Month : October 2016

Insurance

Falling Through the Gaps in Obamacare

There was a time when health insurance was only available to people with money and/or with jobs that offered affordable insurance coverage. Today, thanks to the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare, more people are able to afford the coverage they need.

Furthermore, many of those people are also getting coverage for things that had previously been left out of insurance policies, such as drug and alcohol treatment services.

In fact, according the ACA, substance abuse and mental health services are considered essential care for which insurance companies are required to provide coverage. There are also rehab centers that are aware of this, and can help people navigate the new insurance rules to get the help they need. (1)

However, although the Affordable Care Act has made it possible for millions of the poor and self-employed to get affordable health insurance, there are still those who fall through the cracks.

Falling Through the Cracks

When the Affordable Care Act was first introduced, there were provisions to expand Medicaid coverage to individuals who would be too poor to qualify for the subsidy, but not poor enough to normally qualify for Medicaid. The Supreme Court ruled that requiring states to expand Medicaid was unconstitutional, and the states were given the option to opt out – several states took that option.

As of this writing (2), 28 states and the District of Columbia have expanded their Medicaid coverage, three states are considering expansion, and 19 states have no plans to expand. This means that the millions of poor living in the states without Medicaid expansion will continue to fall through the cracks.

What the Obamacare Medicaid Provision Means

Prior to the Affordable Care Act, there were millions of working poor: people who had jobs – sometimes multiple jobs – that paid a subsistence wage. Additionally, many of these jobs did not provide health insurance. However, although they could be classified as poor, their jobs paid just enough they there were above the poverty line. (3)

With the Medicaid expansion in the Affordable Care Act, the working poor under age 65 could qualify for Medicaid if they are at or below 138 percent of the poverty line. That means a single person, without kids, could make up to $15,857 per year, and a family of four cold make $29,700 per year. Those who make more than that would qualify for a subsidy if they apply for insurance through the marketplace.

The Federal government would have funded the expansion 100 percent the first year, meaning the funds would not have come out of the State’s coffers. Additionally, the federal government would have continue to fund 90 percent for the remaining years, meaning the expansion still would have been of very little cost to the states that participated.

Yet, 22 states refused to expand and, as a result, those millions of working poor fell through that gap that would have been closed by the expansion.

What the Gap Means

That gap means that individuals who are too poor for the subsidy, but not poor enough for Medicaid will get no coverage at all. Not only will they not have coverage for preventative care that could keep them healthy, such as yearly physicals, mammograms, and pap smears, but they will also not have coverage for the care they need when they are sick.

It also means that individuals with existing conditions, such as chronic diseases or drug and alcohol issues won’t, be able to afford the care they need to get sober.

Options for Care Without Insurance

Community health centers are often the only care option for people who don’t have insurance coverage. Some of these community centers offer everything from vaccinations and other preventative care to care for acute injuries and illnesses. In many cases, they can offer a sliding scale for fees and payment plans.

However, not every community has these types of clinics, and the few clinics that do exist are overcrowded.

For many, emergency rooms are still the first option for people with acute injuries and illnesses, because emergency rooms can’t turn people away. However, when it comes to treating and managing chronic conditions, or mental health issues like drug and alcohol addiction, there are still very few options.

The good news is that more states are looking to expand Medicaid, which means we could get closer to closing that gap and providing affordable coverage for all.

Resources:

1.  The Recovery Village: Insurance

2.  The Advisory Board Company: Where the States Stand on Medicaid Expansion

3.  Healthline: Healthcare Reform: How the Poor Continue to Fall Through the Cracks

Debt Management

Is it better to invest or repay debt?

If there’s one positive that can be taken from the global financial crisis, it’s that more and more people seem to be thinking about how to make more of their money. Over the last year or two, various reports have indicated that many people are saving more, repaying more debt and taking more care over where and what they buy.

All of these things can help to improve your financial situation, but which is better – investing/saving or repaying debt? Should you focus more on savings and investments to increase your financial security, or should you pay off your debts first?

The answer to this depends on your circumstances. In some cases you might be able to do both, but sometimes one or the other might make more sense.

Saving / investing

Savings and investments can provide financial security by giving you something to fall back on in a financial emergency. What’s more, they can allow your money to grow faster than just keeping your money in a ‘standard’ bank account.

A lot of experts recommend keeping the equivalent of three months’ salary in savings. In truth, any amount of savings is better than nothing, but it’s a good idea to work towards this kind of savings target – to ensure you’d be able to cover your costs for a while if you lost your job, for example.

But what about your debts? If you’re focusing on saving but repaying your debts slowly, couldn’t that cause problems?

Repaying debt

Some experts recommend repaying your debts before you save, and in one respect this makes good financial sense. By concentrating on repaying debt, you’ll almost certainly pay less interest overall, because debt usually accrues interest faster than savings.

However, by completely neglecting your savings you could be putting yourself at risk. Let’s imagine you finished clearing your debts one day but then received a huge car repair bill the next day – you could be left wishing you’d put more money into savings.

With that in mind, a lot of people only focus exclusively on repaying their debt once they already have a good amount of money in savings/investments.

Some people may simply prefer to strike a good balance. Although it might cost you more in the long run, repaying a reasonable amount towards your debts while still putting some money into savings could well provide more financial security overall than focusing on one or the other.

Citations:

 

Frugality

Would You Give This Cheap Christmas Gift Idea?

Every year it gets harder and harder to find a gift for someone. I just thought of a cheap gift that could both teach something and be given each year without being boring.

