Drug Shortages Amid the “Tripledemic”
December 14, 2022
‘Tis the season to be jolly, but your cheerfulness may be challenged by drug shortages across parts of the country, with the “tripledemic”—cases of flu, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), and COVID-19—driving high demand for medications. These seasonal respiratory illnesses have emerged earlier than usual and have spread quickly and simultaneously across the country.
Record levels of illnesses have caused a spike in the demand for amoxicillin, resulting in an acute shortage of the antibiotic, which is widely used for the treatment of bacterial widespread upper and lower respiratory infections.
Physicians are facing shortages of critical drugs used during surgery. Shortages of key anesthesia medications used for most procedures and surgeries, and critical pain medications such as fentanyl are forcing doctors to use alternatives that may not be first-line or the optimal treatment for conditions or scenarios, or in the best interests of patients.
FDA and Pharma Companies’ Responses
According to the Federal Drug Administration (FDA), 123 of 184 listed drugs are currently in shortage. Officials say one of the reasons for the shortages is that drugs are manufactured based on orders from the previous year, meaning pharmaceutical companies don’t keep an inventory on hand year after year. Some manufacturers report that this year’s orders didn’t anticipate the heavy season for respiratory illnesses.
The FDA is working closely with numerous manufacturers and others in the supply chain to understand, mitigate, and prevent or reduce the impact of intermittent or reduced availability of certain products, including several over-the-counter (OTC) medicines used for symptomatic relief, such as the children’s medications liquid acetaminophen and ibuprofen. The FDA also has taken steps to help relieve the shortage by putting out guidance to pharmacists to make liquid amoxicillin for children from pill versions. (Amoxicillin pills for adults are not in short supply.)
Drug Manufacturing Problems
Drug manufacturers are having problems keeping up with their needs, including manufacturing and quality problems, delays, and discontinuations. Additional factors causing drug shortages are difficulties in acquiring raw materials, manufacturing problems, regulatory issues, business decisions, and disturbances within the supply chain.
Throughout the country, shortages of certain medications and over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers are leaving people on the hunt for a pharmacy or a grocery store to fill prescriptions and OTC products. Tamiflu, Adderall, and as already mentioned, even the standard antibiotic amoxicillin in liquid form, is getting hard to find.
If you can’t find a recommended medication readily available, you may need to call multiple pharmacies, look for a generic version, ask your doctor for an alternative prescription, or ask your pharmacist how to use an adult version of a medication for a child.
Brigid Groves, a pharmacist and the senior director for practice and professional affairs at the American Pharmacists Association, says, “The most important thing families can do for a sick loved one is to get them tested. Most doctor’s offices and some pharmacy clinics can do rapid tests to help determine whether your symptoms are coming from a viral or bacterial illness.”
If you face challenges finding medications during the tripledemic, persevere in your hunt to fill a prescription or to find a substitute recommended by your healthcare professional. Document your health insurance and flexible spending account activities, lists of prescribed and OTC medications, where you found them, and when you’ll need to find and fill them again at insureyouknow.org
Kick Your Health Benefits into High Gear
December 1, 2022
As open enrollment season kicks into high gear, millions of people will have an opportunity to choose their 2023 health benefits.
Employers’ Healthcare Costs
Employers’ healthcare costs are rising, with large companies forecasting up to an 8 percent increase for 2023. The main difference with previous years will be higher prescription drug costs, which will jump 10 percent, the highest in the past decade.
Many companies will try to limit the share they pass along to their workers, as benefits are seen as a key attraction and retention tool in a tight job market.
Employees’ Healthcare Costs
For 2022, annual family premiums for employer-sponsored health insurance averaged $22,463, up slightly from $22,221 in 2021, according to the 2022 benchmark KFF Employer Health Benefits Survey. On average, workers contributed $6,106 toward the cost of family premiums, with employers paying the rest. The average premium for single coverage was $7,911 (up from $7,739 in 2021), with employees paying $1,327 annually, according to the survey. Nine percent of covered workers, including 21 percent of covered workers at small firms, are in a plan with a worker contribution of $12,000 or more for family coverage.
