Friday, September 30, 2011

Health Insurance 102

Like many companies, my employer is moving to strictly account-based health insurance for 2012.  I now have a choice between a high deductible plan with a Health Reimbursement Account (HRA) and an even higher deductible plan with a Health Savings Account (HSA).  This change is of concern even if I weren’t planning to retire, but planning to retire puts a different spin on the plans.

As I see it, account-based plans provide the ability to take care of the everyday medical expenses through the use of money in the accounts while providing true insurance against the expense of catastrophic care.  Both options provide preventive care at 100% with no deductible.  And both options pay for “preventive” prescriptions as though deductible had been met – just at different rates.
This is important, as Paul and I each take one prescription.  Mine retails for $154 a month.  His retails for $3,510.60 a month.   According to, both of our prescriptions are considered “preventive.” 

A significant change in these plans appears to be the lack of an individual out-of-pocket maximum.  In our previous coverage, the cost of Paul’s prescription put us over the out-of-pocket max m id-year.  This assumes that the HRA plan treats his prescription as major medical.
So let’s do the math.  Plans to retire actually puts a third option on the table – have Paul go on Medicare now. 

Medicare + HSA
Annual Premium
Coinsurance for prescriptions

Annual Deductible
Annual Out of Pocket Maximum

Corporate funds to account
Personal funding to account


So far the math looks like the HSA option will be best for us.  We still have a number of questions to be answered before we make this decision.  The significant ones are:
·         Is there an individual out of pocket maximum?
·         How does the HRA plan treat injectable drugs?
·         If I drop Paul from coverage this year, will I be able to get the retiree Medicare supplement when I retire?
·         What happens to the (assumed joint) Health Savings Account once we retire?  Will there be any penalty because Paul goes on Medicare and is no longer eligible, or do I just keep the funds as my own?

Answers to come…

Saturday, September 24, 2011

The Joy of Learning

My retirement plans have always included continuing education.  A while ago I read about the “Osher Lifelong Learning Institute” – a program which provides university based, non-credit educational programs specifically developed for seasoned adults who are aged 50 and older.  Here’s what I found out at
“The Bernard Osher Foundation, headquartered in San Francisco, was founded in 1977 by Bernard Osher, a respected businessman and community leader. The Foundation seeks to improve quality of life through support for higher education and the arts. The Foundation provides post-secondary scholarship funding to colleges and universities across the nation, with special attention to reentry students.
In the fall of 2000, the Foundation began to consider programs targeted toward more mature students, not necessarily well served by the standard continuing education curriculum. Courses in such programs attract students of all ages eager to accumulate units to complete degrees or to acquire career upgrade skills. By contrast, the interest of more senior students, many of whom are at retirement age, is in learning for the joy of learning – without homework or examinations.
At present, the Foundation supports 117 lifelong learning programs on university and college campuses across the country, with at least one grantee in each of the 50 states (plus the District of Columbia). “
Turns out there is an Osher Institute at my local university - which happens to be both my husband’s and my son’s alma mater.  Membership in the institute is $30 per year.  This fall’s class list includes 36 classes in subjects including history, literature, languages, economics, astronomy, and of course, writing.  Wow!  Tuition and fees are minimal, and if I choose to register as a University Student, I could even sit in the Student Section at the football games.  I’m in!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Staying Connected

My first portable computer was a Compaq we bought in 1984.  It weighed about 40 pounds, but it had a handle, making it portable. It also had two floppy disk drives and 256K of memory – more memory than you would ever in your lifetime need.  But because it was “portable” I brought it to work with me.  I like to take credit for bringing the small company I worked for at the time into the computer age – but since that company is long gone I suspect I’ll never be recognized for that technological feat.

Shortly thereafter I started working for a company that made computers.  By then computers in offices were pretty much mainstream – even for companies that didn’t manufacture them.  I received my first company laptop was in 1997; my first remote access in 2003.  I was connected no matter where I was.  I still am.  I can – and do – connect from pretty much anywhere.  Yet another aspect of my life that working for corporate America has so easily enabled.
The point of all this?  I’m not giving up this connectivity when we retire.  Well before the day I turn in the company laptop and wireless cards, I’ll buy a laptop.  And I’ll buy a USB modem. 

