Insurance Company Pays People to Keep Fit

Misfit Fitness Band

Misfit Fitness Band

Insurance companies are becoming increasingly proactive in how they help consumers. One new insurance company aims to use technology to better tailor health insurance to people.

An insurance company named “Oscar” has unveiled an initiative where every member can obtain a free “Misfit fitness band”. The band allows people to track how much exercise they are performing every day and sync the data on their smart phone. Customers who already use fitness tracking software can also sync their data with Oscar’s fitness tracking system.

The insurance company then rewards people who exercise regularly with rewards. The application sets a number of health goals, and for every health goal passed they receive $1. The user can cash-out when their total reaches $20 and will receive the amount in Amazon gift cards.

This isn’t the first time this company has provided rewards for when customers make smart decisions about their health. They previously gave customer $20 if they had a flu shot by a certain date.

Schlosser admits that this is “very much the beginning,” and that one of Oscar’s main goals is to collect more health data on its members to make sure doctors have the most information available on them. Down the line, that could include nutrition data, sleep data, and as tracking technology becomes more sophisticated, perhaps even blood pressure data.

“We aren’t the people who deliver your healthcare, but our job is to facilitate the delivery of your healthcare,” Schlosser says. “To do that, we can get more information to your doctor.”

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Health Insurance Applications Top 1 Million in First Week Enrollment

Affordable Health Care Act enrollment

Affordable Health Care Act enrollment

According to the federal government, the first week of the “Affordable Health Care Act enrollment” period brought in 1 million applications. The huge number of applications indicates that the government’s HealthCare.gov website was functioning better than last year. In 2013 a number of technical issues hampered some people finding the right insurance policy for them.

The secretary of health and human services, Sylvia Mathews Burwell, suggests the numbers are positive but more work needs to be done, saying: “We are off to a solid start, But we’ve got a lot of work to do every day between now and Feb. 15.”

This enrollment period ends on February 15. The HealthCare.gov website operates as an insurance exchange for 37 states, while the remaining states have their own state-based exchanges.

The Affordable Care Act has been widely criticized by conservative politicians in the United States, who intend to wind back the changes. The question that needs to be answered is “does it work?”. The data indicates that many people who were previously not eligible for health insurance can now obtain it. So in terms of people with chronic conditions, it’s clearly working.

The number of people who have managed to buy insurance has also greatly increased. There are some questions about the cost of the insurance plans and the efficiency of the insurance exchanges to provide the best deal.

The total enrollment for federal and state exchanges was 6.7 million by mid-October. 3.7 million of those users enrolled using healthcare.gov. The federal government is hoping to have more than 9 million enrolled by the end of 2015.

13 Ways to Lower the Cost of Health Insurance

13 Ways to Save Money on Health Insurance

13 Ways to Save Money on Health Insurance

Health insurance is one of the most expensive parts of the household budget.  Here are 13 simple ways to save money on your health insurance premiums!

1. Comparison Shop
The most common and simplest advice possible is to do your research before choosing a provider.  Compare levels of coverage and cost.  Also consider the reputation of the company.  Ask your colleagues and extended family about the insurance provider they use and if they are happy with the level of service.

2. Negotiate with Your Insurance Company Over Price
You have every right to negotiate with your insurance company over price.  Many people just accept the premium that the insurance company pushes at them every year, but this is not necessary.  Contact the insurance company, ask for loyalty discounts or any other reductions that you can think of given your health condition.

3. Negotiate with Your Insurance Company Over Coverage
If your doctor has told you that a procedure is required, but the insurance company has told you they won’t cover it — lodge an appeal!  Many times you will actually get the insurance company to eventually cover the procedure.  You have nothing to lose by pushing for your best interests.

4. Ask Your Doctor For Help
Your doctor is perhaps the best person to help you navigate the world of health insurance.  Ask their advice on which provider to choose, ask them about about particular types of coverage you need, given your health concerns.

5. Check That Everything is Necessary
Make sure you have a great relationship with your general practitioner and don’t hesitate to ask their advice on hospital stays and tests.  If you are in hospital and the doctor doing the rounds starts to make decisions about tests, you have every right to make sure they are necessary.  If you are suddenly in the hands of a doctor you don’t know, ask your GP about the tests and medical procedures.