While premium data for 2023 generally won’t be available until after the new year begins, workers may see larger increases than in recent years.
Triple-Tax Advantaged HSAs
Some tools can help you manage your healthcare costs. More than three-quarters of large employers offer Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) that offer triple tax advantages: money contributed is pre-tax, it grows on a tax-free basis, and then can be withdrawn tax-free to pay for qualifying medical expenses now or in the future, all the way through retirement.
You can contribute to an HSA only if you’re enrolled in a qualifying high-deductible health plan. Average annual premiums for workers enrolled in HSA plans are lower than the overall average, but workers shoulder higher costs until they meet their deductible.
Employees can contribute up to $3,850 to their HSA for individual coverage for 2023, up from $3,650 this year; for family coverage, workers can contribute up to $7,750, up from $7,300 this year, per an announcement by the Internal Revenue Service. Catch-up contributions for those 55 and over remain $1,000.
Many HSAs give account holders the option to invest a portion of their money in the stock market. But fewer than 10 percent do so, as opposed to leaving their money just sitting in cash. If you can afford to pay your medical bills through your regular cash flow, your HSA funds will likely grow over time in the market and can be used in retirement to pay for a range of qualifying medical expenses.
HSAs are portable and remain with the owner through plan and job changes. If you are no longer enrolled in a qualifying high-deductible health plan, you can no longer contribute to your account, but you can still tap it to pay qualifying medical costs. Flexible-spending accounts (FSAs), by contrast, are linked to a particular employer; unlike HSA funds, money in an FSA must be spent down or forfeited within a certain period.
Health Insurance Plans under the Affordable Care Act
Outside of the employer market, open enrollment began on November 1 on Healthcare.gov for individual and family health insurance plans under the Affordable Care Act. In most states, open enrollment ends on January 15, although you must enroll by December 15 if you want coverage to begin on January 1. The Inflation Reduction Act extended the enhanced premium subsidies for ACA enrollees through 2025; for many, that may offset the moderate average increases expected to premiums.
Impact of Rising Drug Costs
There are two main reasons drug costs are rising: First, pharmaceutical companies are introducing better, but more expensive drugs for several important conditions. In most years, total drug cost would be tempered by other brand name drugs that were being replaced by generics, but in 2023, there will be fewer of these than usual.
Second, pharmaceutical companies are raising the prices they charge to private health insurance plans because they anticipate having to lower the prices they charge to Medicare. The recent Inflation Reduction Act allows Medicare to negotiate drug prices for the first time. Currently, only 10 drugs are on the negotiation list, but these are widely used. The list will rise to 20 drugs in the future.
The “No Surprises” Act
The “No Surprises” Act that went into effect in January 2022 is having its intended effect of lowering surprise out-of-network charges to patients who get emergency care, non-emergency care from out-of-network providers at in-network facilities, and air ambulance services from out-of-network providers.
After you determine your healthcare insurance coverage for 2023, file your decisions at insureyouknow.org. Keep aware of government mandates that can affect your healthcare expenses for prescription drugs, out-of-network charges, changes in Medicare, increases in premiums, and your HSA and FSA contributions and withdrawals.
The Everything Kids’ Money Book
November 15, 2022
You want your children to become financially stable adults. But how can you interest them in this important topic, and make it easy to learn about and fun, when they are in their formative years? Your answer is The Everything Kids’ Money Book by Brette Sember that visually depicts boys and girls undertaking some enterprise having to do with money such as having a lemonade stand, saving for a new bike, or collecting coins. Written with kids ages 7 to 11 in mind, the author promises to teach them about money—“Earn it, save it, and watch it grow.”
Hands-On Activities Covered
Would your child like to . . .
- Learn how to make money at jobs appropriate for their age?
- Track where a dollar bill has been before they got it? There’s a simple way to find out.
- Learn how to make all their pennies shiny? It’s easy.
- Design their own dollar with someone’s face they like—Batman? Spiderman? The Incredibles?
- Do a magic trick with a dollar bill to impress their friends?
- Find out what fun things they can do for free? Grandpa and Grandma might know.
- Make a pizza garden?
Fun Money Facts Revealed
Would they like to know . . .
