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Davidow, Davidow, Siegel & Stern, LLP
Long Island's Elder Law, Special Needs & Estate Planning Firm

Monday, November 21, 2005

2006 Medicare Premiums, Deductibles, and Co-Pays Announced

The U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has announced the 2006 Medicare deductibles, premiums, and co-pay amounts. The following was published in the Federal Register:

Medicare Hospital Insurance (Part A):
Deductible - $952 per Benefit Period ($912 in 2005)
Co-insurance - $238 a day for the 61st through the 90th day ($228 in 2005), per Benefit Period; $476 a day for each “nonrenewable, lifetime reserve day” ($456 in 2005)
Skilled Nursing Facility Co-insurance - $119 a day for the 21st through the 100th day per Benefit Period ($114 in 2005)
Hospital Insurance Premium - $393 ($375 in 2005)
Reduced Hospital Insurance Premium - $216 ($206 in 2005)

Medicare Medical Insurance (Part B):
Deductible - $124 per year ($110 in 2005)
Monthly Premium - $88.50 ($78.20 in 2005)

For more details, log on to http://www.access.gpo.gov/su_docs/fedreg/a050923c.html
and scroll down to Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Social Security Announces 4.1 Percent Benefit Increase for 2006

Monthly Social Security and Supplemental Security Income benefits for more than 52 million Americans will increase 4.1 percent in 2006, the Social Security Administration announced today.

Social Security and Supplemental Security Income benefits increase automatically each year based on the rise in the Bureau of Labor Statistics' Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W), from the third quarter of the prior year to the corresponding period of the current year. This year's increase in the CPI-W was 4.1 percent.

The 4.1 percent Cost-of-Living Adjustment (COLA) will begin with benefits that more than 48 million Social Security beneficiaries receive in January 2006. Increased payments to 7 million supplemental Security Income beneficiaries will begin on December 30.

Some other changes that take effect in January of each year are based on the increase in average wages. Based on that increase, the maximum amount of earnings subject to the Social Security tax (taxable maximum) will increase to $94,200 from $90,000. Of the estimated 161 million workers who will pay Social Security taxes in 2006, about 11.3 million will pay higher taxes as a result of the increase in the taxable maximum in 2006.

It is important to note that no one's Social Security benefit will decrease as a result of the 2006 Medicare Part B premium increase, announced last month. By law, the Part B premium increase cannot be larger than a beneficiary's COLA increase. More information about Medicare can be found at www.cms.hhs.gov.

Thursday, November 3, 2005

Tips on Providing for Children with Disabilities

One of the major concerns for parents with children with disabilities is how to provide for their financial future. Here are some tips:
Buy enough life insurance. A parent is irreplaceable, but someone will have to fill in. In all likelihood, that person or family will have to pay for at least some services the parent or parents had provided when able. If the estate is not large enough for this purpose, it can be made large enough through life insurance proceeds. Premiums for second-to-die insurance (which pays off only when the second of two parents passes away) can be surprisingly low.

Set up a trust. Any funds left for a disabled child, whether from an estate or the proceeds of a life insurance policy, should be held in trust for his or her benefit. Leaving money for anyone with a disability jeopardizes public benefits. Many people with disabilities cannot manage funds especially large amounts. Some families disinherit disabled children, relying on their siblings to care for them. This approach is fraught with potential problems. Siblings can be sued, get divorced, disagree on their responsibilities, or run off with the funds. It can also cause tax problems for siblings.

Will/appointment of guardian. While a will and the appointment of a guardian is important for anyone with minor children, it is doubly so if the child is disabled. Finding the right guardian can be difficult. In some cases, the care needs of the child may be so demanding that he or she will need a different guardian from his or her siblings. The will is the vehicle for the appointment of the guardian.

Care plan. All parents caring for disabled children should write down what any successor caregiver would need to know about the child and what the parents wishes are for his or her care. For example, should the child be in a group home, live with a parent, be on his or her own? Usually, the parent knows best, but needs to pass on the information.

Coordination with other family members. Even a carefully developed plan can be sabotaged by a well-meaning relative who leaves money directly to the child with a disability. If a trust is created for the benefit of the child, grandparents and other family members should be told about it so that they can direct any bequest they may life to leave to that child through the trust.