All Articles Tagged "health insurance"
Is a health insurance check-up on your financial to-do list for 2013? Whether your employer offers you a couple different plans to choose from, or you pay out of pocket for your own policy, how do you know if you’re getting the most for your money?
Health insurance expert Katherine Woodfield provides 10 tips on how to navigate the sometimes confusing lingo, mathematic calculations and insurance coverage options to help make sure you’re getting the best deal on health insurance.
1. Call your family’s doctors.
Ask for the office manager and find out if there are any providers or any plans that they do not accept. While the office manager may suggest plans they prefer, understand that they’ll prefer plans that pay higher. Since you’ll want to choose a plan with the lowest premium, note that the provider’s suggestions may not be in your best interest.
Check out the other tips on YourTango.com.
This is shocking. According to a U.S. News & World Report analysis, certain states have few—if any—health insurance plans that offer benefits broad enough to protect individuals and families in the event of a major illness. Isn’t that the point of health insurance?
In conjunction with this report, U.S. News also released the Best Health Insurance Plans, an interactive tool featuring ratings and data on the nearly 6,000 health plans the publication analyzed. The Best Health Insurance Plans ratings cover all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The states are rated on scope of coverage for various services, such as hospitalizations, emergency room visits, prescriptions, and cost to consumers paid out of pocket. Plans available to both individuals and families received two separate ratings.
According to the analysis, Alaska and Washington had the lowest number of plans offering what U.S. News rated as four-star or five-star coverage — no more than 10 percent of the plans evaluated in either state. By contrast, all Massachusetts plans and more than 70 percent of those in New York, Washington, D.C., Maryland, and Virginia earned at least four out of five stars. The report found that while Massachusetts plans had among the highest premiums in the nation, about 45 percent of plans in that state fully cover (once the deductible has been satisfied) hospitalization, doctors’ charges during hospitalization, and imaging, offering patients greater protection against unexpected healthcare costs. The state also offers subsidies to help residents with household incomes below 300 percent of the federal poverty line pay for coverage.
Hospitalization still remains costly. According to the U.S. News analysis, for a hospitalized individual whose care costs $20,000 and whose deductible is $2,700 (the national median), a 20 percent co-insurance rate could translate to more than $6,000 in out-of-pocket expenses.
Still dream of retiring early, but just don’t know how you are going to swing it? Well, it can still be possible with some key planning.
CNN offers various retirement calculators on its “Money” page allowing you to figure out just when your can retire and how much money you need to save, among other components. Among the tips:
• Have a withdrawal strategy. “Knowing how much money should be withdrawn from your retirement savings each year is a critical factor in building a retirement plan. Withdraw too much and you are likely to outlive your assets; take too little and you may unnecessarily sacrifice your standard of living, especially in the early years of retirement,” explained Dean Urbanski, vice president of BMO Harris Financial Advisors, Inc., in a press release.
• Make sure you have enough money. US News reports, “There are still a few people who enjoy a generous, fully-guaranteed defined-benefit pension that kicks in after 20 or 25 years of service. This might be enough by itself to enable you to retire. And some highly-paid professionals in the private sector might have built up a substantial retirement nest egg that will be enough to last for the rest of their lives.” But just having the money isn’t enough. The article suggests it will take “diligent saving and proficient money-management skills to accumulate enough to retire early.”
• Keep your health insurance. Figure out a way to maintain your medical insurance, advises US News.
• Be mindful of asset allocation. “As individuals seek increased income upon entering retirement, they often shift their holdings more toward bonds and cash. This may or may not be a good move, as there are other key investment considerations beyond having a need for income,” stated Urbanski. “Confer with your financial advisor to determine the appropriate allocation for your needs, investment objective, risk profile and timeframe.”
Good information to chew on as we head into the weekend.
Disturbing news from the U.S. Census Bureau, which has just released a report on income, poverty, and health insurance coverage for 2011. According to the report, 27.6 percent of black Americans, or 10.9 million, live in poverty, where poverty is defined as a family of four earning less than $22,811. That’s up by .2 percent, or 183,000 from the previous year.
The median income for black households also dropped by 2.7 percent to $32,229 in 2011. Of course, this all ties in to the news we reported the other day about the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s finding that 25.1 percent of black households in this country were food insecure in 2011.
