help of an agent, through your employer, or through an association/membership group. Some benefits also are available from the government, through Medicare and Medicaid.
However, you should be careful about relying on government programs. Medicare covers only short-term skilled nursing home care, and Medicaid will pay for your care only if your assets are very limited.
Some states have Long-Term Care Insurance Partnership Programs that allow you to buy private long-term care insurance and remain eligible for Medicaid benefits if your private insurance runs out. Read on to learn more about the various sources of protection.
Buy It on Your Own
Purchasing it yourself with the help of an agent who specializes in long-term care insurance provides you with a lot of flexibility and options. Your agent can help you shop around for the best policy among multiple insurance companies, and customize a plan to include the combination of features and benefits that works best for your needs and budget.
If you’re in good health, you may qualify for preferred pricing. That’s because the policy will be individually underwritten, meaning the insurance company will base its price on a thorough medical exam and personal health history.
Get It Through Your Employer
A growing number of employers offer group long-term care insurance as a voluntary employee benefit. Typically, an employer will contract with a particular insurance carrier and allow its employees to purchase coverage, often through automatic payroll deductions.
Because employees pay for coverage out of their own pockets, the policies are almost always portable, meaning you can keep them in force if you change jobs. One potential advantage of buying through your employer is that you can sometimes get coverage that would have been more difficult to obtain on the open market. This is especially true of employees who have health problems or a poor family health history.
Why? Because with most group plans, employees are offered the same premium as others in their general age bracket (e.g., 45-54 year olds), regardless of their health status or actual age. So if you’re an older employee or perhaps have some health issues, the one-size-fits-all premium offered through your employer may be lower than what you’d be able to obtain if you tried to get coverage on your own. A downside of buying through work is that you’re limited to the companies and products that your employer makes available to you through your benefits package, and you might be able to find a better price or policy by shopping on your own.
Purchase It Through an Association or Membership Group
Policies offered through alumni groups, trade groups and other organizations are another option that may be available to you. The pros and cons are similar to employer-sponsored coverage. Premiums are often discounted and are based primarily on your age and health. You may, however, be limited in your ability to customize the policy to your specific needs.
Benefits Through the Government
Medicare is the federal government’s program that pays health-care bills for older Americans. When it comes to long-term care, there’s a common misconception that Medicare will pay a good chunk of the cost of long-term care. Not true. Medicare only covers short-term skilled nursing home care that you receive after being hospitalized for at least three days.
For instance, if you get in a car accident, Medicare may cover your care in a rehabilitation facility for a period of up to 100 days. Medicare also pays for some skilled at-home care but only for short-term unstable medical conditions and not for the ongoing assistance that many elderly people need. Medicare will not pay for any custodial care, and 95% of all long-term care is custodial, not skilled. For more information, visit the Medicare website.
Medicaid is the federal government’s program that pays health-care bills for Americans who meet federal poverty guidelines. In addition to covering doctor visits, hospital stays and other standard medical expenses, Medicaid pays for about half of all nursing home costs in the U.S and a smaller, but growing, portion of the nation’s home care costs. But remember, Medicaid will only pay for care if you have very limited assets.
Qualifications vary by state, but generally you may keep only the house in which your spouse or dependent resides, the furniture, a car, a burial plot and funeral funds, and a modest amount of cash. Having Medicaid pay for your care also means you may not have much say in choosing the facility that will provide your care. For more information, visit the Medicaid website.
Partnership Programs and Tax Incentives
To encourage more Americans to take responsibility for their future care needs, the government has developed a variety of incentives to reward those who buy long-term care insurance. Here are some you should know about.
Partnership programs: Long-term care insurance partnership programs are designed to encourage consumers to buy private long-term care insurance, which will help you avoid spending down most of your assets to qualify for Medicaid-sponsored long-term care. Over the long haul, these partnerships between states and private insurance companies save money for both consumers and the government. Programs vary by state, so talk to your agent about how this could apply to you.
Federal tax incentives: If you buy a federally qualified policy (and most policies are), your insurance premiums may be deductible as part of your medical expenses on federal tax returns and benefits are received tax-free.
State tax incentives: A majority of states have a state tax incentive for residents who purchase long-term care insurance.
Make sure to consult with your tax advisor to fully understand which tax benefits may apply to your particular situation.

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