Tuesday, October 12, 2010 Edition #580

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Today’s Highlights:
1st Flash: MEDICARE AND YOU   Past issues of GCFlash:

October 5, 2010 Edition #579
September 28, 2010 Edition #578
September 21, 2010 Edition #577
September 14, 2010 Edition #576

Looking for articles from a past issue of GCFlash not listed above? Find them in our Knowledge Base!
2nd Flash:  HOW LONG BEFORE I CAN TOSS IT?


On The World Wide Web

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services have compiled a brochure detailing changes in the Affordable Care Act that affect their programs. Download it here.

The AARP provides valuable information on Medicare on their web site.

Medx Publishing Co., a leading publisher of Medicare information, translates the complicated topic to make covered products and services easy to understand. Visit medicare.com for a wealth of practical information and tools.
Tip of the Week

Ponzi schemes have gone viral. High-yield investment program schemes, HYIPS, are luring victims through social media sites such as YouTube, Twitter and Facebook. These scams promise returns of 20 to 100 percent per day. One such scheme, called Pathway to Prosperity, bilked $70 million out of 40,000 investors in 120 countries. Beware of any investment type promising high returns, no matter where you learn of it.

Quotable

"When wealth is lost, nothing is lost; when health is lost, something is lost; when character is lost, all is lost." - Billy Graham

Today in History

2000 - A suicide bomb attack on the USS Cole in Yeman killed 17 sailors and wounded 39.

Flash Fact

The $1 bill, used most often, wears out and has to be replaced in 21 months. A $100 bill can last more than seven years.

Have a comment about something you read in GCFlash? Suggestions for future articles? Drop us an email!
Weekly Spotlight:

Have you been a victim of Identity Theft? Use our Identity Theft Repair Kit, which includes a helpful Resolutions Worksheet to help you keep track of the organizations you contact.

Our Current Rates:

For a listing of our current deposit and loan rates, visit www.gcfbank.com/rates.aspx.

1st Flash
MEDICARE AND YOU

The Affordable Care Act brought sweeping changes to the healthcare industry. Medicare was likewise affected by the reform. As with all provisions of this Act, changes will be phased in over time.

Recipients should learn how these changes affect you. Doing so now gives you time to consider what revisions you'll need to make during the annual open enrollment period of November 15th through December 31st.

Lifestyle changes or health concerns may change your needs. Your current plan may no longer be the best one for you.

Medicare plans change also. Premiums can go up or down, a prescription you take may no longer be included in their plan, or your doctor may not participate. These factors have to be taken into consideration in choosing the right plan for you.

Are you on a Medicare Advantage Plan? You can switch back to original Medicare during open enrollment if that better fits your current needs. Or you can switch from one Medicare Advantage Plan to another.

You can join a plan that offers drug coverage or drop drug coverage completely during open enrollment.

Affordable prescription drugs are a key element in healthcare Act provisions affecting Medicare. Seniors struggle with the "donut hole" created in Part D coverage. Initial plan coverage provides benefits for amounts up to $2,700 of a recipient's annual prescription drug expenditures. No further benefits are available until the catastrophic level of $6,154 is reached.

In June of this year, the government began sending a one-time $250 rebate to seniors upon reaching this coverage gap that weren't already receiving Medicare Extra Help. Next year, those reaching this gap will receive a 50 percent discount on Part D covered brand name prescription drugs. The discount will increase over the next ten years until the gap is closed completely in 2020.

Realize this discount only applies to brand name drugs appearing on your Plan's formulary list. You may see steeper savings if a generic equivalent is available.

Certain preventive care services will be offered free beginning next year as part of the Act. Colorectal cancer screenings and mammograms will be free, as well as an annual physical.

Medicare fraud is estimated at $100 billion annually. You can bet it plays a key role in healthcare costs. Scam artists will trick seniors into enrolling in Plans that do not exist. They'll steal the personal information provided in the application to claim benefits in their victim's name. And wipe out their bank accounts.

A large portion of fraud is committed through false claims or institutions overcharging for their services. Or fraudulently billing your company for a service you never received.

Request an itemized copy of your hospital bill. Confirm you received every service, drug or supply that appears. If you spot an outrageous charge, like a $50 aspirin, dispute it immediately.

All insurance companies send an Explanation of Benefits (EOB) whenever a claim is processed against your policy. Examine them closely. Report anything unusual to your insurer immediately.

If you're not using a wheelchair or taking a particular drug, your policy should not be providing a benefit for them. Don't just laugh off such a notice as a clerical error, they serve as a fraud alert. And we all pay the cost through higher premiums.

Medicare coverage is quite complex. Make sure you fully understand your options before enrolling in a plan. You can compare them on Medicare's web site.

It might be a good topic to discuss with family during a holiday visit. There's no better gift than peace of mind to give yourself and your loved ones.

2nd Flash
HOW LONG BEFORE I CAN TOSS IT?

