health insurance http://www.wisebread.com/taxonomy/term/7886/all en-US 5 Important Tax Changes for 2016 http://www.wisebread.com/5-important-tax-changes-for-2016 <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5-important-tax-changes-for-2016" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="http://wisebread.killeracesmedia.netdna-cdn.com/files/fruganomics/imagecache/250w/blog-images/000054433640.jpg" alt="Child learning important tax changes for 2016" title="" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="140" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>What comes with a new year? Changes to the federal tax code, of course. And 2016 is no exception.</p> <p>These changes could mean big financial penalties if you don't have health insurance. Or they could bring you big savings if you happen to own a small business. Overall, the changes to the tax code that Congress enacted last year are beneficial to consumers, according to Dave Du, vice president of consumer advocacy at TaxAudit.com.</p> <p>&quot;With just days to go before the end of the year, Congress finally extended most of the tax breaks which were set to expire,&quot; Du said. &quot;Some of these provisions &mdash; like the definition of racehorse as property &mdash; won't impact too many of us, but there's much good news for taxpayers this year.&quot;</p> <p>One example? You can file later this year. The deadline for filing your income taxes this year is April 18 instead of April 15, thanks to something called Emancipation Day in Washington, D.C.</p> <p>Here are five other big tax changes you should be prepared for this year.</p> <h2>1. A Climbing Health Insurance Penalty</h2> <p>One of the bigger changes to the tax code this year is actually a punitive one: An increase in the penalty for not having health insurance that meets the requirements of the Affordable Care Act.</p> <p>Micah Fraim, a Roanoke, Virginia-based Certified Public Accountant, said that for the 2015 tax year &mdash; those are the taxes you'll be filing by April 18 &mdash; filers will have to pay a penalty of $325 for every uninsured adult and $162.50 for every uninsured dependent child, or 2% of your taxable income &mdash; whichever number is greater.</p> <p>That's a significant increase. For the 2014 tax year, those numbers stood at $95 and $47.50, or 1% of your taxable income. &quot;And in 2016, it gets even worse,&quot; Friedman said.</p> <p>For the 2016 tax year &mdash; the taxes you will file by April of 2017 &mdash; the penalty for not having insurance rises to $695 per adult and $347.50 per child, or 2.5% of your income. The message is clear: If you don't have acceptable health insurance, it's time to get it. (See also:&nbsp;<a href="http://www.wisebread.com/avoid-these-5-costly-health-insurance-mistakes">Avoid These 5 Costly Health Insurance Mistakes</a>)</p> <h2>2. New Health Insurance Forms</h2> <p>You can also expect to receive a new form or two in the mail relating to health insurance. If you've purchased health insurance through the federal government's Health Insurance Marketplace, you'll receive Form 1095-A. This isn't a change &mdash; the government began mailing this form out for the 2014 tax year.</p> <p>But there are two new health insurance forms for the 2015 tax year. Form 1095-B is a statement from your health insurance company verifying that you and other members of your household have insurance coverage that meets the requirements of the Affordable Care Act. This form is only sent to taxpayers who get their insurance from somewhere other than the Health Insurance Marketplace, such as from their employer. Form 1095-C is a statement from your employer that provides details about your employer-sponsored health benefits.</p> <p>Many taxpayers will receive both 1095-B and 1095-C, of course. The key fact to realize? You probably won't have to do anything with these forms, said Andrew Oswalt, Certified Public Account for Cedar Rapids, Iowa-based TaxACT.</p> <p>&quot;The new forms could be confusing because most people will think they have to do something with them,&quot; Oswalt said. &quot;The reality is, they'll simply need to mark a checkbox on their Form 1040 when filing and keep the forms 1095-B and 1095-C for their records.&quot;</p> <h2>3. A Tax Break for Small Business Owners</h2> <p>Priyanka Prakash, finance specialist at loan-search service FitBiz Loans, said that small business owners need to be aware of Section 179 of the tax code &mdash; a new tax law that lets them deduct up to $500,000 of qualifying equipment on their tax returns.</p> <p>To qualify for this deduction, the equipment must be used primarily for business purposes, Prakash said. The equipment must also have been put into use during the 2015 calendar year.</p> <p>&quot;This covers a wide range of equipment, from computers to furniture to business vehicles,&quot; Prakash said.</p> <p>Prakash gives this example: If a business purchases office equipment worth $100,000, it can then deduct that entire purchase amount on its taxes. If the business has a tax rate of 30%, Section 179 will save it $30,000 in taxes. Previously, business owners could only deduct a small amount every year based on the life of the equipment.</p> <p>&quot;Section 179 saves small businesses a lot of money,&quot; Prakash said.</p> <h2>4. A Break for College Students</h2> <p>Tom Wheelwright, a Certified Public Account and author of <a href="http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1937832058/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&amp;camp=1789&amp;creative=9325&amp;creativeASIN=1937832058&amp;linkCode=as2&amp;tag=wisbre03-20&amp;linkId=TFRKWZZ4OXTQ44N2" target="_blank">Tax-Free Wealth</a>, said that the 2015 tax year brought an important break for college students who are filing their own taxes or parents who claim these students as dependents.</p> <p>Congress made permanent the American Opportunity Tax Credit, which gives college students a credit of $2,500 per year for college tuition, fees, and course materials. Parents can claim the exemption for their college-age students as long as they claim these students as dependents on their income taxes.</p> <h2>5. A Boon for Heads of Household</h2> <p>The standard deduction is set to rise &mdash; a bit &mdash; for heads of households. The standard deductions that most taxpayers can claim in 2016 haven't risen for single taxpayers or married couples filing jointly or separately. Blame that on low inflation.</p> <p>But the standard deduction for taxpayers filing as the head of their households is going up a bit, rising $50 for 2016. That brings that standard deduction up to $9,300 in 2016.</p> <p><em>Are you ready for tax time this year?</em></p> <br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">This article is from <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/dan-rafter">Dan Rafter</a> of <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/5-important-tax-changes-for-2016">Wise Bread</a>, an award-winning personal finance and <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/credit-cards">credit card comparison</a> website. Read more great articles from Wise Bread:</div><div class="view view-similarterms view-id-similarterms view-display-id-block_2 view-dom-id-1"> <div class="view-content"> <div class="item-list"> <ul> <li class="views-row views-row-1 views-row-odd views-row-first"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/5-most-common-tax-mistakes-made-by-college-grads">5 Most Common Tax Mistakes Made by College Grads</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-2 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/how-to-choose-the-best-tax-preparer">How to Choose the Best Tax Preparer</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-3 views-row-odd"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/20-amazing-outrageous-and-just-plain-weird-tax-deductions">20 amazing, outrageous and just plain weird tax deductions</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-4 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/the-easiest-way-to-avoid-a-tax-audit">The Easiest Way to Avoid a Tax Audit</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-5 views-row-odd views-row-last"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/top-three-tax-facts-to-know-for-2016">Top Three Tax Facts to Know for 2016</a></span> </div> </li> </ul> </div> </div> </div> </div><br/></br> Taxes deductions filing health insurance IRS penalties tax breaks Tue, 19 Jan 2016 12:00:03 +0000 Dan Rafter 1639404 at http://www.wisebread.com 7 Penalty-Free Ways to Withdraw Money From Your Retirement Account http://www.wisebread.com/7-penalty-free-ways-to-withdraw-money-from-your-retirement-account <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/7-penalty-free-ways-to-withdraw-money-from-your-retirement-account" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="http://wisebread.killeracesmedia.netdna-cdn.com/files/fruganomics/imagecache/250w/blog-images/ira_401k_000006195210.jpg" alt="Learning ways to withdraw from your 401k without penalty" title="" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="140" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>While it's true that 401Ks have a higher contribution limit ($18,000 in 2015) than traditional IRAs and Roth IRAs ($5,500 for most people or $6,500 if you're age 50 or older in 2015), it would be a mistake to dismiss traditional IRAs and Roth IRAs as part of your retirement strategy.</p> <p>One of the major advantages of having an IRA is that it offers much more flexibility when it comes to taking distributions before age 59 1/2. Under most circumstances, early distributions from a 401K trigger a 10% penalty fee from the IRS on top of applicable income and capital gains taxes. But IRAs are subject to far fewer limitations in many cases &mdash; often, they're free from the 10% penalty for early withdrawals.</p> <p>Here are seven circumstances under which you can withdraw money before age 59 1/2 from an IRA without triggering an IRS penalty.</p> <h2>1. Health Insurance Premiums During Unemployment</h2> <p>If you're unemployed and can't jump on somebody's health plan for coverage, you're probably going to be stressed out about meeting your monthly premiums. Fortunately, once you've been unemployed for at least 12 continuous weeks, the IRS lets you take a penalty-free early distribution from your IRA to cover your health insurance monthly premiums. (To avoid any doubts about how you're using your IRA monies, consider opening a new bank account to handle deposits from your IRA and payments to your health provider.)</p> <p>Some additional points to remember are that the IRA distributions need to take place during either the year you received the unemployment compensation or the following, and that the IRA distributions need to take place no later than 60 days after you have been reemployed.</p> <h2>2. Large Medical Bills</h2> <p>Uncle Sam also gives you a break when you use an IRA withdrawal to pay for unreimbursed medical expenses greater than 10% (or 7.5% if you or your spouse was born before January 2, 1950) of your adjusted gross income for the year of the distribution.</p> <p>While the IRS doesn't require you to itemize your deductions to take advantage of this exception, you should keep a record of all of your medical, dental, and prescription expenses that weren't reimbursed or paid by others. Remember that you can't include the cost of non-prescription drugs (except insulin) or other purchases for general health, such as vitamins, diet foods, or health club dues. Costs of cosmetic procedures aren't eligible, either.</p> <p>However, you can include 23.5 cents per mile that you drove your car for medical reasons. Refer to the Schedule A of Form 1040 to find out the entire list of eligible expenses that you can use to calculate your total unreimbursed medical expenses.</p> <h2>3. First Home Purchases</h2> <p>If the dream property for which you've been waiting so long finally becomes available and you're up to $10,000 short on the down payment, you can tap into your IRA without a penalty.</p> <p>As long as your total IRA withdrawal for first-time home buying is not greater than $10,000, you can even split your withdrawals over more than one year. Not only can you use these monies to buy your own home, but also to pay qualified costs of buying, building, or rebuilding a property. Just make sure that those qualified costs are paid within 120 days after receiving your IRA distribution.</p> <p>Attention couples: If you keep separate IRA plans, each one of you can withdraw up to $10,000 without penalty to pool at total of $20,000 for a first home purchase.</p> <h2>4. Higher Education Expenses</h2> <p>Whether it is for your own education or that of your spouse, children, or grandchildren, you can take a penalty-free withdrawal from your IRA to cover qualified higher education expenses, including tuition, fees, books, supplies, and equipment required for the enrollment or attendance at an eligible educational institution.</p> <p>Other eligible education expenses include the cost of room and board for individuals that are at least half-time students and special needs services in connection with enrollment or attendance. While there is no limit to the amount of your withdrawal free from the 10% penalty tax, keep in mind that your monies may count as income for the student, and may thus impact their eligibility for financial aid.</p> <h2>5. Debts to the IRS</h2> <p>Uncle Sam wants so badly to collect on your unpaid taxes and arrears that he's willing to forego the 10% penalty tax on your IRA withdrawal. However, as in all other scenarios in this list, you do have to pay applicable income taxes, including capital gains.</p> <p>While using part of your IRA balance to pay all or part of your tax debts may not sound that great, it's better than trying to avoid a levy. Under the second scenario, you may have no bargaining power.</p> <h2>6. Rollovers From Traditional IRAs to Roth IRAs</h2> <p>Unlike traditional IRAs, Roth IRAs are funded with after-tax dollars. This means that you don't owe any taxes on withdrawals after age 59 1/2. Plus, once your Roth IRA has been open for at least five years, you can withdraw your contributions at any time without penalty (note that earnings on your contributions <em>are</em> subject to IRS penalties).</p> <p>If you were to transfer funds from your traditional IRA to a Roth IRA, you would pay applicable income taxes now, but no 10% penalty tax on contributions if you wait five years to withdraw those funds from your Roth IRA. Each transfer has its own five-year waiting period and you can only do one IRA rollover per year.</p> <h2>7. Periodic Income Distributions</h2> <p>Last but not least, you can take penalty-free distributions from your IRA by taking a series of substantially equal periodic payments (SEPP) over your life expectancy or the life expectancies of you and your designated beneficiary. The IRS website offers a useful list of frequently asked questions on <a href="http://www.irs.gov/Retirement-Plans/Retirement-Plans-FAQs-regarding-Substantially-Equal-Periodic-Payments">setting up a SEPP plan</a>.</p> <p>If you're planning to set up a SEPP for early retirement, remember that there maybe some financial risks involved. So, before taking your first periodic income distribution, consult your accountant or financial advisor to check your calculations. (See also: <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/4-reasons-early-retirement-might-be-financially-risky?ref=seealso">4 Reasons Early Retirement Might Be Financially Risky</a>)</p> <h2>The Bottom Line</h2> <p>Taking an early distribution of your IRA may be a last resort to make your financial goals, such as a first home purchase, happen. As you can see from these seven examples, there are ways for you to take an early withdrawal from an IRA without the 10% tax penalty. While these strategies may not be for everybody, some of them can be true game changers. Consult IRS Publication 590-B for more details.</p> <p><em>Have you used your IRA to take early withdrawals without a penalty? Share with us how you did in the comments section.