30. April 2016 · Comments Off on Buying Individual Health Insurance: 3 Essential Tips From a Health Insurance Specialist · Categories: Health Insurance

When you’re buying individual health insurance, you’ll probably get overwhelmed by the prices and options of health plans online. Health insurance is now one of the more expensive items in the budgets of many people, but it can also be one of the best decisions you make if you have some know-how selecting the right health plan for you and your family. Here I will give you the 3 Essential Tips that I advise my clients to use when purchasing individual health coverage.

Tip 1: Do not take health insurance advice from someone that is totally unqualified to give you this advice!!

I cannot stress this enough. It amazes me how many sensible people take advice about what health insurance to choose from people who are totally unqualified to give you this critical advice. For example, when I see health insurance messes, (which I see virtually every day) and I ask where they got their health plan information, I inevitably hear things like: “My brother-in- law told me to choose this health plan, he used to work at the hospital.” or “I read an article that says this is the best plan available.” And so on. Everyone’s got an opinion about what health plan you should choose. Just because they are your relative, or involved in some area of health care totally unrelated to insurance, does not mean they know the answers to your individual needs and questions! Work with an insurance specialist BEFORE the problems come up! You have no idea how many clients I have worked with come to me after they chose a health plan online and then have an insurance coverage issue and expect me to fix it, I want to tell them: you should have come to me for help before! Most insurance specialists get paid through insurance carriers, so their services are free to you. USE THEM!!

Tip 2: Determine your actual needs.

The three things to keep in mind when determining your needs are: budget, patterns of doctor and hospital visits, and prescription drug usage. Ask yourself these questions: How frequently do you visit your doctor? Do you go for checkups only or do you go for sick visits? How many times have you been in the hospital in the past 2 years? Do you take regular prescriptions? What are they? Generic or Brands? This is another area where most of my clients neglect. It is not possible to have maximum coverage in all of these areas in any affordable way, maximum coverage for the doctor and hospital plus prescriptions leaves a dent in the budget. However, most health insurance plans offer more than one version of the same plan. For example, say you have “health plan A” that offers maximum coverage for the doctor, maximum coverage for the hospital, and maximum coverage for your prescription drugs. But “health plan A” costs the same as your mortgage. The good news is “Health Plan A” most likely also has customizable options, meaning if after analyzing your needs, you discover that you rarely visit a hospital, you could change “health plan A’ s” hospital coverage to moderate or even minimal which will bring down the premium a great deal. If these options are confusing to you, again, a health insurance specialist will be able to help you. They are already aware of “health plan A’ s” customizable features and can match your needs to the appropriate version of “health plan A”. A health insurance specialist also has access to versions of health plans that aren’t available as options to the average consumer buying health insurance online.

Tip 3: Resist the urge to over-insure!!

After you’ve analyzed your needs, resist the urge to over-insure! One of the most common health insurance messes I see is over-insurance. People think that if they have maximum coverage for doctors, hospitals, and prescriptions, they have “good” insurance. The truth is, most people who will be approved for individual health insurance won’t need all this coverage. Two things I advise my clients to be aware of: Health Care Reform and Stop-Loss. First, Health Care Reform allows for preventive care services to be covered at 100%. For example, if you only get checkups, why enroll in the plan with 100% doctor’s visit coverage? Enroll in the plan with a lower premium and pay a $10 copay for your sick visit. The difference in premium with this small detail is $100’s of dollars! Furthermore, some of these “maximum coverage” health insurance plans exclude things like pregnancy. The last thing you want to do is pay a small fortune for “good” health insurance only to discover it won’t cover something you need it for! Second, most health insurance plans have a stop-loss built into them which basically states that when your out-of-pocket costs reach a certain amount, the plan will cover you at 100% for all services. And you don’t need the “maximum coverage” plan for this benefit. Your health insurance specialist can even customize this stop-loss amount!

Then, select your plan after following My 3 Essential Tips:

1. Do not take health insurance advice from someone unqualified to offer this advice. Seek a health insurance specialist, they have studied and are licensed to offer this advice and they’re free to you. USE THEM!!

2. Consider your actual needs. Ask yourself questions so you know what your specific health plan needs are, that way you can make sure you select a plan that meets them. After all, if you don’t know what you actually need in a plan, how will you know if you’ve come across the right fit?

3. Resist the urge to over-insure! Health Care Reform has changed how many plans work and you may be able to receive ample or superlative coverage without over-insuring. And most importantly, without the hefty premiums!

There you have it, online health insurance shoppers! I hope this was helpful!

