Avoid having to break the bank to pay for Medicare!

We see this ALL the time!  A client comes to us when they are turning 65 or ready to terminate their employer group plan.  Since we educate our clients, we help them to figure out how much their Medicare premiums will be.  Many times, our clients’ jaws hit the floor when we tell them what they will be paying.  “But but but…I’m retiring and my income will be dramatically lower!”, is usually their response.  Weeeelllll, Social Security and Medicare can care less about that little tidbit of info.  What they look at is – what was your income TWO 2 years ago!  The next response is, “OMG…that’s when our CPA and financial planner advised us to sell our rental property!  And the next year, they suggested we convert our IRA to a Roth IRA!”.   Yikes!!  My guess is, the next conversation with those two professionals won’t go very well :/   
Affectionately known as IRMAA, the Income Related Medical Adjustment Amount will be assessed on your Part B (Doctors/Outpatient) AND your Part D (Drugs) until you can PROVE your Modified Adjusted Gross Income (MAGI) is lower.  Poor IRMAA…NO ONE WANTS TO DATE IRMAA!  There are ways to avoid and eliminate IRMAA but you may have to pay higher costs until you can prove your income is lower.  Many times, that may be till you file your taxes the next year.  Unless you plan, you may be paying significantly higher rates for up to one year 🙁
For most people, here’s how it works:
1)  Look at Line 37 of your personal tax return. That’s your AGI.
2)  For your MAGI (good to check with your CPA for you exact MAGI), there are a lot of items to add back in but the two main ones that we see are:
  • Untaxed social security
  • Tax-exempt interest/dividends

3)  Go to:   Scroll down for the IRMAA charts.  Find your tax filing situation and you’ll easily what your IRMAA can possibly be.

How can you avoid or minimize IRMAA?  During the 1 – 3 years before enrolling into Medicare:

  • THREE (3) years before you go onto Medicare:
    • Sell any property that will incur a capital gains.
    • Be finished converting IRA’s to ROTH IRA’s by this year.
  • TWO (2) years before you go onto Medicare:
    • Contribute as much as possible to your retirement accounts.
    • If your earnings are very high and you contribute the maximum to your retirement accounts, check with your financial planner and CPA about selling some assets at a loss during both years before applying for Medicare.
    • Consider buying rental property.  Normally, you can count on the depreciation and expenses to fix up the property which many times will give you a loss during the first few years.  AND the loss appears on the front page of your 1040 which lowers your MAGI!
    • Consider starting a business.  Many times, you’ll have a loss those first few years with start-up costs and it can offset your earnings.
    • Consider holding off starting your Social Security benefits until your income will be lower.
    • If you have a lot of tax-exempt interest, consider moving those into a financial vehicle that can ‘defer’ the interest (a deferred annuity).

If there is no way to avoid it, when you can PROVE your income will be lower, file a reconsideration form with Social Security.  When the time comes, file your taxes asap and run (don’t walk) to your local Social Security office with your taxes in hand and this form:  Social Security will then adjust your Part B and Part D premiums to your normal MAGI.

Is your head about ready to explode?  No worries!   Just call us and we easily walk you through what to do.  Better yet, have your CPA and financial planner call us and we’ll all work on together for you 🙂  Remember to reach out to us at AGE 62 or 3 years from when you will be applying for Medicare so we can really work our magic!


Hoffman Insurance Resources



By calling the number listed on this page, you will be reaching a licensed insurance agent.  Debbie Hoffman and Melinda Gann are not connected with the Federal Medicare program.

Additional Counties in CA Added to the Special Election Period for Medicare!

Additional counties in California will have a Special Election Period (SEP) available for Medicare beneficiaries affected by the California wildfires.  *FEMA declared an emergency or major disaster for the following counties:

New counties added as of Dec. 8, 2017*:

-Los Angeles
-San Diego
-Santa Barbara

Counties previously issued with an SEP:


Special Election Period Overview

The wildfires in California have caused and continue to cause disruption. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has extended a SEP to Medicare beneficiaries affected by the fires. The SEP runs from the start of the incident through Dec. 31, 2017.

Who is eligible?