</em></p> <br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">This article is from <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/damian-davila">Damian Davila</a> of <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/7-penalty-free-ways-to-withdraw-money-from-your-retirement-account">Wise Bread</a>, an award-winning personal finance and <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/credit-cards">credit card comparison</a> website. Read more great articles from Wise Bread:</div><div class="view view-similarterms view-id-similarterms view-display-id-block_2 view-dom-id-2"> <div class="view-content"> <div class="item-list"> <ul> <li class="views-row views-row-1 views-row-odd views-row-first"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/5-questions-to-ask-before-you-borrow-from-your-retirement-account">5 Questions to Ask Before You Borrow From Your Retirement Account</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-2 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/should-you-choose-a-roth-401k-or-a-regular-401k">Should You Choose a Roth 401k or a Regular 401k?</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-3 views-row-odd"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/6-warning-signs-youre-sabotaging-your-nest-egg">6 Warning Signs You&#039;re Sabotaging Your Nest Egg</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-4 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/5-ways-to-strengthen-your-finances-before-retirement">5 Ways to Strengthen Your Finances Before Retirement</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-5 views-row-odd views-row-last"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/5-important-tax-changes-for-2016">5 Important Tax Changes for 2016</a></span> </div> </li> </ul> </div> </div> </div> </div><br/></br> Retirement Taxes 401k borrowing health insurance home buying IRA medical bills penalties sepp Thu, 05 Nov 2015 13:15:18 +0000 Damian Davila 1605093 at http://www.wisebread.com Winter Is Coming: Make These 6 Money Moves Now http://www.wisebread.com/winter-is-coming-make-these-6-money-moves-now <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/winter-is-coming-make-these-6-money-moves-now" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="http://wisebread.killeracesmedia.netdna-cdn.com/files/fruganomics/imagecache/250w/blog-images/fall_piggy_bank_000027613114.jpg" alt="Learning which money moves to make before winter comes" title="" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="140" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>As we approach the end of the year, it's important to make sure that your money is headed in a good direction. It's all too easy to put your finances on autopilot and not think twice about the money moves you're making. But a completely hands-off approach can be a recipe for disaster. Here are six money items to tackle this fall.</p> <h2>1. Health Insurance Open Enrollment</h2> <p>Having health insurance is no longer an option. In fact, the fine for <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/avoid-these-5-costly-health-insurance-mistakes">not having health insurance</a> goes through the roof in 2016. In 2016, you'll pay the higher of either 2.5% of your yearly household income or $695 per person if you fail to have a health insurance policy that meets the government's definition of <a href="https://www.irs.gov/Affordable-Care-Act/Individuals-and-Families/ACA-Individual-Shared-Responsibility-Provision-Minimum-Essential-Coverage">minimum essential coverage</a>. That's a hefty chunk of change.</p> <p>Open enrollment starts on November 1, 2015 and only runs until January 31, 2016. You only have during that window to make changes to your health care plan unless you fall under a special exception, such as marriage, giving birth, or losing coverage at work. Don't get lazy though; you only have 60 days after one of those events to get insurance coverage. If you don't, you'll need to wait until the next open enrollment.</p> <h2>2. End of Year IRA Contributions</h2> <p>Contributing to your IRA, whether it's a traditional or a Roth plan, can be an important component of your retirement plan. And the sooner you start, the more money you can accumulate over your lifetime. Don't forget that you can make your IRA contributions for 2015 all the way up to the April 15, 2016 tax filing deadline.While traditional IRA contributions may qualify for tax deductions, Roth contributions generally do not. Tax deduction or not, contributing to your IRA is simply a smart financial move.</p> <h2>3. It's Bonus Time</h2> <p>The end of the year means that bonuses are right around the corner. Do you have a plan for your bonus? Maybe a trip somewhere amazing, or buying that new iPhone 6? Why not plan on using all or some of your bonus to help further your financial goals, either by paying off debt or saving and investing? Also, remember that your bonus is often based upon your performance, so now is the time to step up your game and talk with your boss about how you might maximize your check.</p> <h2>4. Create a Money Filing System</h2> <p>Before the end of the year, it's a good idea to get a money filing system in order to keep track of all your important documents, tax information, and all those other loose financial papers that need a home. Keep at least your last two years tax returns, any insurance documents and policies, and if you are self-employed, all those receipts that you will need for tax time. Whether you use a service like Dropbox, a password secured vendor, or even an old school accordion file at home, make sure your filing system is secure and easy to access.</p> <h2>5. Entrepreneur Taxes</h2> <p>When you're an entrepreneur, you've got to think a little differently about the end of the year. For you, the end of the year is a good time to make an inventory&nbsp;of all the tax deductible purchases needed for your business. On your list, you might include things like computers, phones, software, equipment, books, and new marketing systems. Always make sure you save the receipt, and buy the items before December 31, 2015 to count toward this year's deductions.</p> <h2>6. Donate</h2> <p>Donating toward the greater good can be a terrific feeling, but there are a few rules you need to follow if you are going to deduct the expense as part of your 2015 taxes. If you choose to make a monetary donation, you must ensure that you are giving to a proper non-profit 501(c) (3) organization, and you must have some sort of bank record, cancelled check, or receipt for your donation.</p> <p>If you choose to use a credit card to donate, make sure you donate before December 31, 2015. If your credit card bill isn't paid until January 2016, but you made the donation in 2015, it still counts for this year. If you plan to donate clothing or household items, they generally must be in good shape. Organizations like Goodwill will always ask you for the approximate value (known as fair market value) of your donations. Just be aware that if you donate over $500 of goods or clothing, you will need an appraisal of the value regardless of whether the items are in good shape or not.</p> <p><em>What are you doing to prepare your finances for winter?</em></p> <br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">This article is from <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/shannah-game">Shannah Game</a> of <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/winter-is-coming-make-these-6-money-moves-now">Wise Bread</a>, an award-winning personal finance and <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/credit-cards">credit card comparison</a> website. Read more great articles from Wise Bread:</div><div class="view view-similarterms view-id-similarterms view-display-id-block_2 view-dom-id-1"> <div class="view-content"> <div class="item-list"> <ul> <li class="views-row views-row-1 views-row-odd views-row-first"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/5-important-tax-changes-for-2016">5 Important Tax Changes for 2016</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-2 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/101-tax-deductions-for-bloggers-and-freelancers">101 Tax deductions for bloggers and freelancers</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-3 views-row-odd"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/20-amazing-outrageous-and-just-plain-weird-tax-deductions">20 amazing, outrageous and just plain weird tax deductions</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-4 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/10-year-end-financial-moves-you-must-make-now">10 Year-End Financial Moves You Must Make Now</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-5 views-row-odd views-row-last"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/could-a-divorce-improve-your-finances">Could a Divorce Improve Your Finances?</a></span> </div> </li> </ul> </div> </div> </div> </div><br/></br> Taxes autumn donating fall health insurance money moves taxes Wed, 04 Nov 2015 13:16:21 +0000 Shannah Game 1605064 at http://www.wisebread.com 8 Ways to Spend Your Last-Minute Health Care FSA Funds http://www.wisebread.com/8-ways-to-spend-your-last-minute-health-care-fsa-funds <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/8-ways-to-spend-your-last-minute-health-care-fsa-funds" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="http://wisebread.killeracesmedia.netdna-cdn.com/files/fruganomics/imagecache/250w/blog-images/doctor_mother_daughter_000027794734.jpg" alt="Doctor with mother and daughter" title="" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="140" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>Don't lose the money in your <a href="http://www.healthcare.gov/glossary/flexible-spending-account-FSA/">Flexible Spending Account</a>! The initial cut-off was December 31, 2014, but if your employer grants the optional rollover to the next year, your new deadline to use it or lose it is March 15, 2015. (One exception is if your plan's extension includes the $500 carry-over option &mdash; you can use those funds anytime throughout the year.) (See also: <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/signing-up-for-obamacare-in-2015-heres-whats-new?ref=seealso">Signing Up for Obamacare in 2015? Here's What's New</a>)</p> <p>Your FSA can be used for several qualified purchases. Here are eight awesome last-minute ways to spend the money in your FSA before you lose it.</p> <h2>1. Baby Supplies</h2> <p>The cost of raising infants is high, but a portion of those costs can be offset using your pre-tax FSA money. Diapers, thermometers, cold medications, and other essential baby care products are FSA eligible. Also see below for dependent care expenses.</p> <h2>2. Household Medical Supplies</h2> <p>Stock up on household medical supplies. Things that you normally would not consider buying with your FSA do qualify as medical supplies, like sunscreen, contact lenses, allergy medications, first-aid kits, and more. The <a href="https://fsastore.com/">FSA Store</a> has a large selection of FSA-eligible products.</p> <h2>3. Annual Exams and Check-Ups</h2> <p>Remember, co-pays and deductibles for those last-minute doctor visits qualify. So, schedule routine eye exams, physicals, and annual check-ups for you and covered members of your family.</p> <h2>4. Prescription Medications and Vitamins</h2> <p>Re-stock any prescription medications now that you will need later in the year. Preventive vitamin supplements and digestive care are also considered medical supplies.</p> <h2>5. Dependent Care</h2> <p>Some FSA plans cover dependent or child care &mdash; and for those with costly childcare and dependent care expenses, this is a great way to spend your FSA in one shot. Daycare, after school programs, nannies, and adult care all are qualified FSA expenses. Check with your plan to determine coverage.</p> <h2>6. Family Planning</h2> <p>Whether you are planning for a child (or just the opposite), many family planning items, like condoms, fertility kits, and fertility treatments are all FSA eligible.</p> <h2>7. Supplies You Might Not Expect</h2> <p>Many medical supplies you might not expect including batteries, Dr. Scholl's foot inserts, nicotine patches, ice packs, and body creams and lotions qualify for FSA eligibility.</p> <h2>8. Commuter Costs</h2> <p>Commuter costs are eligible, so don't forget to submit receipts for transportation and parking to and from health care service providers and pharmacies. The reimbursement also applies to dependent care providers.</p> <p><em>Do you have unused FSA funds? How will you use them before the deadline?</em></p> <br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">This article is from <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/qiana-chavaia">Qiana Chavaia</a> of <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/8-ways-to-spend-your-last-minute-health-care-fsa-funds">Wise Bread</a>, an award-winning personal finance and <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/credit-cards">credit card comparison</a> website. Read more great articles from Wise Bread:</div><div class="view view-similarterms view-id-similarterms view-display-id-block_2 view-dom-id-1"> <div class="view-content"> <div class="item-list"> <ul> <li class="views-row views-row-1 views-row-odd views-row-first"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/going-without-health-insurance-in-2015-heres-what-itll-cost-you">Going Without Health Insurance in 2015? Here&#039;s What It&#039;ll Cost You</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-2 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/signing-up-for-obamacare-in-2015-heres-whats-new">Signing Up for Obamacare in 2015? Here&#039;s What&#039;s New</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-3 views-row-odd"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/the-types-of-health-insurance-plans">The Types of Health Insurance Plans</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-4 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/5-vital-things-to-remember-when-buying-health-insurance">5 Vital Things to Remember When Buying Health Insurance</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-5 views-row-odd views-row-last"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/dont-fall-for-these-common-obamacare-scams">Don&#039;t Fall for These Common Obamacare Scams</a></span> </div> </li> </ul> </div> </div> </div> </div><br/></br> Health and Beauty Insurance fsa account health care health insurance obamacare Thu, 05 Mar 2015 18:00:07 +0000 Qiana Chavaia 1320723 at http://www.wisebread.com Going Without Health Insurance in 2015? Here's What It'll Cost You http://www.wisebread.com/going-without-health-insurance-in-2015-heres-what-itll-cost-you <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/going-without-health-insurance-in-2015-heres-what-itll-cost-you" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="http://wisebread.killeracesmedia.netdna-cdn.com/files/fruganomics/imagecache/250w/blog-images/healthcare-stethoscope-money-Dollarphotoclub_64769213.jpg" alt="stethoscope money" title="stethoscope money" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="140" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>The ACA. Obamacare. The Affordable Care Act. Whatever you call it, your finances will almost certainly be affected by it, especially if you choose <em>not</em> to be covered by an approved plan in 2015. While many taxpayers are just now starting to feel the pinch of opting out in 2014, the penalties for this year are much stiffer.&nbsp;</p> <p>Here's what you need to know</p> <h2>How Much Are the Fines?</h2> <p>Straight from the <a href="https://www.healthcare.gov/fees-exemptions/fee-for-not-being-covered/">HealthCare.gov website</a>, the penalty or &quot;tax&quot; for 2015 is either:</p> <ul> <li>2% of your yearly household income over the tax filing threshold (usually anything over $10,000 for an individual); or<br /> &nbsp;</li> <li>$235 per adult and $162.50 for each child under 18.</li> </ul> <p>The government wants you to pay the higher of the two amounts, but the maximum for option one can't exceed the &quot;national average premium for a bronze plan.&quot; Just what is that number? For 2014, the average was $204 per person per month or $1020 per month for a family of five or more. The national average for 2015 won't be known until the end of 2015, but the Washington Times states it could&nbsp;<a href="http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2014/oct/18/obamacare-bronze-plan-premiums-expected-jump-14-20/">increase by as much as 14%</a> in some parts of the country.</p> <p>The maximum for option two can't exceed $975.</p> <h2>How Are the Fines Paid?