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How badly do you want health insurance reform?

01-22-2009by Colleen King

Now that we have our new president in place and we’re all hoping things financially will improve, let’s talk about the reform of the health care/insurance system.


It’s not going to be free, in fact it could be quite costly. Are you will to do it? Here is an excerpt from an article the Associate Press ran on January 19th:


“Washington – Prospects for health reform drop significantly when Americans hear potential financial trade-offs associated with expanding health insurance coverage, a poll indicates.


For example, nearly seven in 10 people say they favor the concept of requiring employers to provide their workers with health insurance or contribute into a fund that pays to cover the uninsured. President-elect Barack Obama has called for such an employer mandate for medium and large businesses.


But what if they heard the mandate would cause some employers to lay off workers? Support falls dramatically to about three in 10 people, according to a new national survey conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Harvard School of Public Health.


Similarly, about two out of three people favor requiring all Americans to have health insurance. But when told some people may be required to buy insurance that’s too expensive or it’s something they don’t want, support for the individual mandate falls to 19 percent.


“As we have learned from past debates, public support looms for health reform largest at the beginning of the debate, but it’s relatively easy to chip away at that support with arguments about trade-offs,” said Mollyann Brodie, a Kaiser vice president.


Researchers said the economy is the overwhelming top concern in the United States, cited by nearly three quarters of the public. Health care is a top domestic concern too. But the survey suggests the public is split when it comes to a willingness to sacrifice financially to get more people insured.


About 47 percent were willing to pay higher insurance premiums or taxes, while 49 percent were not. The study is based on a telephone survey of 1,628 adults conducted in early and mid-December. The margin of error was plus or minus 3 percentage points.”


Me again–So as you might suspect, once there is a suggestion that people break out a check book, interest generally wanes. You don’t want the government paying for it necessarily, because that means us in taxes. Remember the $600 toilet seats? They aren’t big on cutting costs. But maybe this time will be different, I’ve got my fingers crossed!


In California when the cry for decreasing the number of uninsured was big early last year, and about 6 million people were uninsured, there was an estimate of nearly 2 million people that could afford coverage but they didn’t want to pay for it. So we’re potentially going to raise taxes for everyone so those who don’t want to buy coverage are covered? Talk about expensive!


So we’ve got to find a way, we just have to be watchful of upcoming proposals. Be well, and Happy 2009!

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Health insurance with vision care–how much is it, and what is it?

01-13-2009by Colleen King

First of all, Happy New Year! Here’s hoping 2009 treats people better than 2008.


In the individual health and group health insurance arenas, medical insurance covers medical problems only. The thing we used to debate when I worked for a carrier years ago, is what’s the difference between what is and is not covered under the medical plan when it comes to eye related problems.


Basically, vision care refers to glasses, contact lenses and the exams to figure out how well you do or do not see. Your health plan would cover illness or injury to the eye, like conjunctivitis, a corneal abrasion or cataract removal. If you can’t see because the lenses in your eyes are opaque, the surgery would be covered under medical and usually the eyeglasses associated with it would be as well. If you can’t see because you’re near sighted or far sighted, that fall under vision care.


When looking for a vision plan on an individual basis, there’s not a lot available. VSP offers a plan that you have to buy directly from them, they won’t let agents sell it and it’s about $200/year. Think about it; how much are your glasses or contacts and exam going to cost? It’s hard to market a vision plan that’s affordable because, who is going to buy it? People that WILL use it. Whereas with medical insurance, you may or may not use it but most people acknowledge they should have it, just in case.


Group health insurance parameters are similar as to what is covered how. But, group vision plans may be something to consider as there are so many more of them available and fairly reasonably priced.  But for individuals, I usually ask if the have the Auto Club, AAA. Many retail places like Lenscrafters, Pennys or Sears optical offer discount. And you’ve already bought that card!


Be well, and all the best for 2009!

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Insurance? Not today

12-31-2008by Colleen King

Health Insurance, life insurance, annuities, long term care insurance–okay, my usual topics are in. But today’s article is not to talk about insurance, I just want to wish everyone a Happy New Year.