Any beneficiary who resides in, or resided in, an area for which the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) declared an emergency or major disaster (see is eligible for the SEP, if the beneficiary was unable to enroll in a plan during another qualifying election period. In addition, beneficiaries who do not live in the impacted areas but receive assistance from someone living in one of the affected areas also qualify for this SEP.

What does this mean for Medicare beneficiaries?

Eligible beneficiaries who were unable to make a plan selection during the Annual Enrollment Period (AEP) have until Dec. 31, 2017, to enroll in a 2018 plan. Eligible beneficiaries who wish to change their health and/or prescription drug plan, but were unable to do so during the Annual Enrollment Period (Oct. 15, 2017-Dec. 7, 2017), will now have until Dec. 31, 2017, to enroll in a 2018 plan. Enrollments taken between Dec. 8 and Dec. 31, 2017, are effective Jan. 1, 2018.
Eligible beneficiaries who were eligible for a different SEP, or aged into Medicare, but were unable to enroll during the allotted time period, will have their election period extended. Eligible beneficiaries who had/have a qualifying election period (e.g., aged into Medicare, are aging into Medicare or are qualified for a different SEP) but were unable to enroll in a plan during the allotted time, have until Dec. 31, 2017, to enroll. Enrollments received are effective the first day of the following month. For example, if a beneficiary aged into Medicare and had until Aug. 31, 2017, to enroll but was unable to complete the enrollment process, the beneficiary can enroll now. If the beneficiary enrolls Oct. 28, 2017, the beneficiary’s plan will be effective Nov. 1, 2017.

What is needed as proof the beneficiary was affected by an affected area?

If the beneficiary is unable to provide proof that they reside in an affected area, the beneficiary just needs to verbally attest that they lived/live in an area impacted by the wildfires.


The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has extended a Special Election Period (SEP) to Medicare beneficiaries affected by the wildfires in CA. The SEP runs till Dec. 31, 2017.

Who is eligible?

Any beneficiary who resides in, or resided in, an area for which the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has declared an emergency or major disaster (see or the list below*) is eligible for the SEP, if the beneficiary was unable to enroll in a plan during another qualifying election period. In addition, beneficiaries who do not live in the impacted areas but receive assistance from someone living in one of the affected areas also qualify for this SEP.

*FEMA declared an emergency or major disaster for the following counties:

  • Butte
  • Lake
  • Mendocino
  • Napa
  • Nevada
  • Orange
  • Solano
  • Sonoma
  • Yuba

What does this mean for beneficiaries?

Normally, Medicare beneficiaries only have till December 7th to make changes to their Part C (Medicare Advantage) or Part D (Drug) plans.  Eligible beneficiaries who are unable to make a plan selection during the Annual Enrollment Period (AEP) have until Dec. 31, 2017, to enroll in a 2018 Plan.  Enrollments taken between Dec. 8th and Dec. 31st 2017, will be effective Jan. 1st 2018.


  • Individuals must show proof that the beneficiary resided in an affected area (e.g., driver’s license or utility bill reflecting the beneficiary’s address).
  • If the beneficiary is unable to provide proof, ask the beneficiary if they attest that they lived/live in an area impacted by the wildfires.
  • Once eligibility is verified, the application can proceed.
  • Only paper applications can be used. Use the SEP election type code on the application, and write in ‘Weather Related Emergency’ or ‘Fire’.

If you are not sure if you fall under these guidelines, give us a call and we can check for you – 323.455.4961.

Social Security 2018 COLA increase. Will you see an increase in your check?

Hot dog!  We finally have a Social Security Cost of Living Adjustment increase!  Social Security announced that beneficiaries should receive a whopping 2% increase for 2018.  If you are receiving $1,500/mo, that equates to a $30 monthly increase.  But hold the phone…will you REALLY see that entire increase in your check?  Don’t spend all that money yet!

Many Social Security beneficiaries may not receive their raise!

About 70% of people who are receiving both Medicare and Social Security, have been protected from rising Medicare Part B increases by something called the “hold harmless” clause.  Basically, the ‘hold harmless’ clause ensures that existing Medicare members don’t see their Part B premiums increase more than their Social Security COLA raise.  Therefore, Social Security’s 2017 raise of 0.3%, kept Part B premiums from rising by more than 0.3% in 2017 for this group of beneficiaries.