</h2> <p>Since the healthcare law is enforced strictly through the IRS, it's quite simply a &quot;tax&quot; thing. If you don't make enough to file (under $10,000 in most cases), you wouldn't pay a fine, anyway. If you do file, you'll have a place to indicate your penalty on your return, and that amount will come off your refund (or you'll have to pay in, like any other tax owed). All major tax filing software services have been updated accordingly to help you fill out the right forms and make paying the fine just a part of the tax process.</p> <h2>Can I Get Out of the Fine?</h2> <p>In a word: yes. But it may take some work. People covered by an ACA or another plan that is considered &quot;minimum essential coverage&quot; don't have to pay.</p> <p>Others are exempt from fine if they had coverage for more than nine months of the year, are a member of a federally recognized tribe, have coverage through a health care sharing ministry, or have religious objections to insurance (including Medicare and Social Security). You can also avoid fines if you are in jail during most of the year or aren't in the U.S. lawfully or face certain financial hardships.</p> <h2>What If I Can't Afford Insurance or the Fine?</h2> <p>If the lowest-priced coverage would cost more than 8% of your household income, you can get an exemption. Additional <a href="https://www.healthcare.gov/fees-exemptions/hardship-exemptions/">examples of hardship</a> that may qualify for an exemption include:</p> <p>1. Being homeless;<br /> 2. Eviction or foreclosure;<br /> 3. Facing shut-off from your utility company;<br /> 4. Experiencing domestic violence;<br /> 5. Experience the death of a family member;<br /> 6. Suffering substantial loss due to a fire, flood, or other natural or human-caused disaster;<br /> 7. Filing for bankruptcy;<br /> 8. Being unable to pay medical expenses that resulted in substantial debt;<br /> 9. Experiencing increases in necessary expenses due to caring for an ill, disabled, or aging family member.</p> <p>There are also exemptions that can be granted due to changes in your state's Medicaid and CHIP programs, cancellation of your individual policy, and your difficulty in getting insurance.</p> <p>Note that all of these require you to fill out an application that can take weeks or months to approve. In the meantime, if you fail to get covered and your application is denied, you will still be held liable for any penalties earned during that time. It's is also suggested that you don't wait until the end of 2015 to apply for the exemption if you have proof of hardship now.</p> <h2>Should I Ever Choose to Pay the Fine?</h2> <p>That's really a personal decision, but I will say that there have been instances where you may owe less by simply paying fines. If you are a healthy adult that can get approved for a traditional pre-ACA plan without pre-existing conditions, you may be eligible for a short-term plan. These plans don't offer some of the benefits required by Obamacare, including maternity coverage or certain free preventative services. They are, however, more in line with pre-ACA pricing for premiums, and many have much lower deductibles and premiums than the subsidized plans offered on the exchange. These plans are good for three to 12 months and make you subject to ACA fines, but may still cost less after fines than better plans on the exchange.</p> <p>All of this will change again in 2016, with another increase in fines, so you'll need to stay abreast of developments. With open enrollment ending soon, however, whatever choice you make should be done without delay.</p> <p><em>Will you get insurance or pay the fine this year?</em></p> <br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">This article is from <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/linsey-knerl">Linsey Knerl</a> of <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/going-without-health-insurance-in-2015-heres-what-itll-cost-you">Wise Bread</a>, an award-winning personal finance and <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/credit-cards">credit card comparison</a> website. Read more great articles from Wise Bread:</div><div class="view view-similarterms view-id-similarterms view-display-id-block_2 view-dom-id-7"> <div class="view-content"> <div class="item-list"> <ul> <li class="views-row views-row-1 views-row-odd views-row-first"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/signing-up-for-obamacare-in-2015-heres-whats-new">Signing Up for Obamacare in 2015? Here&#039;s What&#039;s New</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-2 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/dont-fall-for-these-common-obamacare-scams">Don&#039;t Fall for These Common Obamacare Scams</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-3 views-row-odd"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/8-ways-to-spend-your-last-minute-health-care-fsa-funds">8 Ways to Spend Your Last-Minute Health Care FSA Funds</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-4 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/5-vital-things-to-remember-when-buying-health-insurance">5 Vital Things to Remember When Buying Health Insurance</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-5 views-row-odd views-row-last"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/how-to-take-advantage-of-obamacare-for-less-financial-risk-and-more-freedom">How to Take Advantage of Obamacare for Less Financial Risk and More Freedom</a></span> </div> </li> </ul> </div> </div> </div> </div><br/></br> Health and Beauty Insurance ACA health care health insurance insurance IRS obamacare taxes Tue, 03 Feb 2015 14:00:07 +0000 Linsey Knerl 1284842 at http://www.wisebread.com Signing Up for Obamacare in 2015? Here's What's New http://www.wisebread.com/signing-up-for-obamacare-in-2015-heres-whats-new <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/signing-up-for-obamacare-in-2015-heres-whats-new" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="http://wisebread.killeracesmedia.netdna-cdn.com/files/fruganomics/imagecache/250w/blog-images/iStock_000040009130_Large.jpg" alt="little girl doctor" title="little girl doctor" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="140" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>On March 23, 2010, President Obama signed ACA into law, enabling all Americans to obtain health insurance via the online marketplaces. Although Americans have had access to Obamacare for a little over a year now, some provisions of the law will change for 2015.</p> <p>If you're planning on buying health insurance this year, there are a few things that are new.</p> <h2>Here's What You Need to Know for 2015</h2> <h3>Open Enrollment Ends February 15</h3> <p>Anyone without health coverage can sign up during the open enrollment period, which runs November 15, 2014 through February 15, 2015. If you miss open enrollment, you may qualify under the special circumstances period, which grants individuals and families 60 days from a status change, such as birth, marriage, or loss of insurance to apply for coverage.</p> <h3>New Contribution Limits</h3> <p>FSA contribution limits have been raised by $50 for individuals to $2,550. Also, the &quot;Use It or Lose It&quot; rule has now been amended &mdash; in many cases, you can now carry-over up to $500 of your FSA balance into the following year. However, carry-over funds are only extended for use through March 15th of the following year.</p> <p>HSA contribution limits have been increased by $50 for individuals to $3,350, and up $100 for families to $6,650.</p> <h3>Out of Pocket Cost Caps</h3> <p>Maximum out-of-pocket costs are now $6,600 for individuals and $13,200 for families. This is the most you can be accountable for during a coverage year before your provider must cover 100% of medical expenses. This includes deductibles, co-payments, qualified premiums, and other qualified health related expenses.</p> <h3>Employer Mandate Kicks In</h3> <p>As of 2015, the Employer Mandate kicks in. All employers with 100 or more full-time employees must provide a company health plan. Employers with 50-100 employees have until 2016 to implement these changes.</p> <h2>Understanding the Patient's Bill of Rights</h2> <p>As always, it's important to remember that the benefits of the ACA are for all Americans covered by health insurance &mdash; not just those who purchased theirs via the government-run marketplaces. Under this &quot;Patient's Bill of Rights,&quot; you are entitled to some benefits.</p> <ul> <li>You qualify for health coverage regardless if you have a pre-existing condition.<br /> &nbsp;</li> <li>You can no longer be denied coverage for a mistake on your application.<br /> &nbsp;</li> <li>You now have access to out-of-network emergency care (without penalty). <br /> &nbsp;</li> <li>You now have the power to choose any physician or pediatrician of choice within your network, and you no longer need a referral for OB-GYN services.<br /> &nbsp;</li> <li>Those receiving Medicare get a 50% discount on brand-name drugs.<br /> &nbsp;</li> <li>You can stay on a parent's health plan until the age of 26. <br /> &nbsp;</li> <li>Insurance companies can no longer use annual and lifetime dollar limits of benefits.<br /> &nbsp;</li> <li>Most plans have to provide free preventive care services, including certain immunizations and screenings for things like women's services, blood pressure, diabetes, depression, HIV, and more. <br /> &nbsp;</li> <li>Insurance companies cannot increase your rate in excess of 10% without public disclosure.</li> </ul> <p>But remember: The ACA mandates that every individual must have health insurance, or face a penalty. Those not in compliance with the law will face significant fees. The fee for 2015 increased and is the greater of: $325 per year for individuals and $162.50 a year per child, or 2% of your annual income. So if you don't yet have health insurance, consider taking advantage of the ACA's benefits and sign up before open enrollment ends February 15th.</p> <p><em>Will you be signing up for health insurance this year via an ACA exchange?</em></p> <br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">This article is from <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/qiana-chavaia">Qiana Chavaia</a> of <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/signing-up-for-obamacare-in-2015-heres-whats-new">Wise Bread</a>, an award-winning personal finance and <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/credit-cards">credit card comparison</a> website. Read more great articles from Wise Bread:</div><div class="view view-similarterms view-id-similarterms view-display-id-block_2 view-dom-id-2"> <div class="view-content"> <div class="item-list"> <ul> <li class="views-row views-row-1 views-row-odd views-row-first"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/going-without-health-insurance-in-2015-heres-what-itll-cost-you">Going Without Health Insurance in 2015? Here&#039;s What It&#039;ll Cost You</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-2 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/8-ways-to-spend-your-last-minute-health-care-fsa-funds">8 Ways to Spend Your Last-Minute Health Care FSA Funds</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-3 views-row-odd"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/dont-fall-for-these-common-obamacare-scams">Don&#039;t Fall for These Common Obamacare Scams</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-4 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/the-types-of-health-insurance-plans">The Types of Health Insurance Plans</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-5 views-row-odd views-row-last"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/5-vital-things-to-remember-when-buying-health-insurance">5 Vital Things to Remember When Buying Health Insurance</a></span> </div> </li> </ul> </div> </div> </div> </div><br/></br> Health and Beauty Insurance ACA health care health insurance obamacare Thu, 15 Jan 2015 14:00:08 +0000 Qiana Chavaia 1279973 at http://www.wisebread.com Not Insuring These 6 Things Could Bankrupt You http://www.wisebread.com/not-insuring-these-6-things-could-bankrupt-you <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/not-insuring-these-6-things-could-bankrupt-you" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="http://wisebread.killeracesmedia.netdna-cdn.com/files/fruganomics/imagecache/250w/blog-images/couple-budget-468144843-small.jpg" alt="couple budget" title="couple budget" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="140" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>Getting ahead financially isn't easy. It requires hard work and persistence. So why risk years or even decades of hard work and sacrifice only to lose everything in one unfortunate, very costly event? (See also: <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/marketing-life-insurance-and-behavioral-psychology?ref=seealso">Marketing, Life Insurance, and Behavioral Psychology</a>)</p> <p>&quot;It won't happen to me,&quot; you say? I felt the same way years ago. But life happens. However unfair it may be, over time we all see some of our friends and family members face difficult challenges or even catastrophes. (I'll include a few examples of my own below.) As much as we hope to avoid them, we just can't predict or control all events. But we can at least hedge some of these risks by insuring against them.</p> <h2>What Should I Insure?</h2> <p>Insurance is for the big things. It's to protect you from major events that would cost you more than you can pay for from your short-term financial reserves. In other words, its purpose is to help shield you from serious and potentially devastating financial setbacks.</p> <h2>What Shouldn't I Insure?</h2> <p>As a rule, then, insurance is not for smaller financial risks or expenses you could absorb and pay for in the short term. This is where we often make a mistake &mdash; purchasing insurance or service contracts for goods and services that cost hundreds of dollars or less.</p> <p>Is that to say that you should never consider taking insurance on a cell phone or a computer printer, for example? Maybe not, but be aware of the cumulative opportunity cost of those expenditures. That money could have been used to help you get ahead financially, by paying off an outstanding debt for example. Also, remember that companies that encourage you to buy their service contracts and warranties often make more profit on the warranties than on the actual product or service being insured.</p> <p>So, what are the big things requiring insurance? And what types of insurance can protect you from being wiped out financially? Here are six that cover most if not all of the bases.</p> <h2>1. Health Insurance</h2> <p>By far, the number one cause of bankruptcy in the United States is unpaid medical bills. A <a href="http://finance.yahoo.com/news/pf_article_109143.html">study done at Harvard University</a> identifies medical expenses as a leading cause of 62% of all personal bankruptcies.</p> <p>Even the shortest of hospital visits now costs thousands of dollars. Just a few months ago one of our sons experienced sudden stomach pains, requiring a trip to the emergency room. After a number of tests (isolating the problem as an intestinal disorder) and some antibiotics he was released four or five hours later. The bill? Over $20,000. Thankfully our insurance covered most of the bill and his subsequent treatments. But it's easy to see how a single serious injury or disease, if not adequately covered by health insurance, could deplete your entire savings.</p> <p>And even if you have health insurance, the ever-rising deductibles (sometimes $5,000 or more) can tip you over a financial cliff if they exhaust your short term funds and force you to delay credit card, vehicle, mortgage, and other payments in an attempt to recover.</p> <h2>2. Life Insurance</h2> <p>This one should be a no-brainer. If you have dependents or any unpaid debts or financial obligations that would need to be paid upon your death (not many people can answer &quot;No&quot; to all of those), then you need life insurance. The question is, how much?</p> <p>There are many ways to estimate how much life insurance you need, but I like the following approach:</p> <ol> <li>Determine your household's current TOTAL annual income needs and SUBTRACT income that's available to your spouse/survivor(s) from other existing sources. This will be their NET annual income need.<br /> &nbsp;</li> <li>Multiply this net annual income need TIMES the estimated number of years your beneficiaries will require it.<br /> &nbsp;</li> <li>ADD your total current outstanding debts.