How Much Health Insurance Do I Need?

How Much Health Insurance Do I Need?

The answer is simple: enough to ensure that if you (or a covered family member) get sick or injured, you’re not footing the entire medical bill on your own.

If you receive health insurance through your employer, your choices are limited. Some employers will offer plans from multiple health insurance providers, but most limit their offerings to one provider. Additionally, most employers offer one or more of the following: an HMO, a PPO or a traditional plan.

• An HMO (or health maintenance organization) is usually the lowest-cost alternative. As a result, enrollees are limited to doctors and treatment facilities within a limited “network.” These plans usually have no deductibles. Enrollees are required to make copayments when seeing a physician.
• A PPO (or preferred provider organization) allows enrollees greater flexibility. Enrollees can see doctors in or out of the PPO’s established network of providers. Deductibles usually apply and co-payments are required. A visit to an out-of-network doctor will trigger an additional charge.
• A traditional indemnity plan is usually the most expensive, as it typically gives enrollees the greatest number of choices in choosing doctors and facilities. But the deductibles can be high and the insurance company may cap the amount of money it will spend on the enrollee’s behalf over his/her lifetime.

Choices for the Self-Employed

If you are self-employed, you can comparison shop among the insurance providers licensed to do business in your state. It is a good idea to get as many estimates as you can because coverage and premiums vary significantly. Be sure you are comparing apples to apples: You want cost breakdowns for coverage with similar deductibles, copayments, prescription benefits, and physician access.

Beyond Standard Insurance

As you can see, even the best plan probably won’t provide 100% coverage for you or your family. If your employer allows, you can also fund a flexible spending account (FSA) or health savings account (HSA). An FSA, which is an employee benefit typically funded through payroll deduction, allows you to set aside pre-tax dollars to use toward copayments, out-of-network coverage, or other medical expenses. The drawbacks of an FSA: The maximum you can contribute is low and any funds not used during a calendar year are forfeited. An HSA, available to those enrolled in a high-deductible plan, has a higher annual contribution limit and no “use-it-or-lose-it” rules.

If you feel you need more coverage and can afford it, you can also buy supplemental health insurance. The three most common types are disease specific, accidental death or dismemberment, and hospital indemnity. Again, be sure to comparison shop before purchasing.

If you would like to discuss your health insurance or any financial planning matters, please don’t hesitate to contact us or visit our website at http://www.ydfs.com. We are a fee-only fiduciary financial planning firm that always puts your interests first.  If you are not a client yet, an initial consultation is complimentary and there is never any pressure or hidden sales pitch.

I’m Self-Employed. How Can I Get Health Insurance?

Self-employment is an important career choice for many people, and it is an option elected by many seniors and baby boomers. But with this choice comes the need to provide your own health insurance, which can be a formidable expense. And, thanks to the Affordable Care Act, a necessary one starting in 2014. If you are self employed and are seeking health care coverage, here are your major options.

Piggyback on a Partner’s Plan

If you have a spouse or partner who is or can be enrolled in an employer-sponsored plan, joining this plan is usually the simplest and least expensive way to maintain coverage. Nearly all employer-based plans offer coverage to spouses and children, and many provide coverage to domestic partners as well.

Continue Coverage Through COBRA

If you formerly were employed by an organization that employed 20 or more people and made a group health plan available to employees, you may be able to obtain medical coverage through the federal Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act, known as COBRA. COBRA requires employers to make available to departing employees the option of continuing membership in an employer-sponsored group medical plan at the employee’s expense. You can continue your health insurance under COBRA for yourself and your dependents for 18 months, during which time you can search for the best option as a self-employed person.

Enroll in a High-Deductible Plan & HSA

High-deductible plans (HDPs), as their name suggests, involve a high deductible or threshold below which you must pay all costs.  For 2014, minimum deductibles are $1,250 for an individual and $2,500 for a family. In essence, a high-deductible policy provides coverage for catastrophic situations but does not generally provide for regular doctor visits and routine care. Such plans can involve complex cost-sharing arrangements in which certain procedures or visits are covered only in part. When considering this option, factor in not only monthly premiums but also the costs of partial out-of-pocket payment for different procedures.

Combining an HDP with a tax-free health savings account (HSA) can also save you in taxes. You deposit pre-tax dollars into your HSA, and use that money to pay medical expenses that aren’t reimbursed by your health insurance.

Enroll in a Group Plan Through a Professional Association

You may be able to save money by enrolling in a group plan sponsored by a professional organization. Check with any affiliations you may have (for example, the American Medical Association or a state bar association for attorneys) to see if they offer group rates for members. As with any plan, you’ll need to look at not only costs but also deductibles, co-pays, and how well the coverage meets your needs.

Enroll on Your Own Through a Health Insurance Marketplace

Many states now have health insurance marketplaces. The federal marketplace has an up-to-date list and provides insurance referrals to consumers whose states do not have their own websites.

Enroll in an HMO or PPO Plan

For many self-employed individuals, their best option will be to enroll directly in a health maintenance organization (HMO) or preferred provider organization (PPO). In general, HMOs tend to be more expensive than PPOs, but plan costs vary considerably with coverage options, so shop around. Also keep in mind that individual enrollment in a plan is likely to be expensive, often $500 or more per month for individual coverage, and that costs are generally not tax deductible.

