Judge rips insurance company for ‘immoral, barbaric’ cancer denials

A federal judge blasted UnitedHealthcare last month for its “immoral and barbaric” denials of treatment for cancer patients. He made the comments in recusing himself from hearing a class-action lawsuit because of his own cancer battle — and in so doing thrust himself into a heated debate in the oncology world.


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5 Life Insurance Wealth-Building Strategies for Black Families

Unfortunately, most people think of death when they think about life insurance. And few want to think or talk about dying. As you may know, designated beneficiaries receive a financial benefit at the time of a person’s death. However, there are several benefits of life insurance to leverage while alive. Here is a look at a few life insurance wealth-building strategies that black families can use.

First, while there are numerous types of life insurance options available, they fall into the categories of term insurance, permanent insurance, or a hybrid:

Term Life Insurance

Term life insurance is the most economical because it provides coverage for a temporary time, like 10 years, 15 years, etc. Unfortunately, less than 1% of term insurance policies pay out. This is because people usually outlive the time frame of the plan.

Permanent Life Insurance

Permanent insurance provides coverage for a person’s entire life. Permanent life insurance policies build cash value. Cash value is a portion of the premiums paid that accumulates in a savings account. Over time, the accumulated cash earns interest and, in cases of mutual insurance companies (owned by its policyholders), dividends.

Universal Life Insurance

Universal life is a hybrid of term and permanent life insurance plans. Universal life or UL is a term life insurance plan that can protect the insured for their entire life. If this type of policy is not designed correctly, it can become a big waste of money. If the plan is designed and managed properly, it can be an economical way to have permanent life insurance coverage.

5  Life Insurance Wealth-Building Strategies

Financial experts in the insurance industry share a few wealth building strategies of life insurance to enjoy while alive, as well as for legacy wealth.

Build a Bank of You

Permanent insurance policies have a forced savings mechanism. This accumulation of cash, called Cash Value, is like building your own bank and can be used for numerous things.

“Instead of borrowing money from a bank,” explains Kerry Peabody, CLU, CLTC of Clark Insurance, “the policy owner can take a loan against the cash value for numerous things, like supplemental retirement income, college funding, business startup, etc.”

Benefit While You’re Alive

The most valuable asset a person has is their health and ability to earn money to save, spend, invest and give. However, if diagnosed with a terminal illness, medical expenses can wipe out a person’s savings or inhibit their ability to build wealth while they are alive.

“Some life insurance providers offer an accelerated death benefit rider, which is a provision that allows the policyowner to receive a portion of the death benefit if they were to become terminally ill,” says Yogesh Shetty of Live Well & Earn Insurance. “If diagnosed with a terminal illness, you could cash out a portion of your life insurance to pay off medical expenses.”

[RELATED: Multiple Ways Life Insurance Can Build Wealth for Blacks and Community]

Forced Future Savings

If funds are tight, but life insurance coverage is needed and a seamless way to save money is desired, this type of term life insurance can be an excellent tool for wealth building.

“Return of Premium Term Life Insurance Policy is a great way to build wealth,” says Sa El, co-founder of Simply Insurance. “If the person outlives the term, the Return of Premium Life Insurance Policy will return all the premiums paid into the policy. It is like having protection with cash back.”

Create Trust Babies

Whether people have substantial or modest incomes, life insurance is a way to create trust babies and legacy wealth. A trust is a fund that consists of assets held by a designated trustee for the beneficiaries. The trust owner dictates how the assets will be disbursed to the beneficiary, from the grave, through the trustee.

“Once the Trust is established, the trust owner can designate the beneficiary, the disbursement terms, and the trustee.” El further explains, “A person gets 30 times their annual earned income of life insurance. For example, $ 50,000 income per year would equal to a $ 1.5 million term life insurance policy. They then establish the trust fund as the beneficiary of the life insurance policy and then designates the beneficiary of the trust. This strategy can change the financial landscape of a family and put them in a financially stable position.”

Use Cash Value as Collateral

Whether there is a need for capital for a business startup or business renovations, many minority business owners are having trouble getting approved for small business loans.

“Permanent life insurance policy cash values can be used as collateral for bank loans,” shares Adam Doran, a financial advisor at Prevail Innovative Wealth Strategies. “Even if the bank does not offer, ask if this option can be considered.”

Life insurance is not only a financial benefit to the family upon death; it can be a tool to enhance an investment portfolio and financial plan. Consult with a registered financial adviser or licensed insurance agent for tax and eligibility requirements.


Black Enterprise Contributors Network 

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5.10.19 Auto makers getting into auto insurance; Clark Stinks

As automobiles become increasingly autonomous, the nature of car insurance is changing too. Tesla is at the forefront of this change; Christa reads listener posts about how Clark has missed the mark in his advice this week. If you have a “Clark Stinks” to share you can leave it here.

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5.3.19 How to handle buying travel insurance before a trip; Clark Stinks

Travel insurance can be confusing. Clark talks about where to shop for travel insurance and how to know if you need it or not; Christa reads listener posts about how Clark has missed the mark in his advice this week. If you have a “Clark Stinks” to share you can leave it here.

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Tobacco company Philip Morris starts life insurance firm that offers discounts to smokers who quit

Philip Morris International, the tobacco company that sells Marlboro cigarettes around the world, is getting into the life insurance business.
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Travel insurance ‘will not cover’ cancelled Sri Lanka holidays

Policies would pay out only if Foreign Office warned against travel, though airlines and tour operators ‘will consider’ requests to postpone

Holidaymakers who want to postpone travel to Sri Lanka in the wake of the bomb attacks that killed 290 people will not be covered by their travel insurance. The UK Foreign Office (FCO) updated its travel advice for Sri Lanka on Monday to include details of the nationwide curfew and pending state of emergency. However, the Guardian understands it is unlikely the FCO would issue a warning advising against all travel to Sri Lanka: such warnings area rare and usually region-specific.