2018 Part B premiums haven’t been announced yet but aren’t expected to increase much higher than 2017.  Those who’ve been protected by ‘hold harmless’ could see some, or all, of their raise gobbled up by Medicare Part B in order to “catch them up” for the lower premiums they’ve paid in recent years.

Medicare Open Enrollment October 15th – December 7th

Today begins Medicare Open Enrollment – Oct 15th – Dec 7th. This is the time to change Part C (Medicare Advantage Plans) and Part D (Part D Plans). All plans seem to change something, especially the drug formulary. Look at your ANOC (Annual Notice of Change) booklet that you recently received (or call your Plan if you haven’t received it yet).  The first few pages will tell you what is changing in your Plan for the next year. There are also new Plans out for 2018 and you need to research to see if there is another Plan that may offer you better benefits.   Many Medicare Advantage Plans offer extra benefits like chiropractic, acupuncture, vision, hearing, dental or gym memberships.  If you feel your Plan is good for you next year, there is nothing to do.  It will simply roll over.

If you have a loved one that is on Medicare, please help them.  Many times, they stay on the same Plan because they just don’t know how to research.  You can make a huge difference in their lives by getting them to call us!

Be aware of the Star Ratings of the Plans also.  Medicare gives an overall rating of the Plan’s quality and performance for the types of services each plan offers.  For plans covering health services, this is an overall rating for the quality of many medical/health care services that fall into 4 and 5 different categories.  From my experience, there is a reason a Plan gets a low rating so BEWARE!

This is also the time for those that are uninsurable to possibly obtain ‘guaranteed issue‘ into a MediGap supplement plan. If ANY benefit in your Medicare Advantage Plan increased by 15% or was eliminated, you can go back to original Medicare (Part A & B) and obtain a stand alone Part D Plan (for drugs).   Being on this option (with a MediGap plan) gives you the choice to see any Provider that accepts Medicare, no referral needed.  It comes in handy if you want to go to a skilled nursing facility of your choice or see a Provider out of town.  

You can do your own research by going to or reach out to an independent insurance agent such as ourselves.  We conduct a thorough search for you and will let you know if your Plan is still the better Plan for you next year.  And there is no extra charge for our services.  How do we get paid?  If another Plan is better and we’re able to place the application for you, we receive a commission from the insurance company.  Make sure the person you are dealing with is REALLY independent and represents MANY companies.  We have come across many agents that claim they are independent and they are however, they are only Medicare certified with one or two companies.  At Hoffman Insurance, we are contracted with over 40 companies and Medicare certified with 13 carriers.  You’re best interest is our interest, whether we get compensated or not.  Reach out to us early because it gets quite busy during the last week of Open Enrollment!


THIS IS GREAT NEWS!! Medicare ID Card Changes a’coming!

Did you know the number of identity theft victims age 65 or older increased from 2.1 million in 2012 to 2.6 million in 2014?  In fact, thieves consider your Medicare number and other protected health information more valuable than credit card information because people can reuse them to bill Medicare for services that you didn’t get.  When people steal your identity and bill Medicare for items or services you didn’t get, it drives up costs for everyone.

Starting in April 2018, Medicare is replacing the Social Security-based Medicare number with a new Medicare number, and will mail you a new Medicare card with your new number.   FINALLY!!  You don’t have to do anything to get your new card and new number.  Be aware, I’m sure there will be thieves that will try to take advantage of this change so if someone calls you and asks for your Medicare number, hang up!  Medicare will NEVER call you and ask for personal information for you to get your new card so if someone calls you, it’s a scam.  Please let your loved ones on Medicare know of the changes and of the possible scams that will arise.
Remember, the first and best line of defense against fraud is you. You can help fight Medicare fraud in 2 simple steps:
1)  Protect your Medicare number—treat it like you treat your credit card number.  If fact, if your Doctors office already has a copy of your Medicare card, make a color copy and put your original away with your social security card.  Cut out the first 5 digits of the color copy and laminate it.  Carry the copy with you instead of the original.
2)  Check your Medicare statement for errors, like equipment or services you never got.  Many of my clients have had this happen.  Report it to Medicare and they’ll investigate it for you.