An end to clutter in our mailboxes and on our kitchen tables. Everything will be communicated electronically, no more paper! Or so claimed visionaries as we entered the digital age.

Look around you. While electronics have certainly improved communications, I'm betting you have just as many stacks of papers on your desk as I'm looking at right now. And like me, you probably know exactly which pile holds particular documents and can retrieve what you're looking for effortlessly, despite appearances.

Improved communications has increased productivity. Read that to mean you can squeeze more into less time. Think of what you can achieve in an equal amount of time. And grasp for all you can accomplish working an extra hour here and there.

Yet the day still holds only 24 of those precious hours. So while you're basking in your achievements, other chores are falling behind. Like sorting the mail. So it gets tossed in the "get to it soon" pile, already staggering under the weight of a full load.

The clutter grows. The circle goes unbroken.

Except now we have volumes of digital data to organize along with all the paper clutter.

Fortunately, all documents have an end to their usefulness, regardless of their importance. Once you know when it's ok to toss the paper and shred the digital, you begin to regain table space.

Certain documents need to be retained forever. Items like birth certificates, passports, adoption papers, marriage and divorce records, Social Security cards, military records and wills should be kept in a fireproof box for protection.

The IRS will go back no more than three years for a routine audit. If they find you under-reported your income by more than 25 percent, they can go back twice that far. If you failed to file a return or submitted a fraudulent one, they can go back to the beginning of time.

Assuming you file your income taxes honestly, you can toss tax returns and supporting documents after seven years. But first, make sure your income is properly reported in your Social Security records. Employers who are closing their operation don't always tie up all ends properly before doing so. Mistakes can appear in your record, and you'll need proof of what you truly did earn to resolve them.

Your monthly and quarterly investment statements should be saved throughout the calendar year. They can get tossed once you receive your year-end summary, which should be retained along with your income tax records. If you're not planning to act on a prospectus, proxy notice or performance report within two weeks, trash it.

Keep records of major home improvements along with your real estate records. You can add their cost to your original purchase price to reduce the gains on your house when it's sold. You can exclude up to $250,000 in gains from taxes, $500,000 if you're married, when you sell your home. If your home appreciates above that, you'll be able to reduce your tax obligation with proper documentation.

Save your medical receipts throughout the year. Expenses that exceed 7.5 percent of adjusted gross income are deductible. If you don't meet that threshold, it's ok to toss the receipts. Otherwise they become part of your tax records.

Health records should be kept indefinitely. This would include contact information for your physicians, your medical history and prescriptions you are taking. Keep records of any condition you are being treated for five years after you no longer experience symptoms.

Life insurance policies should be kept for the life of the policy plus three years.

Keep utility bills, bank or credit card statements three months. They can be reproduced if need arises after that time. But if you're planning to sell your home, you'll want to hang on to a year's worth of utility bills to share with a potential buyer.

Saving all that paperwork returns us to the clutter problem. Buy a scanner and save your files electronically to watch those stacks of paper shrink. But remember to backup your computer regularly, saving at least two copies of anything you deem important.

Security should be your top priority when tossing out old documents. Buy a cheap shredder for anything that has your address, Social Security or account numbers.

The same holds true when deleting electronic files containing personal data. Simply hitting the delete key or moving it to the Recycle Bin removes the file from the directory, but remnants will remain on your hard drive unless you shred them. Most antivirus products offer this option.

When in doubt about whether to keep a document, use the ten-year rule. It's pretty safe to toss anything you haven't needed in ten years. And I'm fairly certain I'll find items among my desk clutter nearing that mark.

Financial News
There seems to be some confusion as to just what an annuity is. So, an annuity is a financial contract that is an insurance product where the issuer makes future payments to a buyer (annuitant) in exchange for an investment or series of payments. The future payments are made to the beneficiary. The uncertainty of an individual's lifespan is transferred from the individual to the insurer. The insurer has many contracts, reducing the risk on one person. Annuities can be purchased to provide an income during retirement or for other structured settlement.

There are different options available, including fixed or variable annuities. A fixed annuity makes payments with the same amount or with a fixed increase. Variable annuities will change according to the investment performance of a specified set of investments, typically bond and equity mutual funds. Different levels of risk can be taken in the investment choices, just like other investments.

One common reason to use annuities is to defer recognition of taxable gains. Moving gains from one fund to another within an annuity can be done without recognizing gains that would be recognized on a regular investment. As always, a tax advisor should be consulted when making a decision regarding taxes.

Today’s Market Rates
Tuesday, October 12, 2010
Dow Jones Industrial Average
(Up 592.35 or 5.68% since 12/31/09)
11,020.40 (+0.09%)
S&P 500
(Up 54.67 or 4.90% since 12/31/09)
1,169.77 (+0.38%)
Nasdaq
(Up 148.77 or 6.56% since 12/31/09)
2,417.92 (+0.65%)
10 Year Treasury Bond Yield 2.42%  
British Sterling 1.5776  
Euro 1.3912  
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