Reflecting the increased threat, the FCO’s current advice states: “Security has been stepped up across the island and there are ongoing security operations. These may continue for a number of days and the situation remains dynamic. Please follow the advice of local security authorities, hotel security staff and your tour company. The airport is operating, but with increased security checks and long queues for taxi pick-ups.”

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The best life insurance companies in 2019

term life insurance policy

Looking for the best life insurance? Simple is better when it comes to life insurance, and buying level term insurance from a trustworthy company is just about as simple as you can get.

In this article, we’ll take a look at what term life insurance is and who needs it. We’ll also cover which companies money expert Clark Howard recommends you buy it from and how to research and identify the best term life insurance companies on your own.

A look at the best term life insurance companies

Do you have a family or someone else who depends on you financially? Life insurance is meant to replace your income when you’re gone.

Too often, people overlook this important financial safety net. Don’t be one of them. We know life insurance can seem dry and hard to understand, but we’ll do our best to explain it in simple, actionable terms.

Fortunately, the cost of term life insurance has been dropping for a while.

“Life insurance has gotten much cheaper over the years, in part because people are living longer,” Clark says. “Add into the mix the Internet, which has made it ultra-easy to compare prices when shopping for life insurance. The result is that term life insurance costs have dropped by two-thirds in the last 15 years. That’s a great deal!”

Best life insurance companies: Table of contents

What is level term life insurance?

woman with question mark on head

Life insurance may seem complicated, but it doesn’t have to be!

Let’s break down some terms in the phrase “level term life insurance,” which is the kind of life insurance Clark recommends.

The “term” part here means you buy insurance for a set number of years depending on your age and your family’s needs. Typically, that means for periods of 20 or 30 years to protect your young children as you raise them into adulthood.

The “level” part means the premium remains the same for that number of years.

Remember the only purpose for life insurance is to replace your income (or your spouse’s) for your family if you die.

Pretty simple, right?

Who needs life insurance?

Two hidden home costs every prospective buyer should know about

Let’s answer this question with a couple of illustrations.

Say, for example, you have young kids and you want to provide financial security for them until they are adults. In this case, you might want to buy a 20-year term policy.

Or, let’s say you’re 35 and it’s just you and your spouse. You may want to provide for the remainder of your spouse’s life in the event of your death. In that case, you’d probably want a 30-year term policy.

You may not need a life insurance policy at all if there aren’t children in the picture.

“If you have no dependents at all, you don’t need to buy any life insurance,” Clark says. “And don’t ever buy insurance on children. A three-year-old doesn’t earn a salary, so there’s no need to replace his or her income.”

Clark Howard’s picks for term life insurance

Now that you know how Clark feels about life insurance, you might wonder who he’d buy it from.

Clark has long sung the praises of two insurers in particular — USAA and Amica Mutual — when it comes to term life insurance.

1. USAA

USAA logo

USAA is a diversified financial services company with offerings that include banking, investing and insurance.

Here’s the key thing to know about USAA: The services it offers are only available to those in the military or who are affiliated with the military through direct family ties.

2. Amica Mutual

amica mutual logo

What can you do if you or anyone in your family never served in the military but you still want a great company for term life insurance? Clark recommends checking out Amica Mutual, which is open to anyone. Amica is often acknowledged in the industry as an equal to USAA.

In fact, Clark believes so strongly in USAA and Amica that he listed them both as top picks on his lists of the best auto insurance companies and best home insurance companies.

3. Haven Life

Haven Life logo

Haven Life is one of a handful of insurers that issues term life insurance policies with no medical exam.

When you go through Haven, select qualified applicants (up to age 45) can finalize coverage online without the need to have a physical exam or a blood test like you would with other insurers.

Certain candidates, however, may still need to pass medical underwriting, depending on a variety of factors.

Term life insurance companies ranked by stability

It goes without saying that you need to make smart choices when you’re buying insurance.

Clark recommends buying only from companies that are rated A++ or A+ by A.M. Best — the highest possible ratings from one of the top companies when it comes to measuring the long-term financial strength of different insurers.

“Anything less than an A+ — even an A — is unacceptable. Don’t be tempted by low premiums when you’re shopping around,” Clark says. “Stick with insurers of top strength, even if you have to pay more for it.”

You can visit AMBest.com to get started researching your insurance company of choice. Free registration is required to use the site.

We’ve pulled up some ratings of popular life insurers below:

Insurance company Coverage underwritten by A.M. Best rating
Amica Mutual (self) A+
USAA (self) A++
Haven Life Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company A++
State Farm (self) A++
Prudential (self) A+
Mutual of Omaha Group (self) A+
Globe Life (self) A+
John Hancock (self) A+

Understanding an insurance company’s financial strength is of the utmost importance. You want to make sure a company you’re buying a policy from today will be around for the long haul when your family needs them.

Once you’ve got the financial stability piece of the puzzle figured out, then you’re really just shopping for coverage based on cost. Clark says that you should aim to buy 6 to 10 times your annual income in coverage.

“All else being equal, buy life insurance by cost,” Consumer Reports notes. “Shop for the lowest rates using an online broker with ties to many insurers, not just a few.”

Fortunately, shopping for term life insurance is easy on the Internet. You can comparison shop for quotes at any of a number of sites like:

Final thought

A lot of people shy away from buying life insurance simply because they don’t understand it. But buying term life insurance can be simple and affordable.

Remember, if you’ve got children or other financial dependents, you need life insurance!

