Americans aren’t buying life insurance, but why?

If the majority of millennials understand the value of life insurance.

Why are 29M Americans still living without health insurance?

Why are 29M Americans still living without health insurance?

Premiums for Employer-Sponsored Health Insurance Plans to Rise in 2016.

SSDI: Still on track to go broke in late 2016.

Managers of the fund that supports the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program say it’s still on track to run dry in “late 2016” — around election time.

The trustees of the SSDI trust fund and the main Medicare Part A hospitalization trust fund talk about the funds’ finances in new annual reports.

The SSDI program should take in enough revenue to cover about 81 percent of claims if Congress makes no changes, the trustees say. SSDI’s reserves now amount to less than 40 percent of the program’s annual costs, the trustees say.

The actual results could be worse than the projections, because the trustees assume that real, inflation-adjusted interest rates on fund assets will be about 2.4 percent to 3.4 percent. The average inflation-adjusted rate for the 10-year period ending 2012 was just 1.33 percent.

The actual real interest rate on fund assets was negative 0.75 percent in 2011 and positive 0.32 percent in 2012, the trustees say.

“These swings partly reflect volatility in energy prices,” the trustees say.

The trustees of the main Medicare hospitalization fund say that fund will be empty in 2030. The trustees gave the same Medicare fund depletion date a year ago.

If Medicare Part A costs are high, the fund could be empty as soon as 2022, the trustees say.

When the Medicare Part A trust fund runs out, the program could collect enough tax revenue to pay about 86 percent of its claims.

The Medicare Part B physician services and Medicare Part D drug programs rely on premiums for a given year to pay the claims incurred during that year and do not use the kinds of large trust fund programs that the SSDI and Medicare Part A programs use.

Over a 75-year period, the Medicare Part A fund’s actuarial deficit should amount to about 0.68 percent of taxable payroll, down from a projection of 0.87 percent of taxable payroll given a year ago. The fund looks better partly because it seems as if health care costs could grow more slowly than expected, the trustees say.

But the real gap likely will be bigger than projected, because Congress requires the trustees to assume that Medicare will be able to hold down provider reimbursement costs, but Congress has not demonstrated much ability to let laws that could hold down Medicare provider reimbursement costs take effect, the trustees say.

Small Businesses and the Affordable Care Act at Five Years.

Small businesses were promised lower costs and more choices once the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) was implemented. Five years after being signed into law, small businesses have not seen many of the benefits they were promised.

Higher Insurance Costs
Very little has changed for small businesses and the self-employed when it comes to costs. They keep going up. Yes, there are exceptions here and there, but for the most part, the promise of lower costs has been an empty one for small businesses.

According to a National Small Business Association survey in 2014, “91 percent of small businesses reported increases in their health plan at their most recent renewal while 96 percent reported increased health insurance costs over the past five years. The majority expect to continue seeing cost increases in the coming year.” Indeed, that has been the case for 2015.

You can’t load up health insurance plans and the health care system with mandates, regulations and taxes (like Obamacare does) and expect lower costs. Let’s make this clear: The law has not produced lower costs. President Obama promised a $2,500 decrease in insurance costs per family. This did not happen.

Choice and Access Have Not Improved
The performance and effectiveness of the health insurance exchanges for small businesses have been underwhelming, to say the least. In most states, the exchanges have been a sad and wasteful disaster. “One year in, the new small-business insurance marketplaces born out of the new federal health-care law have fallen short of their promise in nearly every state, both in terms of functionality and enrollment,” reads an October 2014 Washington Post article.

For 2015, small businesses have been promised bigger and better. The federal Small-Employer Health Option Program (SHOP) was delayed until this year and is now open. One of the original selling points was the offering of many plan choices that the employees of small businesses could select from. This feature will not be available nationwide until 2016, but some state exchanges do provide this option (albeit with limited choices). Exchange website “glitches” and lack of insurer participation have slowed SHOP down, and it remains a question mark as to whether small businesses will actually use the government exchanges. It’s a question mark as to whether more insurance companies will actually want to participate on the SHOP exchanges, thus undermining their whole purpose.

Obamacare stripped existing health care plans from many small businesses and the self-employed – most have not been (or will not be) able to keep the health care plans they liked. We knew this was going to happen, despite promises stating otherwise. Obamacare is upending Health Reimbursement Accounts (HRAs) as well, which are used by many small businesses. While the federal government announced it would delay the imposition of financial penalties on companies that use HRAs until July of this year, stripping this choice from small employers is going to hurt.

