Archive for January 2012

Ways to Save Money on Health Insurance

Urrg! The rising cost of health care and health insurance is distressing and aggravating, to put it mildly. In November, I received notice that my health insurance premiums are going up. As of January 1  they are increasing a whopping 24% – that’s an increase of $198.44 per month!!  Yes, per month, bringing my yearly premium total to $12,279.72. I guess this was an early “Happy New Year” greeting.

I am not currently employed, do not seem to qualify to join a “group” for group rates, and I do not yet qualify for Medicare (and I’m not sure if I actually will qualify for it when I do reach the qualifying age), which means I either go without insurance, or I carry private independent insurance. So once again, I need to do some thorough investigating to compare the dozens of policies and options.

I know there are thousands of others out there facing similar situations. Here are some options that might be helpful when looking for resources to save on, or secure, general medical health insurance:

Resources for finding “Group” Medical Insurance coverage:

If you are not employed by an organization or business that provides “group” insurance, you still may be able to become a member of a group, organization or union and receive insurance coverage at better rates than if you are being covered as an individual, with the added potential benefit of more leniency on issues like pre-existing conditions. Consider anything and everything, from organizations like AARP to whatever your hobby might be, as potential to finding a “group” to join. Do online searches to see if any may be offering health insurance. Try using search terms like:

  • “Boat Owners of America” medical insurance group benefits (insert your own term, hobby, fraternity, profession, etc.. between the “….”).
  • Group medical insurance coverage
  • Where to find group health insurance coverage “insert your state”

Here are just a few groups we found who do offer health insurance coverage to anyone who qualifies for membership in their group:

Additional ideas for example:

  • Alumni Associations
  • Local Chambers of Commerce
  • The Elks Club
  • A sport enthusiasts club or league
  • Previous military service
  • Trade association
  • Craft guild
  • Religious organizations
  • Educational organizations
  • Ethnic organizations

Insurance “Alternatives”

Group Health Expenses Sharing Plan: This is not insurance but works in a similar way. A group of people pool their money together and pay each other’s health expenses. They sort of become their own insurance company. The member contributions are pooled together and usually invested in order to accrue interest on the pooled funds. These work best when there are a lot of people contributing and everyone only uses the money for major medical expenses. Many religious groups have used this model, like mychristiancare.org’s Medi-Share. If you are considering this as an option, choose a group that has been around for a long time with a good track record.

Clubs: Here’s one example of an insurance club: The No Insurance Club which offers a no-frills option to health insurance for people who want basic, preventative health care. It launched in 2009 and is now available in 12 states. Annual fees: $480 for an individual membership, and $680 for family membership, no matter what the size of the family. For that yearly fee, individual members receive 12 doctor visits, families receive 16 visits, services such as flu shots, discount generic prescriptions, physical exams, blood tests, and other preventive testing. There are no co-pays for doctor visits,  no physical is required before enrolling, and there are no exclusions for pre-existing conditions.

It is important to note however, that the No Insurance Club does not cover emergency room visits, catastrophic illnesses, hospitalizations, visits to specialists, surgery, brand name prescriptions, and rehabilitation, among other services. But for some people who cannot afford the high premiums of most health insurance plans on the market, but who believe they will utilize the services offered by the Club, this may be an option – if even temporarily. This may also be a good option for those who only have major or catastrophic medical insurance policy coverage to be able to receive general care at reasonable rates.

Two other similar, though not identical, medical discount clubs are AmeriPlan.com and Careington.com.

Amend your current insurance policy: Carrying a higher deductible or limiting your coverage to major, catastrophic, or emergency-only coverage are ways to keep your insurance premium rates lower.  The higher the deductible, the lower your monthly premium will be, but you will also pay more out of pocket when you do go to the doctor or hospital. If you elect to do this, you should consider creating a health savings account for smaller health issues.

Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP): Don’t automatically think that since you have a job you won’t qualify for Medicaid. Medicaid will pay health care expenses for low-income families, individuals, and children. Eligibility requirements differ from state to state. It costs you nothing to see if you or your children qualify for Medicaid so check that first before moving on to other options.