<br /> &nbsp;</li> <li>ADD future unfunded expenses (your funeral expense, children's college, etc)</li> </ol> <p>This total should give you a good initial estimate. For a more complete assessment I suggest Tony Steuer's <a href="http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0984508104/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&amp;camp=1789&amp;creative=390957&amp;creativeASIN=0984508104&amp;linkCode=as2&amp;tag=wisbre03-20&amp;linkId=ZNPG3SINGOTXRIYR">Questions and Answers on Life Insurance</a> toolbook .</p> <p>My strong preference is term life insurance, not permanent life policies like whole life or universal that include an investment component. As a rough guide, I purchased a $300,000 supplemental term life policy at age 40 for $300 per year, or $25 per month. That premium amount will not change until my mid-60s.</p> <h2>3. Vehicle Insurance</h2> <p>Auto insurance is required by most states. It's actually a collection of policies that protects you from financial loss in three ways:</p> <ol> <li>Property coverage pays for damage to your car, either from a collision or from vandalism, storm damage, or theft (if you have &quot;comprehensive&quot;).<br /> &nbsp;</li> <li>Liability coverage pays legal expenses to others for injury to them or damage to their property in an accident.<br /> &nbsp;</li> <li>Medical coverage pays for the cost of treating accident injuries, and sometimes for lost wages and funeral expenses.</li> </ol> <p>According to <a href="http://www.quickanddirtytips.com/money-girl">Money Girl podcaster Laura Adams</a>, you ought to have &quot;enough auto insurance to cover the total value of all your assets &mdash; such as your home, vehicles, savings accounts, and non-retirement investments &mdash; [in case you are] involved in a lawsuit.&quot;</p> <h2>4. Homeowners Insurance</h2> <p>Like vehicle insurance, homeowners insurance is required when you have a mortgage. It should cover the replacement value of your home and its contents, and it pays for claims associated with fire and certain natural disasters. A liability portion also covers you if someone gets hurt on your property. (See also: <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/8-surprising-things-covered-by-homeowners-insurance?ref=seealso">8 Surprising Things Covered by Homeowners Insurance</a>)</p> <p>If you rent, and the loss of your personal belongings would cause a financial hardship, then you should consider renter's insurance.</p> <h2>5. Disability Insurance</h2> <p>As a young girl my grandmother excelled in school. She loved to read and looked forward to attending college. Her father was a successful stone mason and the family lived comfortably, so paying for college was within their means. Then a work-related accident left him disabled. He never recovered, and he didn't have disability insurance, so his daughter had to quit high school and get a minimum wage job to help the family make ends meet. Needless to say, my grandmother never attended college, and she never had an opportunity to achieve her dreams.</p> <p>This is why having disability insurance is so important.</p> <ul> <li>Approximately one out of four workers entering the workforce today will become disabled for some period of time before they retire.<br /> &nbsp;</li> <li>More than 90% of disabling accidents and illnesses are not work related, which means they aren't covered by worker's compensation insurance.<br /> &nbsp;</li> <li>Social Security is only available after you've been out of work for a year and are completely disabled.<br /> &nbsp;</li> <li>Disability is the leading cause of about 50% of all mortgage foreclosures.</li> </ul> <p>Most employers provide short-term disability insurance to non-contract workers, but they are less likely to offer long-term disability coverage, or if they do it's often less than you need. So look into supplemental disability insurance to make sure your family's needs are covered.</p> <h2>6. General Liability Insurance</h2> <p>Sometimes referred to as umbrella insurance, this is a &quot;miscellaneous&quot; policy. It covers amounts in excess of maximums in other policies, and it provides primary insurance for losses that aren't covered by other policies. Take personal injury lawsuits. However frivolous the claim, defending against a lawsuit can cost thousands. For example, my stepfather works for his local township and he spent over $40,000 clearing himself of an unfounded charge against him by a citizen of the town.</p> <p>Also, have you noticed that insurance companies are narrowing the scope of what they cover in their traditional insurance policies? That same stepfather had storm insurance to cover his primary residence but didn't learn until after last year's Hurricane Sandy that the insurance company wouldn't cover $20,000 in damages to the garage on the same property.</p> <p>Our household has a $1 million umbrella policy that costs about $50 per month. It gives us peace of mind.</p> <h2>Protect What You've Worked Hard For</h2> <p>Joni Mitchell wrote: &quot;Don't it always seem to go that you don't know what you've got till it's gone.&quot; I think that sums it up nicely. It's hard for us to appreciate the consequences of a serious accident or unforeseen event until after it occurs.</p> <p>But bad things do happen &mdash; we see it all around us. So do what doesn't come naturally: protect yourself against your big risks before they happen. Take stock now of your insurance needs and make sure you're covered.</p> <p><em>Have you covered your big risks? How many of these insurance policies do you have? Can you think of any others?</em></p> <br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">This article is from <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/keith-whelan">Keith Whelan</a> of <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/not-insuring-these-6-things-could-bankrupt-you">Wise Bread</a>, an award-winning personal finance and <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/credit-cards">credit card comparison</a> website. Read more great articles from Wise Bread:</div><div class="view view-similarterms view-id-similarterms view-display-id-block_2 view-dom-id-12"> <div class="view-content"> <div class="item-list"> <ul> <li class="views-row views-row-1 views-row-odd views-row-first"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/going-without-health-insurance-in-2015-heres-what-itll-cost-you">Going Without Health Insurance in 2015? Here&#039;s What It&#039;ll Cost You</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-2 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/dont-fall-for-these-common-obamacare-scams">Don&#039;t Fall for These Common Obamacare Scams</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-3 views-row-odd"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/generic-drug-price-lists-for-six-major-pharmacies">Generic Drug Price Lists For Six Major Pharmacies - Updated</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-4 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/5-reasons-why-life-insurance-isnt-just-for-old-people">5 Reasons Why Life Insurance Isn&#039;t Just for Old People</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-5 views-row-odd views-row-last"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/8-ways-to-spend-your-last-minute-health-care-fsa-funds">8 Ways to Spend Your Last-Minute Health Care FSA Funds</a></span> </div> </li> </ul> </div> </div> </div> </div><br/></br> Insurance bankruptcy health insurance insurance life insurance Fri, 22 Aug 2014 13:00:02 +0000 Keith Whelan 1190088 at http://www.wisebread.com Don't Fall for These Common Obamacare Scams http://www.wisebread.com/dont-fall-for-these-common-obamacare-scams <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/dont-fall-for-these-common-obamacare-scams" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="http://wisebread.killeracesmedia.netdna-cdn.com/files/fruganomics/imagecache/250w/blog-images/piggy-bank-5305450-small.jpg" alt="piggy bank" title="piggy bank" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="167" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>As the Patient Protection and the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare, begins to roll out, health insurance scams linked to the law have been proliferating. Consumer advocates fear the scams may become even more common as health insurance exchanges come online. (See also: <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/understanding-the-affordable-care-acts-health-insurance-exchange">Understanding the ACA's Health Insurance Exchange</a>)</p> <p>The Obamacare scams are many and varied. Con artists are setting up fake websites, posing as government workers or insurance agents, and contacting consumers by phone, email, text messages, and even in person.</p> <p>They are selling fake insurance plans, requesting personal financial information, and seeking personal information to commit identity theft.</p> <p>Government officials and consumer advocates are warning Americans about these most common Obamacare scams.</p> <h2>Fees for Help</h2> <p>Fraudsters contact potential victims by phone, email, or text message and offer to help them access the new health insurance exchanges &mdash; for a fee. Beware: They're out to collect bogus fees. They also collect bank account numbers or other sensitive financial information. (See also: <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/obamacare-fraud-alert-con-artists-prey-on-worried-health-insurance-consumers">Obamacare Fraud Alert</a>)</p> <p>Official helpers, called navigators, assisters, or counselors, can help you with the health insurance marketplace. But they don't charge fees or push particular plans. To find people who can help you understand your health coverage options and enroll in a plan, visit <a href="https://localhelp.healthcare.gov/">the government's local help site</a>.</p> <h2>Government Imposters</h2> <p>Some scammers claim they're from the government. It's a lie. No one from the government is calling people about their insurance. Government agencies may send you letters but will never ask for money or credit card numbers.</p> <p>Con artists may use high-pressure tactics, saying &quot;It's the law.&quot; They're known to threaten potential victims with penalties or even jail time if they don't sign up or buy a special insurance card.</p> <p>Such penalties are not possible since the law's individual mandate, which levies a financial penalty on those who don't obtain insurance, does not take effect until 2014 and entails no jail penalty.</p> <h2>Bogus Medicare Cards</h2> <p>In this scam, criminals say you need a new Medicare card because you'll lose coverage if you don't buy a new card. They may ask for your Social Security number, bank account or credit card numbers, too.</p> <p>Actually, no one needs a new Medicare card or any other insurance card, and no one will lose insurance coverage.</p> <h2>Discount Plans</h2> <p>Scammers try to sell medical discount plans, calling them insurance policies. They are not. Most discount plans entail club memberships claiming to offer reduced prices from doctors and other medical costs. Many don't deliver any cost savings. Others are just cons designed to collect personal information and commit identity theft. (See also: <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/identity-theft/prevent-identity-theft">How to Prevent Identity Theft</a>)</p> <h2>Insurance Agent Scams</h2> <p>Scammers may pose as insurance agents. They typically use high-pressure techniques, such as saying you must &quot;act now&quot; to get a discount or that you'll lose access to your current doctors under Medicare if you don't sign up for a Medicare Advantage Plan. That's not true.</p> <p>If you have Medicare, you don't have to do anything different because of Obamacare. Some insurance agents can help you with the Health Insurance Marketplace, but don't provide personal information or pay any money to someone who contacts you.</p> <h2>Fake Websites</h2> <p>Scammers set up fake websites to collect sensitive financial information and spread malware. To trick visitors, the sites are designed to look like an official health care exchange, complete with official seal. For instance, as <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/on-small-business/using-obamacare-as-bait-scam-artists-target-consumers-and-business-owners/2013/09/10/27a4ca36-1a1b-11e3-82ef-a059e54c49d0_story.html">The Washington Post reported</a>, the sites washingtonhealthexchange.com and mdhealthexchange.com were reported and taken down.</p> <h2>Steps to Take to Avoid Getting Taken</h2> <p>Consumer confusion about the new law creates opportunities for criminals. A poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation showed that as recently as April 2013, <a href="http://kff.org/health-reform/poll-finding/kaiser-health-tracking-poll-april-2013/">4 in 10 Americans did not know that Obamacare was the law</a>. Many thought it had been repealed by Congress or struck down by the Supreme Court.</p> <p><strong>Learn About the Law</strong></p> <p>Read Wise Bread's ongoing coverage of the <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/topic/aca">ACA</a> and <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/topic/health-insurance">health insurance</a> in general to stay informed, or visit <a href="http://healthcare.gov">HealthCare.gov</a>. In addition to learning about the law, you can shop for insurance through that website.</p> <p><strong>Keep Detailed Notes</strong></p> <p>Write down the name of anyone who assists you, who they work for, their telephone number, address, email, and website address.</p> <p><strong>Ignore Solicitors</strong></p> <p>Don't respond to unsolicited requests for personal information or someone claiming to be from the government. Better yet, report them by calling 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357) or visiting <a href="http://ftc.gov/complaint">ftc.gov/complaint</a>.</p> <p><em>Have you been contacted by a health insurance scam artist?</em></p> <br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">This article is from <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/michael-kling">Michael Kling</a> of <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/dont-fall-for-these-common-obamacare-scams">Wise Bread</a>, an award-winning personal finance and <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/credit-cards">credit card comparison</a> website. Read more great articles from Wise Bread:</div><div class="view view-similarterms view-id-similarterms view-display-id-block_2 view-dom-id-4"> <div class="view-content"> <div class="item-list"> <ul> <li class="views-row views-row-1 views-row-odd views-row-first"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/going-without-health-insurance-in-2015-heres-what-itll-cost-you">Going Without Health Insurance in 2015? Here&#039;s What It&#039;ll Cost You</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-2 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/signing-up-for-obamacare-in-2015-heres-whats-new">Signing Up for Obamacare in 2015? Here&#039;s What&#039;s New</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-3 views-row-odd"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/obamacare-fraud-alert-con-artists-prey-on-worried-health-insurance-consumers">Obamacare Fraud Alert: Con Artists Prey on Worried Health Insurance Consumers</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-4 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/8-ways-to-spend-your-last-minute-health-care-fsa-funds">8 Ways to Spend Your Last-Minute Health Care FSA Funds</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-5 views-row-odd views-row-last"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/how-to-take-advantage-of-obamacare-for-less-financial-risk-and-more-freedom">How to Take Advantage of Obamacare for Less Financial Risk and More Freedom</a></span> </div> </li> </ul> </div> </div> </div> </div><br/></br> Consumer Affairs Insurance ACA fraud health care health insurance insurance obamacare scams Mon, 30 Sep 2013 14:03:26 +0000 Michael Kling 991234 at http://www.wisebread.com Understanding the Affordable Care Act's Health Insurance Exchange http://www.wisebread.com/understanding-the-affordable-care-acts-health-insurance-exchange <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/understanding-the-affordable-care-acts-health-insurance-exchange" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="http://wisebread.killeracesmedia.netdna-cdn.com/files/fruganomics/imagecache/250w/blog-images/healthcare-4884969-small.jpg" alt="couple with doctor" title="couple with doctor" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="141" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>If you are currently without health insurance, the Affordable Care Act (ACA, often referred to as Obamacare) offers both good news and bad news. (See also: <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/health-care-reform-good-for-people-like-me">Health Care Reform: Good for People Like Me</a>)</p> <p>First, the good news: as of October 1, 2013, you will be able to purchase affordable health insurance through the ACA's Health Insurance Exchange (HIX) &mdash; and you will be covered as of January 1, 2014.