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Back in January I wrote a post here giving my opinion on signing up for health care coverage under the Affordable Care Act. It seems time to give some opinions on how it’s working out so far.

PACU Nurse Tina Cerruti Reading to a Post-op Patient
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First off, the world didn’t collapse like conservatives were saying it would. There were no “death camps” no major protests, no scores of people losing their health coverage. True, some people did lose their coverage because it didn’t have the mandatory benefits the Act stated it must have. That brought the cost of coverage up for some people.

Also true is that some people have ended up paying higher premiums than they were paying before, even though realistically they’re getting more. That was one of the basic problems with the Act to begin with, in that it counted on state competition to keep prices down while acknowledging that in some states, like Arkansas, there wouldn’t be much competition, thus those folks would potentially end up paying more. Sometimes the problem with national “anything” is that it doesn’t take into account that things aren’t really the same everywhere.

Second, I’m glad that there’s a 15 day leeway to get the payments in. Over the winter I thought it was safer to stay in the location of where I’m consulting most of the time and only go home one extended weekend a month, as I’m traveling a lot right now, and that long weekend often meant I would miss the first of the month. And the insurance I selected hadn’t set up online payments yet, so I had to mail it in.

Third, I was pleasantly surprised to find that, even with the deductible my wife and I have (we purchased a silver plan), I got discounts on all of my diabetic supplies and medications. I wasn’t expecting that, thinking I was giving my insurance so I could bring down my deductible. I also got a discount on another prescription for something else; sweet!

Fourth, I did have a doctor’s appointment with the diabetes clinic and “knew” I would be paying that totally out of pocket. Turns out I was wrong on that front as well. It seems that based on contract, some of the amount for my appointment was adjusted off, and the insurance company actually paid $50, though I’m not sure why. I still had a nice sized bill, but it wasn’t too bad and I paid it off immediately.

Fifth, it turns out that there was some coverage for my lab work as well, which also included adjustments. As a point of disclosure, I picked a Blue Cross plan because I know them pretty well and, for traveling purposes, every medical facility in the country knows Blue Cross. What I hadn’t thought much about is that the Affordable Care plan has its own “group”, so to speak, and physicians and health care facilities negotiate fee schedules just like they do for employers.

Sixth, although this was a new payment for me, my wife’s part of the payment wasn’t as much of a difference as she thought it would be, though I’d told her it would work out. When she works (she travels also but is more of a traveling technician than a consultant) she had full insurance coverage, but had no coverage when she wasn’t working. This way, not only does she always have coverage but the difference between what she was paying for coverage and what she pays now was only $100; not bad at all.

In essence, way more good things happened that I wasn’t expecting. The bad thing… we’ve had problems getting our insurance cards for some reason, probably because neither of us are home. Also, they have a problem setting me up as the primary on the account, even though I’m the one who filled everything out and signed it… so be it.

And, to the government’s great surprise and the conservatives consternation, the target of 7 million subscribers was hit; I thought it would happen. Many others ended up with Medicaid coverage, which they may not like because of the stigma but, from my perspective as a health care consultant, it’s always better to have coverage than not; you never know when an emergency might come up.

What are your experiences with the Affordable Care Act plans? I hope they’re not bad, although I know for some people it will be.
 

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In one week a few years ago, six top financial investors, including a billionaire, were arrested and charged with fraud and conspiracy for having illegal information before making their trades, bringing them riches that they didn’t deserve. They were accused of making millions of dollars from this information over the course of 3 years.

Trader of the Apocalypse
Creative Commons License David Blackwell. via Compfight

Most people don’t understand this kind of crime at all, or why it’s a crime. The idea that most people have is that everyone looks for information on something to try to get ahead of the game; that’s what I’ve always thought anyway.

In a way it’s like the NFL, which wants every team to disclose when players are injured and what kind of injuries they have. This is ward off certain gamblers having knowledge that no one else has to make more money.