Tummy on Fire?

Reading one of my clients blogs, prompted me to expand on this subject since it’s so common. I highly recommend her blog also:

As an insurance agent with hundreds of clients, I hear it almost every day – clients having tummy problems and are taking way too many antacids or the doctors are prescribing proton pump inhibitors (PPI’s).  What I found with most of these clients is, the after effect of eliminating the acid in the stomach seem to cause food to not be digested and nutrients to not be absorbed which then seem to then lead to a multitude of problems and diseases which need more prescription drugs.  Yikes!  It’s like a hamster on a wheel!   I found an extremely effective treatment, and it’s completely natural!  It was sooo simple too…my green drink!  I will say, I’ve educated hundreds of people about this and there are a certain group of people that will ONLY do what their Doctors say and won’t even TRY solving the problem naturally.

Here’s my story, after landing in the hospital in 2014 with diverticulitis (and totally by accident), I found relief for my occasional heartburn (and now many of my clients).   I’m not a Doctor by any stretch of the means however, I wasn’t getting any guidance from the medical community.  They just threw up their hands and said they really don’t know what causes it and to ‘stay away from nuts and seeds’.  What?  I love almonds and berries and they are good for me.  I researched and logically deduced that MY diverticulitis was caused by an acidic and severely inflamed gut.  I needed to adopt anti-inflammatory and alkaline lifestyle but juicing is too cumbersome and expensive (I have no time for that anyway).  My gut needed to be alkalized, not neutralized and I had to find a way to accomplish this, easily and conveniently.  Now, whenever I eat something that causes acid discomfort, I drink 1/2 of my normal green drink.  Within a few minutes, it’s GONE!  And, I’m putting good stuff in my body vs. chemicals.  As a side note, my gums don’t bleed any longer, I’m less bloated and I have more energy than I did in my 20’s!  I also found a green drink with ancient wheat grass and nothing artificial, just amazing nutrients!  Drinking one/day makes me feel incredible along with giving my body the nutrients we sorely lack in our food system today (which will be another blog).   I have told my own Doctors about my story and they just stare at me blankly and go on to another subject.  It’s like they don’t even care about nutrition.  Is this what we’ve come to?  BTW, I still eat berries and almonds almost every day and have NOT had another episode of diverticulitis!


Don’t take my word for it.  Research for yourself!   I highly recommend getting Dave Sandoval’s book, ‘The Green Foods Bible’.  This is what he says about acid:  “Green foods are loaded with an abundance of digestive enzymes, and they promote friendly bacteria and neutralize excess acidity.”  “If you have been relying on an antacid to treat the symptoms of poor digestion, they may have dangerous side effects; they suppress the production of gastric juices for hours at a time, interfering with digestion. Ultimately, the diseases caused by toxic undigested food far exceed the discomfort of gas.  Once again, green foods are the answer.”   My future self is thanking me every day that I found Dave’s book.  I refer to it almost daily for myself and my clients. 

Don’t settle for chemicals if you can solve the problem naturally.  As always, reach out to me if you’d like to learn more about how to live well past 100 or have any insurance questions.  Also, the company that makes my green drink gave me gift cards to share for your initial order.  Let me know if you’d like to try it for yourself! 


Nothing in this article is intended to be medical advice or instructions for medical diagnosis or treatment. If you have, or think you may have, any illness or medical condition, please consult a doctor or other qualified professional. Always seek the advice of a qualified healthcare professional before starting or changing treatment. This article is based on personal experience and research, and no claim is made to accuracy or completeness.

