Be wary when Wall Street wants your Health Savings Account

Wall Street's greatest talent is to make money with your money. And while Wall Street usually succeeds, you may not. So if your financial advisor, or someone wanting to be your financial advisor, contacts you about investing your Health Savings Account (HSA) somewhere other than in a Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) bank account, take a close, hard look at what you are really being offered. Next financial frontier Recent stories show that Wall Street views HSAs as the next financial frontier, since it has already tapped into our 401ks and IRAs. That's because they can count how much we've socked away in these accounts. Americans now have $18 billion in HSAs, according to the Employee Benefits Research Institute, a non-partisan group that studies workers' benefits. And that amount could double by 2015, says one consulting firm, as more and more employers shift employees into them. HSAs are one of the few useful ideas Congress has come up with. It allows pre-tax money to be put aside and spent by those who earned it for their own medical care. It supplements high-deductible health insurance plans by allowing account holders to pay for deductibles and co-pays, medicine and other health care-related… (continue reading......)

Medical billing miscoding costs you when a screening becomes a diagnostic procedure

The Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, has been limping along lately, with this puzzle still missing key pieces. But an important part of Obamacare is already here, and you can -- and should -- take advantage: The right to have free preventive health care. It only works, however, if your doctor understands his or her part in the claims process. These screenings include mammograms and colonoscopies. In addition, other preventive screenings may not carry a copayment, co-insurance or deductible. This includes screening for blood pressure, cholesterol, cancer depression and many others. But this doesn't stop doctors' offices from miscoding and turning your routine screening into a diagnostic procedure for insurance purposes. And guess what? Diagnostic visits do have copays or co-insurance. Righting code My wife's eye exam was supposed to be a routine screening. Her health insurance entitles her to one every two years. So she called and made an appointment. But when she read her health insurer's Explanation of Benefits (EOB) after the exam, it said that she owed nearly $100 -- the difference between her doctor's contracted rate with the insurer and her doctor's price for the office visit. So she called her insurance company to… (continue reading......)

Employers avoid offering health insurance by offering part-time jobs

Chances are you know someone with a child who's either under-employed or desperately trying to enter the job market. These kids are ambitious and willing to work, and many have college degrees. But through no fault of their own, they're not finding full-time employment. Instead they are offered only part-time work. With workweeks shortened to 30 hours or less, these young adults -- and many older people too -- are commuting to one, two or even three part-time jobs on a daily basis. They start their day at convenience stores or day-care centers, move on to a couple of hours at clothing outlets or restaurants, and their long grind may end with an overnight stint as a security guard. Full-time employment, or the type of job where you work five-days a week, eight hours a day, receive a weekly wage and have medical benefits, is hard to find. So instead these "jugglers" are living at home -- and could be for quite some time. Unhealthy benefit When Obamacare (aka the Affordable Care Act) became law in 2010, healthcare experts and lawyers who read the 2,800 voluminous pages asked, "How will corporate America react?" After all, these companies were in unchartered… (continue reading......)

Should life insurance companies lecture us on personal finance choices?

When life insurers lecture us about our inability to save money, it's time to tune out. Last month the President and CEO of LIMRA, Robert Kerzner, told the Federal Insurance Office that Americans "choose immediate gratification over long-term well-being" and, consequently, aren't planning for retirement. In case you're wondering, LIMRA used to be the acronym for the Life Insurance Marketing and Research Association, but it no longer refers to itself that way. So, with life insurance ownership at a 50-year-low, it's not surprising that Kerzner is telling us what we're doing is wrong: Not buying life insurance. Product placement But just because we’re failing to buy life insurance – including whole life insurance with with low interest rates -- doesn't necessarily mean that Kerzner and LIMRA are right. LIMRA's own figures show that when people find a product they like, and one that works for them, they buy. And that is exactly what happened when life insurance companies sold very appealing variable annuities in the earlier 2000s. These annuities provided not only a lifetime guarantee of income but also the advantage of investing in rising stock funds during the boom years when the DJIA nearly doubled, while still offering a… (continue reading......)

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