</p> <p>Unfortunately, as with any government program of this size, the various rules, regulations, policies, and requirements are both complex and potentially confusing.</p> <p>It's important to know just what to expect from the ACA's Health Insurance Exchange, because even those who currently have insurance may someday find themselves needing individual coverage. Here is what you need to know about navigating the maze of HIX, before you need to use it:</p> <h2>Basic Coverage</h2> <p>One of the intentions of the Affordable Care Act is to put the kibosh to some of the shadier practices of the health insurance industry. The practices that the law will deal with include refusal of coverage based on pre-existing conditions; rescission, or the practice of refusing to cover treatment for a current insurance beneficiary based upon supposed pre-existing conditions; yearly and lifetime spending limits; and insurance that lacks a bare minimum of coverage. (See also: <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/healthcare-price-lists-a-short-but-useful-guide">Health Care Price Lists: A Short Guide</a>)</p> <p>While not all of these issues will necessarily be addressed in the insurance industry as a whole, all insurance plans offered through the ACA's Insurance Exchange must meet these standards. So anyone purchasing insurance through HIX will be guaranteed coverage; even if they have a pre-existing condition their claims cannot be denied; and they cannot reach an arbitrary spending cap after which point they are on the hook for additional medical costs.</p> <p>Finally, all insurance offered through the exchange must provide the following services, according to&nbsp;<a href="https://www.healthcare.gov/what-does-marketplace-health-insurance-cover/">the ACA's website</a> (which is chock full of info and details):</p> <ul> <li>Ambulatory patient services (outpatient care you get without being admitted to a hospital)<br /> &nbsp;</li> <li>Emergency services<br /> &nbsp;</li> <li>Hospitalization (such as surgery)<br /> &nbsp;</li> <li>Maternity and newborn care (care before and after your baby is born)<br /> &nbsp;</li> <li>Mental health and substance use disorder services, including behavioral health treatment (this includes counseling and psychotherapy)<br /> &nbsp;</li> <li>Prescription drugs<br /> &nbsp;</li> <li>Rehabilitative and habilitative services and devices (services and devices to help people with injuries, disabilities, or chronic conditions gain or recover mental and physical skills)<br /> &nbsp;</li> <li>Laboratory services<br /> &nbsp;</li> <li>Preventive and wellness services and chronic disease management<br /> &nbsp;</li> <li>Pediatric services</li> </ul> <p>Insurance without this base level of coverage will not be considered a &quot;qualifying&quot; policy and cannot be sold through the exchange.</p> <h2>How Much Will It Cost?</h2> <p>Leaving aside the political arguments about the global cost of this program, the intention of the ACA in general (and the exchanges in particular) is to make insurance premiums affordable for all Americans.</p> <p>One of the pricing rules put in place to ensure this is a limitation on price variations (also known as ratings) on insurance. Price variations can make the exact same policy a great deal more expensive for older beneficiaries, sick beneficiaries, <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/19/health/policy/women-still-pay-more-for-health-insurance-data-shows.html?_r=0">women</a> (especially those of childbearing age), smokers, etc.</p> <p><strong>No More Price &quot;Ratings&quot;</strong></p> <p>As of 2014, insurers may no longer use most of the criteria the industry uses to vary prices among beneficiaries. The only criteria that may still be used &mdash; for older beneficiaries and smokers &mdash; are limited to a specific price ratio. Insurers may charge older beneficiaries no more than three times what they charge young beneficiaries &mdash; so a 64-year old can expect to pay no more than three times what his 21-year-old grandson is paying for insurance.</p> <p>As for smokers, the ratio is 1.5:1. At worst, an older beneficiary who smokes will pay 4.5 more than a young non-smoker. (See also: <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/7-inexpensive-lifestyle-habits-that-can-add-years-to-your-life">7 Inexpensive Lifestyle Changes That Can Add Years to Your Life</a>)</p> <p>This limitation on price variations should theoretically help all insurance beneficiaries, even if they are still receiving their insurance through more traditional means. In addition, there will also be subsidies in place to help those who will be buying insurance through HIX.</p> <h2>The Subsidy Program</h2> <p>The health care law has determined that no lower- to middle-income individual or family should have to pay more than 9.5% of their income toward a base-level of individual health insurance premiums. And the 9.5% is the upper limit &mdash; most people earning modest livings should expect to pay between 3% and 9.5% of their income toward insurance. Those whose income falls below a certain point (133% of the federal poverty level &mdash; more on that below) should be eligible for Medicaid, and therefore will not be expected to pay <em>anything</em> for their insurance premiums.</p> <p>In order to ensure that families and individuals do not have to spend more than the specific, mandated percentage of their income, the government is offering subsidies to any individual or family making between 133% and 400% of the federal poverty level. (That corresponds to incomes between $31,322 and $94,200 for a family of four.) The Kaiser Family Foundation offers a <a href="http://kff.org/interactive/subsidy-calculator/">subsidy calculator</a> that can help you determine if you'll qualify for a subsidy and how much you can expect from such a subsidy.</p> <p>In order to receive the subsidy, eligible individuals will have to apply for them when enrolling in insurance through the exchange, using their recent tax returns as proof of income.</p> <p>The subsidy will be paid directly to the insurer, so you will not have to worry about having to pay in full and then waiting for reimbursement.</p> <p>In addition to the subsidies for premiums, any HIX shopper who earns less than 250% of the federal poverty level ($58,875 for a family of four) will also be eligible for cost-sharing assistance. In order to explain how the cost-sharing program will work, let's first look at the different levels of insurance that will be available through HIX.</p> <h2>Four Tiers of Coverage</h2> <p>In order to make it easier to comparison shop among different health insurance plans, every plan must fit into one of four available tiers: bronze, silver, gold, and platinum.</p> <p>Each of those tiers offers a different actuarial value. This term refers to the percentage of costs that the insurance company will pick up, and the lower the actuarial value, the cheaper the premiums.</p> <p>The lowest tier, bronze, offers a 60% actuarial value, meaning beneficiaries have to pay for 40% of their care.</p> <p>From there, silver offers a 70% actuarial value, gold offers 80%, and platinum offers 90%. You will pay more for premiums for a higher tier, but your out-of-pocket costs will be lower.</p> <p>For all subsidies and cost sharing options, the ACA uses the silver tier as the base level of insurance. Your subsidy does not change if you decide to buy insurance from a different tier. So your subsidy can go farther if you opt for bronze-level insurance, but not as far if you get gold or platinum coverage.</p> <h2>Cost-Sharing Assistance</h2> <p>For those who make less than 250% of the federal poverty level, there is further help in making the out-of-pocket costs for HIX insurance plans more affordable. Basically, if your income is at or below the 250% level, the actuarial value of your silver plan will be increased so that it will be like you are enrolled in a plan with a higher actuarial value.</p> <p>Here is what you can expect to pay for out-of-pocket expenses through the <a href="http://www.cbpp.org/cms/?fa=view&amp;id=3190">cost-sharing assistance</a>:</p> <p><img width="564" height="269" alt="" src="http://wisebread.killeracesmedia.netdna-cdn.com/files/fruganomics/u784/ACAchart.png" /></p> <h2>Using the Health Insurance Exchange</h2> <p>Whether you are for or against the new health care law, it is a good idea to familiarize yourself with the logistics of the health insurance exchange. You never know when you may need to purchase individual health insurance because of a gap in employment or other circumstance. Knowing the rules and regulations of the ACA will help you to get the best insurance for your money.</p> <p><em>Are you ready for the introduction of the ACA-mandated health insurance exchanges?</em></p> <br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">This article is from <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/emily-guy-birken">Emily Guy Birken</a> of <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/understanding-the-affordable-care-acts-health-insurance-exchange">Wise Bread</a>, an award-winning personal finance and <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/credit-cards">credit card comparison</a> website. Read more great articles from Wise Bread:</div><div class="view view-similarterms view-id-similarterms view-display-id-block_2 view-dom-id-3"> <div class="view-content"> <div class="item-list"> <ul> <li class="views-row views-row-1 views-row-odd views-row-first"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/going-without-health-insurance-in-2015-heres-what-itll-cost-you">Going Without Health Insurance in 2015? Here&#039;s What It&#039;ll Cost You</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-2 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/signing-up-for-obamacare-in-2015-heres-whats-new">Signing Up for Obamacare in 2015? Here&#039;s What&#039;s New</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-3 views-row-odd"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/dont-fall-for-these-common-obamacare-scams">Don&#039;t Fall for These Common Obamacare Scams</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-4 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/8-ways-to-spend-your-last-minute-health-care-fsa-funds">8 Ways to Spend Your Last-Minute Health Care FSA Funds</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-5 views-row-odd views-row-last"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/how-to-take-advantage-of-obamacare-for-less-financial-risk-and-more-freedom">How to Take Advantage of Obamacare for Less Financial Risk and More Freedom</a></span> </div> </li> </ul> </div> </div> </div> </div><br/></br> Insurance ACA health insurance health insurance exchange obamacare Tue, 10 Sep 2013 14:06:36 +0000 Emily Guy Birken 981836 at http://www.wisebread.com 5 Ways to Save Money on Braces http://www.wisebread.com/5-ways-to-save-money-on-braces <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5-ways-to-save-money-on-braces" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="http://wisebread.killeracesmedia.netdna-cdn.com/files/fruganomics/imagecache/250w/blog-images/teeth-1834241-small.jpg" alt="braces" title="braces" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="167" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>The average cost of standard orthodontic treatment is approximately $5,000. This could be a little less or more depending on where you live and the severity of the case. Whether it's for your child or yourself, this is no small investment. That's why it's important to make sure that you get quality care and understand ways to keep extra costs to a minimum. My mother has worked as an orthodontic assistant for over 30 years, and during that time, she's seen a lot of patients who had to pay more than necessary due to neglecting some simple preventive maintenance and care. (See also: <a target="_blank" href="http://www.wisebread.com/how-to-examine-your-healthcare-plan-and-save">How to Examine Your Healthcare Plan and Save</a>)</p> <p>While there's no way to reduce the overall estimated cost without sacrificing quality, there are plenty of ways to ensure that you aren't paying more than you need to on braces for yourself or your child. Educating yourself as a patient or educating your child about how to properly care for your braces is only part of maintaining the cost-effectiveness of orthodontic treatment.</p> <h2>1. Go for Early Treatment</h2> <p>Even if you think your child may be too young for that first trip to the orthodontist, there may be issues that can be detected and prevented with early care. With a comprehensive plan and early diagnosis, an early visit could help prevent future issues that may be more difficult to treat. As soon as your child starts losing baby teeth, ask your dentist to recommend an orthodontist in the area.</p> <h2>2. Visit a Board Certified Orthodontist</h2> <p>It may be tempting to let a dentist put braces on you or your child because dentists who claim to be certified to do so will typically charge less than orthodontists. However, dentists are not fully trained to provide orthodontic treatment. Make sure you see a board-certified orthodontist. If you get braces put on by an unqualified professional, you may be paying a lot more in the end for more treatment. This also means potentially having to go through round two of braces, which is something most people would not look forward to.</p> <p>For those reasons, it's also important to see a reputable orthodontist. Ask friends, neighbors, and coworkers for recommendations, or go to an online review site, such as Angie's List or Yelp. Read as much as you can about what other people write about orthodontists in your area. It doesn't hurt to visit a few different offices for consultations. Most orthodontists <a target="_blank" href="http://www.wisebread.com/how-about-a-price-list-at-the-hospital-or-doctor-s-office">will offer free consultations</a>. It may come down to going with someone who has the best personality or a larger staff, which indicates that they are probably a trusted service provider due to having to serve a larger patient base. A well-staffed office also means you will have more flexibility in scheduling appointments.</p> <h2>3. Ask About Payment Plan Details</h2> <p>Once you've chosen an orthodontist you like, be sure to ask for the <a target="_blank" href="http://www.wisebread.com/buying-individual-dental-insurance-online-my-experience">details about their payment plans</a> and make sure you understand them. Many orthodontists will offer a no interest plan with a down payment. For instance, if you put down one-fourth of the overall cost, you may get 24 months without interest. Just like with any credit card, there will be larger payments along with interest without a down payment.</p> <p>If your orthodontist doesn't offer a payment plan, there are credit companies that offer financing specifically for orthodontics. <a href="https://secure.springstoneplan.com/">Springstone</a> is one of the major companies, but you can easily find one by searching the web. Also, ask your orthodontist to recommend a credit company that provides financing for braces. Most likely, they probably have a credit company that they work with already.</p> <h2>4. Encourage Brushing and Proper Care</h2> <p>Whether you or your child is the patient, poor brushing habits can lead to cavities and permanent markings. This will cost you more money for dental work and restorations in the end. Be sure to ask your orthodontist for tips on <a target="_blank" href="http://www.wisebread.com/healthy-gums-how-to-prevent-and-treat-gum-disease">how to properly brush your teeth</a> with the challenge of having braces. Also, only eat what is recommended to help prevent damage. This could end up costing a lot of extra money, and not just in labor costs.