Last year when I wrote about our Health Care issues,  I was seriously wondering what we (my husband and I) would do.  I had no idea that there was a way we could and would be able to pay for the health care under the new and revised plans available through the government marketplace.  Our  company premiums were prohibitive since the change and the coverages were not any better.  So we had no choice but to cancel our company policy and no longer provide health care to our employees.

But, in the end, we may be the only people you know of who are benefiting from the health care reform.  HEALTH2And for those who think no one has benefited, I will relate our story.

As I might have mentioned previously (Original Post) for the last 29 years we provided 100% healthcare to our employees, everyone qualified and everyone received it at “no cost” to them. Our company paid all of the premium. Not one employee had to pay one cent for their coverage and we always got the best plan we could afford to cover them. 

As the years rolled on, the economy tanked, our employee numbers tumbled, our average age increased, and our premiums increased  — we were only able to keep them in check by lessening the coverages overall, for everyone.  We got to the point we had $2500 deductibles, and that meant every cent of the first $2500 had to be paid before you were able to even do a co pay or have some help with your tests or medications.  It wasn’t ideal, it was the only way we could still provide 100% coverage without asking for a contribution from the employees.  None of my employees ever complained about their coverage, even though many of them went from amazingly great coverage to simply adequate coverage over the years.

So the decision was made and the company plan was cancelled.  Leaving everyone to fend for themselves.

My husband and I used the government marketplace to find a plan and also check to see if we were eligible for a subsidy.  We were!  We now both have coverage (because of our subsidy) that costs us a lot less than our coverage with the company plan.  The coverage we were able to obtain has a LOW deductible, LOW out of pocket costs, and pays for many standard things with 0% copay as long as you stay in network.   We might never had even had a plan this good in all the years of having a company plan — and our out of pocket costs are lots less than before.

I almost hesitated signing up.  I mean it was “too good to be true” and you know you should always be careful if something works out that way.  But we are now into that new coverage, I have had to use it and it has been amazing. 

If I told you the amount we have to pay – you too would be amazed!   The amount you pay and the plans you are offered are affected by many factors. The state and the county you live in, the amount of money you make, your ages and other factors all play into what type of subsidy you might get (not everyone qualifies).  We happen to hit the sweet spot in all the categories.  We are still not planning on making many Dr. visits this year — but at least we know – if we need to, we can afford to get just about anything done we need — as long as we make sure we stay in network. 

If you are out there wondering if you would benefit from this … there are rules and qualifications.  We had to cancel our company plan before we could even look into this as an alternative for us.  So if you have a plan available to you, even though you have to contribute to it, you won’t qualify.   If you make too much money, don’t have enough of an offset with dependents, etc. as well as other issues not mentioned here —  all of those things can affect your results…..  but if you don’t have a plan, you shouldn’t hesitate to go check out your options.  You can do it on the government website without actually signing up — there are several “estimators” you can use to check what might be available to you.  And don’t forget to check to see if you qualify for a subsidy — for us it really worked out!

Disclosure: I was not paid by anyone to write this article. The information contained here reflects our personal experience and does not presume to know or be able to advise you on yours.



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Our first blow was that our health care provider (the one we have for our company) sent us a letter saying they would keep the company insured, if instead of continuing in our current policy,  we renewed “early” at only a 4.76% increase in premium.

Our current policy won’t be renewed when it expires next year (because it likely doesn’t comply with the government minimum requirements)  and they wanted us to be on a calendar year, instead of a fiscal one.  They also stated everyone would lose all the dollars they have spent towards their deductibles this year and would have to start over at zero.  To their credit, I do believe that the increase was to cover the government mandated minimums my current plan didn’t already contain.

At first I thought the letter was a “you do this by 12/1/13” or you have no insurance, a non-negotiable statement of fact.  However after talking with my insurance agent, I was advised they had to keep us till the expiration date of our contract, but at that time did not need to offer our company another years plan or services – and of course, the premium could go up more than the 4.76%.

