Health Care Reform Timeline

January 20, 2011

2010 –New Coverage Options
• Health care tax credit for small employers
• Children covered to age 26
• High-risk pools

2011 –New Taxes
• Medicare tax rate increases 0.9% for higher-income taxpayers
• New 3.8% tax on unearned income for higher-income taxpayers

2011 –Medicare Changes
• Part D
• Medicare Supplement
• Medicare Advantage

2014–Exchanges and Subsidies
• State Health Insurance Exchanges
• Premium subsidies for individuals with incomes below $47K (based on CBO estimate for 2016)

2014–Individual and Employer Coverage Requirements
• Employers with more than 50 employees
• Individuals who can find workplace, exchange, or other policies that cost less than 8% of their income

With the recent elections, we’ll have to watch and see what happens in the meantime, there is new legislation, which goes by the name Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

There are two main pieces of Health Care Reform
• One piece aims to make health coverage nearly universal by requiring employers to provide insurance and requiring individuals to buy it (tax credits & subsidies help pay for it).

• Part two tries to make Medicare, a popular and effective, but expensive, program that serving people 65 and older, more efficient.


Ten Thing You Should Know About Medicare – Part Two

January 18, 2011

6. Medicare doesn’t cover all your expenses.
You may find that each part of Medicare has some things it doesn’t cover.

7. Start by looking at what you have now.
Look at your current health coverage. For example, if you have group coverage from your job, or retiree insurance from a former employer, you’ll want to see how this coverage fits with Medicare.

8. You won’t want to put this off.
Timing matters when you’re choosing Medicare coverage.
Your enrollment window begins just before you turn 65 or when you become eligible for Medicare due to disability.

9. It’s smart to review your choices once a year.
Once you choose your Medicare coverage, you’re not locked into that choice. You’ll have the chance to change your choices at least once a year. That’s why it makes sense to check your coverage every year to make sure it still fits your health needs.

10. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
There’s help available for everyone making Medicare choices. And there’s extra help with the cost of Medicare for people with little income and few assets.

Open enrollment starts on November 15. You are limited in when you can change your Medicare health plan during the year. You can switch during the Annual Coordinated Election Period which runs from November 15 through December 31 every year.

New coverage starts January 1. During this period you can change your choice of health coverage, and add, drop or change Medicare drug coverage.

A licensed broker can help you with these specifics.
Sources:
United HealthCare.com


Ten Thing You Should Know About Medicare – Part One

January 13, 2011

1. There are two ways to get Medicare, turn age 65 or become disabled.
Your biggest decision is choosing between Original Medicare (Part A and Part B) and the Medicare Advantage plan. If you choose Original Medicare, decide whether to buy a stand alone prescription drug plan or Medigap (Medicare supplemental insurance) policy. If you choose Medicare Advantage, pick a specific plan from a specific company.

2. There is drug coverage available.
Medicare now includes prescription drug coverage also known as Part D.
This coverage is optional. You can get prescription drug coverage through a Medicare Advantage plan. Some of them include drug coverage. Or you can enroll in a standalone Part D prescription drug plan to go with your Original Medicare coverage.
This is important to know: If you don’t sign up for Part D prescription drug coverage as soon as you become eligible for Medicare, you may pay a penalty on your premium unless you qualify for an exception.

3. Even for covered expenses, you’ll pay a share of the cost.
Medicare helps you get the health care you need when you’re sick, but you’ll still be expected to pay a share of the cost. You contribute to Medicare by paying taxes while you work. When you start to use your Medicare benefits, you’ll pay a share of the costs of the care you receive.

4. Your share may be larger than you expect.
If you choose Medicare Parts A and B, you’ll find that there are some expenses Medicare doesn’t cover. If you are seriously ill, these gaps create big bills. Some people who choose Medicare Parts A and B also buy a Medicare supplement insurance policy. Another alternative is to choose a Medicare Advantage plan that can also help you avoid these gaps.

5. Where you live makes a difference.
Medicare Parts A and B are the same across the United States. But other parts of Medicare (Parts C and D) are offered by private companies and may be available in specific counties, states, or regions, and not in others. There are Part C or Part D plans that offer nationwide coverage.


Vacation Properties and Income – Part 2

September 14, 2009

Another way for retirees to generate income from a vacation home is to sell it. By using the federal capital gains exclusion in conjunction with the sale of your primary residence, you can potentially realize tax-free income. Here’s how it works. The basic capital gains exclusion rules state that you must have owned and used the home as your primary residence for at least two years out of the five-year period ending on the date of the sale. If you are married, the full $500,000 exclusion ($250,000 for single homeowners) is available as long as one or both of you satisfies the ownership test (two years) and you both satisfy the use test (primary residence).


Vacation Properties and Income – Part 1

September 10, 2009

If you have a vacation home, you’re already aware of the enjoyment it provides and the benefits it can offer at tax time. But you may not be aware of how vacation property can be used to generate income in retirement or how it can play into an estate plan. In fact, vacation properties offer retirees a number of different options in managing their finances and estate.
Vacation property may be used to generate income in several different ways. The first, and most obvious, is renting it. The IRS allows you to deduct mortgage interest on your primary residence and one additional property up to a limit of $1 million in combined mortgage debt for mortgages taken out after 1987. Current tax rules also allow you to rent out a second home for up to 14 days per year without having to report the rent as income. If you rent for more than 14 days, the home is considered investment property, and rent must be reported as income. Converting the property to an investment property, however, allows you to deduct rental expenses, such as insurance and utilities, if you have a net profit on the property (deductions are limited if you report a loss). You can still use an income-producing property for personal use while maintaining your tax advantages — but only for the greater of 14 days or 10 percent of the total days it is rented. Maintenance days do not count as personal-use days, but use by in-laws or other part-owners does, even if rent is charged.


Simple Truths

September 8, 2009

As a financial advising firm, one of the simple truths we have learned is that relationships are the single greatest influence on how people use their money and plan for the future. When people talk about their hopes and dreams, they talk about the people they love. Their future, the life they wish to live, is always full of the people most important to them. They don’t talk first about dollars and cents, Dow averages, or bond yields. They talk about a spouse, a parent, a child. When imagining their financial futures, even those without family often focus on others, such as employees, friends, faith communities, and charities.


Keeping Your Emotions in Check…

September 3, 2009

In times like these, with the economy in a tailspin, and the stock market in the tank, investing requires an extra dose of patience, perseverance and perspective.
It takes patience to ride out the bear market, perseverance to continue to invest even through a difficult economy, and perspective to see the long-term picture and realize that recessions and bear markets are just part of the natural economic cycle. Slumping economies and bear markets of the past have always turned around — and there is no reason to believe that this time will be any different.