More insurance stories on Clark.com

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4.9.19 Infant sleeping device warning; Ponzi scheme wire fraud; Watch out when shopping for health insurance

The Rock n’ play sleeper has led to the deaths of ten infants. Be careful; Private placements and exorbitant returns are a clue that an investing scheme is likely too good to be true; Watch out when shopping for healthcare sites that aren’t Healthcare.gov.

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Erie Insurance: 6 things to know about the top-rated insurance company

erie insurance sign on office

Erie Insurance may not be a household name around the US, but this insurance company is one that you should take a look at if you’re thinking about shopping around for home or auto insurance.

Money expert Clark Howard looks to the annual insurance company rankings from J.D. Power and Consumer Reports when it comes to recommending where people look to buy their insurance and Erie fares extremely well in both of those surveys.

RELATED: When should you file a claim on your homeowners insurance?

Erie Insurance: Here’s what you need to know

The company was founded in 1925 and today offers a full spectrum of auto, home, business and life insurance. Here’s what you to know about this nearly-100-year-old insurer…

1. Erie Insurance serves 12 states

The company serves customers in a dozen states and the District of Columbia:

  • Illinois
  • Indiana
  • Kentucky
  • Maryland
  • New York
  • North Carolina
  • Ohio
  • Pennsylvania
  • Tennessee
  • Virginia
  • West Virginia
  • Wisconsin
  • District of Columbia

In fact, Erie had nearly 6 million policies in force for auto, home and business insurance at last count.

2. Erie Insurance is a regional insurer with a solid business reputation

Based in Erie, Pennsylvania, the company is actually the 9th largest homeowners insurer and 11th largest automobile insurer in the United States based on direct premiums written, according to the company’s factsheet.

In addition, the property/casualty side of the company has an A+ rating from A.M. Best, the industry’s leading rating agency. Meanwhile, the life insurance part of Erie is rated A. (Editor’s note: A++ is the highest rating available from A.M. Best.)

3. The company is routinely named one of the top insurers in the country

Both Consumer Reports and J.D. Power conduct extensive overviews of the auto and home insurance industry and customer satisfaction after a claim is made.

And when it comes to auto and home insurance, both sources agree: Erie is a Top 5 insurer or better versus all the other national players.

Have a look at some of the impressive marks it gets:

Home insurance

  • #3 best homeowners insurance company according to Consumer Reports
  • #5 best homeowners insurance company according to J.D. Power

Auto insurance

  • #1 best homeowners insurance company according to J.D. Power
  • #1 for Mid-Atlantic region of the country and #4 for North Central region, according to J.D. Power
  • #5 best homeowners insurance company according to Consumer Reports

Check out the full lists of the best auto insurance companies and the best home insurance companies.

4. Erie Insurance has a new policy for Airbnb hosts

Thinking about renting out your home on Airbnb or a similar home-sharing site? Erie has a new insurance product with you in mind.

Their peer-to-peer house sharing policy costs an average of $ 40 to $ 60 extra per year. It is intended to step in with liability coverage because not all home-sharing sites offer protection for hosts.

With this policy, you’ll be protected “up to the liability limit for certain coverages on the homeowners policy, which typically ranges from $ 100,000 to $ 1 million,” the company notes.

The house-sharing insurance is available in all the states Erie does business in except North Carolina and Viriginia.

5. The company is testing pay-per-mile auto insurance

Erie CEO Tim NeCastro revealed the company is testing telematics for pricing private passenger auto insurance with 3,000 customers in two states — Ohio and West Virginia.

“We’re very pleased with the response and with the experience and we’re looking to expand that program in 2019,” he said during a recent earnings calls. “We plan to be in two more states this summer and then deploy additional territories later in 2019.”

6. The home sensor pilot program has already saved customers big bucks

NeCastro also said Erie has expanded a test of home sensor pilots to 2,000+ households.

“One customer in Ohio, for instance, reported that his sensor detected a refrigerator leak just two days after installation and helped them avoid a costly loss,” the CEO noted.

“Another customer in Pennsylvania credited the sensor for [alerting] him [to a] water leak in his basement and allowing him to take steps to prevent damages. Examples like these reflect the improved proactive experience customers can have with Erie, while also saving us and them the cost of the claim.”

Final thought

Erie Insurance has a great reputation for customer service and does a good job integrating technology into the insurance experience. You may want to look into them if you’re ready to shop your coverage around and you live in their service area.

More insurance stories on Clark.com:

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‘It feels like we are still hostages’: Federal contractors who lost health insurance during shutdown remain in limbo

For one firm, the tight margins of federal work meant it wasn’t able to pay its health insurance premium, leading to a lapse in coverage for employees who also lost five weeks of wages. Now they’re bracing for the possibility of another shutdown after Feb. 15.
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How to File a Roofing Insurance Claim

Your roof is often the first line of defense your home has against the elements, but severe weather, like hurricanes, tornados, and hail, can damage the roof to your home— causing leaks, water, and structural damage. To quickly, safely, and affordably repair roofing damage, you may need to file a homeowners insurance claim. It is important to find a reliable, trusted contractor for your roof replacement. This article will assist you as you navigate insurance claims, contractors, and the repair process.

Before You Contact Your Homeowners Insurance

Before contacting your insurance agent, take time to document the damage to your roof. Take multiple pictures of the interior and exterior of your home, as well as detailed notes. If the damage was caused by a storm, document the date and time.

If damage occurred from hail, it’s smart to document the size of the hail with a tape measurer. After documenting the damage, safe-proof your home to prevent further damage before contacting your insurance.

