Friday, November 21, 2014

The Effects of Obamacare and What has Changed

When the Affordable Care Act, more popularly known as Obamacare, was passed in Congress, many thought the problems of a large uninsured portion of the population would be solved. Unfortunately, theory does not always translate into practice. Although more people today are insured, problems with reimbursement rates and disgruntled citizens who refuse to apply, still present obstacles for doctors and hospitals. 

More people are insured, which means less people in emergency rooms

Before, many would simply wait until they were too sick to work, and then go to the ER. Unfortunately, that usually meant they would end up being hospitalized. But Dr. Ira Potter, who practices in one of the poorest regions of Kentucky, told the Louisville Courier-Journal that now his low-income patients are receiving subsidies for insurance, or have been moved to Medicaid. With help from the government, he said, they can now afford to pay for a physician.

Reimbursements are low—meaning many doctors won’t take Obamacare

Dr. Bob Russo, radiologist and president of the Connecticut State Medical Society, told National Public Radio that low rates and administrative headaches that come along with the program could make it a “financial loser”. He pointed out that if doctors can’t be convinced that they're not losing money doing their job, there will be problems. “And they haven't been able to convince people of that," he said.

The problem is not just in Connecticut; numerous companies have cut their reimbursement rates for plans that fall under Obamacare. When Blue Shield of California was designing the new health plans it would offer under Obamacare, the insurer asked doctors and hospitals in its network to accept rates as much as 30 percent lower than what it previously paid.

Only 60 percent of the doctors and 75 of the hospitals that participate in the Blue Shield of California’s group plans chose to participate in plans purchased through the state’s insurance exchange. Some of the state’s most prestigious hospitals, including Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles and University of California medical centers, dropped out altogether.

Hospital charity care is being tied to Obamacare signups

To a number of people, Obamacare carries a whiff of socialism. The end result is that for many hospitals in rural areas, many will still go uninsured and risk getting sick despite the fact that they would be eligible for insurance coverage. William Parsons, 40, told a reporter that he has no health insurance and doesn't intend to apply. "Goin' to the doctor just isn't something I like to do. ... No good comes of going."

Parsons is not an exception. Many hospitals are now reevaluating their charity care policies and demanding that those who would normally be eligible at least attempt to sign up for subsidized insurance. According to a high risk pregnancy specialist, Dr. Gilbert Webb, even insurance for one time procedures like pregnancies are affected. As an example, Southern New Hampshire Medical Center in Nashua now states that applicants who do not purchase federally-mandated health insurance when they are eligible to do so will not receive charitable care.

Katherine Arbuckle, senior vice president and chief financial officer at Ascension Health based in St. Louis, told the Washington Post that the question is whether a patient can pay or simply doesn’t want to. “How do you treat those who decline [coverage]? Do they get free services when others have paid?” she asked.

In reality, Obamacare is still in the shakedown phase. In order to ensure that the program is as effective as possible, it needs to be tweaked in certain areas in order to ensure that the most vulnerable populations are covered. Combined with better education about the program, Obamacare should prove to be more successful in years to come.

Information Credit: Vitals

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

First Time Financing: Real Estate Tips for Finding a Home

Very few purchases are as large and important as that of a home, and the first time you go through the financing process you'll be introduced to a variety of essential lending concepts. Gaining equity through home ownership is an essential way of building a healthy financial portfolio, and home ownership is also an emotionally rewarding experience. Consider the following tips when starting your search for your new home.

Search Tips for Your First Home

Finding a house to buy is quite a different search from finding apartments to rent, and you'll need to consider a wide array of amenities when searching for your first home. One of the most important differences is calculating how much of a mortgage payment you could handle with a home versus how much rent you could pay for an apartment.
You'll need to list your debts and income to determine the maximum payment you could afford while paying a mortgage. Most financial experts suggest paying no more than one-third of your income on rent, but that number may change for a mortgage. Remember that home ownership comes with costs that include:
  • Home owner's association (HOA) fees
  • Landscaping costs 
  • Mortgage insurance 
  • Property taxes 
  • Utilities 
  • Yearly maintenance
You'll need to add these additional costs into your estimated mortgage payment to get the most accurate picture of how much mortgage you can afford. Home ownership comes with some distinct benefits, but it's also a significant financial commitment.