So after approximately 29 years of providing 100% free health care for myself and my employees – we are now going to have to all fend for ourselves after our policy end date next year.   As a small business the cost of providing this care – in these economic times -has become a hardship to the business…. and while it was never cheap, it was a benefit I proudly gave every single employee.  That ends early in 2014 when we all will have to sign up with a government sponsored plan.

Blow two – came when my doctors office informed us that they have signed up with what is called a “concierge” program and in order to be a patient of theirs you have to pay $1800.00 per person per year.  Yes, you read that right.  That’s not fees for services – it’s just to be their patient.  You will still have to pay for visits, pay your deductibles and every other fee that you had previously — this is in addition to those fees.  

Obviously, this is a way to insure they have a certain amount of dollars coming in at all times.  There could be a lot of patients who sign up — they say you will get more time with the Dr. and more care, but I don’t think that’s really going to happen.   And quite honestly I was never happy with their care but it’s so darn hard to find a doctor who is even taking new patients that we “settled” with them.  We have been with that practice 8-10 years,  but I am not signing up because “they” as doctors decided they needed to pad their pockets with $1800 from each and every patient who wants to stay with them. 

Since we usually only go to the doctor once a year, for our “previously” free physical and medicine renewals –  my husband and I would in essence be paying $1800/each for that one visit.  Surely you can see how for us, it’s not even close to worth it.  I feel bad for some who are so connected with serious illnesses or problems that they feel they have to pay – but we don’t and won’t.  So as of January 1, 2014 – we have no providing physician either!

Could this be a trend to the future?  It might be.  I guess we all will just have to wait and see.

How have you been affected by the new healtcare regulations?  Are you losing your coverage?



 

For the first time since I was able to vote, I stayed up till 2 AM and watched the election results and the speeches.  And while I had not been involved in the actual political process in this election, I felt invested in the outcome. 

I came from a family who was divided (one parent republican and one democratic).  Each had their own ideas and was outspoken in expressing them.  My mother was a councilwoman.  They always talked  in terms of what “so and so” would do for the people of this country, each candidate having pluses and minuses.  I think in the end, they likely voted right along the party line because back then I think each party had some really good ideas and unique ways of handling things they had planned for their city, state, county, or country. 

This time, I feel that America voted their hearts.  I know I did.  Just this week someone came to my office and was joking with me about voting for Barack Obama —  I wasn’t joking when I said I would be voting for him.  They were seriously appalled, and of course a discussion ensued. I said Mr. Obama is “an evil I know, as opposed to one I don’t”  and meant that I knew where Mr. Obama stood on many issues and didn’t really know where Mr. Romney stood at all.  I told them my vote goes to whom I think will be the best person for the job, not because I am a member of either party.   I said I didn’t trust Mr. Romney because I never saw him clearly outline any plan for this country, just rhetoric about changing, eliminating, and fixing.  That “secrecy” did not sit well with me.  And while I am all for changing, eliminating and fixing — I would have liked him to outline how he planned to do that.  Instead it was more a campaign of persuasion ~  “I’ll fix it, just trust me.”  Lots of people bought that and did decide to cast their vote for him, but I don’t work that way.  You can tell me an investment is good, but I want to see the proof, the trend, the outcome over the last years, and I want to know why you think it’s going to continue on that path. 

In the end, I will always vote for whom I feel is right for this country, whether they be democrat or republican, old or young, white, green or even purple.  I think the republican party let the American people down with their choice of Mr. Romney as the candidate – I think it’s about time they reassess what AMERICA wants, not what they want for America.  It’s the health of this country and the people who call it home that I want them to have as the basis of their agenda.  I sincerely feel that if  Barack Obama didn’t think he could be a good fit for the job, and couldn’t continue to try and fix issues facing America,  he wouldn’t have ran for a second term. 

Congratulations Mr. President – I have high hopes and expectations that you will be able to steer this ship we call America onto a better and more prosperous path in your next four years.