2008 was a lousy year for many people, so kick it to the curb and get ready for 2009. As far as insurance, we’ll see what actually changes in the health care arena. It won’t be fast or ‘all curing’ but I hope there will be some positive action. 


Especially if it doesn’t mean me losing my source of income! 


So, I wish you all a Happy NYE, and we’ll be ringing it in from the Caribbean. Hope that bodes well for smoother sailing in 2009! I look forward to answering your questions again…..


Be well!

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Group Health Insurance and when your renewal comes around

12-26-2008by Colleen King

Wow–time got away, and I’ve posted nothing in December! Other than the usual holiday stuff keeping me busy, I also had several group health plan clients whose renewals are coming up January 1st. My advice to you when your group health insurance renewal comes around is to attend to it early on, and not wait until the last minute when possible. Here’s why.




(Merry Christmas from my partner on the right, Aidan, and his gal pal Siobhan. I’m sure you know the other guy)


About 6-8 weeks before your anniversary date, you and your agent will get the next year’s rates for your group health plan. What I tell my clients is that we’ll look them over, and when you get over the inevitable sticker shock, I’ll research what else is out there so see if it makes sense to make a change in plans, either within the same carrier or to change carriers.


If you change plans within the same insurance carrier, the paperwork is usually pretty light. But if you are changing carriers, you are starting from scratch so all new paperwork needs to be submitted. When you go through this process close to the renewal date, there is always the concern that something may be missing, delaying the implementation of a new plan. And if you have a January 1 renewal date, believe me, things slow down at the insurance companies because of the Christmas and New Year holiday time off.


Group health insurance renewals are also the time to add new employees. If this process is completed after the first of the month and they need care, there can be hassles in their obtaining care because the insurance company doesn’t know your employee is eligible.


Even though I’m emphasizing January 1 renewals in this article, it applies to renewals at any time of the year. Since money is tight for most companies, talk to your agent about less expensive plans to see what might be possible. You’ve got better things to spend money on than health insurance of course, but keeping a group health insurance plan goes a long way to recruiting and retaining good employees,


Have a wonderful holiday season, and a fabulous 2009!


Be well!

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Health Savings Accounts–One Account or Two?

11-16-2008by Colleen King

Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) are a great way to handle health care coverage for many people. In order to have one you need to have a specific type of health plan, referred to as a Qualified High Deductible Health Plan (HDHP). In order to qualify as an HSA eligible HDHP in 2008, plans for a single individual must have a the deductible of at least $1100 and the only benefits available prior to meeting the deductible are preventive services. For a family plan the minimum deductible in 2008 is $2200.




But the question I want to address in this article is one aspect of setting up the actual HSA. When a family has an HSA eligible plan, should they set up one HSA or two? Well, when you set up an HSA for your family there can only be one account holder listed, but the money in the account can be used for all members covered by their family health plan. In 2008 the maximum contribution for an individual is $2900 and for a family is $5800. So, no big difference at this point whether you need one account or two? Maybe if you file your taxes separately, you could each use the deduction of what you’ve contributed during the year.


Here’s where the potential benefit comes in; after age 55, people with HSAs are eligible for ‘catch up’ contributions! In 2008, that would be an additional $900. If you have one account, there can only be one catch up contribution. But if you and your spouse have separate accounts, you could both take advantage of the catch up contribution. So,with a family HSA allowable contribution of $5800 (if you choose to make the maximum contribution) plus $900, that would give you $6300 in the account. With separate accounts you could each make the maximum contribution of $2900, plus $900, times 2, giving you a total of $7200 that you could put away. Something to think about!


Every year these numbers are adjusted for the coming year; see below for the HSA numbers for 2009:


Maximum HSA contribution–individuals $3000, families $5950

Catch up contributions for account holders over age 55–$1000

Minimum health plan deductible–individuals $1150, families $2300

Maximum out of pocket max on a plan–individual plans $5800, family plans $11,600

Whatever you do, you need to have health insurance these days. HSA eligible plans can be less expensive than conventional PPO plans and you are basically are ‘self insuring’ for the smaller issues. Look at it further to see if it’s a fit for you.


Be well!


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