23. April 2016 · Comments Off on Understanding Health Insurance in Virginia · Categories: Health Insurance

Health insurance remains one of the most talked about topics when it comes to products that are indispensable for residents of Virginia. With continued increase in healthcare costs, the importance of health insurance plans keeps increasing.

It goes without saying that residents of Virginia without insurance coverage are at a greater risk of experiencing financial insecurity during illness or injury. No doubt health insurance plans involve costs but affordable health policies are easily available and with the implementation of healthcare reforms, lots of options will be available to the Virginians.

Traditional indemnity insurance plans in Virginia

Traditionally, indemnity health insurance plans in Virginia offer reimbursement against the claims made by an insured person. The level of coverage provided by these plans could vary from basic to comprehensive depending upon the needs of the insured person. Accordingly, the costs of the health plans vary-premiums, deductibles, copays and coinsurance, etc.

Managed health care plans in Virginia

Unlike indemnity health plans, managed care health insurance plans involve a group of medical providers that offer comprehensive medical services. They are called preferred or participating providers.

There are basically three managed care options:

• Health Maintenance Organization or HMO

HMOs allow the insured person to select a primary care physician from the plan’s list of medical service providers. If it is necessary, the primary care physician will refer the insured person to a specialist.

• Preferred Provider Organization or PPO

PPOs allow the members to avail large medical care network. At a slightly higher cost, a PPO generally allows its members to receive care outside its network of providers

• Point of Service feature or POS

POS medical plans are special types of HMOs that allow the members to select a non-network provider at a slightly higher cost.

Impact of the Affordable Care Act of health insurance in Virginia

• Around 109,000 small businesses in Virginia will be helped with tax credit.

• Medicare beneficiaries will be mailed a check automatically to defray the costs of their prescription drugs.

• Early retirees would be provided options for reinsurance.

• $113 million federal dollars will be made available to Virginia starting July 1 to provide coverage for people with pre-existing conditions.

• With the new Act, Virginia enjoys the option of Federal Medicaid funding for coverage for all low-income populations, irrespective of age, disability, or family status, for the very first time.

• 4.7 million people in Virginia with private insurance won’t have to worry about lifetime limits on the coverage.

• 344,000 individuals will not have to worry about to get dropped from insurance policies when they get sick.

• Children would be able to stay in their family health insurance policy till the age of 26 years.

What to look for while buying affordable health plans in Virginia

• Virginians should note what is the maximum coverage level offered in the health insurance plan. This should be the prime deciding factor.

• The second point should be the costs involved in a health plan. This could include premiums, deductibles, copays and coinsurance. Consumers can adjust these costs as per their budget.

• Virginians should make sure, if needed, that the health insurance plan offers prescription drug coverage, doctor visits and hospitalization benefits. There is no need to buy a health plan if it does not offer such coverage benefits given that consumers need them.

• A High Deductible Health Plan (HDHP) with a Health Savings Account (HSA) is a very good option to make sure that consumers get affordable health plans. Virginians should check about this.

• Virginians, who need to see a specialist, should make sure that the health insurance plan does not require them to get referrals.

• An affordable health insurance plan should have an easy reimbursement procedure. Virginians should make sure that they do not buy from such companies whose reimbursement process is too much complicated. Such plans could actually waste a lot of money and time.

17. April 2016 · Comments Off on Health Savings Accounts – An American Innovation in Health Insurance · Categories: Health Insurance

INTRODUCTON – The term “health insurance” is commonly used in the United States to describe any program that helps pay for medical expenses, whether through privately purchased insurance, social insurance or a non-insurance social welfare program funded by the government. Synonyms for this usage include “health coverage,” “health care coverage” and “health benefits” and “medical insurance.” In a more technical sense, the term is used to describe any form of insurance that provides protection against injury or illness.

In America, the health insurance industry has changed rapidly during the last few decades. In the 1970’s most people who had health insurance had indemnity insurance. Indemnity insurance is often called fee-forservice. It is the traditional health insurance in which the medical provider (usually a doctor or hospital) is paid a fee for each service provided to the patient covered under the policy. An important category associated with the indemnity plans is that of consumer driven health care (CDHC). Consumer-directed health plans allow individuals and families to have greater control over their health care, including when and how they access care, what types of care they receive and how much they spend on health care services.

These plans are however associated with higher deductibles that the insured have to pay from their pocket before they can claim insurance money. Consumer driven health care plans include Health Reimbursement Plans (HRAs), Flexible Spending Accounts (FSAs), high deductible health plans (HDHps), Archer Medical Savings Accounts (MSAs) and Health Savings Accounts (HSAs). Of these, the Health Savings Accounts are the most recent and they have witnessed rapid growth during the last decade.