- Why they are called Piggy Banks, not Doggy banks, or something else?
- What is the name of the buffalo on the nickel and where did it live?
- What are dead dollars?
- What are some things money has been made from in the past?
Difficult Concepts Explained
As a New York Law Guardian, Brette Sember has many years of experience working with children. She has written more than 40 books on a variety of topics, such as law, health, food, travel, education, business, finance, parenting, adoption, and seniors. In The Everything Kids’ Money Book, she tackles subjects such as:
- Saving money
- The cost of living
- Credit cards and debit cards
- Income tax
- Why borrowing money can lead to trouble
- Why lottery tickets are not a good investment
- Saving money
- The cost of living
- Credit cards and debit cards
- Income tax
- Why borrowing money can lead to trouble
- Why lottery tickets are not a good investment
All these topics are covered in easy-to-understand language and unfamiliar terms are defined in the glossary. Answers to some of the questions posed and a page of resources are included at the back of the book. This section features books and websites with ideas kids will enjoy, more magic tricks to perform with money, how to start a small business, a website with money games, and how to collect coins.
Kids’ Money Book Promoted
MyBankTracker.com which “tracks thousands of banks to help you find the perfect match for your banking needs,” says this book is “more than simply a manual; The Everything Kids’ Money Book is a well-organized workbook that covers everything from money printing to compound interest.”
Investopedia.com which calls itself “The world’s leading source of financial content on the web,” echoes this opinion by saying the book, “Not only teaches kids how to save and earn their own money but also how to invest and earn interest.”
If you decide to spend some bonding time discussing money concepts with your daughter or son, you may learn or relearn some basic financial truths. Keep a list of your kids’ moneymaking, spending, and savings plans at insureyouknow.org. You can measure their financial success on this portal and watch with them the ebb and flow of their profits and expenses.
Look Forward to Increases in Your 401(k) Limits
October 31, 2022
The amount you can contribute to your 401(k) plan in 2023 has increased to $22,500, up from $20,500 for 2022. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) announced this change and issued technical guidance regarding all of the cost‑of‑living adjustments affecting dollar limitations for pension plans and other retirement-related items for the tax year 2023 in Notice 2022-55 posted on IRS.gov.
Highlights of changes for 2023
This contribution limit applies to employees who participate in 401(k), 403(b), most 457 plans, and the federal government’s Thrift Savings Plan.
The limit on annual contributions to an IRA increased to $6,500, up from $6,000. The IRA catch-up contribution limit for individuals aged 50 and over is not subject to an annual cost‑of‑living adjustment and remains $1,000.
The catch-up contribution limit for employees aged 50 and over who participate in 401(k), 403(b), most 457 plans, and the federal government’s Thrift Savings Plan has increased to $7,500, up from $6,500. Participants in 401(k), 403(b), most 457 plans, and the federal government’s Thrift Savings Plan who are 50 and older can contribute up to $30,000, starting in 2023.
The catch-up contribution limit for employees aged 50 and over who participate in SIMPLE (Savings Incentive Match PLan for Employees) plans has increased to $3,500, up from $3,000. (This plan allows employees and employers to contribute to traditional IRAs set up for employees. It is ideally suited as a start-up retirement savings plan for small employers not currently sponsoring a retirement plan.)
The income ranges for determining eligibility to make deductible contributions to traditional Individual Retirement Arrangements (IRAs), to contribute to Roth IRAs, and to claim the Saver’s Credit all increased for 2023.
Taxpayers can deduct contributions to a traditional IRA if they meet certain conditions. If during the year either the taxpayer or the taxpayer’s spouse was covered by a retirement plan at work, the deduction may be reduced, or phased out, until it is eliminated, depending on filing status and income. (If neither the taxpayer nor the spouse is covered by a retirement plan at work, the phase-outs of the deduction do not apply.)
In a traditional IRA deduction phase-out, taxpayers can deduct contributions if they meet certain conditions. If during the year either they or their spouse was covered by a retirement plan at work, the deduction may be phased out until it is eliminated, depending on filing status, and adjusted gross income (AGI):
- For single people covered by a workplace retirement plan, the IRA phase-out range is $73,000 to $83,000, up from $68,000 to $78,000.