Medicare: Medicare is provided by the U.S. government and administered by the Social Security Administration. If you are 65 years old or older, or under 65 years old and disabled,  you might qualify for Medicare. You may also qualify if you are getting Social Security disability benefits.

Look Ahead: In 2014, Direct Primary Care practices will be allowed to compete within state-based insurance exchanges. By eliminating insurance companies from the health care equation, these practices promise to lower the cost of medical care by up to 40 percent. You pay every month whether you go or not, go as often and whenever you want. They accept no insurance, there are no deductibles, there is no paperwork and no bill. The cost? $50 – $150 per month. This would also be a good option to combine with a catastrophic or major medical only insurance policy.

Additional information from experts on more ways to save on health insurance in these videos: 

More health savings ideas:

  • Ways to Cut Everyday Health Care Costs –  An SLTV blog post giving ways to reduce your everyday health care costs, without compromising quality on everything from dental floss to prescription eye care.
Link to this article: http://is.gd/oIYG1m

 

Ways to Cut Everyday Health Care Costs

I know I am not alone in feeling a little panic when facing the skyrocketing costs of health care in the U.S. on everything from an aspirin to surgery to insurance premiums. It seems everyone is looking for ways to combat the rising cost of medical care.

Here are a few pointers and resources with tips that may help reduce your everyday health care costs, without compromising quality:

Always ask. Ask your doctor, hospital, lab, pharmacy, etc. if there is anything they might suggest that would lower the cost of treatment. You’d be surprised at what they might be able to do for you.

  • Ask if discounts are offered to members of groups like AAA, AARP, veterans, government employees, professional or trade unions, or any any other organization or profession you can think of which may qualify you for an affiliated discount, don’t be afraid to ask!
    • Prescription Drug Discount with AAA – This short video explains the AAA prescription drug discount program. But additionally, AAA members also may receive 15 % discount on nutritional products at GNC stores, reduced membership fees at Gold’s Gym and 30% off on regularly priced items at Reebok Outlet Stores.
  • Ask your physician if generic medicines would work for you.
  • Many pharmacies have a list of flat rate $4 or $5 generic prescription medicines available. Ask at the pharmacy for a list of those medications and bring that list to your doctors. Ask your doctors if they might be able to prescribe medications for you from those on the list.
  • Ask your pharmacist if there might be other prescription options that would cost less, and if so, they can call your doctors for approval.

Your county may be providing free prescription Rx discounts cards.

Shop around. Pharmacies vary on the prices they charge for prescription medications just as they do for everything else on their shelves, so shop around to find the lowest prices. Don’t overlook “big box” stores and membership discount stores like Costco and Sam’s Club for rock-bottom prices, on prescriptions and eye care. The price of membership may end up being worth the savings offered.

Keep a look out for free samples and ASK for free samples, from your physician and pharmacy, not only for prescriptions but on a variety of drug store items, too. In addition to asking, there are many websites like our partner,  ShopAtHome.com, that offer special promotions, discounts, giveaways, free shipping, and free samples – for in-store and online shopping.

Use coupons and loyalty programs, and combine the discounts you receive from those with store promotions or sales whenever possible.

  • Coupon Stacking Explained – How coupon stacking works, how easy it is, and a simple tip that adds up to big savings at the cash register from Julia Scott, CEO, BargainBabe.com

Amazon has a “subscribe and save” service that can help cut the cost of anything you buy on a regular interval and offers free shipping with sign up, which can often bring down the cost of regularly used items, like razor blades, toothpaste and tooth brushes, and shampoo at prices well below many big-box discount stores.

Opt for longer lasting items. When you shop for sundries, opt for the items that will last longer, like toothpaste from a tube instead of a pump, or bar soap instead of liquid.