WHAT IS A HEALTH SAVINGS ACCOUNT?

A Health Savings Account (HSA) is a tax-advantaged medical savings account available to taxpayers in the United States. The funds contributed to the account are not subject to federal income tax at the time of deposit. These may be used to pay for qualified medical expenses at any time without federal tax liability.

Another feature is that the funds contributed to Health Savings Account roll over and accumulate year over year if not spent. These can be withdrawn by the employees at the time of retirement without any tax liabilities. Withdrawals for qualified expenses and interest earned are also not subject to federal income taxes. According to the U.S. Treasury Office, ‘A Health Savings Account is an alternative to traditional health insurance; it is a savings product that offers a different way for consumers to pay for their health care.

HSA’s enable you to pay for current health expenses and save for future qualified medical and retiree health expenses on a tax-free basis.’ Thus the Health Savings Account is an effort to increase the efficiency of the American health care system and to encourage people to be more responsible and prudent towards their health care needs. It falls in the category of consumer driven health care plans.

Origin of Health Savings Account

The Health Savings Account was established under the Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act passed by the U.S. Congress in June 2003, by the Senate in July 2003 and signed by President Bush on December 8, 2003.

Eligibility –

The following individuals are eligible to open a Health Savings Account –

– Those who are covered by a High Deductible Health Plan (HDHP).
– Those not covered by other health insurance plans.
– Those not enrolled in Medicare4.

Also there are no income limits on who may contribute to an HAS and there is no requirement of having earned income to contribute to an HAS. However HAS’s can’t be set up by those who are dependent on someone else’s tax return. Also HSA’s cannot be set up independently by children.

What is a High Deductible Health plan (HDHP)?

Enrollment in a High Deductible Health Plan (HDHP) is a necessary qualification for anyone wishing to open a Health Savings Account. In fact the HDHPs got a boost by the Medicare Modernization Act which introduced the HSAs. A High Deductible Health Plan is a health insurance plan which has a certain deductible threshold. This limit must be crossed before the insured person can claim insurance money. It does not cover first dollar medical expenses. So an individual has to himself pay the initial expenses that are called out-of-pocket costs.

In a number of HDHPs costs of immunization and preventive health care are excluded from the deductible which means that the individual is reimbursed for them. HDHPs can be taken both by individuals (self employed as well as employed) and employers. In 2008, HDHPs are being offered by insurance companies in America with deductibles ranging from a minimum of $1,100 for Self and $2,200 for Self and Family coverage. The maximum amount out-of-pocket limits for HDHPs is $5,600 for self and $11,200 for Self and Family enrollment. These deductible limits are called IRS limits as they are set by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). In HDHPs the relation between the deductibles and the premium paid by the insured is inversely propotional i.e. higher the deductible, lower the premium and vice versa. The major purported advantages of HDHPs are that they will a) lower health care costs by causing patients to be more cost-conscious, and b) make insurance premiums more affordable for the uninsured. The logic is that when the patients are fully covered (i.e. have health plans with low deductibles), they tend to be less health conscious and also less cost conscious when going for treatment.

Opening a Health Savings Account

An individual can sign up for HSAs with banks, credit unions, insurance companies and other approved companies. However not all insurance companies offer HSAqualified health insurance plans so it is important to use an insurance company that offers this type of qualified insurance plan. The employer may also set up a plan for the employees. However, the account is always owned by the individual. Direct online enrollment in HSA-qualified health insurance is available in all states except Hawaii, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington.

Contributions to the Health Savings Account

Contributions to HSAs can be made by an individual who owns the account, by an employer or by any other person. When made by the employer, the contribution is not included in the income of the employee. When made by an employee, it is treated as exempted from federal tax. For 2008, the maximum amount that can be contributed (and deducted) to an HSA from all sources is:
$2,900 (self-only coverage)
$5,800 (family coverage)

These limits are set by the U.S. Congress through statutes and they are indexed annually for inflation. For individuals above 55 years of age, there is a special catch up provision that allows them to deposit additional $800 for 2008 and $900 for 2009. The actual maximum amount an individual can contribute also depends on the number of months he is covered by an HDHP (pro-rated basis) as of the first day of a month. For eg If you have family HDHP coverage from January 1,2008 until June 30, 2008, then cease having HDHP coverage, you are allowed an HSA contribution of 6/12 of $5,800, or $2,900 for 2008. If you have family HDHP coverage from January 1,2008 until June 30, 2008, and have self-only HDHP coverage from July 1, 2008 to December 31, 2008, you are allowed an HSA contribution of 6/12 x $5,800 plus 6/12 of $2,900, or $4,350 for 2008. If an individual opens an HDHP on the first day of a month, then he can contribute to HSA on the first day itself. However, if he/she opens an account on any other day than the first, then he can contribute to the HSA from the next month onwards. Contributions can be made as late as April 15 of the following year. Contributions to the HSA in excess of the contribution limits must be withdrawn by the individual or be subject to an excise tax. The individual must pay income tax on the excess withdrawn amount.