Getting Financing Early in the Search

Getting a feel for the different types of homes available in the area you'd like to live takes time, and it's fine to perform some early searches before you're absolutely ready to start the search. However, once you're serious about buying a new home, your number one priority is obtaining financing.

Two terms you'll need to learn include "prequalified" and "preapproved". Each is useful, but only one will help you when it comes to making an offer on a new home. Getting prequalified is pretty simple, and all it takes is giving a bank your basic financial information to get an idea of how much mortgage you can afford. It's a helpful number, but it won't help you land the home of your dreams.

Preapproval, on the other hand, is a process that requires much more information be given to the bank in order to see if you have the creditworthiness to get mortgage approval. The reason getting preapproved is so important is because sellers like to see that you're serious about buying a home. Preapproval tells then that you're looking to buy and aren't just window shopping for a new home.

Preparing Financially and Domestically

Saving the down payment and making sure you have enough income to sustain a mortgage payment is important for buying a home. However, it's also important that you have savings above and beyond your down payment. Wall2Wall Media suggests you might want to have some domestic tasks taken care of like buying furniture and appliances for your new home first.

The reason you need some savings above and beyond what you'll spend to obtain your mortgage, is because there are always little things that go wrong or unexpected purchases that come along with buying a home. As long as you have a modest amount of savings to cover those costs, you won't have to deal with costly credit cards or loans to cover those last-minute expenses.

Additionally, purchasing essential appliances like a washer and dryer and the refrigerator in advance of your move-in date should help you avoid having to shop for these items at the last minute when it might be tempting to buy them with a credit card or make a hasty purchase without shopping around first.

The name of the game in getting financing for a home is preparing well in advance for each step. Don't rush into the process, and you'll be sure to get the home of your dreams, or that Apartment for rent in Liberty Village before you know it.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Is Freezing Your Credit a Good Idea?

Your credit might be in danger. In fact, technology has created countless ways in which hackers and thieves steal identities and wreak financial havoc on innocent victims. Most people protect themselves by having some form of protection as part of their account.

However, many people choose to freeze their credit as an additional security measure against identity theft. But is freezing your credit a good idea?

There are pros and cons to freezing your credit and understanding the requirements in freezing it will help you decide if it’s the right choice for you.

Why Freeze Your Credit?

A credit freeze has traditionally been offered to account holders who’ve experienced some forum of identify theft of fraud. Recently, the practice has become popular among those who just want to protect themselves in advance.

By freezing your credit, you put your credit report on hold and prevent anyone from gaining access to your credit score or financial history. In fact, not even you can access it without following specific procedures to unfreeze it.

A credit freeze fully protects your reports from access to anyone. Credit inquiries that are commonly performed for loans, purchases, and accounts are also locked out when your credit is frozen.

Benefits of a Freeze

But why would you want to fully lock down your credit? Quite simply, it’s the most secure way to safeguard your credit from financial hackers. It prevents would-be thieves from accessing the most valuable information you have about your money.

If you use a service that monitors your credit, chances are you’ll only find out that you’ve been a victim of identity theft after it’s already occurred. However, by freezing your credit, you proactively prevent any attack on your finances.

What to Watch Out For

Freezing your credit also has some drawbacks that you should consider. It can be an inconvenient way to protect your credit given the difficulty of allowing anyone to access your credit.

So if you want to apply for a loan, rental, or make any purchase that requires a credit check, you’ll have to plan in advance in order to allow the lenders access.

This also requires you to go through specific procedures, which can take time and cost money. There is a fee involved in unlocking your credit, as well as the need to provide a special pin number that you’ve established beforehand.

The cost of unfreezing your credit will vary depending on your local requirements. Different lenders use specific credit bureaus. You may need to unlock your credit with all of them if a lender requires it.

