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Friday, February 1, 2013


What is a generic medication? What is the difference between generic medicine and branded medicine? This is a question that many of my clients have asked me in the past.

The generic name of a medicine is its chemical name, or the name of the active ingredient present in the medicine. The brand name is a different name that a manufacturer gives it, like a nickname.
usually on the basis that it can be recognized, pronounced and remembered by health professionals and members of the public.

Generic medications have the exact same active ingredients as the branded medicine; the only difference is the name and the marketing campaign behind it. All generic medications must pass through the same approval processes as the branded ones. 

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) makes sure that all generic medications have the exact strength, form, and active ingredients as branded medication. The inactive ingredients, such as colorings and fillers, may be different in branded and generic medicines, but they must also meet strict FDA standards and guidelines.

However, generic medicines are available only after the patent the original drug manufacturer holds for its brand name expires. So generic versions of newer medicines may not be available today, but
may be several years from now. 

If there isn't any generic version of an expensive brand name medication there may be a generic equivalent. A generic equivalent does not have the same active ingredients but have been shown to have the same medical results.

Generic medicines are as safe and effective as any branded medicine, since they are subjected to the same quality tests and manufacturing processes as the name brand medicine. Many states now require pharmacists to fill prescriptions with generic equivalents, if they are available.


When you buy medicines without a prescription to treat minor ailments you can usually be sure that generic or own-brand medicines will be cheaper than their branded equivalents. As long as both medicines contain exactly the same active ingredients at the same strength (always check the packaging), the generic or own-brand medicine will ultimately have exactly the same effect as the branded one and thus could save you money. 

Tuesday, July 31, 2012


There are several emails going around stating how much "0bamacare" is going to increase Part B premiums. One email says the premium will be $247 per month by 2014.

Rest easy ▬ this email is incorrect.

Medicare Part B premiums are not directly affected by the Affordable Care Act. The premiums are set by two regulations that have been in effect for decades.

The Official Formula

The official formula states that Medicare premiums are to be based on the previous years' Medicare Part B healthcare costs. The federal government (i.e. your taxes) pays 75% of the premium and you pay 25% of the premium. After you pay the premium you are then responsible for an additional 20% of YOUR Part B costs. 

So the 2014 costs, which will be announced in late 2013, will be based on Medicare costs of 2012. This won't be known until 1. we get done with 2012 and 2. the government has time to crunch the figures.

An Even Older Law

Now, another regulation that went into effect prior to the premium formula states that the premium is also tied to the Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA). This regulation affected the premiums in 2010 and 2011 and prohibits a premium increase in any year that there is no Social Security COLA. This held most people's premiums at the 2009 level of $96.40.

However, those who did not have their Part B premium withheld by Social Security and those brand new to Medicare did not benefit from the regulation. In fact, they were hurt because of the fact that most people did not see an increase but healthcare costs did increase. The premium was for 2010 and 2011 was $110.50 and $115.40 respectively. We had a COLA adjustment for 2012 and everyone's premium leveled out to $99.90 (with the exception of those who are high income and pay a surcharged premium).

When will we know?

Medicare generally makes the next year premium announcement in late September or early October so we should know the new amounts soon.

How does the Affordable Care Act affect premiums?

As I said, indirectly. The Act is supposed to lower health care costs. If it does, then Part B premiums will decrease. If not...maybe it won't go up as fast.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

HealthCare Reform and the New Taxes

With the recent Supreme Court ruling we now have a new tax. The penalty for not having any insurance coverage starting in 2014 is now called a tax, and therefore is ruled Consitutional. However, this post will give you information on all of the other taxes that were already in the Act.

Taxes on Individuals:

►The first tax is, of course, the mandate. Currently the tax is supposed to be $95 in 2014, $325 in 2015 and $695 in 2016. After 2016, the penalty will be adjusted for inflation. However, this will likely be increased prior to 2014 so don't hold your breath.

►The second tax is an additional 0.9 percent Medicare tax on earned income in excess of $200,000 ($250,000 for families).