Contributions by the Employer

The employer can make contributions to the employee’s HAS account under a salary reduction plan known as Section 125 plan. It is also called a cafeteria plan. The contributions made under the cafeteria plan are made on a pre-tax basis i.e. they are excluded from the employee’s income. The employer must make the contribution on a comparable basis. Comparable contributions are contributions to all HSAs of an employer which are 1) the same amount or 2) the same percentage of the annual deductible. However, part time employees who work for less than 30 hours a week can be treated separately. The employer can also categorize employees into those who opt for self coverage only and those who opt for a family coverage. The employer can automatically make contributions to the HSAs on the behalf of the employee unless the employee specifically chooses not to have such contributions by the employer.

Withdrawals from the HSAs

The HSA is owned by the employee and he/she can make qualified expenses from it whenever required. He/She also decides how much to contribute to it, how much to withdraw for qualified expenses, which company will hold the account and what type of investments will be made to grow the account. Another feature is that the funds remain in the account and role over from year to year. There are no use it or lose it rules. The HSA participants do not have to obtain advance approval from their HSA trustee or their medical insurer to withdraw funds, and the funds are not subject to income taxation if made for ‘qualified medical expenses’. Qualified medical expenses include costs for services and items covered by the health plan but subject to cost sharing such as a deductible and coinsurance, or co-payments, as well as many other expenses not covered under medical plans, such as dental, vision and chiropractic care; durable medical equipment such as eyeglasses and hearing aids; and transportation expenses related to medical care. Nonprescription, over-the-counter medications are also eligible. However, qualified medical expense must be incurred on or after the HSA was established.

Tax free distributions can be taken from the HSA for the qualified medical expenses of the person covered by the HDHP, the spouse (even if not covered) of the individual and any dependent (even if not covered) of the individual.12 The HSA account can also be used to pay previous year’s qualified expenses subject to the condition that those expenses were incurred after the HSA was set up. The individual must preserve the receipts for expenses met from the HSA as they may be needed to prove that the withdrawals from the HSA were made for qualified medical expenses and not otherwise used. Also the individual may have to produce the receipts before the insurance company to prove that the deductible limit was met. If a withdrawal is made for unqualified medical expenses, then the amount withdrawn is considered taxable (it is added to the individuals income) and is also subject to an additional 10 percent penalty. Normally the money also cannot be used for paying medical insurance premiums. However, in certain circumstances, exceptions are allowed.

These are –

1) to pay for any health plan coverage while receiving federal or state unemployment benefits.
2) COBRA continuation coverage after leaving employment with a company that offers health insurance coverage.
3) Qualified long-term care insurance.
4) Medicare premiums and out-of-pocket expenses, including deductibles, co-pays, and coinsurance for: Part A (hospital and inpatient services), Part B (physician and outpatient services), Part C (Medicare HMO and PPO plans) and Part D (prescription drugs).

However, if an individual dies, becomes disabled or reaches the age of 65, then withdrawals from the Health Savings Account are considered exempted from income tax and additional 10 percent penalty irrespective of the purpose for which those withdrawals are made. There are different methods through which funds can be withdrawn from the HSAs. Some HSAs provide account holders with debit cards, some with cheques and some have options for a reimbursement process similar to medical insurance.

Growth of HSAs

Ever since the Health Savings Accounts came into being in January 2004, there has been a phenomenal growth in their numbers. From around 1 million enrollees in March 2005, the number has grown to 6.1 million enrollees in January 2008.14 This represents an increase of 1.6 million since January 2007, 2.9 million since January 2006 and 5.1 million since March 2005. This growth has been visible across all segments. However, the growth in large groups and small groups has been much higher than in the individual category. According to the projections made by the U.S. Treasury Department, the number of HSA policy holders will increase to 14 million by 2010. These 14 million policies will provide cover to 25 to 30 million U.S. citizens.

