Friday, September 27, 2013

U.S. Companies that Offers Pet Insurance as Benefits

Some U.S. Companies now offer pet insurance as a benefit to their employees. Fortune 500 companies that offer pet insurance as a benefit are Hewlett-Packard (HPQ), Amazon (AMZN), Procter & Gamble (PG) and Ford Motor (F). Others companies are Chipotle Mexican Grill (CMG) and Staples (SPLS).

Chipotle began offering the benefit in 2002. Covering one pet costs $10 to $57 a month, depending on coverage plans and deductible. But only about 100 of the eatery chain's 3,000 eligible employees get the insurance because its mostly younger employees have other financial priorities.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Fed may send mortgage rates higher

Experts in housing markets are closlyh monitoring the Federal Reserve as they nervously await word on whether the agency will start pulling back on its controversial stimulus program, known as quantitative easing according to a report on CCN.

The Fed has been buying $85 billion in mortgage-backed securities and Treasury bonds a month to help support the economy since September last year. The purchases have been credited for the historically low mortgage rates seen this year, which ultimately helped stimulate home sales and boost prices.

Doug Duncan, chief economist for Fannie Mae said that the Fed is expected to announce that it will scale back on its bond-buying program which is expected to cause rates to slowly rise.

The mortgage market has already factored in a modest cutback in the Fed's purchases. Mortgage rates have risen 1.2 percentage points since May when Fed chairman Ben Bernanke mentioned the possibility of reducing the agency's bond-buying program. In June, he noted that the tapering could begin as early as September, if the economic recovery continued on course.

However, even if the Fed started cutting back on its bond purchases this month, many don't expect the cuts to be sizable. "The recovery has been weaker the past couple of months than what the Fed had been talking about," said Duncan. "It would be a surprise if they act aggressively."

Source CNN Money

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Important terms for Consumers on Obamacare

Obamacare, health care, care, health

With the major health care overhaul by President Barack Obama's Obamacare new laws will have its own jargon. Here are terms consumers need to get familiar with as prepared by the Associated Press:

Affordable Care Act — The most common formal name for the health care law. Its full title is the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Opponents still deride the law as "Obamacare," but Obama himself has embraced that term, saying it shows he cares.

Employer mandate — A federal requirement that companies with 50 or more workers pay a penalty to the government if one of their workers obtains taxpayer subsidized coverage through the law. Delayed one year to Jan. 1, 2015. Intended to keep companies from "dumping" employees into public coverage.

Individual mandate — A federal requirement that virtually everyone in the United States has health insurance, either through an employer, a government program or by buying his own plan. Effective Jan. 1, 2014. Exemptions for financial hardship and religious objections. Does not apply to immigrants living in the U.S. illegally. People who ignore the mandate will face fines from Internal Revenue Service.

Essential health benefits — Basic health benefits that most health insurance plans will have to cover starting in 2014. They include office visits, emergency services, hospitalization, rehab care, mental health and substance abuse treatment, prescriptions, lab tests, prevention, maternal and newborn care, and pediatric care.

Marketplaces — Online health insurance markets in each state where consumers can get private health insurance, subsidized by the government. They used to be called "exchanges," but the feds decided that was too confusing and started calling them "marketplaces." Still, some states stuck with the original name. Open enrollment starts Oct. 1, and the coverage takes effect Jan. 1, 2014. Fifteen states and Washington, D.C., are running their own marketplaces, according to a tally by The Associated Press. The Obama administration is taking the lead in 35 states, in some cases partnering with the state government. All the marketplaces can be accessed online through Small businesses will have their own marketplaces.

Medicaid expansion — The health care law also expands the federal-state safety-net program to cover more low-income people. Medicaid is expected to account for about half the 25 million uninsured people who, the Congressional Budget Office estimates, eventually will gain coverage through the law. The federal government will pay the full cost of the new coverage from 2014-2016, then phase down to 90 percent. Twenty-four states plus Washington, D.C., have accepted the expansion, according to AP's count. Eight states are still considering it. And 18 have rejected it, including Texas and Florida, which have many uninsured residents. Many adults below the poverty level will remain uninsured in the refusing states. A state can change its decision at any time, but the full federal payment for the expansion is only available through 2016.

Metal levels —The four levels of coverage available through exchange plans, called bronze, silver, gold, and platinum. Bronze plans feature the lowest monthly premiums, but cover only 60 percent of average costs. Platinum plans have higher premiums and cover 90 percent of expected costs.