</p> <p>Some orthodontists will charge for loose or broken brackets and bands, which can be costly if the problem recurs. Don't pay more money in frequent trips to the orthodontist to get something fixed. Avoid eating things like popcorn, ice, and sticky and hard candy, and also avoid chewing on pens and pencils. Also make sure you read your contract carefully and understand all the policies about wearing rubber bands, brushing, keeping your appointment, etc.</p> <p>Keep in mind that broken appliances will cost you a lot more than regular treatment. Most orthodontic treatment will include the first retainer in the overall cost, but it can be $175 or more to replace one that was lost or damaged by misuse. Lost retainers are common. Kids tend to accidentally throw them away in the cafeteria at lunch because they put them in a napkin. Keep the case around to avoid losing a removable retainer.</p> <h2>5. Orthodontics Are Not Just Cosmetic</h2> <p>If you think you are spending a lot of money on a cosmetic treatment, keep in mind that orthodontic treatment is part of prevention for a number of medical concerns, such as jaw joint and muscle disorders (<a target="_blank" href="http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0002207/">TMJ and TMD</a>). Even tooth decay can be caused by teeth that are too close together and do not allow for proper flossing. Another tip during your search for an orthodontist is to ask about ongoing care. Is it included in the overall cost? Do they use permanent retainers as well as removable ones to keep the teeth in place?</p> <p>These are important questions to ask before you sign anything. If there's no ongoing care, then you may end up paying more in the long run to go to another orthodontist for further treatment. Overall, make sure you know what you are getting into and that you are clear on the cost of treatment and what extra costs can be incurred throughout the treatment.</p> <p><em>How have you saved money on orthodontic care?</em></p> <br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">This article is from <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/ashley-watson">Ashley Watson</a> of <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/5-ways-to-save-money-on-braces">Wise Bread</a>, an award-winning personal finance and <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/credit-cards">credit card comparison</a> website. Read more great articles from Wise Bread:</div><div class="view view-similarterms view-id-similarterms view-display-id-block_2 view-dom-id-1"> <div class="view-content"> <div class="item-list"> <ul> <li class="views-row views-row-1 views-row-odd views-row-first"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/ouch-5-ways-to-make-paying-for-the-dentist-less-painful">Ouch! 5 Ways to Make Paying for the Dentist Less Painful</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-2 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/generic-drug-price-lists-for-six-major-pharmacies">Generic Drug Price Lists For Six Major Pharmacies - Updated</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-3 views-row-odd"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/8-ways-to-spend-your-last-minute-health-care-fsa-funds">8 Ways to Spend Your Last-Minute Health Care FSA Funds</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-4 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/paying-for-pregnancy-and-birth-without-health-insurance">Paying for Pregnancy and Birth Without Health Insurance</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-5 views-row-odd views-row-last"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/why-i-heart-my-high-deductible-health-insurance-plan">Why I (Heart) My High Deductible Health Insurance Plan</a></span> </div> </li> </ul> </div> </div> </div> </div><br/></br> Health and Beauty braces dentist health insurance orthodontics teeth Thu, 23 May 2013 10:24:31 +0000 Ashley Watson 955449 at http://www.wisebread.com Simple Ways to Get the Healthcare You Need Without Overspending http://www.wisebread.com/simple-ways-to-get-the-healthcare-you-need-without-overspending <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/simple-ways-to-get-the-healthcare-you-need-without-overspending" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="http://wisebread.killeracesmedia.netdna-cdn.com/files/fruganomics/imagecache/250w/blog-images/piggy-bank-5168567-small.jpg" alt="piggy bank" title="piggy bank" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="173" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>Getting the right healthcare services can be difficult under any circumstance.</p> <p>In the past few years, my family members and I have had some relatively minor but pressing problems requiring medical attention. Making sure we had proper care at a reasonable cost was much more difficult than expected even though we have excellent insurance coverage. While stressful, these experiences improved my skills in navigating the healthcare system and, most importantly, advocating for myself. (See also: <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/how-to-find-free-or-cheap-health-resources" target="_blank">How to Find Free (or Cheap) Health Resources</a>)</p> <p>Here are lessons learned that I hope can save you time, money, and frustration.</p> <h2>Know Your Insurance Coverage</h2> <p>Reading your benefit guide is not the most exciting thing to do, but checking out <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/how-to-examine-your-healthcare-plan-and-save" target="_blank">what&rsquo;s covered and what&rsquo;s not is extremely useful</a>. You don&rsquo;t have to commit the handbook to memory, but you should read about coverage for preventive services, emergency services, and any other services that you are likely to need in the next year or so. This information can be beneficial when having a conversation with your physician or her staff about appointments, procedures, etc.</p> <p><strong>Don't Rely on Office Staff for Insurance Details</strong></p> <p>I have found that the physician&rsquo;s office staff often provides misleading information about insurance coverage with advice ranging from ideal situations to worst-case scenarios. Certainly, they are trying to be helpful, but inaccurate guidance doesn&rsquo;t facilitate getting better care or control spending.</p> <p>For example, staff members often mention that insurance will not cover an annual physical unless an entire year has lapsed between the last one. While this may be true for many people, my insurance coverage allows such a visit once every calendar year. So, if I need to schedule a physical for May even though I came last year in June, I can still receive coverage for this earlier-than-usual appointment.</p> <p>At the other extreme, physicians and their staff have told me that certain procedures are covered by insurance. Those healthcare professionals are unusually optimistic and often wrong. Sure, the treatment may be covered in the sense that a discount is available or charges are applied to a deductible (which could be $500 or $5,000, depending on your plan). At the very least, you need to know the out-of-pocket cost, which often means asking pointed questions of the billing staff and insurance company.</p> <h2>Choose What Works for You, Regardless of Coverage</h2> <p>In an ideal world, your healthcare provider recommends the most appropriate screening, diagnostic test, and treatment plan and your insurance covers the cost. And, much of the time, your needs and coverage match.</p> <p>But sometimes, needs, recommendations, and coverage are out of sync. At these times, it&rsquo;s helpful to consider the best course of action plus all of the costs involved in getting care.</p> <p>For example, when I needed treatment for a running injury, my insurance plan covered physical therapy but not massage therapy. However, the cheaper approved therapy required numerous visits and had limited effectiveness whereas the more expensive, non-traditional therapy involved just a few visits. The non-covered treatment ended up being less costly in terms of money and time than the covered one.</p> <p>In her article on <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/paying-for-pregnancy-and-birth-without-health-insurance" target="_blank">getting medical care in pregnancy without traditional health insurance</a>, Linsey Knerl mentions that you may be able to control costs associated with certain diagnostic tests. She recommends that you ask about the tests your physician may order routinely and make an informed decision on what tests to perform. This advice is sound whether you have insurance or not. Similarly, the <a href="http://www.choosingwisely.org/doctor-patient-lists/" target="_blank">Choosing Wisely</a> website notes procedures that are often performed but may be unnecessary.</p> <p>Remember that your time is valuable and even relatively small co-pays can add up to large expenses. Looking at the big picture and not simply coverage for an individual visit or procedure can help save money plus give you what you need.</p> <h2>Don&rsquo;t Be Afraid to Enlist the Help of a Specialist</h2> <p>There seem to be many hurdles to accessing specialty care. The best and most cost-effective method is to receive a referral from your primary care physician. Ideally, your physician will recognize when specialty care is appropriate and refer you to the right type of doctor or therapist.</p> <p>What makes the process difficult is that you often have to navigate various sets of rules:</p> <ul type="disc"> <li>Primary care physicians and their offices have internal procedures for referrals.</li> <li>The insurance company has its guidelines about paying for visits to specialty providers.</li> <li>Specialists often have their own sets of rules about referrals; some take physician-referred patients only, whereas others allow self-referrals.</li> </ul> <p>While it&rsquo;s true that your treatment may not be covered by your insurance company if you don't follow all the rules, you can still see a specialist without getting a referral.</p> <p>Be careful to select the right type of specialist. In his book, &quot;<a href="http://www.amazon.com/The-Thrifty-Patient-Insider-Staying/dp/0979351227" target="_blank">The Thrifty Patient: Vital Insider Tips for Saving Money and Staying Healthy</a>,&quot; Davis Liu, M.D. references a study indicating that patients choose the wrong specialty area 60% of the time, which ends up costing more time and money than necessary. To prevent this kind of overspending, do your research and consult with your regular physician about the next step in the diagnosis or treatment of an illness, injury, or condition.</p> <p>It's a good idea to investigate out-of-pocket costs before your appointment. But you may be pleasantly surprised to find that your insurance covers the visit and treatment whether you stick to everyone else's protocol or not.</p> <h2>Use Your Insurance Company as a Resource</h2> <p>This approach may seem like aligning yourself with the enemy. But some insurance companies offer resources beneficial to navigating the healthcare system.</p> <p>On my insurance company's website, there are physician performance ratings, updates on claims status, explanations of prior authorization requirements, details on <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/get-fit-and-pocket-up-to-1200-with-employer-wellness-programs" target="_blank">wellness programs</a>, and more. This online information has given me better understanding of administrative procedures and helped me to make decisions on healthcare services.</p> <p>The customer service representatives have also been helpful by answering questions about coverage based on my circumstances, accelerating the process of getting a pre-authorization, and straightening out billing issues. They have provided clear direction and saved me time that I would have otherwise spent dealing with medical office staff.</p> <h2>Get the Right Physician and Practice for You</h2> <p>Finding the right doctor&rsquo;s office and physician requires thoughtfulness about your own needs and research on credentials, availability, and more. But your selection can make getting what you need easy, especially if your style of communication meshes well with the physician and staff, or maddeningly difficult, if you don&rsquo;t understand each other.</p> <p>For example, the diagnosis of an injury may be delayed if your physician doesn't grasp the severity of your pain following an accident. Treatment and recovery may also take longer if warning signs of complications and follow-up procedures are not explained thoroughly. So finding someone who listens, knows how to ask you questions, and makes sure you understand next steps is essential.</p> <p><strong>Create a List of What's Important</strong></p> <p>Make a list of what's important to you. Mine includes a commitment to personalizing care, the ability to make clear and accurate recommendations with a bias toward non-drug interventions, and a professional, knowledgeable staff. Whatever you value, look for a physician that matches your preferences.</p> <p>Online review sites, such as <a href="http://www.healthgrades.com/" target="_blank">Healthgrades.com</a>, and recommendations from friends can be helpful but may not give you the full picture. The best reviews are not numerical rankings only but narratives that offer insight into the physician&rsquo;s philosophy and strengths.</p> <p>Objective measures are also useful. Start by checking for disciplinary actions on your <a href="http://www.fsmb.org/directory_smb.html#b8" target="_blank">state&rsquo;s medical board website</a>.</p> <p>Continue by researching clinical quality. My insurance company's website provides information relating to physician performance on certain measures relating to screening recommendations. Interestingly, some popular physicians perform below expectations according to these ratings, illustrating that friendliness doesn&rsquo;t necessarily equate to appropriateness of care. Ideally, find someone who has excellent clinical capabilities and treats patients well.</p> <p>Whether you have a high-deductible health plan or a more traditional one, getting what you need without overspending requires effort. What I have discovered is that engaging healthcare professionals who are interested in addressing concerns and solving problems (rather than chasing insurance coverage) has been most beneficial to my family and me.</p> <p><em>What are you doing to make the most of your health care dollar?</em></p> <br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">This article is from <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/julie-rains">Julie Rains</a> of <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/simple-ways-to-get-the-healthcare-you-need-without-overspending">Wise Bread</a>, an award-winning personal finance and <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/credit-cards">credit card comparison</a> website. Read more great articles from Wise Bread:</div><div class="view view-similarterms view-id-similarterms view-display-id-block_2 view-dom-id-1"> <div class="view-content"> <div class="item-list"> <ul> <li class="views-row views-row-1 views-row-odd views-row-first"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/tips-and-tricks-for-dealing-with-a-recalcitrant-hmo">Tips and Tricks for Dealing with a Recalcitrant HMO</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-2 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/generic-drug-price-lists-for-six-major-pharmacies">Generic Drug Price Lists For Six Major Pharmacies - Updated</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-3 views-row-odd"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/will-a-dental-discount-plan-save-you-money">Will A Dental Discount Plan Save You Money?