Types of Homeowner Insurance Coverage

There are usually four main coverage types to your homeowners insurance:

  • Dwelling Insurance
    • This protects the structure of your home, including your windows, garage, and built-in appliances like your water heater or HVAC. This coverage may help pay for the rebuilding or the repair of the physical structure of your home if it’s damaged by natural disaster, theft, or vandalism.
  • Personal Property Insurance
    • This covers your personal belongings, like furniture, clothing, electronics, jewelry, and kitchen appliances. This type of coverage, designed to help protect your belongings, may help provide protection in the event of a covered loss, such as theft or fire.
  • Liability Insurance
    • This coverage assists if someone has been hurt or injured on your property, like a dog bite or falling off a ladder.
  • Additional Living Expenses (ALE) Insurance
    • If your home is uninhabitable after an event, this helps cover temporary housing cost.

You can learn how these coverages protect you and your home on your homeowner insurance policy declaration page. Your declaration page will outline both your personal information and the coverage details.

What is Usually Covered by Homeowners Insurance…And What’s Not

According to the reliable roofing contractors, standard homeowners policies cover a wide range of potential disasters including tornadoes, lightning strikes, fire, wind, hail, and falling objects. But it’s important to note that not all natural disasters are covered in your policy.

Like many insurance providers, Allstate notes that damage caused by floods and earthquakes are not typically part of your homeowners insurance policy. However, they are often available through additional policies. Check with your insurance provider to learn if they offer these protections.

Normal wear and tear on your home and damage due to lack of maintenance, mold, or infestation from termites or other pests are also not usually covered.

Filing a Homeowners Insurance Claim for Home Damage

Storm damage to your home will fall under your dwelling insurance. Damage may impact your roof, walls, windows, floors, foundation, or built-in appliances like your HVAC unit. Once you have documented the damage, and taken action to prevent further damage, you can begin the claims process. It is important to file a claim as soon as possible after an event.

Most companies make it easy for homeowners to navigate this process on their website or mobile app, but you can also call the number listed on your policy. To submit a claim, you will need your policy number and an explanation/summary of damages. Your insurance agent will discuss your current policy, what’s covered and your next steps.

Understanding Your Deductible

It is important to understand your homeowners insurance deductible throughout this process. This deductible is the amount you will have to pay before receiving a reimbursement from your insurance provider.

For example, if your deductible is $ 1,000, but the cost to repair your roof is $ 800, your deductible would not be met. You would not receive any money back from your insurance company. In this case, you may choose to repair the roof on your own.

If it costs $ 3,000 to repair your damaged roof, and your deductible is $ 1,000, you would file a claim and pay your deductible. Your insurance provider would cover the additional $ 2,000 cost. A typical roof repair runs between $ 150 and $ 3,000 depending on the size of damage and materials. Roof replacements range from $ 8,000 to $ 17,500.

Meeting With Local Roofing Contractors

After filing a claim, you will be asked to schedule an appointment with an insurance adjuster. Before meeting with the adjuster, we recommend receiving three to four project estimates from local, trusted contractors. These contractors should provide free estimates, but not begin any repairs yet. Keep all of the estimates and any additional relevant paperwork organized. You will share these details with your insurance adjuster at your meeting.

Make sure you don’t sign a contract or agreement or make any type of payment until your insurance provider has approved the estimate. It is important not begin repairs until after the adjuster has inspected your home, as that may lead to not receiving compensation.

If possible, ask your roofing contractor to be present at your appointment with the insurance adjuster. This will protect you from any overlooked damages and will also ensure that you get a fair assessment.

Beware of Scams

While most contractors are reliable, there are scammers who seek out neighborhoods with a high percentage of senior citizens; areas with older housing stock; and places that are prone to, or were recently hit by major storms.

The reliable roofing contractors reports that in the aftermath of a natural disaster salespeople often go door-to-door in damaged neighborhoods offering cleanup and/or repair services. While many of these individuals are honest and reputable, others are not. The dishonest individuals may pocket your payment or insurance settlement without completing the job. Or, they may use inferior materials and perform shoddy work not up to code. The crime bureau also warns of contractors who offer to manipulate the price to cover your deductible or extra work not caused by the catastrophe. This is insurance fraud, a felony which may render insurance coverage void.

Meet With Your Insurance Adjuster

After receiving your contractor estimates, make an appointment with your insurance adjuster. They will help determine the cause of damage and assess the total cost. When the adjuster meets you at your home, they will ask you about the event. This is where your detailed notes will be important. The adjuster will create a report that contains a description of the roof damage, as well as photos. It is also important to share the estimates you received from contractors at this meeting. All of these details will be submitted to the insurance company to move your claim along.

Hire Your Preferred Contractor to Repair Roof Damage

Once your claim has been approved, and you have reached a settlement for the cost of repairs, begin working with your preferred, licensed contractor to repair your roof. Your insurance provider will typically send an advance for half of the payment to allow you to begin repairs. The last half will be sent upon completion, minus your deductible.

Already know you have home storm damage? We can help. Receive up to four quotes from reliable roofing contractors in your area.

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Higher Health Insurance Costs for Small Businesses Coming in 2019?

A recent ruling by a Texas federal judge insisting the Affordable Care Act (ACA)—otherwise known as Obamacare—is unconstitutional is potentially bad news for millions of small businesses, the national advocacy group Small Business Majority maintains. U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor agreed with an alliance of 20 states that a change in tax law last year eliminating a penalty for not having health insurance nullified the overall ACA.

‘Obamacare’ will continue to remain in effect for now. The case could be appealed and possibly reach the U.S. Supreme Court, observers say. They say that process could take months or even years.

The ruling occurred a day before the deadline for Americans to sign up for coverage in the federal insurance exchange created under the ACA. Roughly 11.8 million U.S. consumers enrolled in 2018 healthcare exchange plans, the federal agency Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services reported.