 

I cannot believe that it has been eleven (11) years and 1 month today (10/11/12) since that fateful day when those airplanes hit the twin towers and they eventually crumbled.  It was a day we will always remember — it was the day things changed forever for us in America.

First, I want to say thank you to all the regular men and woman, the first responders, the fire, police and others who without thought for their own safety rushed in immediately to help others.   I also want to thank all the men and woman who put in countless hours after that disaster to help find the lost, and do whatever they could to bring back normalcy in the lives of those affected.  THANK YOU, it was heroic, it was brave, it was American.

BUTTERFLIES AND CHANGES

 

I wish it was a dream that had never really happened.  The loss of life, the loss of security, the destruction of a landmark and the way we’ve moved forward from there to here.  I look back to that fateful day and see that as the day that changed everything.    

The changes didn’t happen overnight, and they aren’t all bad changes, but they wouldn’t have been as necessary nor as wide in scope had there been no disaster on 9-11-2001.  Some of the changes I am talking about include the Homeland Security branch to our government, the curtailing of our individual freedoms and the fact that just “talking about something” or discussing it, even if you are joking can cause you can be accused of being a terrorist. 

Since that date, we have poured our money into overseas deployments to try and curtail additional terrorist attacks.  We did it at a high cost to our own economy.  I am sure those investments saved lives.  But all the costs weren’t totally and fully apparent then.  The war on terrorism is one that is constantly changing and evolving with ever increasing costs which will never go away.  And… they have had a serious and destructive effect on our economy.  

 We lost more freedom after that event that any other in history – and daily more of those freedoms are being snatched from us “for our own good”. I understand that some of these changes really are for the good of all, and have been helpful to stop those who would harm our people, and our country — but some have just gone way too far.   Our individual freedoms have to now take the back seat for the “good of all”.  Things that weren’t even considered, talked about, or used in the past to try and find “terrorists” are now used freely without regard to any of our “basic” freedoms or rights – and done so without apology.  

One of the things I changed was my flying habits since 9-11…. it’s not because I think the plane will blow up, crash or be hijacked – it’s because of the treatment of passengers by the TSA.  I used to like to fly everywhere, anytime I had the opportunity, and took my chances with a disaster of any kind.  Now it’s something I try to avoid at all costs.  It’s just dehumanizing to have to “submit” to the whims, searches, and demands of the TSA.  If I could tell the TSA anything, it would be that I know anyone can be a terrorist but they are the exception, not the rule.

My business has changed along with millions of other small businesses who for lack of sales and disposable income in this economy have had to adapt or close their doors.  The sad part of that is Americans are losing jobs that will never be replaced.  Too many people are working for less than livable wages because they have no choice – they simply must to survive.  The gap between the haves and the have nots has indeed widened – and more people than ever in this country (especially children) go to bed hungry.

I do not mean to comment about if the changes were right, or just.  I am commenting on the state of our country – since “getting and stopping” ~ THEM ~ became the priority of the government  ~~ the lives, needs and desires of the American people had to take a back seat and I am just not sure anything will be able to stop that now.

*I was not paid or compensated in any way for this article, all opinions are 100% mine.

 

Today June 22, 2012 marks the 68th anniversary of the signing of the G.I. Bill of Rights, or technically the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944.   Originally meant only for those who served in times of war, it was adjusted in 1966 to extend benefits to those who serve in times of war or peace.  Since that time there have been other changes but the original intent to help those who serve in our military remains intact.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt made many reforms during his administration, but this one piece of legislation has lasting benefits for anyone who serves this country in our armed forces.

The bill was meant to not only help servicemen and women but also to avoid a relapse into another depression after the end of World War II.   The American Legion, a veteran’s organization was instrumental in forming many of the provisions of the bill.  Truth is, they fought hard to get access to funding for benefits like education, low-interest home and business loans, and the unemployment compensation package included in the bill.

The implementation of the bill opened doors, and helped veterans cope when returning to the US from World War II.  Even today, it still provides aid and help to them and their families in ways that might never have been possible without this bill.