</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-4 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/8-ways-to-spend-your-last-minute-health-care-fsa-funds">8 Ways to Spend Your Last-Minute Health Care FSA Funds</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-5 views-row-odd views-row-last"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/paying-for-pregnancy-and-birth-without-health-insurance">Paying for Pregnancy and Birth Without Health Insurance</a></span> </div> </li> </ul> </div> </div> </div> </div><br/></br> Consumer Affairs Health and Beauty doctor’s visit health insurance specialists Mon, 06 May 2013 09:48:33 +0000 Julie Rains 973663 at http://www.wisebread.com Paying for Pregnancy and Birth Without Health Insurance http://www.wisebread.com/paying-for-pregnancy-and-birth-without-health-insurance <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/paying-for-pregnancy-and-birth-without-health-insurance" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="http://wisebread.killeracesmedia.netdna-cdn.com/files/fruganomics/imagecache/250w/blog-images/pregnant-4841849-small.jpg" alt="pregnancy" title="pregnancy" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="167" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>Babies, whether planned or not, generally come into the world with wonder, delight, and a very high hospital bill. While it used to be that moms relied on their employer's health insurance (or that of their spouse's) to see them through with the expenses, the healthcare landscape is changing fast; no longer can you be guaranteed that baby will arrive while you're covered. (See also: <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/can-you-afford-to-have-a-baby" target="_blank">Can You Afford to Have a Baby?</a>)</p> <p>Before you worry that a sudden change in employment, a venture into entrepreneurship, or a sneaky health insurance clause will have you seeing big bills, check out this list of options for moms-to-be on a budget.</p> <h2>Presumptive Eligibility and Medicaid</h2> <p>While most doctors will ask to see your insurance card, many will not deny seeing you for prenatal care, especially if you are upfront and honest about your situation. If your doctor is a Medicaid provider, they can assist you in filling out the necessary forms to <a href="http://www.medicaid.gov/" target="_blank">apply for assistance</a>. Even if you don't qualify for traditional Medicaid coverage due to a higher income, many pregnant moms qualify for prenatal and post-delivery care via special state and federal programs aimed at ensuring babies are born healthy.</p> <p>&quot;Presumptive eligibility&quot; simply means that the provider chooses to provide you care even before you have completely filled out your application for assistance. They go off of the information you give them, as well as a positive pregnancy test. Once you've applied for, and been accepted to receive, health benefits, you can usually expect to see no interruption in your care routine. Most Medicaid programs will also pay bills related to your pregnancy for up to 90 days <em>prior</em> to your application. Keep your receipts.</p> <h2>Non-Profit Assistance</h2> <p>Many hospitals and health systems <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/5-places-to-check-out-medical-care-for-the-uninsured" target="_blank">have non-profit funds that they give to lower-income patients</a> who do not have adequate insurance and don't qualify for state or federal assistance. Usually, these funds are distributed on a sliding scale, but they can significantly cut down on your final bill and keep you from falling into medical bankruptcy or other scary situations. You should ask about any non-profit funds that may be available at the first visit when speaking with the financial counselor at your physician's office or health center.</p> <h2>Preexisting Coverage Plans</h2> <p>These plans are also administered through the government and act as bridge coverage for pregnant women until new coverage laws go into effect. To qualify, you must not have had coverage in the last six months, however. (It's important that, even while you are waiting to qualify, you don't skip doctor's appointments!)</p> <h2>Prepaid Plans</h2> <p>For moms who don't qualify for assistance or choose not to apply for it, there are discounted plans available for moms who can settle their bill prior to delivery. While there can be some surprises with any pregnancy (emergency c-sections, for example), most physicians have a standard schedule of care that they recommend, along with pricing tiers for the prenatal visits, tests, and final delivery. For moms who can pay a little at each visit, or even in full prior to be admitting to the hospital, there is usually a hefty discount &mdash; 25% or more in many cases.</p> <h2>Selective Diagnostics</h2> <p>No mom wants to skip out on essential services that can detect problems and provide a happier outcome for mom and baby, however, not all moms agree on what diagnostics are necessary.</p> <p>Many moms have chosen to opt out of extra screenings, ultrasounds, or blood tests that are more informative than preventative (genetic screenings, for example). This is a very personal decision that should be made with the full understanding of what you are giving up, but it can prevent you from being charged thousands of dollars for screenings that you didn't want or need, anyway. Just be sure to discuss all extra tests with your doctor before the visit they are scheduled for. Many nurses follow a standard procedure for care and may assume you want the tests. If you are opting out of any diagnostics, ask what samples will be used for and ask to sign off on any lab work that you feel may be out of your comfort zone.</p> <h2>Midwifery</h2> <p>This increasingly popular form of prenatal care is gaining respect in the health community, especially among those with limited health coverage. While the cost can vary wildly between geographic areas, most midwives that come to your home for health care can save you 50% or more on the cost of your prenatal care. Add to that the discount received by delivering at home or in a birthing center (<a href="http://www.wisebread.com/the-pros-and-cons-of-retail-health-clinics" target="_blank">rather than a traditional hospital</a>), and many happy moms have reported total bills of no more than $3-4,000 (compared to the $5-12,000 of a doctor-assisted birth).</p> <p>This choice will be more suitable for those who prefer a natural birth and live close to a hospital (in case of a life-threatening emergency), but many moms have enjoyed the perks of using a midwife while paying for the services in full at the delivery.</p> <h2>Health Care Is Changing</h2> <p>Health insurance is changing all the time, especially in light of the recently passed health care legislation. Regardless of any upcoming developments, however, there are a couple of things you can do <em>before</em> you get pregnant to ensure that you aren't scrambling for coverage at the last minute.</p> <p><strong>Don't Assume That Your Health Insurance Covers Maternity</strong></p> <p>Many self-employed and individual plans do not cover maternity care, and those that do may require a separate rider to be purchased. Additionally, those that cover maternity care may only pay for services that are considered &quot;emergency&quot; and will not cover basic prenatal care and standard delivery fees.</p> <p><strong>Don't Delay the Paperwork</strong></p> <p>If you plan on becoming pregnant and are eligible for open enrollment at your work, check and double-check that everything gets filled out and turned in on time. Likewise, <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/going-to-be-a-mommy-know-your-rights">many employer plans require</a> that you enroll the newborn on the company plan within 30 days of birth, or the child will not receive coverage (and your prenatal and delivery claims may be denied.) Be diligent and never assume that your work has &quot;taken care of it.&quot;</p> <p><em>How did you pay (or are you planning to pay) for pregnancy related health care costs?</em></p> <br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">This article is from <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/linsey-knerl">Linsey Knerl</a> of <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/paying-for-pregnancy-and-birth-without-health-insurance">Wise Bread</a>, an award-winning personal finance and <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/credit-cards">credit card comparison</a> website. Read more great articles from Wise Bread:</div><div class="view view-similarterms view-id-similarterms view-display-id-block_2 view-dom-id-2"> <div class="view-content"> <div class="item-list"> <ul> <li class="views-row views-row-1 views-row-odd views-row-first"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/generic-drug-price-lists-for-six-major-pharmacies">Generic Drug Price Lists For Six Major Pharmacies - Updated</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-2 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/8-ways-to-spend-your-last-minute-health-care-fsa-funds">8 Ways to Spend Your Last-Minute Health Care FSA Funds</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-3 views-row-odd"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/score-free-medical-supplies-with-flex-spending">Medical Supplies You Can Still Score With Flex Spending</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-4 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/signing-up-for-obamacare-in-2015-heres-whats-new">Signing Up for Obamacare in 2015? Here&#039;s What&#039;s New</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-5 views-row-odd views-row-last"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/how-about-a-price-list-at-the-hospital-or-doctor-s-office">How About a Price List at the Hospital or Doctor’s Office?</a></span> </div> </li> </ul> </div> </div> </div> </div><br/></br> Health and Beauty Insurance baby health insurance medicaid midwife pregnancy pregnant without insurance Mon, 22 Apr 2013 09:48:31 +0000 Linsey Knerl 973518 at http://www.wisebread.com 14 Dirty Details of Traveling Full-Time http://www.wisebread.com/14-dirty-details-of-traveling-full-time <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/14-dirty-details-of-traveling-full-time" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="http://wisebread.killeracesmedia.netdna-cdn.com/files/fruganomics/imagecache/250w/blog-images/dirty_details.jpg" alt="Traveler in Thailand" title="Traveler in Thailand" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="152" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>Does a full-time travel lifestyle sound like a dream job?</p> <p>Well, it is. (Kind of.) I've been doing it for almost six years, and I can't imagine what my life would be like had I not made the life-changing decision to sell everything I owned and discover what the world held in store. (See also: <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/how-to-travel-full-time-for-17000-a-year-or-less">How to Travel Full-Time for $17,000 Per Year or Less</a>)</p> <p>But I've also had my fair share of <a href="http://www.theprofessionalhobo.com/2012/06/a-bad-day-in-the-life-of-a-professional-hobo/">bad days</a>. Bad weeks. Bad countries. Etcetera.</p> <p>No lifestyle is perfect. And the full-time travel lifestyle has some dirty details that can get in the way if you're not properly prepared for them. Here are a few pesky details you'll need to manage if you want to travel full-time.</p> <h2>1. Expat Insurance</h2> <p>Once you've been traveling full-time for a certain time period (usually over six months or one year) you don't qualify for <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/the-dirt-on-travel-insurance">standard travel insurance</a>. In this case, you need to get expat insurance, which provides medical coverage anywhere in the world (or certain geographic regions, depending on your terms). Coverage can range from emergency only to full medical plans; generally you get what you pay for. Here's a&nbsp; <a href="http://www.theprofessionalhobo.com/2012/03/expat-insurance-travel-insurance-for-full-time-and-long-term-travelers/">primer on expat insurance</a>, including a glossary of terms and tips to keep your premiums low.</p> <h2>2. Mailing Address</h2> <p>Receiving mail (and having a &ldquo;permanent&rdquo; mailing address for filling in various forms) is a stumbling block for all full-time travelers. Solutions include having somebody in your home town who receives your mail and alerts you to anything you need to know about, or paying a monthly fee for a mailing service (which basically does the same thing). Here's an article detailing some <a href="http://www.openforum.com/idea-hub/topics/lifestyle/article/essential-services-for-the-road-nora-dunn">essential services for the road</a>, including virtual mailbox services.</p> <h2>3. Staying in Touch</h2> <p>You need more than mail to be in touch, and thankfully it's getting easier with <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/location-independent-career-basics">location independent careers</a> becoming more common. Having an unlocked cell phone into which you insert local pay-as-you-go SIM cards gives you a local telephone number, and applications like Skype and Google Voice allow you to make inexpensive long distance calls using your internet connection (and free computer-to-computer calls).</p> <p>One frustration with staying in touch on the road and managing a location-independent career is the constant search for WiFi. Although it's quite prevalent, there are still places where it's simply unavailable or cost-prohibitive.</p> <h2>4. Work-Life Balance</h2> <p>The second challenge with the constant search for WiFi is that once you have it, sometimes it's <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/the-secret-to-time-management-and-work-life-balance">hard to disconnect</a>. Many of us have come to rely on it for business, pleasure, and communication. So sometimes it's a challenge to actually unplug and enjoy the full-time traveling lifestyle for what it is. There is a (often precarious) work-life balance to manage on the road and constantly be aware of.</p> <h2>5. Getting Rid of Your Stuff</h2> <p>What do you do with all your stuff while you travel full-time? This depends on the stuff you have, your intended travel plans, and your personal preferences. Paying for storage space can be cost-prohibitive, and depending on the stuff you keep, you might have a friend or family member with enough space in their garage to store it for you. (I myself have five boxes of &ldquo;stuff&rdquo; tucked away in a friend's garage.)</p> <p>If you're getting rid of all your stuff, you might want to check out these articles to get you started with some ideas:</p> <ul> <li><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/11-unusual-ways-to-sell-your-stuff">11 Unusual Ways to Sell Your Stuff</a></li> <li><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/how-to-sell-your-crap-a-book-review-and-tips">How to Sell Your Crap (Book Review &amp; Tips)</a></li> <li><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/how-to-get-rid-of-all-your-crap">How to Get Rid of All Your Crap</a></li> </ul> <h2>6. To Sell or To Rent</h2> <p>If you own your home, you'll have to decide if you're selling it or renting it out in your absence. If the market values have dropped, then selling it might not be preferable (or possible), but renting your place out could be stressful in terms of tenant management if you don't have a point-person to deal with tenancy issues (like repairs, rent collection, finding tenants, and keeping an eye on the place). Using a property management company can alleviate much of this leg-work, but it will also erode your profits.</p> <p>It's a tough decision, dependent on your home, its current value, how much equity you have in the home, and your penchant for <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/should-you-become-a-landlord-instead-of-selling-your-home">being an absentee landlord</a>.</p> <h2>7. Managing Money</h2> <p>I have an entire series on my site dedicated to <a href="http://www.theprofessionalhobo.com/financial-travel-tips/">Financial Travel Tips</a> since managing your money on the road can be tricky business. Issues include accessing money, getting paid online, effectively using credit cards and debit cards (and dealing with issues like theft, fraud, and complications &mdash; which can add some serious speed bumps to the process if you're abroad; I've had to deal with this three times in the past two months), minimizing currency conversion charges, and carrying cash safely, to name a few. (Check out our <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/travel-and-money-how-to-get-and-carry-cash-safely-and-securely">Travel &amp; Money series</a> for some money management tips and tricks.)</p> <h2>8. Loan Payments</h2> <p>It's best to embark on a full-time travel lifestyle without any debts, but sometimes a lingering student loan (for example) might seem manageable enough to spread your wings anyway. As a precaution, it is good to have 6-12 months' loan payments stashed away in a high-interest account in the event that your ongoing income can't cover the payment for whatever reason. If you also have an emergency fund as a buffer, then you can reduce your loan payment stash.