When shopping for the right plan, make sure to do your homework. Compare premiums, coverage, deductibles, and copays. Also keep in mind that after you turn 65, you may be eligible for Medicare benefits, even if you remain self employed.

For More Information

Check out the Web resources listed below:

If you’d like to know more about health insurance when self-employed, or if you want to discuss other financial planning matters, please don’t hesitate to contact us or visit our website at http://www.ydfs.com. We are a fee-only fiduciary financial planning firm that always puts your interests first.

What Is the Difference Between Disability Insurance and Long-Term Care Insurance?

Disability insurance addresses lost wages that stem from an inability to work. Long-term care insurance, in contrast, addresses expenses associated with medical care provided to you in your home, a nursing home, a rehabilitation center, or an assisted living facility.

Disability insurance policies may address either short-term or long-term needs for income. Short-term disability policies provide coverage on a temporary basis, usually up to several months, while you recover from an accident or illness. Long-term disability insurance provides benefits when a disability is of a more permanent nature. Most long-term disability policies will cover you throughout your working years, usually until you reach age 65. Policies vary considerably in terms of the cost of premiums, the percentage of your prior salary paid out as a benefit and the definition of what constitutes a disability.

Long-term care insurance is designed to help cover costs of health care services provided to you in your home, a nursing home, a rehabilitation center, or an assisted living facility. Many long-term care insurance policies provide benefits when you require assistance with activities of daily living such as bathing, dressing, and feeding yourself. Loss of wages typically is not an issue with this type of coverage.

Long-term care insurance can be purchased at any time in your life. However, premiums tend to rise considerably with age and applicants can be turned down due to pre-existing medical conditions. Although individuals of any age may receive benefits from a long-term care insurance policy, these policies typically are intended to help finance the medical costs of the aged.

Why do many financial experts recommend their clients purchase both disability and long-term care insurance?

•    According to the Social Security Administration, a 20-something worker today has a 30% chance of becoming seriously disabled before reaching retirement.1
•    The average daily charge for a semi-private room at a nursing home is $207. The average monthly charge for care in an assisted living facility is $3,450. 2

If you’d like to know more about disability and long-term care insurance, or if you want to discuss other financial planning matters, please don’t hesitate to contact us or visit our website at http://www.ydfs.com. We are a fee-only fiduciary financial planning firm that always puts your interests first.

Sources:
1 Social Security Administration.
2 Genworth, 2013 Cost of Care Survey, March 2013.

Should You Consider a Health Savings Account?

As health care costs continue to rise, consumers must find ways to ensure that they have the funds to pay for medical expenses not covered through their insurance. One way to save specifically for health care costs is to fund a health savings account, or HSA.

HSAs are tax-advantaged savings accounts set up in conjunction with high-deductible health insurance policies. Enrollees or their employers make tax-free (pre-tax) contributions to an HSA and typically use the funds to pay for qualified medical care until they reach their policy’s deductible. The contribution made to the health savings plan is made in addition to your health insurance premium.

HSAs are not for everyone, and it is important to understand how they work before considering them to help fund health care costs.

Understanding HSAs

You are eligible for an HSA if you meet all four of the following qualifying criteria:

  1. You are enrolled in a qualified high-deductible health insurance plan (known as an “HDHP”).
  2. You are not covered by any additional health plan(s).
  3. You are not eligible for Medicare benefits.
  4. You are not a dependent of another person for tax purposes.

HSAs are generally available through insurance companies that offer HDHPs. Many employer-sponsored health care plans also offer HSA options. Although most major insurance companies and large employers now offer an HSA option under their health plan, it’s important to remember that most health insurance policies are not considered HSA-qualified HDHPs, so you should check with your insurance company or employer to see how an HSA plan might differ from your current plan.

There are maximum contribution limits that are adjusted annually. Contributions are made on a before-tax basis, meaning they reduce your taxable income. Note that unlike IRAs and certain other tax-deferred investment vehicles, no income limits apply to HSAs.

HSAs offer investment options that differ from plan to plan, depending upon the provider, and allow users to carry account balances over from year to year. Earnings on HSAs are not subject to income taxes.

Any medical, dental, or ordinary health care expense that would qualify as a tax-deductible item under IRS rules can be covered by an HSA. A doctor’s bill, dental procedure, and most prescriptions are examples of covered items. See IRS Publication 502 for a definitive guide of covered costs. If funds are withdrawn for any purposes other than qualifying health care expenses, you will be required to pay ordinary income taxes on amounts withdrawn plus a 10% additional federal tax.

Here are some pros and cons of this product.

Pros

  • HSAs offer a significant annual tax deduction, making them particularly appealing to individuals in higher tax brackets.
  • Withdrawals for qualifying health care costs (including long-term care insurance) are tax free.
  • Investment income in HSAs also accumulates tax free.

Cons

  • Since HSAs must be tied to HDHPs, their ultimate savings must be weighed against how such plans stack up against more traditional plans, which may offer significantly better coverage.
  • HSAs may not offer the flexibility and portability that today’s mobile American family requires, especially given that health plan offerings differ significantly from employer to employer, and many smaller institutions have yet to offer an HSA option.
  • For more information on HSAs, see the U.S. Treasury’s Health Savings Account resource page.

If you have any questions about Health Savings Accounts or any other financial planning matters, please don’t hesitate to contact us or visit http://www.ydfs.com

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