6. Choose a Policy With a High Deductible
You can always quickly save money by choosing a higher deductible on your insurance policy.  This can also be negotiated with your insurance provider.

7. Pickup a “Medigap” Policy for Things That Concern You
If your policy doesn’t cover every ailment you are worried about, then buy a “medigap” policy that covers only those specific problems.  This is useful for closing the gaps in your existing policy.  Again, work in conjunction with your local doctor to ascertain which health problems might occur that your existing policy doesn’t fully cover.

8. Use a Health Savings Account
The IRS offers special tax provisions for special savings accounts that are to be used for healthcare.  This is a great way to prepare for any health emergencies and is useful for covering procedures that insurance companies will not insure.

9. Compare the Prices That Hospitals Offer and Negotiate
Many people sometimes forget that hospitals are businesses like any other.  Some off better value for money than others.  Shop around as if you were buying a car, looking at price, quality, reputation of the manufacturer.

10. Look For Tax Deductions on Medical Expenses
There are various tax deductions which you may be able to obtain for medical expenses.  For example people who spend more than 7.5% of their gross income on medical expenses can receive a tax rebate.  People who work for themselves can also receive tax rebates for health insurance.

11. Check Hospital Bills
Don’t trust your hospital to do the sums correctly.  There have been many cases of hospitals charging the incorrect amounts for procedures or even charging for procedures and tests that didn’t happen.

12. Save on Medications by Going Generic
You can always save money on your medications by going generic.

13. Be Healthy!
One of the best ways to save money on your health care is to look after yourself.  By eating well and exercising you can avoid the hospital for a very long time and have a happier life!

Americans Without Health Insurance Drop

Uninsured Rate Drops

Uninsured Rate Drops

A new survey indicates that the number of Americans without any form of insurance has dropped dramatically since the introduction of the Affordable Healthcare Act by the Obama administration. That includes millions who have never had health insurance before.

In the last quarter of 2013 the number of adults that lacked coverage was 18% and that figure dropped to 14.7% in the last part of March. That equates to about 8 million people gaing health insurance since September last year. That also adjusts for cancellations of policies that may have occurred when the new laws forced the removal of plans that did not meet the legislation’s requirements.

The poll was conducted by Gallup, who have a long history of monitoring the state of health care in the United States, including the progress of Medicare and Medicaid. The results are a slap in the face to pundits who said the law has not done anything to increase participation in health insurance.

According to Gallup researchers – “The uninsured rate has been falling since the fourth quarter of 2013 … a sign that the Affordable Care Act, commonly referred to as Obamacare, appears to be accomplishing its goal of increasing the percentage of Americans with health insurance coverage,”

Under the Affordable Healthcare Act, insurance companies could no longer turn away sick individuals who may have had pre-existing conditions. Many of the newly insured may in fact be people who could not find insurance previously.

Under the act, in many states low income Americans could also sign up for Medicaid coverage for the first time. The survey doesn’t even cover the full extent of the increase in the number of insured because many Americans gained coverage before September.

An estimated 3 million children gained the coverage of their parent’s health care plans which they retain until they turn 26.

The number of uninsured has always been relatively high in the United States, but it became worse under the George W Bush administration as the economy slid into recession and many people could no longer afford it, or lost their employment.

It may in fact be a number of years before we know the full impact of the Affordable Health Care act, as people adjust their insurance plans and decide on what level of coverage they think is appropriate. There is a distinct possibility that many of the new signatories to health insurance may not remain covered for more than a couple of years and instead return to the pool of uninsured.

In some states certain provisions like the Medicaid changes are also being rolled out late, so there will be a boost to the insured rate there in the coming months. Additionally, many people who began applying for insurance coverage by March 31 may not have actually completed their application and have until April 15 to do so. There could be many more thousands who jumped in at the last minute and will not show up in the insurance figures yet.

Gallup said this may result in another drop to the uninsured rate in the 2nd quarter of 2014.

