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health insurance

Who Will Be The Biggest Benefactors of Obamacare?

According to data cited in a recent WSJ article (The Health-Care Overhaul: What You Need to Know), there is a specific demographic that should benefit the most from the up-coming institution of the Affordable Care Act’s changes to the healthcare system.  If you’re wondering why this writing seems a bit smug, it’s because I’m one of these projected benefactors: folks between age 50 and 64. Why is this group deemed the most likely to benefit? It has to do with some current realities about our nation’s health and the way that the (current and proposed) health insurance marketplace works.  First of all, folks in this age group who are not covered by an employer plan, or are not covered by Medicaid, must find insurance in the private marketplace. And the reality is that folks who’ve seen half a century of life or more are typically in poorer health than younger […]

Medicare Part B

The next letter in our Medicare alphabet soup is Part B. Part B is essentially medical insurance that covers doctor’s services, outpatient care, home health services, and durable medical equipment. It will also cover some other services as well as well as many preventative services. As far as what doctors will and will not cover Part B depends on whether or not they have agreed to assignment. Assignment is simply your doctor or another health care provider agreeing to be paid directly by Medicare and be willing to accept the payment amount that Medicare decides is the value of the service. Agreement also means the doctor or health care provider cannot charge you any more than what the deductible and coinsurance amounts are. The basic cost for Medicare Part B for 2013 is $104.90 monthly. Individuals with higher AGI may end up paying more. The table below, courtesy of Medicare.gov shows […]

The ABC’s (and D’s) of Medicare

  With more and more baby boomers retiring, more and more people including the Boomers, and their children and families are going to have questions and concerns about Medicare. Questions can range from what Medicare is, what it does, what it doesn’t do, and the nuances that make up our nation’s health care for retirees. Medicare was created in 1965 by the Social Security Act and was signed into law by Lyndon Johnson. Currently, Medicare is funded via taxation and premiums paid by Medicare subscriber. Part A – which we will cover in a future article, is funded by a 2.9% tax on wages. Unlike Social Security tax that has a limit or cap on the amount of income that can be taxed ($110,100 in 2012 and $113,700 in 2013), Medicare has no such wage base. The 2.9% tax is on an unlimited amount of earnings. Eligibility for Medicare typically starts for […]

Long Term Care Insurance – Protecting Your Nest Egg

Long term care is a topic few people know about and a topic even fewer people are prepared to deal with in the future. As the average life expectancy increases in the US, more and more people – from Baby Boomers to X and Y geners – are going to be confronted with the need for and planning for long term care. According to the Medicare website, about 9 million men and women over age 65 will need LTC this year – that number expanding to 12 million by 2020. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, people who reach age 65 will have a 40% chance of entering a nursing home and 10% of those will stay there for more than 5 years. This, of course, can get expensive. This is where an LTC policy can make sense. There are two types of LTC policies that a […]

Financial Planning Pyramid: Foundations

You can’t build a house from the top down, right? Like most solid structures, they start with solid base, a firm foundation. Some of the biggest skyscrapers are started below ground level, well beyond what’s in our view when we look at the behemoths of structures. Can you imagine a skyscraper built on just a foundation of concrete? The first strong wind or tremor would send it toppling. The same process can be applied to financial planning. You have to have a solid base, a firm foundation before you can think about building a portfolio, estate planning, etc. Generally, the financial planning pyramid starts with the base known as risk management. This includes such risks as auto and home insurance, an emergency fund, life and disability insurance, and a will. Having this solid base protects you from many risks in life, but also protects your plan and your money that […]

What Obamacare Will Do to Your Taxes

So, now that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA, aka “Obamacare”) has been upheld by the Supreme Court, we need to face up to the tax changes that are inherent in this piece of law.  Like it or not, the IRS is going to have a large role in enforcing the provisions of this law.  Listed below are some of the major impacts that we as taxpayers will experience. Healthcare Deduction Limit Before PPACA, through the end of tax year 2012, healthcare expenses are deductible to the extent that they are greater than 7.5% of your Adjusted Gross Income (AGI).  AGI is the bottom line on the first page or the first line on the second page of your Form 1040. The change coming for tax year 2013 is that the limit is now going to be 10% of your AGI.  So, if you have an AGI of […]

How a 401(k) Contribution Affects Your Paycheck

As you begin a new job, or if you are a longer-term employee who is just starting to make contributions to a 401(k) plan, you are confronted with a question:  How does a contribution to the 401(k) plan impact the final take home pay on my paycheck? Believe it or not, you could actually increase your bottom line assets by reducing your income through a 401(k) contribution. Let’s work through an example so that we can more completely understand what happens. Your New Job So, you’ve started a new job, with an annual pay of $30,000.  We won’t go into all of the details behind a W4 at this point, but for the sake of the example, we’ll say you filed your W4 to exactly match your tax expected of $2,603 for the year (and you started in January).  In addition to this, you have opted to take advantage of […]

Should I Itemize or Use The Standard Deduction?