Coupons!!

If you know someone who doesn’t clip coupons then it’s obviously something they don’t have. I don’t think it would be viable as a surprise gift because you don’t really know what they buy.  Just ask them what items or brands they normally buy, or you can be ninja (and a little creepy) and scope out their pantry.

Then from then until Christmas, as you clip out your coupons just clip some for them. This is really only something that can be done probably a month in advance since coupons do expire, but as a bonus you can teach them how to use coupons to the max and hopefully get them to realize using coupons is a big savings, That would teach a man to fish.

It even saves you money by not having to buy anything but it is putting in some work and showing some love. In this economy, this is the gift to give. If someone took the time to do that for me I would be very grateful. It’s really the gift that can keep on giving.

Check out these great sites for coupons to get you started.

If you need help on this gift just check out my series on couponing. It’s really in-depth and can even help you in teaching the giftee how to use the gift or teach you how to give this gift.

So what do you think? Would enjoy the gift if someone did that for you?

Money Management

3 Ways To Get Over Your Financial Demons

Magnera Human Skull 2 

We all have them.  Those little things that we love to buy that totally blow our budgets.  Some people love buying shoes and clothes.  For others, the latest technological gadgets are their downfall.  Whatever your financial demon, overcoming it and learning to control is essential for financial freedom. 

Have you ever looked at your monthly credit card statement only to be amazed that you spent thousands on particular item?  This is a good way to know that you have a problem. 

Often, when people recognize they have these financial demons, they decide to eliminate them cold turkey.  Not a good idea.  You buy these things because they matter to you.  Cutting them out of your life entirely will only lead to frustration and possibly the eventual abandonment of your financial goals. 

Of course, you can’t just spend all of your money on these pleasures like you have been doing.  The trick is to find a balance between buying every item that you want and buying nothing. 

Finding a balance can be tricky at first.  Spending money can almost become an addiction.  Having the latest and greatest things can make you feel better about yourself.  A new purchase can make a bad day seem a little less miserable.  To successfully break your habit of overspending, you need to establish a plan. 

Learn how to overcome these demons using these three simple tips. 

You Better Recognize

The best way to overcome your spending demons is to first recognize them. A little bit of this recognition probably occurs each month as you look at your bank statements.  Did I really spend that much money?  It can also come through contemplation.  Think about where you spend your money and more importantly why.  Figure out a reasonable budget for these favorite things. 

Cash Out

A great way to start controlling your spending demons is to start carrying cash.  You don’t need to use cash for all of your purchases, just for the ones where you tend to overspend.  Each check, take out your decided budget from the bank and then use this money to buy whatever it is that you can’t resist.  Everyone’s purchases will be different.  If you have the cash, don’t feel bad about your purchases.  When the money is gone, wait to buy the item you are wanting until the next check. 

Walk It Out

If you see something you feel you really need to have, walk around the store for 15-20 min. Eventually that feeling will wear off and you will have a clear head to make the decision on if you need it or not.  If you do need it and don’t have the money available right then, the item will still be there next week. 

Financial freedom isn’t about never getting to have the things you love.  It’s all about controlling yourself so that you can have these things more often and without guilt.  These three tips will get you started and along the way, you may find some ideas of your own. 

Do you have any great ways to overcome these financial demons? 

photo credit: L.C.Nøttaasen 

 

Money Management

Five Important Money Saving Tips

As we head into the festive period, we inevitably head into a period of heavy spending. Every year, we have to pay for food, drinks and presents (amongst other things), so costs can soon add up.

So, to help you prepare for Christmas this year, you may want to take a look at the following five important money-saving tips.

Sell your old stuff on sites like eBay

If your cupboards are cluttered with old items of clothing, CDs, movies and books that you no longer use/need, instead of throwing it out, why not sell it online? Sites such as eBay allow you to buy and sell unwanted/second-hand items – and even brand new items at discounted prices.

For example, if you are looking to sell a selection of your old books, you could put each one up for sale at $3 with a small postage and packaging charge. That way, instead of getting nothing from them by throwing them away, you will get a few dollars from each one by selling them.

Learn how to say ‘no’

When you next go shopping and you see a really nice top or pair of shoes, instead of buying them and wasting your hard-earned cash…just learn to say ‘no’. The people who can’t resist the urge are usually the ones with large credit card debts.

By telling yourself to not buy the item you ‘want’, you will save yourself money immediately. Although the latest CD or movie is a tempting purchase, do you really need it? If not…put it back and say ‘no’.

Don’t just jump in the car…walk

If you’re only heading round to the local store, why bother driving there? It will cost you money in gas and it’s a bit lazy. So, to save yourself money here, you should walk. Not only will you save a bit of cash, but it will also keep you fit…there’s nothing like a nice walk to get some fresh air!

Cancel your unwanted subscriptions

If you’ve got a subscription to cable TV, a subscription to a fashion magazine and a subscription to a local club – just have a think about how much money you are actually spending. It could be in excess of $100. And now have a think about how much that extra $100 could help you out during the festive period.

So, cancel any subscriptions that you no longer use/want, and save yourself some money!

Shop online

One of the best ways to save yourself money this Christmas is to do your shopping online. This is because online shopping tends to be cheaper and have a greater range of products on show than shopping in the local stores.

In addition, if you shop online, it means you don’t have to fight your way through the local stores nearer Christmas – you can just sit at your computer and your purchases will arrive at your door (within a few days, of course).

This is a guest post about some money saving ideas written by the writers over at the IVA Advisory centre.