Two-thirds of these monthly payouts are headed to our nation's retired workers, 61% of which rely on their Social Security benefits to account for at least half of their monthly income. The Social Security Administration (SSA) averages your 35 highest-earnings years when calculating your monthly benefit, therefore it's in your best interest to earn as much as you can each year, and to work a minimum of 35 years. Of course, there's a very lucrative reason to hold off on your claim: your benefits grow by about 8% per year for every year that you wait, until age 70. The most important number involving your claim is your full retirement age, or FRA. Put simply, if you claim benefits at any point before hitting your FRA, your benefits will be permanently reduced by up to 25% to 30%, depending on your birth year. Taking Social Security at full retirement age could be a smart move Though the decision of when to claim is entirely personal and dependent on a number of factors, including your income needs, savings, health, and whether a spouse will be reliant on your income (to name a few factors), claiming at your full retirement age might be a great idea. With around three-fifths of seniors dependent on Social Security as a "major" source of income during retirement, seniors' focus should be on maximizing their payout and netting at least 100% of their benefit as opposed to accepting a permanent reduction by claiming before they hit their FRA. If a higher earning spouse waits to claim until their full retirement age, the lower-earning spouse will have the option of taking up to half the spousal benefit based on the higher earnings spouse's work history or their own benefit based on their work and income history. The end result is workers' poor saving and extra cautious investing habits have them extra reliant on Social Security come retirement. Waiting until your full retirement age won't be right for everyone (e.g., those in poor health, lower-income spouses, or those who can't find work or generate income), but for a majority of seniors it looks to be a smart move.
When Jackie Thennes decided to switch doctors earlier this year, the hospital system in her Chicago, Il. suburb seemed like the natural choice. She’d been to the immediate care facility multiple times before for screenings, and the doctor was in-network.
But Thennes, who is 50 and looking for work, got a nasty surprise when the bill arrived in the mail: along with an anticipated charge for the doctor’s visit, she was also charged a “facility fee.” At $235, the fee was slightly more than the doctor’s visit itself.
Thennes tried to contest the charge with the hospital system, but to no avail. And while she said she won’t go to the facility again, she worries about getting hit with the same fee somewhere else.
This is “going to deter me from getting the medical attention I need,” she said. “I’m going to get sick just worrying about it.”
These kinds of facility fees are common at hospitals, where they help pay the hospital system’s overhead costs. But as doctors’ offices increasingly are being bought up by big hospital systems, patients are being charged facility fees of up to hundreds of dollars out-of-pocket without warning and without the ability to contest them.
Hospitals, in return, say these charges are key to their business model, since they must be available for “24/7 access to care for all types of patients, to serve as a safety net provider for vulnerable populations, and to have the resources needed to respond to disasters,” said industry group the American Hospital Association.
There’s also the argument that being part of a big hospital system gets patients better access to care — it might be easier to be admitted into the hospital if necessary, to get a second opinion or consult and share the patient’s health record, said Jack Hoadley, a research professor at Georgetown University.
But, “the question is, does that really materialize for you and your situation?” he said, especially if the doctor’s office is located several miles away from the hospital, or the patient has no need for those additional services.
A policy implemented this year, over industry opposition, may signal somewhat of a sea change. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services will no longer pay facilities located off a hospital’s grounds the same as those based at a hospital, if the facility in question started billing Medicare after November 2015.