The ruling has “no impact to current coverage or coverage in a 2019 plan,” Seema Verma, the administrator for the Medicare and Medicaid Services, the federal agency that oversees ACA, tweeted.

Former President Barack Obama posted on Facebook that Obamacare will “likely”  survive the judge’s ruling. He urged people to proceed with open enrollment and get coverage.



President Donald Trump saluted the decision as “great news for America,” boasting that Congress will now create a “great” healthcare plan, though that will likely be difficult if large numbers of the pool of uninsured Americans opt not to pay for insurance.


However, the Small Business Majority says the ruling’s impact could hit entrepreneurs, including black small businesses owners soon.

“While this federal court decision does not change the status of the ACA right now, it injects a degree of uncertainty into the ACA marketplaces that many entrepreneurs depend on for quality, affordable health insurance,” Simon Brown, a spokesman at Small Business Majority, told Black Enterprise.

“That uncertainty could cause consumers to leave the marketplaces, meaning prices could rise for those who continue to buy insurance through ACA marketplaces.”

John Arensmeyer, Small Business Majority founder & CEO, added through the ACA’s individual mandate penalty was previously repealed, its remaining components must be upheld in full because the law is absolutely critical to the success of small businesses, their employees and solo entrepreneurs.

Before Obamacare became law in 2010, the Small Business Majority says small businesses and their employees represented a disproportionate share of uninsured workers, and small business owners paid 18% more on average for coverage than larger companies.

Yet, the growth in small business healthcare costs slowed dramatically since 2010, occurring after regular double-digit gains before the law’s enactment. The law made health insurance more affordable for smaller firms, resulting in many entrepreneurs launching their own businesses.

More than 5.7 million small business employees or self-employed workers are enrolled in the ACA marketplaces, and more than half of all ACA marketplace enrollees nationwide are small business owners, self-employed individuals or small business employees, the Small Business Majority states.

Plus, the advocacy group says the law has enabled most states to expand their Medicaid programs, allowing low-income small business employees and entrepreneurs to obtain health coverage.

Arensmeyer says ending the ACA would be an unmitigated disaster for America’s entrepreneurs.

“For the good of America’s job creators, the constitutionality of the ACA must be upheld, and we hope this decision is immediately appealed.”

 

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Amazon gets into health insurance — and more 2019 health-tech predictions

CNBC asked a dozen experts for their health-technology predictions for 2019.
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Gap insurance: What is it and do you need it?

woman with broken car on side of road via dreamstime

If you’ve ever bought a new car, you’ve probably had a salesperson talk to you about gap insurance.

It’s an insurance product designed to cover the gap between the outstanding balance on your auto loan and the market value of your vehicle if your vehicle gets totaled in an accident or stolen before you’ve paid it off completely.

Let’s take a closer look to give you a clearer picture of how gap coverage functions and if it’s right for your situation…

RELATED: Best and worst auto insurance companies

Understanding gap insurance

Let’s say you finance a new vehicle for $ 34,000. Then, a week after driving off the lot, that car is declared a total loss in a serious accident.

Fortunately, you escape the accident unharmed and expect your insurance company to pay out $ 34,000 so you can pay off your loan and get into a new vehicle.

Here’s the catch, though: The minute you drove that vehicle off the dealer lot, the value of it depreciated to $ 31,000.

Now your new car is totaled, you can’t drive it and you still owe the $ 34,000 loan. Your insurer, however, only wants to pay you $ 31,000 because that’s the market value of your totaled car.

This is the kind of case where gap insurance would step in with the $ 3,000 difference so it doesn’t have to come out of your pocket.

But that’s just a hypothetical situation. Let’s take a look at how it plays out in the real world.

How gap insurance would work in a real-life situation

One member of our Consumer Action Center reports that her son was recently involved in an accident while driving a newly leased vehicle.

“I had a lease on a Genesis and never thought of gap insurance for a lease. The car was totaled and the difference between the buyout and the value is $ 2,962,” our volunteers tells us. “Therefore, I have to pay the difference between the value and the buyout.”

Gap insurance would have paid this difference if she had a policy.

And get this: The accident was not the fault of the volunteer’s son, yet she still has to pay that gap out of her own pocket because she didn’t have gap insurance.

The Insurance Information Institute reports adding gap insurance to your collision and comprehensive coverage usually adds only about $ 20 a year to the annual premium.

That’s a potentially small price to pay for peace of mind.

Where should you consider buying gap insurance?

As a general rule, car dealerships are the worst place to get gap insurance because they tend to inflate the premium and roll it into the cost of your loan.

Try these alternatives instead.

Buy gap coverage through your auto insurer

By doing this, you’re likely to pay half or even a quarter of the price you would pay at the dealership, according to Car and Driver. That’s because your insurer won’t ridiculously mark it up like the dealer will.

Pay cash for a reliable used car

Gap insurance is a solution to a problem that shouldn’t happen in the first place. When you think about it, there would be no need for gap coverage if consumers didn’t buy vehicles with no money down.

The problem, as mentioned earlier, is the rapid depreciation of new vehicles the minute they drive off the lot. Since you put no money down, that huge spread is what creates a gap that need to be filled.

But what if your buying decision never allowed that gap to be created in the first place?

Buying a reliable used car is money expert Clark Howard’s preferred way for you to get into a vehicle. It’s possible to pay cash for a cheap but good ride.

Here’s a look at the 19 best used cars under $ 15,000.

