Category Health Insurance

Obamacare Open Enrollment: 3 Must-Know Facts for Year 2

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Open enrollment for health insurance through the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act runs from Nov. 15 through Feb. 15. Here are a few things you need to know to make sure you get the best deal that’s available to you.

1. You’re Not Stuck With Your Initial Plan

Those who are satisfied with the current coverage typically don’t need to do anything to keep that coverage, as their insurance company will automatically renew their policies if they don’t hear differently. But under certain circumstances, it makes a lot of sense to look at other options.

If your health has changed dramatically, then it might make sense to look at more comprehensive insurance plans. You’ll pay more in up-front premiums for higher-quality plans, but your out-of-pocket costs will typically be lower...

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Bipartisan Bill Would Widen Federal Help for Disabled

Disability

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WASHINGTON — Congress is poised to allow Americans with disabilities to open tax-sheltered bank accounts to pay for certain long-term expenses — the broadest legislation to help the disabled in nearly a quarter-century.

The House was set to vote Wednesday on the bill, called the Achieving a Better Life Experience Act, which stands out in a bitterly divided Congress for its wide support. First introduced in 2006, the legislation now lists an overwhelming 85 percent of Congress as co-sponsors, even after a conservative group criticized it as “decisive step in expanding the welfare state.”

In the Senate, where Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky...

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Healthy or Wealthy: Best Way to the Second Is Via the First

Healthy or Wealthy: Best Way to the Second Is Via the First

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Two non-consecutive days a week, I limit my food intake to about 600 calories. The other five days, I eat normally. I changed my diet based upon a PBS series and a related book titled “The Fast Diet: Lose Weight, Stay Healthy and Live Longer with the Simple Secret of Intermittent Fasting” by Dr. Michael Mosley.

I am not suggesting you consider following this food regimen. It can be dangerous if you are pregnant, underweight or have certain medical conditions. Nor should you consider making any major change to your diet without medical advice. But while I’m not competent to endorse this specific diet, or any other diet plan, it has become part of my focus on maintaining good health, along with regular exercise and daily meditation.

In my experience, many investors have their ...

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Medicare Announces Plan to Reward Quality Over Volume

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WASHINGTON — The Obama administration Monday announced a plan to shift Medicare payments it makes to hospitals and doctors so they reward quality over volume. Officials said they hoped the move would be a catalyst for the entire health-care system.

“It is in our common interest to build a health care system that delivers better care, spends health care dollars more wisely and results in healthier people,” Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell said in a statement. A broad cross-section of health-care industry representatives attended the announcement, including insurers, hospitals, and doctors, as well as employers, who pay for coverage for most workers and their families...

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How the New Obamacare Website Stacks Up Against the Old

Health Overhaul Version 2 Old and New

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WASHINGTON — HealthCare.gov, the website for health insurance under President Barack Obama’s health care law, has been revamped as its second enrollment season approaches. But things are still complicated, since other major provisions of the Affordable Care Act are taking effect for the first time. A look at website and program changes just ahead:

Old: 76 online screens to muddle through in insurance application.

New: 16 screens — for the basic application that most new customers will use. But about a third of those new customers are expected to have more complicated cases, and how they’ll fare remains to be seen.

Old: Prone to crashing, even with relatively few users.

New: Built to withstand last season’s peak loads and beyond, at least 125,000 simultaneous users...

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U.S. Boosts Privacy Protection on Obamacare Website

Health Overhaul Privacy

Andrew Harnik/AP

WASHINGTON — Responding to criticism from civil liberties advocates, the Obama administration said Friday it has strengthened consumer privacy protections on the government’s health insurance website as a new sign-up season nears.

HealthCare.gov CEO Kevin Counihan said in a blog post that the Web page will have a new ‘privacy manager’ that lets consumers opt out of embedded connections to third-party advertising, analytics and social media sites.

In addition, if a consumer has enabled the “Do Not Track” setting on their browser, the government will automatically honor their preferences as relates to receiving digital advertising from HealthCare.gov.

The administration originally had said embedded third-party connections helped consumers have a better overall experience o...

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FSA vs. HSA: What You Need to Know for Health Care

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Open enrollment season for health insurance brings attention to Flexible Spending Accounts and Health Savings Accounts. I’m a huge fan of the latter. Let’s look at both.

First Came FSAs

Flexible Spending Accounts have been around since the 1970s. Employers establish FSAs for their employees, and the account allows workers to contribute a portion of pre-tax earnings to pay for qualified health care costs. Many employers also offer a separate FSA for dependent care expenses, such as day care.

The tax advantages of FSAs serve as one of the biggest benefits to employees. Because you contribute earnings before they’re taxed, you lower your annual tax liability...

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Prescription Drug Spending Jumps as Orders Set Record

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TRENTON, N.J. — U.S. spending on prescription drugs soared last year, driven up primarily by costly breakthrough medicines, manufacturer price hikes and a surge from millions of people newly insured due to the Affordable Care Act.

Spending rose 13 percent, the biggest jump since 2001, to a total of $374 billion, according to a report released Tuesday by the IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics. After accounting for population growth and inflation, the increase equaled 10 percent.

A record 4.3 billion prescriptions were filled in 2014, many of them for inexpensive generic pills going to patients now insured through Medicaid in states that expanded eligibility for the government health program for the poor and disabled...

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Obamacare Signups Near 10 Million in Midyear Report

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Andrew Harnik/APSen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., speaks at a press conference in July on the positive affects of the Affordable Care Act.

CHICAGO — About 9.9 million people have signed up and paid for health insurance under President Barack Obama’s health care law, the administration said Tuesday, a slight drop from a previous count but on track toward the administration’s year-end goal of 9.1 million.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said that 84 percent of those, or more than 8.3 million, were receiving tax subsidies to help with the cost. A Supreme Court decision earlier this summer upheld insurance subsidies in all 50 states, a major victory for the White House.

They still have a tough hill to climb over the next couple of years to increase enrollment and get more people...

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Doctors on Demand: Affordable and Getting More Popular

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Paying for concierge health care — no longer a just a perk for the super rich — is growing in popularity. With rising out-of-pocket costs, higher deductibles in their health plans and fewer doctors in provider networks, many consumers want to take more control of their health care. As a result, they are willing to pay a fee for immediate access and longer visits with their primary care physician.

Concierge doctors vary widely in terms of services offered, and several cost a pretty penny...

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