With all of the talk about unemployment, jobs and the middle class, the reality of poverty tends to get ignored. Speaking to The Root, Tavis Smiley and Cornel West, authors of the new book The Rich and the Rest of Us: A Poverty Manifesto, said, “Poor people have not in any way been a priority in the Obama administration … and of course we know poverty would be very low on the totem pole in a Romney administration.” They’re currently spreading the message about this issue on the “Poverty Tour 2.0: A Call to Conscience,” which will be stopping in Ohio, Chicago, Florida and Pennsylvania through the 15th.
A senior White House official told the site that poverty rates usually go up and incomes go down in the couple of years following a recession. “Everything suggests that what we’ll be looking at is historical data and that if you go up to 2012, all of the economic indicators suggest we are now starting to dig out in incomes, and they’re starting to rise.”
Still, the amount of attention being paid to middle class survival is warranted. Research over recent months from the Pew Research Center shows that 85 percent of the middle class say it’s harder for them to maintain their lifestyle. And 84 percent of those in the lower class say they have to make cuts to the household budget.
For black Americans, the number of people living in poverty was already above the 10 million mark last year. The concern over the fate of the black middle class is very high and very real. The tenuous hold that middle class blacks have on their socioeconomic status is threatened by the pressures of bad mortgages and the lack of jobs.
According to the Center for American Progress, this “is the second time on record that our economy grew, yet low and middle-income families did not share in the gains.” However, if there is some good news to be taken from the report, it’s that tens of millions of more people would be in poverty if not for programs that fall inside “the social safety net” like unemployment insurance. Earned income tax credits and food stamps have also been a godsend to those in need.
Overall, the Census found that 15.7 percent of Americans, or46.2 million, are living in poverty, statistically flat when compared with last year. Median income dropped 1.5 percent to $50,054. And the number of people without health insurance fell .6 percent (about 1.34 million people) in 2011. The number of uninsured is still about 48.6 million.
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Health insurance is a necessary expense. But it doesn’t have to be quite as expensive as a lot of workers make it out to be.
Research from the Aflac WorkForces Report shows that 56 percent of workers waste as much as $750 per year on health benefits. Among the problems, 47 percent of workers say they rarely, if ever, exceed the deductible and only 16 percent choose the right amount for their flexible spending accounts.
Experts recommend that workers pay closer attention to what they’re signing up for. We’ll go a step further and recommend that you take full advantage of the help that your HR exec and the health insurance company itself is offering. Let them walk you through the options step by step until you fully understand what you’re purchasing. Don’t guess.
It’s also important that you keep an eye out for the changes that are happening in the health insurance industry. We have the Affordable Healthcare Act that will be going into effect and already there’s talk about the impact on small businesses and the options that will be available to more Americans. Moreover, there have been a wave of changes in the health insurance industry that may lead to changes in policies and coverage. Make sure you stay on top of those shifts. It may put more money in your pocket.
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Do your back-to-school shopping during your state’s “tax holiday.” Not every state has one, but if yours does, or you live within traveling distance to a state with a tax break, it might be worth it to make the trek. (As long as you don’t spend more money on gas getting there.) Among the states with a tax holiday are Florida, New York, and Maryland. No matter where you are in the country, you can also follow these money-saving back-to-school tips. Maybe there’s a trip to the outlets in your future?
And, just an FYI, some states also have tax breaks on things other than back-to-school items.
Use a credit card with a good warranty program. We depend on so many gadgets. And if one of them breaks, it’s costly to replace. CardHub.com has analyzed the pros and cons of the different cards to find the ones with the best programs. Amex and Discover topped the list.
Get health insurance. Planned Parenthood has pulled together an infographic that outlines the benefits for women of the Affordable Care Act. Did you know that half of women put off doctor visits because of the cost? And more than two-thirds of women pay more out-of-pocket expenses than men? Since the law was passed this year, 45 million women have been promised no co-pays for preventative care. And nearly five million women will get tax credits to help pay for insurance.
Save on energy costs. Using energy efficient light bulbs, making sure your air conditioner is in good working order and unplugging appliances that use power even when they’re off. These are just a few of the ways you can save on your energy bill.
Follow these tips and spend less at Target. Because you know you can’t walk out of there on a normal day without spending at least $100. Put the markdown schedule in your calendar!
Become a freegan. The freegan movement has been on the rise for the past few years, but it’s hitting the mainstream these days via Project Runway. One of this season’s designers, Fabio Costa, is a proud freegan. So what is a freegan? A person who cuts down on consumption, environmental impact and cost by dumpster diving, participating in swaps, scouring Craigslist’s free section, squatting and foraging. Learn more on this Freegan website.