►The third tax is wealthier Seniors are paying a higher Part D premium. This is not a tax per se but I'm including it because it is revenue going directly to the government.

►The fourth tax is the tax deduction for Part D retiree drug subsidy employers receive will be eliminated beginning in 2013.

►The fifth tax is if you have an adjusted gross income (AGI) over $200,000 ($250,000 for joint filers) you will also pay a 3.8 percent Medicare tax on unearned income, such as interest, dividends, rents, royalties and certain capital gains. Retirement plan distributions aren’t subject to this tax.

►The sixth tax is the threshold for deducting unreimbursed medical expenses, which will be increased from 7.5 percent of AGI to 10 percent of AGI in 2013. Most places do not list this as a tax, but if you can't deduct medical expenses from your taxes it is in effect a tax.

Taxes on Employers:

Some people do not consider taxes on an employer to have any affect on them. However, if the employer is paying a tax they are not paying you a higher salary.

►Employers with 50 or more full-time workers that don’t offer coverage will be charged $2,000 per full-time employee. However, the employer’s first 30 employees will be excluded from this assessment.

►Employers who do offer coverage could be subject to penalties, if any of their workers receives a premium tax credit. In this case, employers will be charged either $3,000 for each employee receiving the tax credit or $2,000 for each full-time employee, whichever is less. Again, the first 30 full-time employees will be excluded from this assessment. This means your employer will be penalized if you don't get on their insurance. What this will do to a couple who both work and both have coverage from their employer will remain to be seen.

►Employers with fewer than 50 full-time employees aren’t subject to these penalties.

Taxes on Business:

All taxes on a business is passed along to the consumer, so this will have an affect on you every time you buy from these business.

►10 percent tax on indoor UV tanning services went into effect in 2010.

►Manufacturers and importers of brand-name drugs began paying an annual fee in 2012, starting at $2.8 billion. This, along with the Part D subsidy, has resulted in an increase in medications.

►2.3 percent excise tax on medical devices goes into effect in 2013. This will increase health care costs.

►Health insurance companies will start paying an annual fee in 2014, starting at $8 billion. This will increase health insurance premiums.

►Insurers that offer high-premium plans will be subject to a 40 percent nonrefundable excise tax. This will result in fewer businesses offering the best plan available.

Tax Credits:

Since we are talking about taxes we must be fair and list the tax credits.

In 2014, people with income between 133 percent and 400 percent of the federal poverty level will become eligible for tax credits or cost-sharing subsidies to help cover the cost of insurance. The amount of these credits will vary, depending on income. You can see how your income stacks up here. People with income 133% or less will automatically be placed on Medicaid.

►Businesses are eligible for a tax credit worth up to 35 percent of their share of their employees’ health premiums if they meet the following conditions:
→ They employ fewer than 25 full-time equivalent workers;
→ Their annual average wage is less than $50,000; and
→ They cover at least 50 percent of the cost of health insurance for an employee with single coverage.
This tax credit is only temporary and is due to be eliminated after 2 years.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Alzheimer's Warning Signs

If you think you or a loved one may have Alzheimer's early detection is at the forefront. The Alzheimer's Association has developed a worksheet listing the 10 main warning signs of Alzheimer's, which you can fill out and take to your doctor. You can access the paper on the Senior Resources page at my website.

The 10 early warning signs are:

1. Memory loss that disrupts daily life.
2. Challenges in planning or solving problems.
3. Difficulty completing familiar tasks at home, at work or at leisure.
4. Confusion with time or place. 5. Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships.
6. New problems with words in speaking or writing.
7. Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps.
8. Decreased or poor judgment.
9. Withdrawal from work or social activities.
10. Changes in mood and personality.

The worksheet goes into more detail about each warning sign, which will help you determine if the warning sign is warranted.