Use less and use it all up. You may be using far more than you need to. Advertisements show us toothbrushes loaded with toothpaste, and luscious streaming waterfalls of shampoo, conditioners, and lotions, but in reality, most often all that is required is a tiny dab. Cut open the tubes when you think they are empty, you’ll be surprised at how much is actually left.

Consider a little do-it-yourself. Several renowned beauty experts have all relied on natural items that you probably already have on hand in your kitchen to achieve the same, if not better, beautiful results as expensive cosmetic treatments, lotions, scrubs, moisturizers, hair conditioners, teeth brighteners, and bath spas. And there are several at-home products that may be effective in treating minor itches and sunburns, too.

Eyeglasses: Register for email notifications from websites like Coastal.com, to receive notice of their deeply discounted sale promotions, as well as their free eyeglass events. An example of a recent sale: 11 eyeglass styles for $11 each. You can even “try on” eyeglass frames online!  I have personally ordered contact lenses from them and was very pleased with their service.

AAA members may receive 30% discounts on eyeglasses, and 10% discounts on contact lenses at Lenscrafters, Pearle Vision, Sears Optical and Target Optical.

Consider Bartering –  Bartering is once again emerging as a popular viable option for receiving goods and services, and many medical practices are participating. There are several online bartering sites where you “bank” your skill and/or time for points, and then “swap” your points for medical services.

  • Time Swap – The New BarterConsumer advocate Stacy Johnson from MoneyTalksNews.com explains one online bartering site in this video.
  • Bartering for Health Care – The story of one medical center in Maine that is participating in a barter bank to help make health care more accessible.

Here, from one of our favorite resources, Bottom Line Personal newsletter, from their interview with Clark Howard, host of The Clark Howard Show on CNN’s HLN network.(Volume 32, Number 21, November, 1, 2011), are tips for those not covered by health insurance to receive lower prices on services, prescription medications and eyeglasses:

  • Get health-care providers and pharmacies to bid for your business online. If you requrie a medical, dental or vision procedure that is not covered by your insurance, enter it into the free website PriceDoc.com (registration required). Health-care professionals offer lower-than-normal prices through this site to bring in new clients.  This site tends to be most useful for finding low prices for dental and cosmetic procedures. It’s sometimes possible to obtain discounts of 25% to 30% or more.
  • For prescription medications, check out the free website BidRx.com (registration required). Enter your prescription medications into their site, and pharmacies will offer your their lowest prices. Only reputable U.S. pharmacies are allowed to participate.  If you cannot wait for a medication to arrive by mail, the site can restrict the search to local pharmacies.  Savings of as much as 50% are possible.
  • An online site for eyeglasses at very low prices is Zenni Optical. They offer prescription eyeglasses online for less than $20 — lenses, frames and shipping included. Eyeglasses with special features such as lenses can cost $50 or more. The lenses are ground in China and theframes are not brand names, but the product is good quality. You can upload a picture of yourself to the site and “try on” frames. One downside is there is no post-purchase care or adjustments. You’ll have to bring them to a local optician to adjust fitting issues.  To help ensure a proper fit, make sure your eye doctor checks and records on your prescription your pupillary distance (PD) — the distance between the centers of your pupils.

More from experts on health care savings:

Link to this article: http://is.gd/OkoEmn


Is a Debt Relief Service For You?

More than ever, people are feeling money-crunched. The holiday season brings additional challenges and stress, and the new year traditionally is a time to re-examine one’s financial situation and debts. Many people are, for the first time, facing difficulties in critical areas such as managing loan payments and dealing with home foreclosures and bankruptcy. A growing number of people are seeking professional help in navigating the management of their credit and debt. The decision to enter into a debt relief program can be a stressful one in itself. How do you decide if a debt relief program is the right solution for you? How do you decide where to go?