The bottom line is that small businesses and the self-employed are losing, not gaining, health insurance choices under Obamacare.

Obamacare controls the market; therefore health insurance choices are limited by government’s control, and dictates on plans. Obamacare has eliminated many preferred and affordable choices. The government exchanges are not real markets. These markets are not appealing for most small businesses, or insurers. That is probably why the federal government (HHS) will not fully release the data on the number of small businesses that are using the exchanges (despite repeated requests by former House Small Business Committee Chairman Sam Graves in 2014, and those shortly following the launch of the new The total numbers would be embarrassing, but we know the truth. Small business participation is abysmal.

Small Business Tax Credit a Dud
During debate on Obamacare, most members of the small business community did not see how the plan would lower costs or improve access. So the White House kept talking up the benefits of the health care exchanges (see how that worked out above?) combined with the small business tax credit. Unfortunately, and as predicted, the tax credit remains a big dud.

The tax credit is so measly and complex that only a tiny fraction of the small business sector qualifies for it, or dares to sift through the morass. To make matters worse, the tax credit is only temporary. As noted by the Government Accountability Office last year, “the credit may be too small and administratively complex to motivate many employers to enroll.” Indeed, another reason why small business participation in the health exchanges is so low.

The credit needs to be much more robust to minimally harmonize with the high cost of Obamacare and the reality of small business pay scales. Moreover, simplification, permanency and allowing more small business employees to qualify, could yield a higher adoption rate.

New Burdens, Uncertainty and Complexity
Remember when President Obama boldly claimed that buying health insurance on the exchanges would be easy peasy – as simple as purchasing something on Well, it did not turn out that way. There was the dreadful launch of, but bad websites are only one aspect of Obamacare’s false starts, complexity, confusion, and the burdens impacting small businesses.

Obamacare’s incessant changes and delays have been confusing for many small businesses. According to the Galen Institute, “more than 49 significant changes already have been made to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act: at least 30 that President Obama has made unilaterally, 17 that Congress has passed and the president has signed, and 2 by the Supreme Court.”

Obamacare’s administrative and compliance burdens are not insignificant either. They are imposing hefty costs on top of general frustration for small businesses. In February, we also learned the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) sent faulty tax information to 800,000 taxpayers – presumably many of these are small businesses and the self-employed. (House Small Business Chairman Steve Chabot has multiple requests into HHS about the incident.) Moreover, the complexity of Obamacare’s employer mandate (where, for example, a 30-hour work week is considered full time) and its sheer costs have forced small businesses to cut hours, wages and jobs.

The Struggle Continues for Small Businesses
From the small business perspective, Obamacare has exacerbated their 20-plus year struggle with health insurance – costs are too high and keep increasing, innovative choices are lacking, and buying coverage and administering health insurance is a burdensome hassle.

Obamacare supporters point to those getting insurance (though not all are newly insured) as the key measure of its success. Yet, those meager achievements could have easily been reached without disrupting the lives and health plans of millions of people, and without spending $1.7 trillion of taxpayer dollars, including the wasted billions on bad exchanges, consultants, technology and who knows what else

Employers cutting worker hours to avoid PPACA.


About one in five U.S. employers either have reduced hours for workers they consider to be part-time, or will do so, in response to requirements of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.  That’s what a survey of some 740 human resources professionals conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management found.

The vast majority — nearly three-quarters — of respondents haven’t altered schedules to avoid providing health insurance for part-timers working 30 or more hours a week on average. But 14 percent have, and another 6 percent told SHRM they intend to.

It’s still a significant number as some previous studies have found that most large employers will not circumvent coverage extension by reducing full-time workers’ hours. SHRM’s survey results come as PPACA marks its 5th anniversary this week.

PPACA mandates large employers offer health care coverage to employees working 30 hours or more per week or face a penalty.

When it comes to trying to reduce full-time worker hours or reducing the number of full-time employees to duck under the requirement, SHRM reported that only about 10 percent have considered going down that road.

“As organizations learned more about the law, they found that their coverage levels were already the same or more than what the law required, minimizing the adjustments that some anticipated employers would need to make when the ACA was created,” said Evren Esen, director of SHRM’s survey programs.

Among other outcomes:

  • 54 percent of employers require employees to work 30 hours a week to be eligible for coverage, an increase from 44 percent in 2014 and 39 percent in 2013. Another 26 percent require employees to work more than 30 hours a week to be eligible.
  • 66 percent said their organization offered the same level of health care benefits as before PPACA was enacted.
  • 77 percent said that their health care coverage costs increased from 2014 to 2015, and 6 percent saw a decrease.