- For married couples filing jointly, where the spouse making the IRA contribution is covered by a workplace retirement plan, the phase-out range is $116,000 to $136,000, up from $109,000 to $129,000.
- For an IRA contributor who is not covered by a workplace retirement plan and is married to someone who is covered, the deduction is phased out if the couple’s income is between $218,000 and $228,000, up from $204,000 and $214,000.
- For married individuals filing a separate return who are covered by a workplace retirement plan, if they lived with their spouse at any time during the year, the phase-out range is not subject to an annual cost-of-living adjustment and remains $0 to $10,000.
For a Roth IRA income phase-out, AGI ranges for taxpayers include the following provisions:
- The income phase-out range for singles and heads of household is $138,000 to $153,000, up from $129,000 to $144,000.
- The income phase-out range for married couples filing jointly is $218,000 to $228,000, up from $204,000 to $214,000.
- For married individuals filing a separate return, if they lived with their spouse at any time during the year, the phase-out range is not subject to an annual cost-of-living adjustment and remains $0 to $10,000.
The 2023 income limit for the Saver’s Credit (also known as the Retirement Savings Contributions Credit) for low- and moderate-income workers has increased to:
- $73,000 for married couples filing jointly, up from $68,000.
- $54,750 for heads of household, up from $51,000.
- $36,500 for singles and married individuals filing separately, up from $34,000.
- For a married individual filing a separate return who is covered by a workplace retirement plan, the phase-out range is not subject to an annual cost-of-living adjustment and remains between $0 and $10,000.
The amount individuals can contribute to their SIMPLE retirement accounts has increased to $15,500, up from $14,000.
After you review the IRS retirement plan changes for 2023, keep a record at insureyouknow.org of your retirement accounts so you’ll be able to take advantage of the new limits for your contributions and deductions.
Preparing for a Flood Before Disaster Strikes
October 15, 2022
Flooding is the most common and most damaging natural disaster in the country. In Florida, where Hurricane Ian’s floodwaters turned towns into rivers, flood risk is higher due to the state’s frequency of storms and proximity to water. Despite this, most insurance policies do not automatically cover flooding. No matter where you live, you should check your auto and homeowner’s or renter’s insurance policies as an initial step in preparing for a flood to keep you and your loved ones safe when a flood interrupts your lives.
Determining Your Risk Level
To find out the risk level of your property location, visit FloodSmart.gov/Flood-Map-Zone.
Because research has found that FEMA’s flood maps underestimate the danger in some areas as climate change advances, homeowners and renters unaware of their level of risk should act on the following points:
- Are you in a flash-flood-prone area? Contact the local county geologist or county planning department to find out if your home is in a flash-flood-prone area or a landslide-prone area.
- Make a communication plan and a disaster plan for your family.
- Plan and practice a flood evacuation route with your family. Ask an out-of-state relative or friend to be the “family contact” in case your family is separated during a flood. Make sure everyone in your family knows the name, address, and phone number of your contact person.
- Stay informed. Learn about your community’s emergency plans, warning signals, evacuation routes, and locations of emergency shelters.
- Inform local authorities about any special needs, such as elderly or bedridden people, or anyone with a disability.
Preparing Your Home for a Flood
- Make sure you secure or protect any hazards in your home before the flood strikes.
- Be prepared to turn off electrical power when there is standing water, fallen power lines, or before you evacuate. Turn off gas and water supplies before you evacuate. Secure structurally unstable building materials.
- Buy a fire extinguisher if you don’t already have one. Make sure your family knows where it is and how to use it.
- Buy and install sump pumps with backup power.
- Have a licensed electrician raise electric components (switches, sockets, circuit breakers, and wiring) at least 12″ above your home’s projected flood elevation.
- For drains, toilets, and other sewer connections, install backflow valves or plugs to prevent floodwaters from entering.
- Anchor fuel tanks can contaminate your basement if torn free. An unanchored tank outside can be swept downstream and damage other houses.
Creating an Emergency Supply Kit
Stock your home with supplies you may need during the flood by creating an emergency supply kit. Visit the CDC’s Personal Health Preparedness page for a list of supplies you’ll want to include in your kit.