In my opinion the best benefit of the G.I. Bill is the educational one.  I believe that this could be the one which can be the most life transforming.  Before World War II, college was an option for only about 10-15% of Americans but by 1947 veterans made up nearly half of the nation’s college enrollment.  When you have an education (formal or informal), at any cost, you move yourself up to another level.  Your ability to get a job, keep a job, make a living wage and succeed in whatever you chose increase.

The G.I. Bill was one of the major forces that fueled expansion in the U.S. lasting over 30 years.  The impact on America in 50+ years has been enormous.  Over 20 million veterans have taken advantage of the provisions for education, and a whopping 14 million homes were able to be purchased through it’s loans guarantees.

The newest revision of the bill  (signed in 2009) extended benefits to veterans of the war on terrorism, post 9/11, including those who served in Afghanistan and Iraq and their families, reservists and National Guard members.

 

 

 

Wasting Money bothers me.  I am appalled when I see others doing it.  I am of the opinion that one can avoid this if they take the time and effort needed to search out an alternative.   But I am actually a bit angered by it when I see my taxes paying for ridiculous things.  Our government budget never seems to cut out any waste, they just seem to keep adding on crazy expenditures that are a waste of money.

And while I have a short list of a few of the wasteful  ways  below, I also think there are lots of valuable things our government does with their money —  I just can’t think of one right now.

Last time I checked the US Debt Clock,  we were over 15.7 trillion in debt.  Their continuously updating site shows debt of each citizen at $50,090.  So why don’t  we cut some of the waste!  My belief is that each representative wants as many dollars in his district/state as possible any way he can get them?  Let’s face it – it creates jobs, keeps the economy going and  the voters on his side….but ladies and gents, enough is enough!

These are some of the more ridiculous things our government wasted money on (in my opinion) in the past few years.

1) An Internet Dating Study – really?  Somehow they needed to know how Americans use the internet to find love.   I could have told them,  Americans aren’t searching  for actual “LOVE” , they use it for something else ….ahem.  This is where I think they should mind their own business and just butt out. Cost $250,000.

2) Super Bowl Commercial no one really understood.  The Census Bureau sponsored a Super Bowl Ad to the tune of $2.5 million that tanked because it was too ironic to actually be understood by most who watched it.  Duh?

3) Replacing 36 Toilets in Alaska’s Denali National Park – 1.49 million dollars.  They might have needed toilets, I know I’d like one in the if I had to go while at the National Park, but an outhouse with a roll o f TP would have filled my needs.

4) A pedestrian bridge 20 steps from an existing pedestrian bridge in Puget Sound $260,000.  And next year they may build another, after all there might be more pedestrians who want to cross.  I wonder who’s brother in law owns the company that builds those?

5) National Institute of Health spent $55,000 dollars to promote awareness of a vaccine that doesn’t exist.

6) Funding the creation of a video game to the tune of $600,000 – to be called WolfQuest.

7) They funded $120 million for federal retirement benefits to retirees — seems Ok on the surface, until you find out that those retirees are already dead.   AND one retirees’ son collected his father check for 37 years until he also died.   My fix… Spend 1 million to fund new employees to find these kind of system abusers and put the $119 million towards the debt.

8)How about the $3.4 million to create an underground turtle tunnel, or eco-passage, in Lake Jackson, Florida – Really!  Were they endangered turtles or regular ones?  This is money that could have been better spent feeding the hungry in America, but don’t get me started on that.

Is there never going to be an end to this.  I remember when they used to call it pork belly spending.  Spending by any name is spending.  And we need to rein in government spending  NOW!

Other Articles in the Waste Series:
Stopping Waste in Our Home Part 1 ~ Click here
Stopping Waste in Our Home Part 2 ~ Click here‎
Stop Wasting Your Money ~ Click here

All opinions in this post are 100% mine and have not been influenced by anyone.

 

Did you ever get the feeling you might be the only one who cares about honesty, integrity and ethics?  I do. I really believe and always have that there is nothing to replace those characteristics – in business and in my personal life.