In the Individual Market, 1.5 million people were covered by HSA/HDHPs purchased as on January 2008. Based on the number of covered lives, 27 percent of newly purchased individual policies (defined as those purchased during the most recent full month or quarter) were enrolled in HSA/HDHP coverage. In the small group market, enrollment stood at 1.8 million as of January 2008. In this group 31 percent of all new enrollments were in the HSA/HDHP category. The large group category had the largest enrollment with 2.8 million enrollees as of January 2008. In this category, six percent of all new enrollments were in the HSA/HDHP category.

Benefits of HSAs

The proponents of HSAs envisage a number of benefits from them. First and foremost it is believed that as they have a high deductible threshold, the insured will be more health conscious. Also they will be more cost conscious. The high deductibles will encourage people to be more careful about their health and health care expenses and will make them shop for bargains and be more vigilant against excesses in the health care industry. This, it is believed, will reduce the growing cost of health care and increase the efficiency of the health care system in the United States. HSA-eligible plans typically provide enrollee decision support tools that include, to some extent, information on the cost of health care services and the quality of health care providers. Experts suggest that reliable information about the cost of particular health care services and the quality of specific health care providers would help enrollees become more actively engaged in making health care purchasing decisions. These tools may be provided by health insurance carriers to all health insurance plan enrollees, but are likely to be more important to enrollees of HSA-eligible plans who have a greater financial incentive to make informed decisions about the quality and costs of health care providers and services.

It is believed that lower premiums associated with HSAs/HDHPs will enable more people to enroll for medical insurance. This will mean that lower income groups who do not have access to medicare will be able to open HSAs. No doubt higher deductibles are associated with HSA eligible HDHPs, but it is estimated that tax savings under HSAs and lower premiums will make them less expensive than other insurance plans. The funds put in the HSA can be rolled over from year to year. There are no use it or lose it rules. This leads to a growth in savings of the account holder. The funds can be accumulated tax free for future medical expenses if the holder so desires. Also the savings in the HSA can be grown through investments.

The nature of such investments is decided by the insured. The earnings on savings in the HSA are also exempt from income tax. The holder can withdraw his savings in the HSA after turning 65 years old without paying any taxes or penalties. The account holder has complete control over his/her account. He/She is the owner of the account right from its inception. A person can withdraw money as and when required without any gatekeeper. Also the owner decides how much to put in his/her account, how much to spend and how much to save for the future. The HSAs are portable in nature. This means that if the holder changes his/her job, becomes unemployed or moves to another location, he/she can still retain the account.

Also if the account holder so desires he can transfer his Health Saving Account from one managing agency to another. Thus portability is an advantage of HSAs. Another advantage is that most HSA plans provide first-dollar coverage for preventive care. This is true of virtually all HSA plans offered by large employers and over 95% of the plans offered by small employers. It was also true of over half (59%) of the plans which were purchased by individuals.

All of the plans offering first-dollar preventive care benefits included annual physicals, immunizations, well-baby and wellchild care, mammograms and Pap tests; 90% included prostate cancer screenings and 80% included colon cancer screenings. Some analysts believe that HSAs are more beneficial for the young and healthy as they do not have to pay frequent out of pocket costs. On the other hand, they have to pay lower premiums for HDHPs which help them meet unforeseen contingencies.

Health Savings Accounts are also advantageous for the employers. The benefits of choosing a health Savings Account over a traditional health insurance plan can directly affect the bottom line of an employer’s benefit budget. For instance Health Savings Accounts are dependent on a high deductible insurance policy, which lowers the premiums of the employee’s plan. Also all contributions to the Health Savings Account are pre-tax, thus lowering the gross payroll and reducing the amount of taxes the employer must pay.

Criticism of HSAs

The opponents of Health Savings Accounts contend that they would do more harm than good to America’s health insurance system. Some consumer organizations, such as Consumers Union, and many medical organizations, such as the American Public Health Association, have rejected HSAs because, in their opinion, they benefit only healthy, younger people and make the health care system more expensive for everyone else. According to Stanford economist Victor Fuchs, “The main effect of putting more of it on the consumer is to reduce the social redistributive element of insurance.

Some others believe that HSAs remove healthy people from the insurance pool and it makes premiums rise for everyone left. HSAs encourage people to look out for themselves more and spread the risk around less. Another concern is that the money people save in HSAs will be inadequate. Some people believe that HSAs do not allow for enough savings to cover costs. Even the person who contributes the maximum and never takes any money out would not be able to cover health care costs in retirement if inflation continues in the health care industry.