Preparing Food and Water Supplies
Make sure you and your family have enough safe food and water (for drinking, cooking, and bathing) available in the event of a flood. For more information, visit Food and Water Needs: Preparing for a Disaster or Emergency.
Reentering Your Flooded Home
When returning to a home that’s been flooded after natural disasters such as hurricanes, tornadoes, and floods, be aware that your house may be contaminated with mold or sewage, which can cause health risks for your family. See the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidelines for reentering your flooded home.
Reviewing Flood Insurance Options
Although you can purchase flood insurance at any time, waiting until a hurricane or major storm is threatening your home may be too late. Many policies take at least 30 days after purchase to take effect.
The National Flood Insurance Program is a pre-disaster flood mitigation and insurance protection program designed to reduce the escalating cost of disasters. This program makes federally backed flood insurance available to residents and business owners. Standard flood insurance by the National Flood Insurance Program generally covers physical damages directly caused by flooding within the limits of the coverage purchased. Private providers may have higher limits or broader coverage compared to National Flood Insurance Program policies.
Regardless of which policy you select for your business or family, any coverage is better than none. If your property experiences flooding impacts from a disaster, it is not guaranteed you will be able to receive federal assistance. If your area has not received a Presidential Disaster Declaration that makes federal assistance available under FEMA, you will not receive federal assistance.
When there is an official Presidential Disaster Declaration, National Flood Insurance Program policyholders are encouraged to apply for FEMA disaster assistance in addition to their flood insurance claim. For more information, visit National Flood Insurance Program or call1-800-621-FEMA.
Filing a Flood Insurance Claim
Flood insurance claims can be filed anytime you experience flooding on your property and can cover both a property and its contents.
If you need to file a flood insurance claim, be informed and prepared so that recovery can move quickly and smoothly. Before a disaster strikes, have updated photos of your home or business so that insurance providers can clearly examine your property and belongings. If your property has experienced flood impacts, take extensive photos of the damages before cleaning up. This will allow insurance providers to compare before and after photos to determine the extent of damages and arrange the best claim payment possible. As you’re cleaning, make a detailed list of lost or damaged items. If you have original receipts for items, hold onto those for documentation in your claim. After gathering all the necessary information, contact your insurance company to begin filing your claim.
At InsureYouKnow.org, file your auto, and homeowner’s or renter’s insurance policies, photos before and showing flood damage, an inventory of your home and possessions, and your checklists of supplies needed for emergency events. If you are impacted by a flood, also keep track on this portal of your insurance claims and interactions with your insurance company and FEMA.
Take a Vacation = Take Care of Yourself
September 27, 2022
You work hard but do you also take time to relax, seek adventure, and recharge your mind and body? There are some major benefits to taking a vacation although many employees come up with excuses not to use all their vacation time each year.
Memo to Employees: Taking a Vacation Has Benefits
After you come up with a bounty of excuses for not taking a vacation—you feel guilty about being away from your office, you may think a vacation would be too expensive, or you are saving excess time for an unexpected event—you may be able to overcome these obstacles when you realize a vacation can provide the following benefits.
- Improves mental health. A recent study reports that after taking a vacation, travelers feel less anxious, happier, and well-rested.
- Prevents heart disease. By taking time off, you can lower your stress levels caused by working, which can, in turn, prevent your risk for heart disease or heart attacks.
- Brings happiness before, during, and after a trip. Planning a vacation helps you visualize the happiness your vacation will bring that will be experienced during your trip and as fond memories after you return to work.
- Increases productivity and creativity. When your brain is exposed to new experiences including languages, sights, sounds, and cultures, you feel revitalized, and your creativity is boosted. If you take regular time to relax, you’ll be less likely to experience burnout.
- Strengthens relationships. Traveling and exploring with other travelers—friends, family, or even a tour group– can add some fun and closeness to your relationships.
Memo to Employers: Encouraging your workers to take a vacation has benefits
If you are an employer, encourage your workers to take time off. Both you and your team deserve a break and the freedom to schedule vacations. To encourage your employees to take vacations, pay attention to these tips from Business News Daily:
- Acknowledge your employees’ need for vacation time.