RELATED: 5 professions that practically guarantee you’ll pay less for car insurance

More insurance stories on Clark.com

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In Health Insurance Wastelands, Rosier Options Crop Up For 2019

In recent years, places such as Memphis and Phoenix had withered into health insurance wastelands as insurers fled and premiums skyrocketed in the insurance marketplaces set up by the Affordable Care Act. But today, as in many parts of the country, these two cities are experiencing something unprecedented: Premiums are sinking and choices are sprouting.

In the newly competitive market in Memphis, the cheapest midlevel “silver” plan for next year will cost $ 498 a month for a 40-year-old, a 17 percent decrease. Four insurers are selling policies in Phoenix, which then-presidential candidate Donald Trump highlighted in 2016 as proof of “the madness of Obamacare” as all but one insurer left the region.

Janice Johnson, a 63-year-old retiree in Arizona’s Maricopa County, which includes Phoenix, said her premium for a high-deductible bronze plan will be $ 207 instead of $ 270 because she is switching carriers.

“When you’re on a fixed income, that makes a difference,” said Johnson, who receives a government subsidy to help cover her premium. “I’ll know more than a year from now if I’m going to stick with this company, but I’m going to give them a chance, and I’m pretty excited by that.”

Across all 50 states, premiums for the average “benchmark” silver plan, which the government uses to set subsidies, are dropping nearly 1 percent. And more than half of the counties that use the federal healthcare.gov exchange are experiencing an average 10 percent price decrease for their cheapest plan.

In most places, the declines are not enough to erase the price hikes that have accrued since the creation in 2014 of the health care exchanges for people who don’t get insurance through an employer or the government.

Instead, experts said, next year’s price cuts help to correct the huge increases that jittery insurers set for 2018 plans to protect themselves from anticipated Republican assaults on the markets. Although Congress came up one vote shy of repealing the law, Trump and Republicans in Congress did strip away structural underpinnings that pushed customers to buy plans and helped insurers pay for some of their low-income customers’ copayments and deductibles. Insurers responded with 32 percent average increases.

“Insurers overshot last year,” said Chris Sloan, a director at Avalere, a health care consulting company in Washington, D.C. “We are nowhere close to erasing that increase. This is still a really expensive market with poor benefits when it comes to deductibles and cost.”

For 2019, the average benchmark silver premium will be 75 percent higher than it was in 2014, according to data from the Kaiser Family Foundation. (Kaiser Health News is an editorially independent program of the foundation.)

When Republicans failed to kill the health law last year, they inadvertently may have made it stronger. Insurers banked hefty profits this year, and new companies are moving in.

All these factors were especially influential in Tennessee, where the average benchmark premium is dropping 26 percent, according to a government analysis. That is more than in any other state.

In 2018, 78 of 95 Tennessee counties had just one insurer. That monopoly allowed the insurer to set the prices of its plans without fear of competition, said David Anderson, a researcher at the Duke-Margolis Center for Health Policy in Durham, N.C. “They were massively overpriced,” he said.

But for the coming year, 49 Tennessee counties will have more than one insurer, with a few — like Shelby County, where Memphis is located — having four companies competing. There, Cigna dropped the price of its lowest-cost silver plan by 15 percent. Nonetheless, it was underbid by Ambetter of Tennessee, which is owned by the managed-care insurer Centene Corp.

“We’re finally at the point where the market is stabilized,” said Bobby Huffaker, the CEO of American Exchange, an insurance brokerage firm based in Tennessee. “From the beginning, every underwriter, and the people who were the architects, they knew it would take several years for the market to mature.”

Still, the cheapest Memphis silver premium is nearly three times what it was in 2014, the first year of the marketplaces. A family of four with 40-year-old parents will be paying $ 19,119 for all of next year unless they qualify for a government subsidy.

“The unsubsidized are leaving,” said Sabrina Corlette, a professor at Georgetown University’s Health Policy Institute. “They are finding these premiums unaffordable.”

The landscape in Phoenix is greatly improved from when Trump visited after the federal government announced a 116 percent premium increase for 2017, as the number of insurers dropped from eight to one.

But now, three new insurers are entering Maricopa County. Ambetter, the only insurer this year, dropped its lowest price for a silver plan for next year by 12 percent and still offers the cheapest such plan.

Ambetter’s plan is still 114 percent above the least expensive silver plan in the first year of the exchanges. And none of the insurers are offering as broad and flexible a choice of doctors and hospitals as consumers had back then, said Michael Malasnik, a local broker.

Since the start of the exchanges, he said, insurers have “raised their rates by multiples, and they’ve figured out you have to be a very narrow network.”

Each plan for 2019 contains trade-offs. He said only Bright Health’s plan includes Phoenix Children’s Hospital. Ambetter’s plan includes the most popular hospital and doctor groups, but they are not as conveniently located for people living in the southeastern corner of the county, making other insurers’ plans appealing.

“Geography is the name of the game this year,” Malasnik said.

Theresa and John Flood(Courtesy of Theresa Flood)

Theresa Flood, a preschool teacher who lives outside Phoenix, said none of the plans she considered accepted her doctors, who include a specialist for her spine problems — she has had four surgeries — and a neurologist who monitors a cyst and benign tumor in her brain.

“I have to establish care with a whole new spine doctor and establish care with a whole new neurologist if I want to follow up on these things,” Flood, 59, said. “You’re going from established care to who in the heck am I going to see?”

The plan she chose would have been too expensive except that she and her husband, John, a pastor, qualified for a $ 1,263-a-month subsidy that will drop the cost to $ 207 a month. That bronze plan from Ambetter carries a $ 6,550-per-person deductible, so she expects she’ll still have to pay for her doctors on her own unless she needs extensive medical attention.

“It’s gone from being able to have a plan that you could sort of afford and got some benefit from, to putting up with what you can afford and hoping nothing happens that you actually have to use your insurance,” she said. “At this point, I’ll take what I can get.”

