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Retirees in Action

   Jim Carr  A message from PEF Retiree President Jim Carr

Get informed, vaccinated now for 2020

Fall is here and it is the time of year for transitions like weather changes and the leaves turning color and covering our lawns. And it is the key time to prepare and budget for the challenges ahead in 2020.

Fall brings the Medicare open enrollment and announcements of COLAs (annual cost-of-living adjustments) for our pensions and Social Security benefits for next year. That’s information we need to budget and plan for the coming year.

You should have recently received a notice from the state comptroller informing you about the 2020 pension COLA. You also should have received a copy of the Medicare & You Handbook for 2020.

Since you receive lots of information at this time, it can be overwhelming. Nevertheless, it is important that you carefully read the information provided to you from NYSHIP (New York State Health Insurance Program), Medicare, Social Security and the state comptroller’s office.

Fall is also the best time to get vaccinated against the flu, and check with your doctor to make sure your vaccinations to prevent shingles and pneumonia. These vaccinations are highly recommended for seniors especially if you have a compromised immune system.

Medicare Part D covers flu shots if they are at least one year apart. There are actually two different types of flu shots available to people age 65 and older. These FDA-approved vaccines are designed to offer extra protection beyond what the standard flu shot provides, which is important for older adults who have weaker immune defenses and have a higher risk of developing flu complications.

The center for disease control and prevention estimates that during the 2018/2019 flu season, up to 647,000 people were hospitalized and 61,200 died because of the flu-most of whom were seniors.

You also need to be aware that the senior-specific flu shots cannot guarantee that you won’t get the flu this season, but they will lower your risk. And if you do happen to get sick, you probably won’t be as ill as you would be without the vaccination.

Two other important vaccinations the CDC recommends for seniors, especially at this time of year, are the pneumococcal vaccines for pneumonia. Around 1 million Americans are hospitalized with pneumonia each year, and about 50,000 people die from it.

The CDC recommends that all seniors, 65 and older, get two vaccinations Prevnar 13 and Pneumovax 23. Both vaccines, which are administered at different times, protect against strains of the pneumococcal bacteria to provide maximum protection. Medicare Part B covers both shots, if they are taken one year apart.

Just like we need to educate ourselves about vaccinations and our medical health, we also need to pay attention to our earned benefits such as our pension, Social Security, NYSHIP and Medicare.

According to a recent published report from the Associated Press about COLA for Social Security benefits in 2020, we will receive a 1.6 percent boost, which add about $24/month to the benefit for the average retired worker, for an estimated monthly benefit of about $1,500.

If you have them deduct federal income taxes, the check you receive is even smaller. And some of the COLA will be offset if there is an increase in Medicare’s “Part B” premium for outpatient care, which hasn’t been announced yet.

As retirees, we are all old enough to remember when the prices for just about everything were a lot lower when we were earning regular paychecks. So we are very aware of how important COLA boosts to our pensions and Social Security are for us now.


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