According to the survey, the greatest gain to the insured rate was in African, Latino households who could suddenly access cheaper health care plans. Households earning less than $36’000 a year also demonstrated a large gain in insurance rates. They were all groups that the Obama administration did expect large gains in, so they have come to fruition.

Gallup isn’t the only poll reflecting these gains with recent polls by the Times and Rand Corp also showing a drop in the uninsured rate.

Health Insurance Enrollment Deadline Soon!

Health Insurance Deadline Approaches

Health Insurance Deadline Approaches

The March 31 enrollment deadline for obtaining a private health insurance plan is now only a few weeks away! That means if you wish to purchase a subsidized health insurance policy and avoid any penalties, you should make sure you obtain health insurance as soon as possible.

There is a hotline set up (1-800-318-2596) for applicants who have questions about the process as well as providing a number of details on the https://www.healthcare.gov/ website. The website also provides a simple state selector so you can visit the insurance marketplace in your state: https://www.healthcare.gov/marketplace/b/welcome/.

Most states have launched advertising campaigns to urge people to enrol for health insurance now and obtain those cheaper plans. Subsidies are available for people earning between 100% and 400% of the poverty rate – the exact figure depends upon your state and selected insurance plan.

If you are having issues understanding the insurance requirements, any medical facility will be able to point you in the direct of a local insurance broker or “insurance navigator” who is a trained social worker.

After March 31, applicants for a private policy must wait until Oct. 1, the start of the enrollment window for 2015 coverage. People on Medicaid do not face a deadline and can apply at any time.

Recent figures have seen health insurance application rates explode, with thousands of people rushing to enroll before the cutoff date. So far 4.2 million people have enrolled across the country via government portals, with 1.14 million of those happening in January and 0.94 million in February. Between October 2013 and the start of March this year, over 430’000 people enrolled in Washington. In Idaho over 40’000 people have used the state website to purchase health insurance, a good figure given their lower population and pre-existing insurance levels.

Nearly 300’000 Texans have bough insurance on the marketplace since October 1, a rate lower than expected. The state has one of the lowest insurance rates in the country and a state senator who is strongly against the healthcare plan from Barack Obama.

Most Uninsured Americans Say They Will Get Insurance

Obamacare Deadline Approaches

Obamacare Deadline Approaches

In a new poll by Gallup, most uninsured Americans indicated that they would get insurance rather than pay a fine. 55% of uninsured Americans said that they would prefer to pay insurance premiums rather than a fine, slightly down from the 63% from last fall.

Gallup has been tracking uninsured American’s attitudes towards insurance and particularly “Obamacare”, also known as the Affordable Health Care Act, that aims to get more people onto health insurance. The polling group talked to more than 1500 uninsured adults in February to obtain these figures.

Gallup says the demographic of people who are in the uninsured group of Americans is constantly changing, so it’s views reflect a wide variety of financial situations, ages and attitudes. The people who have been in the uninsured category for the longest are the most reluctant to acquire insurance themselves.

The attitude of most Americans towards the Affordable Health Care Act is still mostly negative and some Americans who refuse to purchase insurance are doing so because they object to the insurance act and the law’s requirements. Other Americans are just becoming increasingly disparaging about insurance products on offer and their cost. It’s not surprising given that there are so many stories about insurance companies refusing to pay claims.

The number of uninsured Americans is going to continue to decline as we approach the March 31 insurance deadline set out under Obamacare. Individuals will have to pay a fine if they do not obtain insurance before this date.

Gallup suggests that most people are going to be obtaining their insurance from insurance exchanges, where you can often get greater value for money. However in Gallup’s polling many people who looked into insurance exchanges had a negative experience, perhaps why they remained in the “uninsured” demographic.

Once we have reached the March 31 deadline it should be much clearer how Americans have taken to the new health care plan implemented by President Barack Obama and the white house.

Planning for retirement, buying Insurance or self-insure?

Long Term Care Insurance

Long Term Care Insurance

For younger people who are interested in planning for their old age, one of the big questions is how to deal with potential long term care requirements? It is entirely possible that you may require hospitalization or a home nurse when you are older and both of those prospects can be extremely expensive.