Health Insurance: It’s Not Too Late To Get Covered.

Health Insurance: It’s Not Too Late to Get Covered – Special Enrollment Period Now Open

(Fremont County, Wyo.) – Up to six million Americans are expected to pay a tax penalty this year for not having health insurance coverage in 2014. To help families avoid future penalties, a special enrollment period for the Health Insurance Marketplace opened on March 15 and will close April 30.

This special enrollment period is an additional time outside of open enrollment during which you and your family can sign up for health coverage. This will be your last chance this year to receive health coverage through the Health Insurance Marketplace and avoid a tax penalty for next year.

Why is health coverage important?

Health coverage helps cover the cost of medical services, tests and treatments that assist you in getting and staying healthy. The required basic level of coverage includes preventive care, health screenings, well woman and prenatal care, immunizations for adults and children, treatment for pre-existing conditions, and the cost of some prescription medications.

What fees might I owe if I’m not covered?

Surveys have shown that nearly half of uninsured adults are unaware of the penalty associated with not having health coverage. In 2014, the penalty for not having the required minimum level of health coverage was up to $95 per uninsured person or 1% of a household’s income. For 2015, this amount will more than double, with the penalty per uninsured person reaching $325 or 2% of a household’s income.

There are exemptions available to those who cannot afford coverage or who have experienced hardship. Consult or a certified application counselor to see if you qualify for an exemption.

Who’s eligible for the special enrollment session?

The special enrollment period is designed for the following:

  • Those who don’t currently have health coverage for 2015;
  • Those who paid a penalty as part of their 2014 federal income tax returns for not having health insurance in 2014; and
  • Those who became aware of the individual mandate penalty after the regular 2015 enrollment window closed.

Gallup Poll: More Americans Buy Health Insurance on Their Own.

More and more U.S. adults get health insurance on their own or through a family member, a new Gallup poll finds.

The survey regularly examines the type of health care coverage chosen by Americans. Before open enrollment for the Affordable Care Act’s online insurance exchange, the survey shows, 16.7 percent paid for insurance plans on their own or were financed by a family member. That number grew to 20 percent by April.

Medicaid, the federal-state health program for low-income Americans, also rose:  9 percent of adults said they were on Medicaid compared with 6.8 percent before open enrollment.

The health law, known as Obamacare, expanded access to Medicaid by requiring all states to increase eligibility. After the Supreme Court struck down that requirement, several states opted to offer their programs to more residents.

Employer-sponsored insurance edged down from 44.4 percent of adults to 43.1 percent during the same period. Gallup said the decline could come from several factors, such as employers dropping coverage for employees, workers opting out of employer plans, or Americans leaving the workforce altogether.

Overall, the percentage of uninsured Americans dropped to 13.4 percent last month, Gallup noted.

The Advantage of Having an Independent Insurance Agent.

We are often asked about the advantages vs. disadvantages of using an independent insurance agent and whether a customer can  truly feel confident in the recommendations by someone they don’t actually know.

So, is using an independent agent a good idea?  While some people may find particular comfort in using a particular insurance agent who knows them on a first-name basis and takes care of all their insurance needs, the bottom line is that they may pay more for the relationship than what they need to pay for insurance.

With our economy still struggling, many  families are continuing looking for ways to cut corners and reign in expenses. One way to potential accomplish lower costs is to utilize an independent insurance agent. What’s the difference?

If you utilize a particular agent represent XYZ Company, for example, that representative should be thoroughly knowledgeable about policies, rates and any discounts or plans related to that company only.  So, if you call or meet with your agent, you’ll most likely spend your time determining which of the company plans works bests for you.  An independent agent, however, is not limited to a particular company and typically represents a range of between five and 10 companies in the area.  That means there  could potentially be great flexibility to pick plans, and hopefully create a package that meets all your needs while saving you money.

Utilizing an independent agent can also be to your advantage if  you are seeking a particular style of plan and have definite ideas of what you want in terms of price, coverage, availability and  quality.  After all, not everyone has the same needs when it comes  to insurance.  Since an independent agent has more companies to work with to find a combination that works best for you, the likelihood of getting exactly what you want is higher.  That’s not to say you can’t get good quality insurance or find discounted rates by going with an agent who represents a particular company.  If you are either looking for new insurance or considering making  a change to your current plan, consider at least contacting an independent agent to get some price comparisons.  You may be surprised about the money you can potentially save!              

Individual Health Insurance

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