I had been researching connectivity options when I happened to be in a Verizon store for a warranty replacement for my Android phone (another connectivity option I’m keeping).  I received great customer service from Verizon throughout the warranty process, by the way.  Kudos to Joseph and Blake in Taylorsville!
Verizon Wireless has a great option – a 4G USB modem that can be plugged into our home computer, where up to five computers can connect via the built-in wireless router – or on the road in my laptop.  And the cost of $50 per month is quite reasonable.  

When you read this blog ten months from now, you’ll know who’s keeping me connected.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Mobility and the Lyric PTV

My husband has multiple sclerosis.  Over the years he has experienced increasing difficulty walking long distances.  Last week he bought a Lyric PTV (personal transportation vehicle) model XOV3R – aka a three-wheel electric scooter.  Lyric manufactures these in Tempe, Arizona, and markets them more to urban customers wanting a more efficient and environmentally friendly way to get around town than to the disabled population.  The Lyric PTV is, well, cool.

But will its coolness hamper its acceptance as a mobility option for the disabled?  Here’s our experience so far:
The Restaurant:  We took the Lyric to the Village Inn around the corner for pie and coffee.  We parked it in the waiting area in front of the restaurant.  The manager was very accommodating, and the Lyric was admired by several customers waiting to be seated.  The waiting area was not crowded.  Had it been, we may have been asked to park the Lyric outside.

The Zoo:  This was our first attempt to put the Lyric in the back seat of a sedan.  With the seat on the Lyric, it doesn’t fold up nicely and didn’t fit in my mid-sized Buick.  No problem – we’ll take the truck.
When we came through the gate, the gate attendant wasn’t sure that the Lyric was allowed in the zoo.  She referred us to Guest Services, who in turn referred us to Security.  The Security guy showed up on a bicycle, looked at the Lyric, went back to chat with Guest Services, and then gave us the go-ahead to take the Lyric in.

The Lyric was great to get between exhibits.  It doesn’t do slower speeds well, however, and was somewhat a challenge to maneuver through crowds – particularly all the young children.  There were a few exhibits where strollers and wagons were not allowed, so we assumed the Lyric would also not be allowed.  It doesn’t have the tight turning radius that a wheelchair or “disability” scooter has. 
The Casino:  After our experience at the zoo, Paul decided that he would not take the Lyric on our upcoming bus trip to the casino.   He doesn’t feel comfortable taking it indoors.  Turns out, all of the information available on the Lyric indicates it was never designed to be used indoors.  It’s street legal; riders must abide by the same laws as bicycle riders

The Lyric still has great possibilities for the outdoor lifestyle we plan to have in retirement.  We’ll have to see how it does on dirt roads.  We’ll also have to investigate whether or not it will be allowed in National Parks and State Parks.  More to come….

Friday, September 2, 2011

A Visit to Gold's Gym

Last Tuesday I built up my courage and walked through the front door of Gold’s Gym.  Since I own lifetime memberships to not one but two gyms that have gone out of business, I was a little bit leery of commercial fitness facilities.

I was pleasantly surprised.  As my “tour guide”, Antonio, walked me through the facility, I saw people of all ages, weights, and fitness levels.  I was definitely NOT the oldest person in the room.  I asked Antonio, “while I understand that the baby boomers are not your target market, do you have special activities or classes?” His reply – “All ages are our target market.  Fitness is for everyone.”  Perhaps a cliché in the commercial fitness world, but I appreciated his response.  He went on to say that every new member works with a certified personal trainer to establish fitness goals and to learn to use the equipment. 
The facility was impressive.  There were over 40 treadmills, 30 elliptical machines, stationary bikes, various weight machines that I could not begin to name, much less know how to use.  They offer an extensive class schedule including yoga, Pilates, step aerobics, Zumba and kick-boxing.  They offer a lap pool and water aerobics.  They offer “Cardio Cinema” – where you run on the treadmill while you watch a movie.

They did not offer me a lifetime membership.  Whew!  Their main membership plan is $26 a month with a 24 month commitment.  Unfortunately, they do not offer the ability to take a break in the contract for, say three months every summer while we’re camp hosting.  They do, however, offer travel benefits to other Gold’s Gyms throughout the world.