You can rely on long term care insurance, but there is always the risk that your claim may be denied. The other option is to self-insure, which involves building up a pool of funds over your lifetime to help cover those unexpected costs.

Some financial analysts suggest that instead of putting money into long-term-care premiums and you could invest the money in a low cost 60/40 balanced index fund, which creates that pool of funds for later in life.

Since insurance is all about calculating risk, what does this self-insured scenario look like? The chance that an individual who lives to 65 will need no long term care before dying is about one in three. One in five seniors will need long term care for five years or more, so that is the two ends of the spectrum.

Then you have to look at home health care costs versus nursing home care. A nursing home will cost between $70’000-90’000 per year while in home care is closer to $30’000. If you have a good relationship with your family, you would be more likely to have a good home environment to spend your old age in so that should also be considered.

A young person in their 30s can buy a long term policy for about $60 a month, which provides $200 per day in care costs. Now what would we end up with if we invested the $60 instead? A life long mutual fund that is split at 60/40 stocks to bonds would return anywhere between 6-8%. Yo will have about $220’000 in that account by the age 85. That amount of money could pay for perhaps 2-3 years of nursing home care or 7-8 years of in home care.

Additionally that $60 a month insurance premium would continue to rise in cost, so you would have to consider that the lump sum from investing the same amount in an investment account may be closer to $300’000. Some insurance companies also go broke! What happens when the Insurance company you have been investing in goes belly up before you receive your long term care, all of those premiums will be meaningless.

Additionally, your relatives get to keep any of the unused money from a long term health fund that you have set up. That might give them more incentive to keep you in their home instead of in an expensive nursing home. On first glance it seems that someone in their 30s would be best off building their own long term care fund.

However there are a few issues. You would have to continue adding to that account your entire life, without fail. What happens if you lose your job for a couple of years? You might be forced to dip into the fund and when it’s not building, risk is increasing. What if you decide to dip into it to pay for your children’s college? It takes discipline to save for decades.

Long term care costs could increase rapidly as well, so that fund may not cover much into the future. An insurance policy will adjust it’s payout total upwards as costs rise, but of course so will premiums. Insurance covers the cost of inflation, the self-insured person bares the cost of inflation against their savings.

There is also the small possibility that you will need longer term care, so what happens if you burn through your fund and have to rely upon your children? It could be very expensive for them and damage their future finances.

The last risk is that you may need long term care at a much younger age than expected. What if you have a serious illness that forces you to retire at age 50? You self-insured fund won’t be big enough yet to cover you for an extended period.

When all factors are considered, both self insurance and long term care insurance have negative and positive aspects. If you want to reduce risk, take a closer look at your finances, health, lifestyle and family. If you are well off financially, can commit to saving, and can see yourself living in a big house with loving children who can help care for you in your old age, there is less risk with self-insurance.

However if you think you won’t have the family network to help support you, or you are concerned about your health in old age, then insurance may be a better option. Either way it’s a difficult decision, but with some thought you can reduce risk and find the right solution for yourself.

Obamacare Blamed for Health Insurance Cost Increase

Obamacare

Obamacare

A new report claims that the newly rolled out “Obamacare” health reforms is being blamed for some health insurance cost increases that it has nothing to do with. There have been some issues with the Obamacare rollout, but new research indicates that some parties are incorrectly blaming Obamacare for price increases on their insurance products.

Research indicates that nearly half of the Americans with higher incomes in the $50’000-$75’000 and employer health insurance believe that Obamacare has somehow made them worse off. 46% of the people in this salary bracket say that they are now paying more in out of pocket expenses than they were a year ago.

However insurance industry analysts suggest that this cost increase is actually insurance companies simply charging more and using Obamacare as a scapegoat. Some people are seeing out of pocket expenses like their copay for doctors visits going up rapidly and by as much as 30% in the last year alone. Analysts suggest this is simply insurance companies attempting to get more money out of insured parties to improve their bottom line.

Some cost increases are kicking in before Obamacare has even impacted them. For example the top of the line health insurance plans are blaming a clause in Obamacare which sees the tax rate change to 40% on these types of plans. The plans are being hiked up in cost now to cover this expense, but in reality the cost increase won’t happen until 2018, so the insurance companies are simply price gouging for additional profit on those plans.