- Build a process through which team members can cover for colleagues taking time off.
- Regularly remind employees of deadlines to submit holiday vacation requests.
- Show interest in your employees’ vacation plans.
- Clearly explain your time-off policies in your employee handbook.
- Promote a healthy work-life balance as part of your company culture.
- Lead by example and take vacations.
Whether you rely on colorful printed brochures or flashy online resources, start planning a well-deserved vacation now! When you decide on an international, stateside, or local adventure, check on any medical precautions, prescriptions you may need to have at the ready for the duration of your trip, and health and travel insurance policies. Then, record all your travel arrangements for your getaway at insureyouknow.org.
Play an Active Role to Prevent Childhood Obesity
August 30, 2022
National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month, observed in September, is dedicated to educating children and their families on how to prevent childhood obesity. Parents, teachers, and caregivers of young children are continuously challenged to find ways to prevent childhood obesity.
Obesity is defined as a body mass index (BMI) at or above the 95th percentile by the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC) sex-specific BMI-for-age growth charts. Childhood obesity is a serious problem in the United States where one in five children and adolescents are affected. Some groups of children are more impacted than others, but all children are at risk of gaining weight that is higher than what is considered healthy.
Obesity is a complex disease with many contributing factors including genetics, eating patterns, physical activity levels, and sleep routines. Societal and community factors also matter— childcare and school environments, neighborhood design, access to health, affordable foods and beverages, and connections to safe and convenient places for physical activity affect the ability of children to make healthy choices.
Strategies to Prevent Obesity
As a parent or a caregiver, you can help prevent obesity at home; healthcare systems can help families prevent and manage childhood obesity, and communities can use strategies to support a healthy, active lifestyle for all.
Compared to children with healthy weight, children who are overweight or obese are at a higher risk for asthma, sleep apnea, bone and joint problems, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease.
There are many ways parents and caregivers can help children have a healthy weight and set up lifelong healthy habits at home.
Healthy Eating Patterns
Adopting healthy eating patterns as a family helps children reach and maintain a healthy weight as they age. Eating a variety of vegetables and fruits, whole grains, lean protein foods, and low-fat and fat-free dairy products and following nutrition guidelines sets your family up for optimal health.
Help your children get the nutrients they need by making half their plate fruits and vegetables. Help kids rethink their drinks by replacing sugary drinks, such as soda, fruit drinks, and flavored milk, with water, 100 percent juice, or plain low-fat milk.
Physically active youth have stronger muscles and bones, better cardiovascular fitness, and lower body fat than those who are inactive.
Help your children move more and meet the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans by making it a family affair. Walking the family pet before and after school, riding bikes, and having races in the yard all count toward physical activity. Active chores, such as washing the car, vacuuming a room, or raking leaves, also engage children in worthwhile physical activities.
Consistent Sleep Routines
Good sleep helps prevent type 2 diabetes, obesity, injuries, poor mental health, and problems with attention and behavior. Kids who don’t get enough sleep are at risk for unhealthy weight gain. Researchers are still trying to learn how sleep is linked to weight gain. Some reasons might include causing a child to eat more or to be less physically active because of a lack of energy.
CDC provides guidelines for the number of hours needed to sleep by age group. Preschoolers need 11–13 hours of sleep per day, including naps. Children 6–12 years old need 9–12 hours of uninterrupted sleep a night, and youth 13–18 need 8–10 hours. Sticking to a consistent sleep schedule, including on weekends, can help children sleep better.
Screen Time vs. Family Time
In young people, too much screen time can lead to poor sleep, weight gain, lower grades in school, and poor mental health. Reducing screen time can free up time for family activities and can remove tendencies to eat unhealthy food.
Turning screens off an hour before bed and removing electronic devices from children’s bedrooms can help reduce screen time and improve sleep. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends creating a family media plan with examples of how to reduce screen time.
Healthcare Providers’ Recommendations
Talk to your child’s healthcare provider if you’re concerned about potential health risks associated with excess weight. Children with obesity are more likely to have type 2 diabetes, risk factors for heart disease such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol, muscle and joint problems, and fatty liver disease. Schedule annual physical checkups to routinely check on these medical conditions and to measure a child’s weight and height and plot them on growth charts to calculate BMI and assess patterns.