Highlights of the Senate Healthcare Bill

The Senate health bill resembles the House health bill with a couple of changes. I’m sure there will be tons more changes before this passes. Here are some of the highlights:
-Eliminates ObamaCare’s mandate that every American carry insurance.
-The Senate also backs away from some last minute House concessions that would have allowed states to opt out of several protections for those with pre-existing conditions, but insurers would not be allowed to charge higher premiums to those with pre-existing conditions.
-Subsidies will continue for 2 years although they are coming up with a new formula to determine who gets a subsidy and who much. Fewer middle class folks would get help because only those earning up to 350% of the poverty level would qualify, rather than the 400% threshold contained in Obamacare.
-Eliminates the ‘Enhanced’ plan benefits.
-Loosens requirements in Obamacare that health plans all cover a basic set of benefits like no limits on coverage.
-Phases out Medicaid’s expansion program and caps Medicaid (MediCal in CA) spending. It basically puts the entire Medicaid program on a budget, ending the open-ended entitlement that now exists.
-Repeals, retroactively to the beginning of 2016, the “employer mandate,” which requires large employers to offer health insurance to workers or be fined.
-Repeals the 3.8 percent tax on net investment income, to the start of 2017.
-Strips Medicaid funds from Planned Parenthood clinics for one year.
-Health plans that offer abortion services would not be eligible for the subsidies.
The bill is likely to come to the Senate floor next week. They’d like to get it done before the 4th of July recess.
The Senate has 52 seats and the bill would have to pass by 50 with Vice President Mike Pence breaking the tie.  They may have already lost one vote — Senator Rand Paul, Republican of Kentucky, has indicated that the bill is too liberal for him.

Aetna pulls out of the individual market in more states!


This just in from Aetna:  As a result of financial risk and an uncertain outlook for the Individual marketplace, Aetna (including Coventry)  has decided that we will no longer offer individual health products in the following states AR, AZ, CT, FL, GA, IL, KS, KY, LA, ME, MI, MO, NC, OH, PA, SC, TN, TX, UT, and WV for 2018.

What happens when there is no competition? You guessed it!  And we cannot afford anymore prices increases.  I just had another client drop his coverage because he cannot afford the premiums.  He’s 58 years old, makes $31,200/year, lives in a bare bones mobile home and because he worked hard and made a little more money last year, his premium double to over $200/month.  That’s for a Bronze, high deductible plan!

Dear elected officials.  Are you there?  Do you hear us?  HELP!!  We’re drowning!!

Here’s an idea!  Our government should put us all on the same plan our elected officials receive till they fix this mess!

This is killing young healthy women. Spot the warning signs and get help!

To coin a term used for another devastating day in history, June 1st is a day that will live in infamy in my world.  June 1st has always been a very solemn day for me after my hero (my sweet Uncle Leland) lost his battle with lung cancer on this day in 2008.  June 1, 2017 started out the same way. I woke up, said some prayers, thought about our wonderful memories we shared and soon, the day spiraled out of controlled and sent me into a tail spin.  The unfathomable happened, not one but TWO friends received their angel wings that morning.  Both were a shock to my system!  Healthy, beautiful, dynamic women, gone in the blink of an eye.  Lauren (age 69) passed away from an aneurism and Jami (age 47) passed away from a heart attack.  These two women were the picture of health!!  It just wasn’t registering in my brain.   After crying, swearing, questioning and just being numb and lost for a couple of days, I do what I always do and try to make sense out of something so senseless.  What could I do for Jami and Lauren that would turn my sadness into something productive?  It’s my nature to research so I sprung into action, looking for clues in case there was any possible way these could have been avoided.   The first one I tackled was heart attacks in younger women.  What I found left me even more dumbfounded with my jaw dropping to the floor.  This info needs to be shared as quickly as possible and just maybe, we can keep one Mother alive because you shared this blog.

Our story starts with sweet Jami, 47 years old and the mother of two.  An athletic family, they were literally the picture of the perfect family;  Loving, fun, sweet and big hearted Mom and Dad with a daughter and son that were just as talented, smart, loving and beautiful.  For a couple of days, Jami experienced some of the symptoms you’ll read about later in this article.  She laid her head on her pillow one night and went to sleep as usual. Sadly, Jami didn’t wake up the next morning.  Diagnosis, heart attack.  What?  We were all so stunned to hear the news that Jami had a heart attack. After all, she was the picture of health!  Since this just happened recently, I don’t profess to know if this affliction is exactly what transpired with Jami. But what I found in my research was so alarming to me, that I feel a responsibility to spread the word.   Remember this new acronym, ‘SCAD’ otherwise known as ‘the hidden heart attack in young women’.