With insurance companies acting in this way, it’s no wonder that support for the Obamacare reforms is slipping away. One recent poll indicates that only 38% of people are in favor of keeping the reforms. That is compared to polls a few months ago that indicated 46% support for the reforms.

Critics of the scheme had admitted that some of the worst case scenarios they thought might happen have not come to pass. Despite that the public sentiment is increasingly negative.

A recent survey also found 52 percent of women with employer-based coverage report higher out-of-pocket expenses, compared to only 35 percent of men. This is most because insurance companies were previously allowed to charge women more for insurance than men. Gender discrimination is prohibited under Obamacare, so those statistics are set to change after January 1.

Some analysts are concerned that consumers are unable to assess the Obamacare reforms on their actual merit because of the behavior of some insurance companies.

Calculating insurance subsidies for students

Students insurance subsidies

Students insurance subsidies

Calculating insurance subsidies can be a complex matter if you are in a position where you only work part time or are studying. One of the most common questions is from students who are studying full time and not working – How do they calculate subsidies for purchasing insurance on the exchange?

In general terms the insurance subsidies are calculated as they would be for anyone. If your total income is between 100% and 400% of the poverty level, you will qualify for some premium tax credits to help pay for insurance. If it is within 100% to 250% you may also qualify for cost sharing assistance from the federal government.

The biggest distinction when determining how much of an insurance subsidy a full time student is able to claim is if they considered a part of their parents household or not.

If your parents claim you as a dependent on their federal tax return, that means you must use their household modified income when you are calculating your eligibility for insurance subsidies. The household income figure is your parents gross income and the income of anyone else in the household who earns enough to lodge federal tax returns.

When determining if you are a dependent, the tax department looks at your primary place of residence, your age, the money you contribute to supporting yourself and the type of tax returns you have been filing.

Basically, if you are supporting yourself you can not be considered a dependent and any calculations to determine insurance subsidies will be on your income alone. Hopefully this quick tip will help you understand how insurance subsidies are calculated!

Flordia Insurance Fraudsters Caught!

Insurance Fraudsters Busted!

Insurance Fraudsters Busted!

Investigators in Florida have uncovered a complex insurance scam involving as many as 50 people on Thursday and have laid charges against 33. The highly complex scam involved a number medical professionals, clinic owners, massage therapists, chiropractors and recruiters who sought out people to play a role in the scams.

They staged car accidents and faked related injuries, with willing participants visiting medical professionals who had been paid off for a diagnosis of their injuries.

After a 3 year investigation, police moved in and arrested many of the individuals involved in staging the accidents and perpetrating the insurance fraud. Investigators estimate that the scam fleeced upward of $20 million from insurance companies.

William J. Maddalena, one of the FBI agents involved declared: “If you get upset about your car insurance premiums going up, this crime is one of the reasons why,” He continued: “Every time an insurance payout is made for a staged accident in Florida, we all feel the pain in the pocketbook.”

The arrests are part of a larger operation called “Operation Sledgehammer” which has seen the FBI and local authorities target insurance scammers in the Palm Beach, Broward and Miami areas. The scammers convicted have been ordered to repay $5 million so far and more convictions will undoubtedly be on their way.

The name for the operation comes from the fact that some of the scammers used sledgehammers to damage vehicles and make them look like they had been in an accident. The scam was highly complex because it involved people at every level including medical professionals who were prescribing fake treatment for fake patients. The recruiters found willing participants, paid them off and staged crashes around South Florida. Some of the charges include money laundering, staging financial transactions and accident fraud.

The scam has been running since as far back as 2006, netting a very large amount of cash in that time, and it used as many as 21 chiropractors to provide false injury statements. Some of the defendants have fled to Cuba to escaped prosecution.

The participants were trained by the recruiters and told which chiropractors to go to, how to file the police reports and how to file the insurance claims. The recruiters would then pay the participants, often using the funds in a separate money laundering scheme.

So if you are looking for one of the reasons why insurance premiums continue to claim, you can blame insurance scammers like the ones busted in Florida. Luckily for us the FBI and other authorities are on their trail!