If you know of someone who already has Alzheimer's and are in need of an ID bracelet scroll down this page and check out the ID bracelets we have for sale.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Children's Health Insurance

Are you looking for a health insurance policy just for your child? Children's health insurance, or Child-Only policies, have almost completely disappeared.


Many parents will get insurance just on their kids. Sometimes the parents cannot afford to get insurance on themselves but want coverage on their kids. Sometimes the parents are uninsurable. Sometimes the parents are divorced; the kid lives with one parent but the other parent pays for the insurance. Sometimes the parent doesn't want insurance for whatever reason, but the kids needs it to play sports in school. Sometimes the mother is still on her parents' insurance  policy (which is now allowed to age 26, another consequence of the Act).


Child-Only policies are no longer available. This is a direct result of the HealthCare Reform Act, also known as the "Affordable Care Act" which did little to making care affordable. A part of the bill stated that insurance companies cannot decline to accept any child because of a pre-existing health condition. Sounds good on the surface - who can really oppose children getting treatment? What happened in real life, however, is the insurance companies just stopped accept all children unless there was a parent or guardian also included on the policy.

The insurance companies did this to help keep premiums from increasing even more than they have. To get a policy by yourself you now must be age 19 or older.


If you need Child-Only health insurance there is one plan in Arizona that will still write a child-only policy. They will write Child-Only policies on kids age 2 through 18. The policy is a short term medical policy, and you can get more information here.

The problem with a short term medical is it doesn't cover pre-existing conditions and the policy will expire after the term is over (usually 6 to 12 months). You can reapply for another term upon expiration but any health conditions that may have developed during the previous term will not be covered. As an example, a child breaks a leg and goes to the ER to get it set. The policy covered the broken leg (after deductible) but terminated two days later. The parent applies for a new policy. The new policy will not cover the follow up visits for the broken leg, so the parent is now responsible for paying to remove the cast.

When you go on my website there will be one company that has 3 options. Give me a call with questions. As of now this is your only option other than through the state Medicaid department.

Monday, July 11, 2011


I came across this poem on the website LinkedIn. It was attributed to a "care magazine" but no other information was given.

It should be taken as a message of hope and understanding so Alzheimer's Disease can be better understood.

When I wander.......................................

don't tell me to come and sit down ;

wander with me,

it may be because I am hungry, thirsty, need the toilet,

or, maybe I just need to stretch my legs..........

When I call for my mother.........(even though I'm ninety!)

don't tell me she has died;

reassure me, cuddle me, ask me about her.

It may be that I am looking for the security that my mother

once gave.................

When I shout out.................

please don't ask me to be quiet......or walk by

I am trying to tell you something,

but have difficulty in telling you what

be patient…………Try to find out,

I may be in pain……….

When I become agitated or appear angry…………….

Please don’t reach for the drugs first,

I am trying to tell you something,

It may be too hot….. too bright……too noisy,

Or maybe it’s because I am missing my loved ones.

Try to find out……first……

When I don’t eat my dinner or drink my tea……

It may be because I’ve forgotten how to;

Show me the what to do….remind me,

It may be that I just need to hold my knife and fork

I may know what to do then………

When I push you away when you trying to help me……,

A wash, perhaps, or getting dressed.

Maybe it’s because I have forgotten what you have said;

Keep telling me what you are doing…….,

Over and over and over…………

Maybe others will think you’re the one that needs the help!

With all my thoughts and maybes,

Perhaps it will be you…..who reaches my thoughts……

Understands my fears and will make me feel safe…..

Maybe it will be you…..that I need to thank

If only I knew how……………..

Please pass this on to any caregivers which you may be aware. It may also be of interest to family members of Alzheimer's and Dementia patients.

You can find more information on my Senior Resources page.

Now you can find my Newsletter on my Website!

This is going to be a short post, as I've been away from the office for several days and have a lot of catching up to do. I now have a link to my newsletter on my website, along with links to Medicare publications and other informative links. Please visit the page on my website and check out my newsletter. If you like the newsletter please email me and I'll send you the newsletter via email each month.