In the back of my mind, I seem to recall someone talking about how heart attack symptoms are different in women than men.  However, I just never thought of YOUNGER women having heart attacks.  Thankfully, lots of the women I researched, lived to tell their story and see their children grow up, graduate college, get married and even got to enjoy their grandchildren.  Many however, will miss out on those milestones because they just didn’t know what they didn’t know.   We’re so good at chalking how we feel up to a myriad of issues…the flu, stress, a virus, vertigo.  Please, think twice about it next time that happens to you or someone you love.  Check out this story from is a great example from a 33 year old young mother:

Meghan Scheiber was in the middle of a 60-hour workweek when the call came: her 2-year-old son was sick at day care and needed to be taken home.  Buried in work and deadlines at her medical billing job, Scheiber was already feeling stressed. As she worried about how to juggle everything, she suddenly felt like she was going to pass out and had a heavy feeling in her chest and arms. She chalked it up to an anxiety attack or the start of the flu, let her husband pick up their son, and finished her workday before driving home.  But when the heavy feeling came back the next day at home, Scheiber, knew she had to act. “I said to my husband, ‘We have to go to the ER.’”  By the time she got there, she was in the middle of a heart attack.  She was admitted to the intensive care unit and had a second heart attack 2 days later.  Doctors diagnosed Scheiber with a type of heart attack often found in younger women. It’s called spontaneous coronary artery dissection, or SCAD.  “I asked my doctor if I would die,” she recalls tearfully 6 years later, “and he said he didn’t know what would happen.”

“SCAD isn’t rare. It’s rare to meet a survivor.”

That quote from the SCAD Alliance website spoke to me in a not so good, haunting voice.  I found out that sadly, many emergency facilities do not even check for SCAD because it only causes a small percentage of heart attacks overall (at least that’s what they thought).  Yet, SCAD seems to be responsible for 40% of heart attacks in women under the age of 50.  And it’s mostly happening to young women — more than 90% of SCAD patients are female.   In story after story, the hospital sent these young women home, telling them to take an over the counter pain relief medication.   But in my book, when it’s your daughter, wife or mother, that small percentage takes on a whole new meaning!  The other thing that amazed me is this affliction has only been studied for the LAST 5 YEARS!   Wow, in this day and age of medical advancements, that really blew my mind!

In some instances, there is nothing that could have been done.  However, in many cases, there are advance symptoms, many of which we could chalk up to some other affliction like the flu, a virus or vertigo.  So hear is the low down:  Unlike a more typical heart attack caused by a buildup of plaque in the arteries, a SCAD heart attack starts with a tear in an artery.  The tear blocks the artery and blood flow to the heart, leading to a heart attack. (Check out this video from the Mayo Clinic.).  According to many sites, many women experience varying symptoms including:

  • Shortness of breath, with or without chest discomfort
  • Heaviness in the chest
  • Breaking out in a cold sweat, dizziness, nausea or lightheadedness
  • Pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach

It’s very easy to see why many women would not even pay attention to dizziness, nausea and lightheadedness and attribute it to everyday illnesses or stress.

Our hearts are heavy and we still can’t imagine a world without Jami.  Even though SCAD may not have been what took our Jami, now that you are aware, spread the word and let every person in your life know if they experience any of these symptoms, get to an ER ASAP and be vocal about checking for SCAD.  If it’s really the flu or stress, you’re just out a little bit of money for the ER.  I’m sure there are many husbands, daughters and Moms and Dads that would gladly pay a few hundred dollars to have their loved one back in their arms.  By reading this and being that nagging voice of reasoning to your friends/family, you could possibly save a loved one or better yet, YOURSELF.   Please share this with your friends, family, daughters, mothers and sisters.  Do it for Jami!



SCAD Alliance Website

Mayo Clinic – SCAD Heart Attacks

FOX 8 Article




Debbie Hoffman is an independent insurance broker specializing in Medicare and individual/family health plans, contracted with over 40 companies, Covered CA certified and Medicare certified with 13 carriers.  Located in the Los Angeles area, she is contracted in many states throughout the country.  She prides herself on educating her clients, being their advocate and exceeding their expectations.  She accepts only the insurance company commissions so there are no extra charges for her assistance and guidance.  From ObamaCare through MediCare…Debbie cares which is why she educates the public on health issues she encounters.  Her goal is help everyone live longer, healthier lives!    323.455.4961