Opponents of HSAs, also include distinguished figures like state Insurance Commissioner John Garamendi, who called them a “dangerous prescription” that will destabilize the health insurance marketplace and make things even worse for the uninsured. Another criticism is that they benefit the rich more than the poor. Those who earn more will be able to get bigger tax breaks than those who earn less. Critics point out that higher deductibles along with insurance premiums will take away a large share of the earnings of the low income groups. Also lower income groups will not benefit substantially from tax breaks as they are already paying little or no taxes. On the other hand tax breaks on savings in HSAs and on further income from those HSA savings will cost billions of dollars of tax money to the exchequer.

The Treasury Department has estimated HSAs would cost the government $156 billion over a decade. Critics say that this could rise substantially. Several surveys have been conducted regarding the efficacy of the HSAs and some have found that the account holders are not particularly satisfied with the HSA scheme and many are even ignorant about the working of the HSAs. One such survey conducted in 2007 of American employees by the human resources consulting firm Towers Perrin showed satisfaction with account based health plans (ABHPs) was low. People were not happy with them in general compared with people with more traditional health care. Respondants said they were not comfortable with the risk and did not understand how it works.

According to the Commonwealth Fund, early experience with HAS eligible high-deductible health plans reveals low satisfaction, high out of- pocket costs, and cost-related access problems. Another survey conducted with the Employee Benefits Research Institute found that people enrolled in HSA-eligible high-deductible health plans were much less satisfied with many aspects of their health care than adults in more comprehensive plans People in these plans allocate substantial amounts of income to their health care, especially those who have poorer health or lower incomes. The survey also found that adults in high-deductible health plans are far more likely to delay or avoid getting needed care, or to skip medications, because of the cost. Problems are particularly pronounced among those with poorer health or lower incomes.

Political leaders have also been vocal about their criticism of the HSAs. Congressman John Conyers, Jr. issued the following statement criticizing the HSAs “The President’s health care plan is not about covering the uninsured, making health insurance affordable, or even driving down the cost of health care. Its real purpose is to make it easier for businesses to dump their health insurance burden onto workers, give tax breaks to the wealthy, and boost the profits of banks and financial brokers. The health care policies concocted at the behest of special interests do nothing to help the average American. In many cases, they can make health care even more inaccessible.” In fact a report of the U.S. governments Accountability office, published on April 1, 2008 says that the rate of enrollment in the HSAs is greater for higher income individuals than for lower income ones.

A study titled “Health Savings Accounts and High Deductible Health Plans: Are They an Option for Low-Income Families? By Catherine Hoffman and Jennifer Tolbert which was sponsored by the Kaiser Family Foundation reported the following key findings regarding the HSAs:

a) Premiums for HSA-qualified health plans may be lower than for traditional insurance, but these plans shift more of the financial risk to individuals and families through higher deductibles.
b) Premiums and out-of-pocket costs for HSA-qualified health plans would consume a substantial portion of a low-income family’s budget.
c) Most low-income individuals and families do not face high enough tax liability to benefit in a significant way from tax deductions associated with HSAs.
d) People with chronic conditions, disabilities, and others with high cost medical needs may face even greater out-of-pocket costs under HSA-qualified health plans.
e) Cost-sharing reduces the use of health care, especially primary and preventive services, and low-income individuals and those who are sicker are particularly sensitive to cost-sharing increases.
f) Health savings accounts and high deductible plans are unlikely to substantially increase health insurance coverage among the uninsured.

Choosing a Health Plan

Despite the advantages offered by the HSA, it may not be suitable for everyone. While choosing an insurance plan, an individual must consider the following factors:

1. The premiums to be paid.
2. Coverage/benefits available under the scheme.
3. Various exclusions and limitations.
4. Portability.
5. Out-of-pocket costs like coinsurance, co-pays, and deductibles.
6. Access to doctors, hospitals, and other providers.
7. How much and sometimes how one pays for care.
8. Any existing health issue or physical disability.
9. Type of tax savings available.

