You may build cash value through your life insurance policy, but is there a right time.

Is long-term care insurance something you need?

Would you benefit from an insurance policy update?



Health Insurance Companies Set to Raise Obamacare Premiums.

Americans Count Health Care as Their Biggest Debt Burden.

Everything You Need to Know About the New Health Tax Form So You Don’t Get Fined.

5 Things You Must Do During Open Enrollment.

What decisions do I need to make during my employer’s open-enrollment period this fall?

Here are five ways to consider when selecting your 2016 options.

1. Pick the best deal in health insurance. Health-care-reform changes and ever-increasing health-care expenses are prompting most employers to boost premiums, co-payments and deductibles for their health-insurance plans in 2012. If you have several plan options, the one you picked in the past may no longer be your best choice.

It’s important to compare premiums, but you also need to add up your potential out-of-pocket costs for each plan. For example, if you take a lot of medications with high co-payments, the plan with the lowest premium may actually cost you more in the long run. Many employers are steering employees toward high-deductible health insurance policies as a way to encourage them to pay closer attention to their medical expenses. As an incentive, some are offering competitive premiums and contributing to employees’ health savings accounts, which give employees tax-free savings to use for medical expenses at any time. Many employers offer tools on their intranet sites to help you run the numbers for your plan options.

2. Spousal Coverage. If both spouses have health-insurance coverage through work, it’s important to compare the overall costs of both policies again. Some employers are charging more to cover dependents than other employers are, so you could come out ahead by switching your children from one spouse’s policy to the other’s. And if your spouse’s employer has boosted premiums significantly but your coverage has remained fairly stable, then you might do best by having the whole family — including your spouse — on your employer’s plan.

As a result of health-care reform, you can add adult children up to age 26 to your health-insurance coverage, even if they had aged off the policy in the past. And a child can be covered under your plan even if he or she doesn’t live at home, isn’t your dependent for tax purposes and is married. You need to add your child during open-enrollment season for coverage to begin the next plan year (generally January 1).

If your employer charges one rate for family coverage and you already have younger children on your policy, you might not have to pay extra to add your older child. But if your employer charges separately for each dependent, it might be cheaper to get your adult child a policy of his or her own. Healthy adults in their twenties can usually buy a policy for less than $200 a month.

3. Make the most of flexible spending accounts. FSAs can help lower your taxable income and give you tax-free funds to pay out-of-pocket medical expenses throughout the year. Starting in 2013, the maximum amount employees can stash in a medical FSA will be capped at $2,500 per year. Currently the maximum limit varies by plan, but many employers allow employees to set aside $4,000 or more in these pretax accounts for medical expenses. In light of the impending change, find out how you can make the most of your FSA in 2016.

4. Get tax-free money for child care. Many employers also let you set aside up to $5,000 in a dependent-care flexible spending account, which gives you tax-free money to use for dependent care for children under age 13. Before you sign up for your employer’s dependent-care flex plan, though, it’s important to calculate whether or not you’ll come out ahead by using the money from the FSA for those costs or claiming the child-care credit on your taxes. See FSA or Child-Care Credit? for more information about who qualifies for these benefits, how to calculate which is a better option for your family, and a strategies to help you take advantage of both the FSA and some of the child-care credit if you have two or more kids.

5. Benefit from special deals on other insurance coverage. You may also be given the choice during open-enrollment season to buy extra life insurance, disability insurance and long-term-care insurance beyond any coverage already provided by your employer. You usually have to pay for this extra coverage yourself, but you could benefit from a group discount. However, the quality of these deals can vary a lot, depending on the type of insurance.



Employers Are Not Paying as Large a Share of Workers’ Health Insurance Premium.

Employees still have high expectations that their companies will pay a large portion of their health insurance premiums, believing that the responsibility lies with them.

This expectation is not waning even though employers are increasingly shifting a larger percentage of health insurance costs to their workers. A recent survey by Aflac found that 52% of employees expect their employer to pay at least 80% of the cost of their medical insurance, and another 14% said they expect an employer to pay the total cost or 100% of their health insurance.

“These expectations may be just a bit too high, as the average employer pays about 70% of an employee’s health insurance premium, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics,” said Matthew Owenby, chief human resources officer at Aflac, the Columbus, Ga.-based supplemental health insurance company.