Prepare for a move to Niagra Falls. Starting this fall, Niagra Falls, NY will try to attract young professionals with $3,942 (up to $6,984 over two years) for to help pay student loan debt. Recipients have to live in the downtown area and should be in the clear with landlords, mortgage brokers and student loan administrators. Funding for this program will last for two years and subsidize 20 recipients. Who doesn’t want a view of the Falls?
In addition to introducing the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans, President Obama used the podium at the National Urban League to talk up the benefits to blacks and Hispanics of the Affordable Healthcare Act. During his speech, he emphasized the provision that would keep children of the insured on their policies until the age of 26, lower prescription drug prices for the elderly, the end of “discrimination against sick people,” and health insurance for 30 million additional people.
And it’s not just the President that’s making this case to African-American voters. Senior adviser Valerie Jarrett talked about the various provisions at an African American Policy Forum meeting at Baltimore’s Morgan State University. Staff members have met with African American members of the media and with people across the country at various events.
“Given the health disparities, it will disproportionately benefit the African-American community,” Jarrett said at an event on July 13. She noted elsewhere, more generally, that the government plans to subsidize healthcare exchanges though some GOP lawmakers have said they won’t expand Medicaid.
Talk over the past couple of weeks has emphasized the need for black voters to come out for President Obama if he’s going to take certain key swing states (North Carolina, for instance). A National Urban League study shows that if even five percent fewer black voters show up in November, it could determine the outcomes in certain states.
The Center for American Progress has released an exhaustive analysis of the state of women of color in the U.S. The picture it paints is a bright one, indicating the great leaps and bounds that women of color have made in this country. However, there is still much work to do across important areas of public life, and personal and professional accomplishment.
According to the report, women of color comprise 36.3 percent of the female population and 18 percent of the entire U.S. population. However, they are underrepresented in government and in the middle and upper economic classes. Moreover, they stand to gain the most from reforms that seek to create greater equality of opportunity.
Here are some of the stats included in the report:
- Women overall make 77 cents for every dollar that a White man makes. However, Black women make only 70 cents for that dollar.
- Women of color make up 33 percent of the female workforce but are more likely to occupy lower-paying jobs, leading to an average of $434,000 in lost wages over a lifetime.
- The median weekly earnings for White women is $703. For Black women, it’s $595. Latinas fare even worse with $518.
- The poverty rate of White women is 10.3 percent. For Black women, it’s 26.6 percent.
- Unemployment among women of color is 13.3 percent versus 7.2 percent for White women.
- Women of color make up 53.2 percent of the medically uninsured.
- There are only 90 women serving in Congress, none of them in the Senate. Of that figure, 24 women of color are serving in the House of Representatives; 13 are African American. There are even fewer women of color at the state levels of government.
To read the report in its entirety, click here.
Thousands rejoiced yesterday as the Supreme Court announced the decision to uphold most of President Obama’s Affordable Care Act.. Altogether the uninsured spend about $2.64 billion out of pocket every year, an amount that should decrease with the ACA. Not to mention that as many as 10.3 low income citizens will now be covered by Medicaid in 2014 once the ACA is fully implemented. Women will particularly benefit from the Supreme Court’s big decision, of the millions uninsured, Forbes reports that 19 million are women. Take a look at some of the victories in health care coverage below:
Unfair practices such as labeling sexual abuse and assault a “preexisting condition” or giving women that label who have had a previous Caesarean section birth will end.
Gender rating is now erased. This practice costs women nearly $1 billion each year. Gender rating is the practice of charging women more simply because they’re women. Of the states that still continue this practice, the National Women’s Law Center observes that 90 percent of the best selling plans charge women more than men, although only three percent of these plans cover maternity services. One third of the plans that exclude maternity care, charge women 30 percent more than men for the same coverage. There’s even a plan that charges 25-year-old women 85 percent more. When the ACA is fully implemented in 2014, this practice will be rendered illegal.
Because of gender rating and other practices, without the ACA, Forbes reports that premium rates would most likely have greatly increased. The RAND Corporation predicted this rise would be by 9.3 percent while the Urban Institute predicted a rise of 10 percent. The average cost of this premium rise is estimated at $534. That’s another expensive cost women can happily now avoid.
Under the ACA, maternity care is now a required coverage area. In addition, nursing mothers will be able to enjoy mandated breaks. For nursing mothers working in an office with 50 or more employees, they will now enjoy a private place for nursing.
With all of these benefits and more now secured, if you didn’t take time to do a victory shout yesterday, take the time now to express your happiness.
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Luggage we check, packages we mail, new phones—just about everything comes with insurance so, you may be a little uncomfortable with this concept: sometimes, you don’t need it.