The plan you choose should according to your requirements and financial ability.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

1 Questions and Answers about Health Insurance- A Consumer Guide’ published jointly by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ)and America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP)
2 http://www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Health_savings_account
3 2002 AHIP Survey of Health Insurance Plans
4 “How High Is Too High? Implications of High-Deductible Health Plans” Davis, Karen; Michelle Doty and Alice Ho. The Commonwealth Fund, April 2005
5 http://www.fdhc.state.fl.us/schs/pdf/hsa_tri-fold_brochure.pdf
6 HSA/HDHP CENSUS 2008 by Hannah Yoo, Center for Policy and Research, America’s Health Insurance Plans
7″HEALTH SAVINGS ACCOUNTS Early Enrollee Experiences with Accounts and Eligible Health Plans” John E. Dicken Director, Health Care.
8 Thomas Wilder and Hannah Yoo, “A Survey of Preventive Benefits in Health Savings Account (HSA)Plans, July 2007,” America’s Health Insurance Plans, November 2007
9 Gladwell, Malcolm, “The Moral Hazard Myth”, The New Yorker (29-08-2005)
10 2008 Benchmark Survey HAS Bank
11. Employer Health Benefits 2007 Annual Survey, Kaiser Family Foundation
12. Health Savings Accounts and High Deductible Health Plans: Are They An Option for Low-Income Families?Catherine Hoffman and Jennifer Tolbert for Kaiser Family Foundation, October 2006
13. Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act of 2003

11. April 2016 · Comments Off on Getting Your Low Cost Car Insurance · Categories: Car Insurance

Several factors affect your car insurance when you go shopping for an insurance provider to avail affordable coverage premiums. Factors such as your age, gender, and a record of your previous claims determine how expensive your insurance is going to be. Generally individuals negotiate for affordable premium rates, and settle down with what might appear to be a decent enough insurance provider, and avail the coverage. It is important to know one can lower down the car insurance bill by acquiring low cost auto insurance from specific insurance provider, and this article tries to explain how to go about it.

Get Many Quotes

It is recommended you do not commit to the first insurance provider you meet. Insurance agents have the experience to convince potential clients they are going in for the right choice by choosing their company. Quite often one ends up signing the contract and later find out they have not been offered the best rates, or certain clauses in the contract need some modification. It becomes difficult to amend the contract once it is signed. It is best to do some home work and prepare a list of insurance providers who offer competitive rates and subsequently compare car insurance quotes to short list a couple of provider. It is important to get as many quotes as possible to get the best selection in terms of insurance provided and the clauses included in the contract. The best option is to go online and Google for competitive insurance providers. You are sure to get a big list for selection.

Work out the Insurance Rates Before Buying Your Car

The kind of vehicle you buy greatly affects the insurance bill amount. The year, make and the model of your car determines how expensive your vehicle is, and what kind as well as up to what extent the insurance coverage is needed. Sports cars, MUVs, and SUVs generally cost more so their insurance amount is greater. It is possible to reduce the insurance amount by going in for a model or make that is slightly older. It is not required to go in for used cars, many auto dealers offer models that are a year older, or a couple of years older at competitive rates. One can get the required guidance from the auto dealer and work out how much the insurance’s going to cost. Dealers have good contacts with insurance giver, and can even refer you to a good insurance provider. Get free car insurance quotes from the dealers if they provide the insurance. Later on, one can always select the insurance product that suits the best.

Check Out Your Credit Scores

It is been observed more insurance providers are checking out the credit scores of the applicants before working out the premium rates. So check out if your credit ratings and FICO scores matter to your insurance provides. In case it does, and you do not have good credit ratings, it is recommended you go in for a credit repair program and improve your ratings before applying for your auto insurance.

Ask for Group Insurance Discounts

Some insurance lenders have special schemes where group applicants are offered lowered insurance premiums. Insurance agents do not always announce about such policies for individual applicants, and so it is suggested you check out if the insurance provider has such a scheme or policy in hold and in case he or she does, you can approach your relatives, friends, and colleagues if they need any auto insurance. Find out people needing car insurance, and collectively approach the provider as a group and avail the group insurance discounts.

Avoid Paying in Installments

Some insurance providers charge an administration fee if the applicant decides to pay the insurance in installments. So if you are planning to avail the installment facility, it is recommended you check out if the insurance giver is charging any special fees. It is good to pay the entire coverage amount if that is possible. One can also negotiate for a discount if the entire insurance fees are paid at a go.

Get Lower Mileage Discounts

Insurance providers generally also consider how much the car runs in the year while calculating the net payable insurance rates. If the mileage is less, it indicates that the risk factor involved with the car suffering an accident is also less. In such cases, the insurance providers might give a discount by lowering the insurance rates. So, it is recommended you check out if your insurance lenders offers lower mileage discounts.

03. April 2016 · Comments Off on Purchasing the Best Car Insurance · Categories: Car Insurance

In the past, car insurance was not a necessity, as some people went for it and some did not. However, today an auto coverage policy is one of the crucial things in your life, if you own a car. People need proper coverage, no matter how luxurious or modest their car is.