Taxes (Photo credit: Tax Credits) As you prepare your tax return, you have a decision to make about your tax deductions – you can choose between itemizing and using the standard deduction.  But how do you choose? The Standard Deduction is just what it sounds like – a standardized deduction that you can choose to utilize by default, and you don’t have to do a lot of recordkeeping through the year in order to use the the standard deduction.  In order to itemize deductions, you need to save receipts from various deductible expenses through the year, and use those to prepare your itemized return. The IRS recently published their Tax Tip 2012-43, which has some good information to help you with this choice.  Oftentimes it is a foregone conclusion, once you understand the differences between itemizing and the standard deduction.  Below is the text of the Tax Tip. Standard Deduction […]

March 15 is the Deadline for FSA Claims

If you’re a participant in your employer’s Flex-Spending Account plan (FSA), whether for health-care or dependent care cost reimbursement, you have a limited amount of time to claim the monies that have been set aside in your plan. The way these plans work is that you voluntarily decrease your income by a certain amount, generally paycheck by paycheck, and that amount is placed in a separate account.  Over the course of the calendar year, you can request reimbursement from your FSA funds for qualified expenses that you’ve incurred. If it’s a health-care FSA account, you can request reimbursement for your healthcare deductibles, co-payments, and co-insurance costs – literally any health-care expense that is not covered (paid) by other insurance.  There are limits, though: beginning with 2011, you cannot be reimbursed for non-prescription (over the counter) medications. If the FSA account is for dependent-care expenses, you can request reimbursement for your […]

Over-The-Counter Drugs via Your Flex-Spending Account

In case you missed it when I wrote about Guidance from the IRS on Flex Spending Plans – one of the changes you’ll have to deal with beginning with 2011 is that you can no longer use your Flex-Spending Account (FSA) to reimburse yourself for over-the-counter drugs like you’ve been able to do in the past. However, there is a way to get the over-the-counter (OTC) drugs that your physician recommends and use your FSA funds to pay for it… if your physician gives you a prescription for it.  Even though the IRS has disallowed the use of FSA funds for OTC drugs, if your physician gives you a prescription for the OTC drug, your FSA can be used to pay for the drug. There are some rules though:  first, the prescription has to provided to the pharmacist prior to the purchase, and the pharmacist must dispense the drug just […]

The Truth About Health-Care Reform

The health-care reform legislation that passed earlier this year was incredibly broad in scope, so it’s probably not surprising that there’s a good deal of confusion, and a number of false or misleading claims being circulated.  Here’s the truth behind two of the claims that have gained the most traction lately. Tax on Health Insurance The claim: Beginning in 2011, you’ll be taxed on the value of your employer-provided health insurance. There are several email campaigns making their way around right now claiming that, beginning in 2011, taxable income on Forms W-2 will be increased to reflect the value of employer-provided health insurance.  A typical email warns: “You will be required to pay taxes on a large sum of money that you have never seen.  Take your last tax form and see what $15,000 or $20,000 additional gross income does to your tax debt.  That’s what you’ll pay next year.  […]

Guidance from the IRS on Flex Spending Plans

Here’s one of the opening salvos, brought to you by the Affordable Care Act of 2010: the IRS has now issued guidance regarding changes to Flex-Spending plans (or Flex Spending Arrangements, FSAs), which has changed things for folks who use these plans – specifically the medical expense reimbursements. In the past, these plans have been eligible to reimburse the owner of the account for a myriad of medical expenses, not only physician expenses, prescription drugs, and other health care expenditures, but also over-the-counter medicines or drugs (not controlled by prescription). Beginning in 2011, due to the Affordable Care Act, over-the-counter drugs and medicines that are not ordered by prescription will no longer be eligible for reimbursement from a medical Flex-Spending plan.  The change does not affect insulin, even if purchased without a prescription, or other health care expenses such as medical devices, eye glasses and contact lenses, co-pays and deductibles. […]

IRA Transfer to HSA: Does This Make Sense?

In our discussion of Health Savings Accounts (you can see Part 1 here, and Part 2 here), it was mentioned that one possible method for contributing to a HSA is by way of a once-in-a-lifetime tax-free transfer from an IRA.  The question is: Does this make sense?  When would you want to use this one-time option? Does This Make Sense? The reason that the question of sense comes up is because when you are eligible to make contributions to your HSA, you can deduct those contributions from ordinary income.  In the case of the tax-free transfer, no deduction is allowed – in fact the income isn’t included at all, so therefore the deduction is lost. For most folks, the deduction against earned income (above the line; that is, this deduction impacts Adjusted Gross Income and Modified AGI, therefore impacting all sorts of other calculations) is much more valuable than any […]

Health Savings Accounts – The Basics, Part 1

A Health Savings Account (HSA) is a tax-exempt trust or custodial account that you set up with a bank or other US financial institution which allows you to pay or be reimbursed for qualified medical expenses.  The HSA must be used in conjunction with a High Deductible Health Plan (HDHP).  The HSA can be established using a qualified trustee or custodian that is separate from the HDHP provider.  Contributions to an HSA must be made in cash or through a cafeteria plan.  Contributions of stock or property are not allowed. Benefits of an HSA There are quite a few benefits to an HSA: Contributions to an HSA are deductible from income – even if you don’t itemize deductions; If your employer makes contributions to an HSA on your behalf (such as via a cafeteria plan) the contributions can be excluded from your gross income; Your account contributions can remain in […]

Health-Care Reform

Confused by the ongoing health-care reform debate? If so, you’re not alone. With multiple bills and proposals in play, it’s often hard to get a grasp on even the most basic elements of the discussion. While the outcome of the debate is uncertain, here are some of the major issues that are being discussed. Universal vs. mandatory coverage One of the main goals of health-care reform is to make affordable health coverage available to all Americans. To help provide coverage to individuals and families who can’t afford it, most of the proposals provide assistance in various forms, including new tax credits, an expansion of eligibility for Medicaid, and insurance premium subsidies. In fact, most of the major proposals currently being discussed actually require individuals to obtain health-care coverage (i.e., “mandatory” coverage). Under these proposals, individuals who refuse to get coverage would pay a financial penalty. Similarly, employers would be required […]