</p> <h2>9. Packing Light</h2> <p>I learned early on that the weight of your luggage is proportionate to the degree of misery you'll feel while traveling. The more stuff you have, the harder it is to pack everything up each time you move, and the more agonizing the act of traveling becomes. I also find that the more stuff I have, the more I'm concerned about the inevitable travel risks, such as having my luggage stolen, damaged, or lost. Lightening your load really does make the journey easier.</p> <p>However...</p> <p>Lightening your load also means you're probably compromising on a few items that you'd really like to have but simply can't justify. Once you've had a little time on the road you can learn to adjust or compensate, but sometimes it's simply a drag. A solution? When I stay somewhere for at least a few months I tend to accumulate these extra things that make my life easier &mdash; 2<sup>nd</sup> hand if possible &mdash; getting rid of them again before I leave.</p> <h2>10. Getting What You &ldquo;Need&rdquo; Abroad</h2> <p>Although most people are thrilled and surprised to discover they can get almost everything they need on the road (like <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/save-money-on-shaving-with-these-razor-tricks">razor blades</a> and specific toiletries), you probably have a favorite product that isn't widely available. Under the premise of packing light it would be bad form to stock up (too much) on those items, and I've been surprised to discover some rare items (or in some cases, better replacements) lurking in distant and unexpected corners of the world. The trick is not to become too attached to a specific product in case you can't find a replacement.</p> <h2>11. Taxes</h2> <p>Your income tax situation will depend on how and where you're making money. You'll likely have to cart around some paperwork (like tax-deductible receipts) and keep it organized as you go. Filing your taxes from abroad can be an adventure as well. I keep detailed spreadsheets of expenses and income, and I email them to my accountant back home, while my &ldquo;designated representative&rdquo; who receives mail on my behalf sends my accountant any official income slips I've received. It's helpful to have a relationship with an accountant before you set off on a full-time travel lifestyle.</p> <h2>12. Refilling Prescriptions/Visiting Doctors</h2> <p>Unless you're making regular trips back home, you're subject to the whims of local doctors for medical needs and prescriptions. In some countries prescription medications are available over-the-counter or upon informal consultations with pharmacists (always ask a pharmacist for help before bothering with a doctor &mdash; you'd be amazed at how helpful they can be). Otherwise you have to decide if the doctor's visit is worth paying for with cash or claiming on your insurance policy (see the above point on expat insurance).</p> <h2>13. Vaccinations</h2> <p>Some people get pricked up for every conceivable disease before leaving home. This can be incredibly expensive, however, and sometimes unnecessary, especially if you don't end up visiting those countries rife with a disease you were vaccinated for. Not to mention there are risks to vaccinations; I have a friend who spent six months paralyzed from the waist down due to a complication with a vaccination she received prior to visiting Africa.</p> <p>Travel medical clinics are quite common around the world, and often less expensive (and no less sanitary) than your home clinic. I would suggest getting only the vaccinations you need, when you need them.</p> <h2>14. Withdrawal</h2> <p>Sometimes, you just plain miss your family and friends back home or your chosen family and new friends you've made along the way. Staying in communication via email and phone is viable, but sometimes it's no replacement for a hug from somebody you love. That's okay too; just <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/route-connections-price-how-far-will-you-go-for-a-cheap-flight">book a flight</a> home for a visit!</p> <p><em>What are some of the dirty details of full-time travel that you have either had to contend with, or are worried about?</em></p> <br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">This article is from <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/nora-dunn">Nora Dunn</a> of <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/14-dirty-details-of-traveling-full-time">Wise Bread</a>, an award-winning personal finance and <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/credit-cards">credit card comparison</a> website. Read more great articles from Wise Bread:</div><div class="view view-similarterms view-id-similarterms view-display-id-block_2 view-dom-id-1"> <div class="view-content"> <div class="item-list"> <ul> <li class="views-row views-row-1 views-row-odd views-row-first"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/how-to-travel-full-time-for-17000-a-year-or-less">How to Travel Full-Time for $17,000 a Year (or Less!)</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-2 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/5-places-to-travel-while-the-dollar-is-strong">5 Places to Travel While the Dollar Is Strong</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-3 views-row-odd"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/11-simple-rules-of-excellent-houseguest-etiquette">11 Simple Rules of Excellent Houseguest Etiquette</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-4 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/volunteer-to-travel-11-opportunities-for-free-or-very-cheap-travel">Volunteer to Travel: 11 Opportunities for Free or Very Cheap Travel</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-5 views-row-odd views-row-last"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/living-in-an-rv-full-time-what-you-need-to-know">Living in an RV Full-Time: What You Need to Know</a></span> </div> </li> </ul> </div> </div> </div> </div><br/></br> Lifestyle Travel full-time travel health insurance international travel overseas living Mon, 10 Sep 2012 10:24:41 +0000 Nora Dunn 954356 at http://www.wisebread.com The Types of Health Insurance Plans http://www.wisebread.com/the-types-of-health-insurance-plans <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/the-types-of-health-insurance-plans" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="http://wisebread.killeracesmedia.netdna-cdn.com/files/fruganomics/imagecache/250w/blog-images/4406308114_9187def354_z.jpg" alt="doctor" title="doctor" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="167" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>Understanding the kinds of health insurance plans isn&rsquo;t easy. Textbook definitions differ from real-world designs offered by your employer or private insurance agencies.</p> <p>Insurance companies may use corporate doublespeak, christening a plan with a name that is misleading and even the opposite of the plan type. And you may not be able to use the plan as intended because its design is not in sync with the day-to-day practices of healthcare providers, through no fault of the insurance company. (See also: <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/how-to-find-free-or-cheap-health-resources">How to Find Free (or Cheap) Health&nbsp;Resources</a>)</p> <h2>Theoretical Health Insurance Plans</h2> <p>Still, it is useful to learn about the kinds of health insurance plans. <em>In theory</em>, comprehensive health insurance plans fall under one of these categories.</p> <p><strong>HMO Plans / EPO Plans </strong></p> <p>Health Maintenance Organizations (HMOs) and Exclusive Provider Organizations (EPOs) restrict your choice of providers (physicians, hospitals, etc.) as a way to manage care and contain costs.</p> <p>Typically, a primary care physician (PCP) coordinates your care with specialty physicians and other providers within the HMO or exclusive provider network. To keep costs low, preventive care is emphasized. Also, you might have less say in the care you receive or find that getting a referral is difficult because the plan design encourages cost control.</p> <p>Monthly premiums may be relatively higher but usage costs, such as co-pays, coinsurance, and deductibles, tend to be lower than average. Overall, expenses should be lower based on better management of healthcare expenditures on your behalf.</p> <p><strong>PPO Plans</strong></p> <p>Preferred Provider Option (PPO) or Preferred Provider Network (PPN) plans have a list of healthcare providers that are preferred. There are financial incentives to visit these physicians, have surgical procedures at these hospitals, etc. as compared to those that are not preferred, aka out-of-network providers.</p> <p>Generally, when you use network providers, you pay lower co-pays and fee percentages. Plus, you get pre-negotiated, discounted rates for services as compared to higher costs associated with out-of-network physicians and facilities.</p> <p>A PPO plan may have specifications on how you get coverage for services. For example, you may need to get a pre-certification to cover the cost of surgery.</p> <p><strong>POS Plans </strong></p> <p>Point-of-Service (POS) plans are sometimes described as a hybrid of HMO and PPO plans, or considered so similar to PPOs that they are classified together. Similar to the HMO, you choose a primary care physician from a list of approved providers and the PCP manages your care, making referrals to specialists as deemed appropriate.</p> <p>Like the PPO, there are financial incentives to using in-network providers, but you can get some reimbursement (or have charges applied to deductibles, out-of-pocket limits, etc.) when you use out-of-network providers.</p> <p><strong>Fee-for-Service Plans </strong></p> <p>Fee-for-service plans are considered traditional plans or traditional indemnity plans, meaning that the insurance operates like your auto or homeowner's insurance. You pay monthly premiums and when you visit a healthcare provider, you file a claim. After you meet the deductible for the year, you receive reimbursement for your expenses.</p> <p>Under traditional plans, there is no mechanism that controls healthcare expenses or limits your usage, until you reach maximums (if any) for reimbursement. (See <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/health-insurance-two-other-numbers-to-look-at">Health Insurance Plans, Two Other Numbers to Look at</a>&nbsp;to learn about annual and lifetime maximums.)</p> <p><strong>HDHPs/CDHPs</strong></p> <p><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/why-i-heart-my-high-deductible-health-insurance-plan">High-deductible health plans</a> (HDHP) have, well, a high deductible. Except for preventive care (which may be covered under your policy), you must reach the deductible before you get reimbursement for medical expenses.</p> <p>HDHPs are considered <a href="http://www.irs.gov/publications/p969/ar02.html#en_US_2011_publink1000204025">HSA eligible</a> if the deductible is at least $1,200 for an individual or $2,400 for a family, and other requirements are met. You can set aside money in a Health Savings Account (HSA) for expenses in the current year or future years; plus you can get a tax break for contributions. When the plan is linked to an HSA, the plan may be called an Account-Based Health Plan (ABHP).</p> <p>These plans may also be described as consumer-directed health plans (CDHPs) because there is generally less oversight by the insurance company or physicians in regard to healthcare spending. As the name implies, the consumer directs healthcare purchases. Because more responsibility is placed on the consumer to pay a greater portion of medical bills (at least for day-to-day expenditures), the insured has a greater incentive to control costs. (See <a href="http://healthpopuli.com/2011/01/13/health-consumers-with-hras-arent-more-cost-conscious-about-health-consumption/">The Myth of Consumer-Directed Health Care</a> on the difference between theory and practice.)</p> <h2>Real-World Health Insurance Plans</h2> <p><em>In practice</em>, the lines between the various types of plans are blurred, <a href="http://www.kiplinger.com/columns/ask/archive/understanding-health-care-reform-affordable-care-act.html">Kiplinger&rsquo;s Kimberly Lankford</a> tells me. For example, she explains that most health insurance plans, whether HMO, PPO, POS, Fee for Service, or HDHP, offer a network of providers along with financial incentives to use these providers.</p> <p>Looking at the actual design of a specific plan offered by your employer or available through a private insurance company, then, may be more useful than trying to determine costs and benefits based on a plan&rsquo;s label. Consider these features that may be common among many plans:</p> <ul> <li>There is a financial incentive for using in-network providers, such as lower co-pays.<br /> &nbsp;</li> <li>It costs more to use out-of-network providers except in an emergency.<br /> &nbsp;</li> <li>Primary care physicians are responsible for directing your care; that is, a referral is required to see specialists.<br /> &nbsp;</li> <li>Prevention is emphasized and covered under the policy without having to reach deductibles.<br /> &nbsp;</li> <li>The deductible is high.</li> </ul> <p>From my experience, many physicians, hospitals, and other medical providers follow managed-care protocols associated with HMO, EPO, PPO, or POS plans regardless of your insurance plan. For example, a specialist may require you to have a referral from a primary care physician even if your HDHP does not have this requirement.</p> <p>Or providers may make recommendations about your care by saying &ldquo;your insurance will cover _____ procedure&rdquo; or &ldquo;your insurance won&rsquo;t pay for ____ visit&rdquo; based on their past experiences with other types of insurance, not specific knowledge of your plan. Their thinking might be so rigid and attuned to matching care with expected insurance coverage that you are not given the right information in order to use your plan as designed.</p> <p>On the other hand, you may enlist the help of your primary care physician to make decisions, let you know what kind of screenings may be most beneficial based on your family medical history, advise on what tests may be needed to diagnose a condition, etc. So, even if you have a CDHP, you can create your own kind of &ldquo;managed care&rdquo; without the restrictions of an HMO, PPO, etc.&nbsp;</p> <p><em>What kind of health insurance plan do you have? Does it neatly fall into one of these categories or are the lines blurred?</em></p> <br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">This article is from <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/julie-rains">Julie Rains</a> of <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/the-types-of-health-insurance-plans">Wise Bread</a>, an award-winning personal finance and <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/credit-cards">credit card comparison</a> website. Read more great articles from Wise Bread:</div><div class="view view-similarterms view-id-similarterms view-display-id-block_2 view-dom-id-4"> <div class="view-content"> <div class="item-list"> <ul> <li class="views-row views-row-1 views-row-odd views-row-first"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/going-without-health-insurance-in-2015-heres-what-itll-cost-you">Going Without Health Insurance in 2015? Here&#039;s What It&#039;ll Cost You</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-2 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/signing-up-for-obamacare-in-2015-heres-whats-new">Signing Up for Obamacare in 2015? Here&#039;s What&#039;s New</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-3 views-row-odd"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/8-ways-to-spend-your-last-minute-health-care-fsa-funds">8 Ways to Spend Your Last-Minute Health Care FSA Funds</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-4 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/generic-drug-price-lists-for-six-major-pharmacies">Generic Drug Price Lists For Six Major Pharmacies - Updated</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-5 views-row-odd views-row-last"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/paying-for-pregnancy-and-birth-without-health-insurance">Paying for Pregnancy and Birth Without Health Insurance</a></span> </div> </li> </ul> </div> </div> </div> </div><br/></br> Health and Beauty Insurance emergency health care health insurance Mon, 23 Jul 2012 10:24:35 +0000 Julie Rains 942159 at http://www.wisebread.com