The way people buy insurance has also changed. In the past, buying a car insurance just meant to meet your neighborhood agent and ask him for it. But now, it is somewhat different, as you have got lots of other options at your disposal from where you can get your vehicle insured, with some entirely new coverage choices.

Buying car insurance: Which method to choose?

When you want insurance for your car, you might be puzzled as from where you should get it. Should you deal with an insurance agent or should you go online? You can choose among different options for getting your car insurance. This includes:

  1. Buying from captive agents
  2. Buying from independent agents
  3. Buying online

People, who prefer personal services and like to form face-to-face relationships, should certainly purchase their policy from an agent. But, since there are different agents, they need to decide which one is the best for them.

Among these, some are called ‘independent agents,’ who sell insurance for numerous companies and some are ‘captive agents,’ who sell insurance for just one firm. Let us see the different features of these agents, so that you can decide easily and quickly the right agent for yourself.

1. Buying from captive agents

You should buy your coverage from a captive agent, if you are dedicated to a specific insurance firm. Since captive agents deal with only one company, they will know all the different insurance options offered by that company. And, thus they can assist you to build the right package based on your needs. However, captive agents may take more time to respond to your questions and to know your needs as compared to independent agents who work for commission.

2. Buying from independent agents

You should buy a policy from an independent agent, if you want to check out the different insurances provided by different companies, as independent agents deal with several companies and not just one particular insurance firm. This way you can get a better rate.

And, since independent agents are not directly employed by any one firm, they would not push one specific product and will tell you the right things about all the insurances. Thus, independent agents can aid you to find inexpensive coverage for your car. However, since they work for commission, they are under more pressure to grab a deal as soon as possible.

3. Buying online

The third option is to skip insurance agents completely and to work directly with the company online. However, for this you have to do most of the work yourself. You have to conduct a thorough research on different coverage providers, what they offer, the rates of their insurance, and what all their policies covers. Then, you can talk to the company, that best fits your needs to procure the coverage itself.

Among these, some insurance companies that employ agents do not necessitate you to work with them and a few of them do not employ agents at all. Buying auto insurance online is one of the best options for you if you do not have much time and want to get inexpensive car insurance, as it saves you from paying commission to an insurance agent. If you are not sure about your car insurance needs, then buying car insurance online, without an insurance agent can cause you to buy the wrong, too little, or too much insurance.

Select your type of coverage

Besides deciding which company to go with, you must also consider which policy you want. There are three main types of policies, including traditional, usage-based, and per-mile car insurance. So, have a look at these three car insurance coverage programs before you settle for one particular car insurance.

1. Traditional auto insurance

In this type of auto insurance, the insurers determine the quotes for the policy with the help of various personal factors, such as your age, driving history, gender, credit score, etc. Generally, the more risk you have as a driver as per these factors, the more high your insurance rates will be. In this, you can opt for a minimum coverage amount as per the state law or else you can select from a long list of different types of auto insurance coverage.

2. Usage-based auto insurance

As opposed to the traditional car insurance, where insurers presume your driving skills depending on a list of different risk factors and your accident history, usage-based car insurance providers offer you car insurance by seeing you in action in real. In this type of car insurance, like Allstate’s Drivewise or Progressive’s Snapshot, you get a telematic device, which you have to plug-in your car. This device records how you drive and your driving behavior, especially your bad driving habits like accelerating or hard braking.

So, if the device records that you are a low-risk driver, then you can save your money with usage-based car insurance. However, if it records that you frequently drive late at night or you drive fast, then it would not help you save money with your car insurance. Additionally, many usage-based car insurance programs are not available in each state. Therefore, if you are devoted to one insurance company, then you may have to switch your company, in case you move to a different state.

3. Per-mile auto insurance

Per-mile auto insurance providers also use a telematic device, but they focus on just one thing, that is how little or how much you use your car. However, this car insurance type is still new and is not available in every state. Among others, Metromile is the best provider of per-mile car insurance and is available in seven states until now, which are California, Illinois, Oregon, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Washington, and Virginia.

Additionally, per-mile providers use the same elements as traditional insurers in determining your car insurance rates, but you can save some money through its telematic device. If you do not use your car much and use it only for emergencies, then your premium may be cut significantly. However, if you normally drive your car, then there are fewer chances of you saving money from it.

Shop around

No matter how you purchase your insurance, whether you go for a dedicated agent or you directly sign up with a car insurance provider, you must shop around in order to get the best rates. Do some homework and do not just settle for the first deal that comes your way. This is because rates for the same policy can differ from one company to the other by thousands of dollars. Therefore, comparing different car insurance offers is the best possible way to land up a good deal.

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