If you have been gathering advice and sifting through personal finance educational material, you know there are more points of view and theories on growing your savings, money-saving and managing credit and debt than one can count. You hear everything from… the ultra-frugal approach to take care of the pennies and the dollars will follow, cut back on everything, bypass that morning cup of coffee purchase, sweat over every penny at every turn, be vigilant with clipping coupons and bargain hunting, and whenever possible do-it-yourself…. to…  those who say forget the pennies; save on the big-ticket items like interest rates and insurance premiums… to.. focus on growing your income… to… recognize your motivations and plan your budget to include goal-related items that you consider to be fulfilling and enjoyable and saving will be practically effortless. How do you know which approach is right?

In addition to the multiple personal finance approaches, there is an onslaught of questions to navigate through, like… which credit cards should I pay off first? Should I act on a zero-interest credit card offer? Should I consolidate my debt? Close credit accounts? Re-finance my loan? How do I effectively negotiate with my debtors and get my credit rating back in good standing? What are the differences between the various debt relief options? What are the right answers?

The truth is, what will work for you is relative to your particular situation and your abilities at any given time. So, how do you know which answer is best for you, now?

The internet, television, radio, magazines and newspapers are full of resources that provide answers; advice is everywhere – including here. SpendLessTV.com has an inventory full of helpful videos with pointers from experts that address dozens of personal finance and budgeting questions. You may be able to tackle debt management and negotiation yourself. Many people have been able to achieve this. But, perhaps you have been utilizing the many available resources in an effort to self-manage your debt, and still you feel unsettled. How do you decide if the time is right to enroll in a debt relief program?

If you answer “yes” to the following questions, a debt relief program may be for you:

  • Is all the information you’ve gathered starting to seem contradictory?
  • Do you feel the need for more clarity and direction?
  • Even after trying, are you still living paycheck to paycheck?
  • Have your savings dwindled?
  • Are you feeling overwhelmed?
  • Do you feel an urgent need for immediate assistance?

Should you determine that the time is right to consider a program, how do you choose where to go and who to listen to?

Here is important information from the U.S. Federal Trade Commission that you can use to help you evaluate and choose a debt relief counseling service:

  • Check with the Better Business Bureau to see if the organization you are considering is positively rated or if there is a history of complaint against it.
  • Are they willing to provide informative insights and educational material up front, at no charge?
  • Are they willing to answer questions and discuss your personal situation with you, disclose what they might or might not be able to do for you, before you enroll?
  • Are they available in person or by phone, as well as online?
  • What services do they offer? Do they offer ongoing support?
  • What are the qualifications of their counselors? Are they accredited or certified? By whom? If not, how were they trained?
  • What are their fees?
  • How are their employees compensated? Are they paid more if you sign up? If so, consider this a red flag and look elsewhere.
  • How can you be assured your private information will be kept confidential and secure?
  • Read everything, and ask questions before signing anything or enrolling… even online.
  • More tips on selecting a credit or debt relief service at Federal Trade Commission.

There are many qualified and reputable debt relief agencies out there. While we cannot provide input on every one, we would like to draw your attention to one group we feel clearly meets this FTC criteria and more, CareOne Debt Relief. CareOne Debt Relief Services have helped over 5 million people, providing resources to help customers be financially fit. SpendLessTV.com often makes use of the CareOne Debt Relief’s easily accessible and valuable educational online resources.  Their budging tools, articles, forums and blog posts are free to everyone and require no sign-up to access. We’ve gained a lot of knowledge from reading their blog posts (which we share here from time to time), and we are impressed that their founder, Bernie Dancel, their own counselors, and many of their clients readily share their own personal stories of both the challenges and successes they’ve experienced in managing debt. Here are a few blog posts offered by CareOne Debt Relief which you may find helpful:

With any financial resource you work with, monitoring your account, staying up-to-date on the progress, and making sure any of your concerns are addressed as quickly as possible remains your responsibility. It’s important to stay in touch and stay connected with whatever resource you choose.

As with any challenge, the key is to take the first step. And in the case of searching for a debt relief program, that first step is just a simple online inquiry or phone call. If you are considering a professional debt counseling service, shop around and ask questions to find a program that you feel comfortable with, and step-by-step, you will succeed.