In general terms, there are two laws against insider trading, and both are federal laws. The first is the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 and the second is the Insider Trading Sanctions Act of 1984. The purpose of these laws was to restrict the ability of people from making money, or losing money, based on information that wasn’t being shared with everyone else.

The initial purpose of these laws were to prevent workers at companies traded on the market from doing things that would bring them profits at the determent of the company or the company’s investors. It’s also to stop others from learning this information and then acting upon it. It’s this law that sent Martha Stewart to prison some years ago.

A portion of a quote from the 1984 act tells us why they believe this is unfair: insider trading threatens “markets by undermining the public’s expectations of honest and fair securities markets where all participants play by the same rules.” In other words, those with this information get a benefit and have more opportunity to game the system than those of us without it.

The thing that’s confusing about this law is that most people think it’s just business as usual. In other words, any of us who are investing in a company could just pick up the phone, call a company, and start asking questions. Where the problem comes in is that not everyone knows everything that’s going on in a company. If you get to talk to either the CEO or CFO and they tell you something that they’re not going to tell anyone else, you now have an advantage that could make you a lot of money that no one could have made. And, it’s possible that either of these people could be convinced to share this information with you for a percentage of the profits that are made. The acts were meant to eliminate these possibilities.

Obviously it’s still happening, and it’s my belief that those doing it are getting more savvy. No more email or other records to show what they’re doing, and, well, let’s face the fact that there are many people who can earn lots of money in one day of trading who don’t have any more knowledge than the general populace. At least now you know why it’s illegal and that it’s not a legally accepted practice anywhere in the country.
 

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We keep hearing about people getting scammed out of their money by some strange means. The latest involves people getting calls from who they think is the IRS demanding money and immediate payments, and some people are actually paying them; sigh…

Siberian/Amur Tiger - Panthera tigris altaica
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Truth be told, almost everyone has what I like to call “Spidey senses”, those chills that run up the back of your neck when something seems out of the norm, extraordinary if you will, or just “this” side of unbelievable. Yet people get fooled all the time, or get taken in some way, when all it took was either a little bit of due diligence or listening to your intuition and taking some time to check on things.

Many people know the name Les Brown, a motivational speaker who used to also have a television show. What many may not know is that in his past he bought a house for his mother and ended up having to leave that house with her within 2 weeks because he didn’t do a title search to learn there was a lien on the property, listening to the guy who sold him the house when he was being told how great he was and how the guy wanted to help him fulfill a dream.

Then there’s the tale of our old “friend” Bernard Madoff, who by now everyone knows ran a Ponzi scheme that took billions from people over the years. Some have said they couldn’t see it coming, that he seemed so trustworthy, but later on there were more than a few people who said they found it strange when they were told that they couldn’t access their accounts online so they could check on their money, even though every other financial institution had that kind of access.

A few months ago we shared our ideas for how to protect your shopping experience; this time we’re going a little further. Here are some ideas on how to protect your money across the board:

1. Always ask questions. This may not tell you everything you want to know but sometimes you’ll start to get a strange feeling if the answers you’re getting don’t make any sense.

2. Always ask for proof. Years ago my wife & I were thinking about moving into am apartment complex, but something was bothering my wife about the arrangement. I finally went with her and we asked to see the apartment they were going to give us, and it was a dump, with holes in the wall in 3 of the rooms and the front door right next to a dumpster at the back of the complex. No way!

3. Always do your own research. The problem with Madoff is so many people convinced others to invest and they do without questioning it because they trusted the people who recommended him. However, a quick search would have shown them just how many financial experts were warning people about him, including a guy who kept telling the SEC about it and was proven right when Madoff was arrested.

4. Never agree to pay anyone immediately unless you know it’s the real deal. So many phone scams; IRS, police benevolent societies, charities you’ve never heard of, relatives you don’t know leaving you money… even many collection agencies when you know you don’t owe anything to anybody. Unless you have unlimited money to spend don’t make rash decisions you can’t afford.
 

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