Pre-existing condition — An ongoing or past health problem. Currently insurers can use pre-existing conditions to deny or restrict coverage, or charge more. Those practices will be barred by federal law starting Jan. 1, 2014, and insurers will have to accept all applicants.

Tax credits — Government health insurance subsidies for individuals will come in the form of tax credits. The money will be paid directly to the consumer's health plan, to help cover premiums. The subsidies are on a sliding scale based on income. Each year, people will have to "true up" with the IRS to make sure they got the right amount. People who receive too generous a tax credit may owe money back to the government.

Tax penalty — The fine levied on individuals who disregard the individual insurance mandate. It starts small and gets bigger in subsequent years. In 2014 it's $95 or 1 percent of taxable income. By 2016, it's $695 or 2.5 percent of taxable income, whichever is greater. Thereafter it's adjusted for inflation.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Unemployment Insurance

Unemployment,Unemployment insurance

Unemployment Insurance also known as Unemployment benefits, unemployment compensation, or the dole are social welfare payments made by the state or other authorized bodies to unemployed people. Benefits may be based on a compulsory para-governmental insurance system. Depending on the jurisdiction and the status of the person, those sums may be small, covering only basic needs, or may compensate the lost time proportionally to the previous earned salary.

Unemployment benefits are generally given only to those registering as unemployed, and often on conditions ensuring that they seek work and do not currently have a job.

In some countries, a significant proportion of unemployment benefits are distributed by trade/labour unions, an arrangement known as the Ghent system.

The idea of unemployment insurance in the United States originated in Wisconsin in 1932. There are about 50 state unemployment insurance programs plus one each in the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and United States Virgin Islands. Through the Social Security Act of 1935, the federal government of the United States effectively encouraged the individual states to adopt unemployment insurance plans.

Are you eligible?

People that are out of work who do not qualify for unemployment insurance include part-time, temporary, and self-employed workers, and school graduates.

Here are reasons unemployment benefits would be declined:

1. not being able or available to work
2. voluntary separation from work without a good cause
3. discharge connected to misconduct
4. refusal of suitable work
5. unemployment resulting from a labor dispute
6. Failing a drug test
7. Committing fraud
8. Receiving severance pay
9. Getting freelance assignments

Generally, the worker must be unemployed through no fault of his/her own. The unemployed person must also meet state requirements for wages earned or time worked during an established period of time (referred to as a “base period”) to be eligible for benefits. In most states, the base period is usually the first four out of the last five completed calendar quarters prior to the time that the claim is filed. Unemployment benefits are based on reported covered quarterly earnings. The amount of earnings and the number of quarters worked are used to determine the length and value of the unemployment benefit. The average weekly payment is $293.

As a result of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act passed by Congress in February 2009, many unemployed people can receive up to 99 weeks of unemployment benefits; this may depend on State legislation. Before the passage of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the maximum number of weeks allowed was 26.

Quitting does not automatically disqualifies you from unemployment compensation. You can quit and still get benefits.

Maximum weekly benefits range from a low of about $200 in Alabama, Florida, Mississippi, South Dakota and Arizona to a high of about $600 in Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Washington.

Whether you can quit and still qualify for unemployment benefits also varies from state to state. So before you quit, check the laws in your state.

If you quit because your employer basically leaves you no other option, you may still be able to collect unemployment benefits. Here are some reasons for quitting that may fall into this category:

1. Lack of work. If your employer stops giving you work, or cuts your hours severely, you’ll probably still qualify for unemployment benefits. Some employers try this as a trick to avoid paying increased premiums. Apply anyway.

2. Constructive discharge. If working conditions are so intolerable that no reasonable person would stay, you may have been constructively discharged, which means that unemployment will treat quitting the same as if you were fired without cause. Constructive discharge is really tough to prove, so make sure your situation is severe before you quit. Sexual harassment, dangerous working conditions that the company won’t fix, or demanding that you participate in illegal activities may justify quitting and still qualify you for unemployment. Demotion, changes in job duties and pay cuts may also be constructive discharge.

3. Medical reasons. In some states, having a medical condition that keeps you from working won’t disqualify you. In others, it will, or you might not qualify unless work caused or aggravated the medical condition.

4. Domestic violence. Some states allow employees who must quit because of domestic violence to qualify for unemployment benefits.

5 .Caring for a family member who is ill. Some states allow employees who must quit to care for a seriously ill family member to qualify.