Link to this article:  http://is.gd/iFUPI6

We only recommend brands we respect, and we are proud to be a compensated affiliate of the CareOne brand of debt relief services.

The Top Ten Money Saving Videos of 2011 on SpendLessTV.com

The Top Ten Money Saving Videos of 2011 on SpendLessTV.com

Another year has passed, and we’re once again pleased that we were able to bring you helpful content from so many clever and wise money-savers from around the world who are committed to helping others achieve personal financial success, and we appreciate their willingness to share their knowledge and videos.

We also give a very special shout of appreciation to all the contributors in our Originals Channel, who generously gave their skill, time, and their professional wisdom in creating videos exclusively for SpendLessTV.com viewers. It just so happens that, with the exception of only one, the remarkable Steve Martin, the Originals contributors comprise the top ten most viewed videos this year, they are: Daniel DelaneyThe DolansMarie ForleoGarrett B. GundersonRyan LeeAlexis NeelyJoe Polish, Ramit SethiSean Stephenson, and Gary Vaynerchuk.

Here is the SpendLessTV.com List of  The Top Ten Money Saving Videos of 2011:

10. Street Food Smart – Daniel Delaney (an SLTV Original)

Vendor street food: to taste or not to taste? Curbside cuisine expert Daniel Delaney shares his wisdom on how to get the most for your vendor buck.

9. How to Avoid Money Panic – Sean Stephenson & Garrett B. Gunderson (an SLTV Original)

Therapist Sean Stephenson and personal finance advisor Garrett B. Gunderson discuss an approach that helps to reduce feelings of money panic, and increase your ability to actually grow your wealth and savings, and be more productive even during stressful times.

8. Cost Effective Marketing for Small Business – Joe Polish (an SLTV Original)

President of Piranha Marketing, Joe Polish, reveals three invaluable top techniques to market your business more effectively, efficiently, and do it without spending a fortune.

7. Avoid These 8 Retirement Mistakes! – The Dolans, Ken and Daria (an SLTV Original)

Trusted personal finance advisors Ken and Daria Dolan give straight talk – great for all age groups – about saving money, planning for retirement, 401-k’s, and how to avoid costly retirement investment mistakes.

6. Money Myth: Cut Back on Everything! – Ramit Sethi (an SLTV Original)

Part of an SLTV Original series of three money myth-busting tips from personal finance author Ramit Sethi. Ramit chimes in on the idea that to save money, you should just cut back on everything… well maybe not…

5. Money Myth: Spend Less Than You Earn – Ramit Sethi (an SLTV Original)

Another in the SLTV Original series of three money myth-busting tips from author of I Will Teach You To Be Rich, Ramit Sethi. Here Ramit gives his take on the idea that to grow your savings, just spend less than you earn… or…

4. Maintain a Mindset of Abundance – Marie Forleo  (an SLTV Original)

Best-selling author, speaker and one of the most diversely successful entrepreneurs today, Marie Forleo, shares 3 easy things you can do to feel abundant, attract success, avoid money stress and feel great about your potential.

3. Steve Martin, SNL – Don’t Buy Stuff You Can’t Afford – Steve Martin on SNL

A comedy classic: Saturday Night Live features Steve Martin and Amy Poehler, a couple needing personal finance budgeting help, which they find with Chris Parnell’s unique approach to debt and money-management.

2. Money Myth: Willpower – Ramit Sethi (an SLTV Original)

A part of the three-part series on growing your wealth from personal finance author and blogger Ramit Sethi. In this clip, Ramit claims that the idea of personal finance success being about more and more willpower may not necessarily be so.

1. Be a Customer Who Gets What You Want! – Gary Vaynerchuk (an SLTV Original)

Entrepreneur, speaker, author, and co-founder of Vayner Media, Gary Vaynerchuk, discusses the Thank You Economy: how customers have more power than ever and how being an engaged consumer gets you more of what you want from brands: better service, prices and experiences.

Moe you’ll like:

Link to this article: http://is.gd/nvCg3S