After a decade of moderate growth, premiums for both individuals and families of employer-sponsored health insurance increased by an average of 4% this year, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation/Health Research & Educational Trust (HRET) 2015 survey. Premiums haven risen an average of 5% annually since 2005, compared to 11% annually between 1999 and 2005. The average annual premium for single coverage is $6,251 with workers paying an average of $1,071. The average family premium is $17,545 with workers on average contributing $4,955.

Since 2010, both the share of workers with deductibles and the size of those deductibles have increased severely. The combination of these two factors result in a 67% increase in deductibles since 2010, much faster than the rise in single premiums of 24% and about seven times the rise in workers’ wages of 10% and general inflation of 9%, the Kaiser survey found.

“With deductibles rising so much faster than premiums and wages, it’s no surprise that consumers have not felt the slowdown in health spending,” Foundation CEO Drew Altman said.

Co-Pay? Deductible? Premium? What Does it all Mean? Health Plan Terms to Know Before you Choose a Plan.

Co-Pay? Deductible? Premium? What Does it all Mean? Health Plan Terms to Know Before you Choose a Plan

Whether you are familiar with health plans or are shopping for one for the first time, deciphering different plans cans be confusing. Understanding the right terms is especially helpful when considering which plan is right for you, as many have cost implications associated with them. Here’s a rundown on the terms you’ll need to know to keep it all straight:

Affordable Care Act (ACA): The federal healthcare reform law passed in March 2010. Also known as Obamacare or healthcare reform.

Allowable charge: Also referred to as an ‘allowable amount’. The negotiated amount for which an in-network provider agrees to provide services. This amount is usually lower than the amount you would pay for the same service if you did not have health coverage.

Coinsurance: Your share of the fee for a service after you’ve met your deductible and before you’ve reached your out-of-pocket maximum. If your plan’s coinsurance share is 20%, you pay 20% of the allowable charge, and your plan pays the other 80% of the allowable charge.

Copay: A flat fee you pay at the time of service, such as an office visit. Copays apply toward out-of-pocket maximum.

Cost shares (or out-of-pocket costs): Costs that you pay for out of your own pocket for medical services, even if you have health coverage. Cost shares include deductibles, copays, and coinsurance.

Covered in full: Services your health plan pays for in full, at 100% of the allowable charges, and not subject to your deductible or coinsurance. For example, most preventive care is covered in full by many health plans.

Deductible: The amount you pay every year before the plan begins to pay for most services. This is similar to the deductible you pay for your car or homeowners insurance.

Exchange or marketplace: Another way to shop for health insurance, with a government (state or federal) website where you can compare plans from multiple companies and find out if you qualify for financial assistance. You can purchase your health coverage through the exchange or directly from Premera.

Formulary: A list of drugs for specific uses that the health plan covers.

Health savings account (HSA): Certain plans with higher deductibles allow you to open a special savings account to pay for many of your health care expenses. The money contributed to your account, by you or your employer, is not subject to federal income taxes when used for allowable healthcare costs, so the accounts offer tax advantages to some people. You generally have higher cost shares with these types of plans, so you should make sure you understand how they work before you consider them.

Network: A group of doctors, dentists, hospitals, and other healthcare providers that contract with your health plan to provide healthcare services at negotiated amounts, which are called allowable charges. Your costs are almost always lower when you get care from in-network providers.

Open enrollment period: The annual time period when you can apply for a new individual health plan or make changes to your current health plan. The open enrollment period for 2015 individual coverage is November 15, 2014 through February 15, 2015. If you experience certain life events, such as getting married, having a child, moving, or losing your employer’s health coverage, you can apply for coverage outside these dates.

Out-of-pocket maximum: A preset limit after which your plan pays 100% of the allowable charge.

Preferred provider organization (PPO): A health plan contracts with specific medical providers, such as doctors and hospitals, to create a network of participating providers. You pay less if you use providers that belong to the plan’s network. You can use providers outside of the network, but you’ll pay a greater share of the cost.

Premium: The amount you and/or your employer pay (usually each month) for health coverage, regardless of whether you use any medical services.

Primary care physician (PCP): Your main or regular doctor or other healthcare provider. Some plans offer lower office visit copays if you notify them of your designated PCP.

Producer: A person or business that can help you shop for and choose health coverage. Often referred to as a broker or agent.

Individual Health Insurance

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