Kaiser Health News

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Want to Save Money on Car Insurance? Do Your Homework

For many Americans—black or white—car insurance is typically a big expense in any budget. A recent survey released by Consumer Reports revealed that only one in four car insurance policyholders searched for a better deal in the previous year. The survey also showed that service outweighed cost when policyholders were asked to offer views on what they looked for the most from their insurer.

Insure.com, an independent consumer insurance website, recently ranked the best auto insurance companies across the country, with USAA, American Family, and Allstate respectively seizing the top three spots. The website’s findings were based on a survey of 3,160 current customers.

In assessing their car insurance company, a preponderance of consumers talked about how the business treated them and how reactive the insurer was in answering questions on coverage or claims. Consumers also commented on various aspects of coverage, including discounts, apps or roadside service. Price was cited, but it wasn’t the main factor for why drivers favored or did not favor their insurer.

Insure.com also reported insurers with the most market share nationally were ranked based on ratings from the policyholders evaluated in multiple categories. Those categories included the value for the price, customer service, claims satisfaction, usefulness, and how easy it is to use the insurer’s website and mobile apps. Another bracket was if consumers would recommend the insurer to a friend. The website does a yearly analysis to compile the ranking, which includes details on how companies ranked overall and other information.

Additionally, motorists should do their homework before choosing an auto insurance company. There are several options beyond the price that drivers should consider than just finding the best bargain.

How To Choose The Best Car Insurance

Here are a few other tips to keep in mind when shopping around for car insurance, based on a report published by Black Enterprise in 2015.

  • Before you begin comparison shopping, find out your state’s minimum insurance requirements and make sure you’re covered for an amount equal to the total value of your assets.

 

  • Keep premiums low by choosing collision coverage with a high deductible and plan to pay routine repair costs out-of-pocket.

 

  • Be sure to comparison shop. Visit insurancepanda and Insurance.com to complete an application form for comparison quotes from several insurance companies.

 

  • There are three kinds of insurers: Direct sellers such as GEICO and Progressive that sell coverage directly to you, large national brands such as Allstate and State Farm, and independent insurance agents that offer various insurance options from many different companies. Direct sellers favor drivers with impeccable driving records so you may have trouble qualifying for coverage if you have a history of accidents or moving violations. National brands are helpful for drivers with spotty records and their rates are usually competitive. Independent agents have great inroads to help get you better coverage at better rates than what you’d find on your own.

 

  • Ask about all available discounts. There is almost always a way to save money. You may get a discount if your car has antilock brakes, if you don’t drive your car often, or if you take a defensive driving class. Request a list of all possible discounts to see if you qualify.

 

  • Skip towing insurance. It’s better to take that extra money and join an auto club such as AAA instead. In addition to towing, you’ll have roadside assistance when you need it.

 

  • Bundle if you can. More insurance companies are offering substantial savings—up to 20%—when you protect all your property with one insurer. Multiple-policy discounts can apply to combinations of home, auto, life, and even motorcycle insurance.

 

The post Want to Save Money on Car Insurance? Do Your Homework appeared first on Black Enterprise.

Money | Black Enterprise

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Want to Save Money on Car Insurance? Do Your Homework

For many Americans—black or white—car insurance is typically a big expense in any budget. A recent survey released by Consumer Reports revealed that only one in four car insurance policyholders searched for a better deal in the previous year. The survey also showed that service outweighed cost when policyholders were asked to offer views on what they looked for the most from their insurer.

Insure.com, an independent consumer insurance website, recently ranked the best auto insurance companies across the country, with USAA, American Family, and Allstate respectively seizing the top three spots. The website’s findings were based on a survey of 3,160 current customers.

In assessing their car insurance company, a preponderance of consumers talked about how the business treated them and how reactive the insurer was in answering questions on coverage or claims. Consumers also commented on various aspects of coverage, including discounts, apps or roadside service. Price was cited, but it wasn’t the main factor for why drivers favored or did not favor their insurer.

Insure.com also reported insurers with the most market share nationally were ranked based on ratings from the policyholders evaluated in multiple categories. Those categories included the value for the price, customer service, claims satisfaction, usefulness, and how easy it is to use the insurer’s website and mobile apps. Another bracket was if consumers would recommend the insurer to a friend. The website does a yearly analysis to compile the ranking, which includes details on how companies ranked overall and other information.

Additionally, motorists should do their homework before choosing an auto insurance company. There are several options beyond the price that drivers should consider than just finding the best bargain.

How To Choose The Best Car Insurance

Here are a few other tips to keep in mind when shopping around for car insurance, based on a report published by Black Enterprise in 2015.

  • Before you begin comparison shopping, find out your state’s minimum insurance requirements and make sure you’re covered for an amount equal to the total value of your assets.

 

  • Keep premiums low by choosing collision coverage with a high deductible and plan to pay routine repair costs out-of-pocket.

 

  • Be sure to comparison shop. Visit insurancepanda and Insurance.com to complete an application form for comparison quotes from several insurance companies.

 

  • There are three kinds of insurers: Direct sellers such as GEICO and Progressive that sell coverage directly to you, large national brands such as Allstate and State Farm, and independent insurance agents that offer various insurance options from many different companies. Direct sellers favor drivers with impeccable driving records so you may have trouble qualifying for coverage if you have a history of accidents or moving violations. National brands are helpful for drivers with spotty records and their rates are usually competitive. Independent agents have great inroads to help get you better coverage at better rates than what you’d find on your own.

 

  • Ask about all available discounts. There is almost always a way to save money. You may get a discount if your car has antilock brakes, if you don’t drive your car often, or if you take a defensive driving class. Request a list of all possible discounts to see if you qualify.