However, if you’re freezing your credit with a help of a mortgage broker due to identify theft, then the fees will not be required. In all other cases, you will likely need to pay for any changes to the status of your credit freeze.

Most people aren’t aware of the frequency with which lenders and other parties perform credit inquires. So make sure that you understand which ones do, in order to prevent the inconvenience and cost of freezing your credit repeatedly.

The following are just some examples of when someone might require access to credit:

  • Mortgage
  • Insurance
  • Credit
  • Loan
  • Job application
  • Cell phone service
  • Home utilities
  • Online transactions

In order to protect your credit from identity thieves, there’s no better way than freezing it. It prevents access to your credit score and protects your most valuable information.

Although there are some drawbacks with respect to the fees and inconvenience of freezing your credit, the benefits can outweigh them with the full protection it provides and the peace of mind you’ll have around your personal finances.

Venetia Rose has been a freelance writer and blogger. She loves to share and keep herself updated with the latest tips in mortgage and financial consulting. Her interests are cooking, photography, craft and painting. Follow her on Face book

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Six Signs You Need To Modify Your Current Budget

It takes a special discipline to be able to start and keep a budget. Setting aside money for a 401(k) plan, groceries, bills and allowances can be a drag, especially if there's no money left after the essentials. But before loose spending can even be worth talking about, make sure the current budget is realistic for everyday needs.

Never enough money for groceries

If you're buying high-priced foods, such as frozen prepared meals, this will eat into money quickly. Instead of grabbing a frozen lasagna meal, buy tomatoes, pasta noodles, spices, cheese and other necessary ingredients. While you may only need about half of these items to make an entire pan of lasagna, the rest will be left over for other meals. Keep this spending habit in mind for any frozen dishes. Make the meals yourself, and freeze what's left to save on groceries. 

Can't afford to fill up the car gas tank

There's a minimal amount that you can do about toll fees and regular auto maintenance, but there is something to be done about gas-spending prices. Use smartphone apps, such as Gas Buddy, to keep track of which gas stations have the best prices for your car. There's no need to drive several neighborhoods over to purchase gas, but at least do comparison pricing to find the best prices in the area. Also, check auto websites for coupons, such as money off on oil changes, tune-ups and for spending a certain amount on larger chargers.

No money for smaller bills because of larger bills

Maybe paying a lump sum for rent all at once will eat into expenses for the next two weeks. Try setting aside half of the money for rent or a mortgage for one pay period and the other half when it's due. This way you have a better opportunity to avoid late fees and other everyday living expenses that are short-changed because of bigger bills.

High electricity bills

Some electricity programs, such as the Multi-Family Home Energy Savings Program, are providing real estate companies with supplies for a more eco-friendly home. Make sure your landlord is doing the same for apartment dwellers. Using eco-friendly equipment like compact fluorescent light bulbs or CFLs may cut down on electricity bills and payments to replace supplies that would last far more hours or even years. 

Short on allowance money for kids

There are plenty of chores for children to do around the house, but if the issue is having the money to spare from your budget then reach out to friends. Teenagers usually need more money, especially around graduation and senior prom time. Ask friends if they need extra help around their offices. Consider after-school programs or summer jobs to help kids learn about expenses. The more they learn about how money works, the more they'll respect you trying to spend wisely.

Higher bills for credit cards

Depending on the credit card, even one late payment can modify the monthly rates. If you're spending more than you're paying, it's time to cut up the credit card. Initially it may be difficult to do so because credit cards come in handy when a wallet is empty and a checkbook has a zero balance. But if the balance continues to get higher and you're late on payments, it's time to reconsider.

Creating a budget is much easier than staying on budget. Avoid throwing out unrealistic numbers that you know you'll never meet, at least on your current salary. But if you set a monetary amount for a budget, stick to it. When you've got that down, then it's time to use these ways and others to figure out how to stay within that budget. Over time it'll become second nature even if it's initially an annoyance. Be sure to talk to financial professionals if you don't know where to start or are in too much debt right now.

Informational credit to A C Waring and Associates Inc.

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