As I read the newspapers, watch the TV news, or even scan the headlines online, I see more and more of these values being exchanged for money and power, and occasionally other things.    When did the money and power become the driving force in the universe, and why? Is it because with money and power you no longer have to deal honestly, show your integrity, or function ethically?Honesty Ethics Integrity Trashed

Our Congress and Senate leaders including those people who are running for offices in this country have to be running for a reason.  To get elected, they will spend millions of dollars (many times, millions of their own money), and lay out their life for all to examine for a job that pays $174,000 to $223,500 a year. There has got to be more to it.  Even if they possess the moral necessities as I see them, they are overpowered and out-voted by those who don’t.  They cannot vote their heart and conscience or push to enact the promises they made on the campaign trail, because they are heavily pressured by the lobbyists and special interest groups externally and other members internally.  Many, too many times, they compromise and I believe it is because they have no choice.  Any of us, who has never been in any of those positions, can’t speak to the actual “why” of this, but I have seen it happen over and over and over again!

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I don’t know about you, but there was something that “felt good” about having US Savings Bonds.  You were investing in the country you love, and the belief that without a doubt they were both responsible and able to pay you back with interest.  Holding the bond for a period of time you could double your investment.  They earned interest indefinately.

It was a standard gift to give for a new baby, because you knew that by the time they got around to cashing that bond, the interest would have accrued to a much more favorable number than your original investment.US-Savings-Bonds

It was a safe-haven against anything and everything that we imagined (at the time) could go wrong.  “At least I have those bonds”  ~ and that felt like a security blanket of sorts.

Well, that bubble started to burst a while back when the interest rate went close to 0% (current rate .60%). In the 1980’s bonds matured in 8-12 years, some had fixed rates of interest, some had market rates with a guarantee of a certain percentage of interest.  Todays bonds (since June 2003) take 20 years to mature to their face value, and only earn interest for 30 years.

All banks handled bonds.  No longer.  In fact as of December 31, 2011 they are all going electronic.  Existing bonds are not affected, and are still valid and able to earn interest for 30 years.  Banks will still cash your bonds for you, or even convert your paper bonds into electronic ones.  If you wish to buy bonds after December 31st, you will need to go to www.treasurydirect.gov

But for  me, it’s annoying.  I just do not feel the same about an electronic stake in this great country!  I can’t hold it, I can’t see it, and well, it just isn’t the same.

All opinions in these articles are mine and I have not been compensated in any way for these posts.

 

 

 

The first thing I want to say about these to be crystal clear — these aren’t about anything but revenue.  The revenue is for the owners of the camera and for the towns/states/municipalities that use them.  This revenue is no small amount; we are talking multiple millions per year.

If that wasn’t the case, the municipalities that use these cameras would care if there was an actual violation and who actually committed it. But they don’t, pure and simple.  They just want the vehicle owner to pay the fine. They just want the money.

Most times you will not win, if you try, as they assume guilt. Hey, they have the picture, right? And even if the camera is broken, you are still guilty.  And even if you were in Iraq or on the moon, your car was the one we have on camera and you are guilty.

In my opinion, and everything I write is my opinion, I think that stinks.  Why? Because I often let others use my personal and company vehicles. I often leave my keys in case someone needs to use my vehicle, or move it, etc. Sure I expect them to drive it gently, and to obey the law.  I believe most times they do.

Annoying Example One: Traffic Light Street Line

There is a seemingly new interpretation regarding the red light cameras in many states.  I guess their revenues weren’t as high as they expected.  It seems now, that if your tire touches the white line – you are guilty of running a red light and they are sending tickets for same*. If your car stopped, but if your tire went over the white line you can and most likely will be found guilty of this violation at any traffic signal equipped with these cameras.  My advice then, based on that is run the damn light and get the ticket legitimately.  The hell with safety, and doing what’s right by trying to stop – if you are going to get the ticket anyway, and have to pay the fine, with little to no hope of contesting it and it’s “just that close” run the damn light.

 

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