 

  • Skip towing insurance. It’s better to take that extra money and join an auto club such as AAA instead. In addition to towing, you’ll have roadside assistance when you need it.

 

  • Bundle if you can. More insurance companies are offering substantial savings—up to 20%—when you protect all your property with one insurer. Multiple-policy discounts can apply to combinations of home, auto, life, and even motorcycle insurance.

 

The post Want to Save Money on Car Insurance? Do Your Homework appeared first on Black Enterprise.

Money | Black Enterprise

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Hello? It’s I, Robot, And Have I Got An Insurance Plan For You!

“Anna” will not stop calling. She really, really wants to sell you health insurance.

What a lot of consumers really, really want is to smack Anna upside her robocalling head.

As health insurance open-enrollment season gets underway in California and nationwide, automated phone calls offering Affordable Care Act or other health plans are spiking — and driving many consumers to the brink. California residents may have it worst, because its open-enrollment period is twice as long as in other parts of the country.

“It’s at epidemic levels at this time of year,” said Aaron Foss, founder of Nomorobo, who estimates his spam call-blocking service, based in Long Island, N.Y., headed off more than 850,000 health-related robocalls in October alone — nearly five times their interceptions for September, Foss said.

Nomorobo tracked about 820 different robocall pitches for health insurance in the last week of October. More than 100 of them were from the robot Anna.

Almost all of these calls are illegal, according to rules published by the Federal Trade Commission in 2009. Many offer skimpy health plans that don’t cover what you might need, insurance regulators and consumer advocates say. Others, they say, are downright fraudulent, with unscrupulous insurance “brokers” taking payment and promising insurance that never comes through.

Alice Cave, 62, a retired data analyst from Alexandria, Va., who spends winters in Tucson, said she’s gotten so many of these calls that she typically won’t answer her phone unless she recognizes the number. On Monday, expecting a call from a California reporter, she answered her cellphone.

It was “Anne.” (Anna’s robot cousin? Other relatives include “Jordan,” “Allison” and “Mandy,” though variants on Anna remain most prevalent.)

“She was saying, ‘I really need to talk to you — we’ve got deals on health insurance.’ I thought, ‘God, what a crock,’” Cave said. “If it’s too good to be true, it probably is. Anything that comes in on the phone, I’m going to be skeptical. Why would they offer me this deal? I already have great insurance. It’s crazy.”

Some fed-up consumers try to stymie robocallers, with amusing results. Twitter user Jon Heise in June confounded his robot by insisting, after whatever it said, that he was a “meat popsicle.” Eventually, it hung up.

It’s not all fun and games. In California, the Department of Insurance is investigating health insurance robocalls, said Janice Rocco, deputy commissioner for health policy and reform. In late August, the agency filed a court order against Health Plan Intermediaries Holdings LLC, accusing the Florida company of deceptive and misleading practices in selling “Obamacare” plans that didn’t comply with the health law. The company could face fines of up to $ 10,000 per violation, Rocco said.

In this case, the company’s robocalls featured “Anne,” according to the court order. In its legal response, the company did not admit to the agency’s allegations and denied responsibility. A hearing date has not yet been set, Rocco said. (Arkansas’ insurance commissioner issued a cease and desist order against the company in 2016.)

Under federal law, calls using prerecorded messages are legal only for such things as doctor appointment reminders, flight cancellations, credit card fraud alerts and political candidates. Calls to sell products and services are not.

In a typical robocall sales pitch, a friendly female voice comes on the line. Sometimes the call appears to originate from major insurers like Blue Cross Blue Shield or Aetna or from a local number a caller might suppose is a school or neighbor.

Often, the voice will ask the consumer to dial “1” to enroll or “2” to opt out of future calls. Both options can be a trap, experts say.

“If you pick up, you become a lead that’s sent to health insurance agents or brokers,” Nomorobo’s Foss said. And option 2 doesn’t put you on a do-not-call list; it merely lets the spammers know they’ve hit a working number, he added.

A reporter from Kaiser Health News connected with one of the insurance brokers behind one of these robocalls by pressing the dreaded “1.”

A man identifying himself as “Ray Khan” said he’s a licensed insurance broker and provided a National Insurance Producer Registry number. The reporter was unable to locate Khan in that national registry with that number, which was not assigned to anyone.

Khan asked for the reporter’s Social Security number and other personal information. He said he did not have an office and that enrollment needed to be done over the phone. He referred the caller to a website that does not provide information about plans offered but is a platform for consumers to be contacted by brokers.

“It’s a legitimate company. We work for different insurance carriers,” Khan said. “You have to trust someone if you want to do it.”

That’s exactly what you shouldn’t do — trust folks who call you out of the blue, according to the Department of Insurance’s Rocco. “Someone selling a comprehensive medical plan is not going to be reaching you via a robocall,” Rocco said.

Most of what’s sold through these automated calls are so-called skinny plans that don’t comply with Affordable Care Act requirements, or are short-term insurance plans, which typically offer coverage for only a few months and often don’t cover preexisting conditions or prescription drugs. Such plans have been outlawed in California, starting Jan. 1.

Despite state and federal crackdowns — some involving multimillion-dollar fines — robocalls aren’t going away anytime soon. So the best thing for consumers to do when they receive one is to just hang up or, like Virginia resident Cave, not respond to unfamiliar numbers, advises the Federal Communications Commission.

Instead, check out the federal Obamacare exchange, healthcare.gov, or your state’s marketplace.


This story was produced by Kaiser Health News, which publishes California Healthline, a service of the California Health Care Foundation.

Kaiser Health News

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