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According to James Kinney an instructor for the Heartland Institute for Financial Education, thirty million workers in America-one in four-are seriously financially distressed and dissatisfied with their personal financial situations.”

Leading academic scholars from 10 universities and five business experts in personal finance have issued this unprecedented and definitive joint report of new findings on the levels of financial distress and dissatisfaction among workers in America. Sixteen additional experts from the business world joined to give support to the findings.

“It’s an ugly situation for employers when more and more of their workers are distressed about their personal finances and running hard just to keep their heads above water financially,” says Garman, professor emeritus, Virginia Tech University. Why? The reason is that many workers who struggle with money matters are less productive at their place of employment because of their financial distress. Depending upon their place of employment, 30% to 80% of financially distressed workers spend time at work worrying about personal finances and dealing with financial issues instead of working Although most working adults are satisfied with their personal finances and are not financially distressed, a substantial minority is having considerable trouble. They are experiencing more than moderate degrees of distress about their personal finances; instead they report “high” to “overwhelming” levels of financial distress.

They are dissatisfied with their financial situation and worry about money, debt and bills. They usually are insecure about their personal finances for retirement. They worry about having enough money to live on once they retire. Often, they lack confidence about their abilities to manage personal finances. Many do not even have hope that they might one day be able to catch up financially. People at all income levels in society experience distress about financial matters.

A large proportion of those who are financially distressed, 40% to 50%, report that their health is directly impacted negatively by their financial worries and problems. “Health problems caused by financial distress cost employers big money,” says Garman. Further, “These findings should motivate employers to offer employees access to resources, counseling and advice to decrease their stress about money matters and improve their financial lives.”

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Kaiser recently published a survey of insurance offered by employers.

 http://ehbs.kff.org/pdf/2009/7937.pdf
The results show the types of benefits being offered and their relative costs. If your broker is not showing you this option, why are you still working with them?

Last week Governor Christie nominated Dr. Poonam Alaigh as Commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services. Dr. Alaigh currently serves as Executive Director for quality and care management at Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey. Prior to joining Horizon, Dr. Alaigh was National Medical Director for GlaxoSmithKline. Her nomination is subject to confirmation by the Senate. Governor Christie’s transition team released 19 reports prepared by transition subcommittees charged with the task of examining and offering recommendations on the various state departments and agencies. Subcommittee reports for the Departments of Banking & Insurance and Health & Senior Services call attention to the billing practices of out-of-network providers, specifically citing ambulatory surgery centers and Bayonne Hospital. Additionally, they note the current regulatory environment in New Jersey is not likely to attract new insurers to the marketplace.

Here is the link to the Federal Government’s web site for the 2010 Budget and the section about Health Care.

http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/factsheet_key_health_care/

What are your thoughts?

For a family:

• The annual contribution maximum allowed to an HSA is $5,800. • Annual out-of-pocket expenses for a high deductible health plan can reach $11,200, depending on the plan.

For an individual:

• The annual contribution maximum allowed

to an HSA is $2,900.

• Annual out-of-pocket expenses for a

high deductible health plan can reach

$5,600, depending on the plan.

The cost of medical sickness care has skyrocketed, health insurance premiums have increased by 87% in the last 5 years. Employers began slashing coverage, thereby shifting a greater burden to employees or eliminating health benefits entirely.

Today less than 60% of U.S. jobs include health benefits. Employers have increased the employee’s share of the cost more than 50% in just the past three years; and each year two million fewer U.S. jobs provide any health benefits at all.

In 2008, more than half of U.S. families who filed for bankruptcy did so because of medical bills. Nearly three quarters of these families had traditional employer health insurance when they became ill- insurance they lost when they were no longer able to work.

For these reasons, a rise in health care consumerism fueled by the Internet and direct-to-consumer advertising for health products and services has caused an increased need for voluntary, portable benefits, especially in the work site setting.

Voluntary coverage offered through an employer makes sense. Employees can put aside worries of affordability and lapse in coverage by knowing that premiums typically are quite low while also payroll deducted.  The adage “out of sight, out of mind” certainly comes into play and policy retention remains high.

Products that are on the rise include Critical Illness and Hospital Indemnity or “gap” plans. Every 26 seconds, someone suffers a heart attack…every 45 seconds, a stroke…one in three people will be diagnosed with cancer during their lifetime.

Because survival rates have improved dramatically in recent years, patients are more likely to survive a critical illness — but will they survive their medical bills?  Critical Illness policies can be of great value when a catastrophic instance takes place, allowing for fewer worries about finances while recovering

Some key areas that make up a sound Critical Illness policy are:

*  Multiple Payment Option — allows coverage to continue for other conditions even after the first qualifying critical illness
*  No elimination or waiting periods on majority of benefits.
*  Policy pays regardless of ability to work
*  No restrictions on use of benefit-lump sum benefit

Hospital Indemnity plans can also be of great value, especially when an employer increases out of pocket exposure for the employee.  In fact, recent studies show that over 44% of health care spending in the U.S. is associated with hospital treatment.  Studies also show that the average patient will pay 19 percent of health care costs out of pocket.  These statistics prove that such “gap coverage”  is needed.

When reviewing Hospital Indemnity plans, one should make certain:

  • Policy pays a daily benefit for hospital confinement – with no deductibles or co-insurance
  • Policy pays over and above other policies
  • Any approved medical doctor or hospital may be used
  • Policy is guaranteed renewable to later years  
  • Coverage is available for covered person,  spouse and family
  • Benefits are paid directly to covered person or assignable to a provider
  • Benefits are payable for an illness resulting from a pre-existing condition

1. The house bill starts in 2013 and the senate bill starts in 2014.

2.  There is a question about how all of this will be paid for.  Somewhat simply, the Senate bill includes a 0.9% increase in Medicare payroll taxes for individuals earning over $200,000 ($250,000 for joint filers). The House bill raises the bulk of its financing through a 5.4% surtax on high income individuals earning above $500,000 (above $1 million for joint filers).  The Senate bill looks to a luxury tax for high cost health plans (costing more than $23,000 for family coverage)  industry fees( including annual taxes on health insurers – $2 billion in 2011, and increasing to $10 billion by 2017),  fees on medical device companies ($2 billion in 2011 that will grow to $3 billion in 2018), and fees to drug companies ($2.3 billion per year).  Collective bargaining agreements would be exempt from this excise tax for five years. 

3.  The House bill includes a phase-out of the Medicare Part D prescription drug “donut hole” coverage gap by 2019, while the Senate version makes only minor changes.

4. The Senate includes an “Independent Medicare Advisory Commission” with increased authority to implement its recommendations on reducing Medicare spending growth (with an exemption for hospitals and hospice). The House bill does not include this proposal.

5.  The bill in the house has more generous subsidies for low and middle income individuals than does the bill in the Senate.

6.  Employers will be mandated to offer health insurance to their employees.  In the House bill an employer must provide coverage or pay a penalty, while the Senate outlines a set of penalties for companies that don’t provide coverage.

7.  The House bill includes generally higher penalties for individuals who do not obtain coverage beginning in 2014 than does the Senate bill.

8.  House has a strongly worded provision prohibiting any subsidized health plans from providing abortion coverage where the Senate version includes a compromise.