At insureyouknow.org, keep a record of your child’s health insurance coverage, results from their annual wellness check-up, and follow-up recommendations to keep your child as healthy and happy as possible.
Before You Step on the Gas, Plan Your Travel Strategy
June 11, 2022
The pros and cons of planning a summer road trip this year have gotten more complicated as rising gas prices threaten to make a bigger dent in your travel budget.
The national average for gasoline could be close to $6 by later this summer according to Tom Kloza, global head of energy analysis for the OPIS, which tracks gas prices for AAA.
To cut your gas costs, consider using the following tips to get more miles per gallon as you embark on the summer excursion you’ve been dreaming about all year.
Each 5 mph you drive over 60 mph is like paying an additional $0.15 per gallon for gas. Aggressive driving—speeding, rapid acceleration, and braking—wastes gas. Eliminate these practices and you may save $.12-$.82 per gallon for gas.
Keep your car maintained and running smoothly.
Make sure you have your car maintained before you hit the road by getting a tune up and clean air filters, inflating your tires properly, and using the proper grade of oil. Don’t fill up with premium gas if your car doesn’t require it. Before you drive, make sure your tires aren’t under-inflated. If they are, you will likely burn more fuel per mile than when your tires are correctly inflated.
Use your engine wisely.
Avoid excessive idling and use cruise control and overdrive gears.
Be smart about driving.
Plan errands to do them together, rather than on separate trips; carpool, walk, or cycle; use public transportation; and telecommute. If you’re in the market for a new car, consider buying a more energy-efficient or a smaller car.
Keep your car light.
Don’t store unnecessary items that add weight to your car. When you place cargo on the car’s roof, avoid excess weight that will put a strain on your engine and affect your fuel mileage.
Use apps to find the cheapest gas prices near you.
Pay cash or use a cash back credit card.
You may be able to save about $.10 per gallon if you pay with cash at the pump. If you don’t want to deal with cash, consider opting for a cash back credit card for gas expenses.
Utilize fuel rewards programs.
Find convenience and grocery stores with gas fueling stations that offer rewards programs for a percentage off gas fill-ups based on total amounts you spend shopping in the stores.
Look forward to the future.
Although current fuel rates may take a big bite out of your travel budget this summer, trust—as in past years of 2008, 2012, and even the early 1980s—gas prices will eventually bounce back. Wisely use the gas-saving tips mentioned above to ease your way through the current high gas prices.
When you travel this summer, keep records of your auto insurance, car maintenance, travel insurance, and rental car and hotel expenses at insureyouknow.org. You’ll be able to refer to these documents while you’re on the road and after you return home when you reflect on your wonderful summer vacation.
College Graduates’ Guide to Insurance
May 31, 2022
Congratulations to college graduates everywhere as the graduation season kicks off in 2022! Homework continues, however, as grads meet the challenges presented by their next decisions—changing their residences, jobs, and insurance coverages. Even though this last item may not be as exciting as finding a new place to live or pursuing a lucrative career opportunity, the following options in insurance coverages are important issues that new college grads need to address.
Since the passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), choosing new coverage—or holding on to existing coverage—has been much easier for college graduates who may decide to:
1. Remain on a parent’s insurance plan
Before the ACA was enacted, it was common for health insurance plans to drop dependents as soon as they graduated from college. But the ACA requires almost all health plans that offer dependent coverage to allow young adults to remain on a parent’s plan until they turn 26. So, for young adults covered under a parent’s plan, graduating from college no longer requires them to quickly find new health insurance.
2. Purchase a short-term plan
Short-term health insurance is a potential alternative for college grads who need temporary coverage to tide them over until another policy kicks in. Even for grads who have a job lined up right away, employers often have a waiting period before health insurance coverage is available to new hires. Short-term plans can be purchased at any time of the year, with immediate effective dates available.
3. Buy an ACA-compliant individual plan
For new grads who want a more robust, ACA-compliant plan that covers the essential health benefits and pre-existing conditions, a plan purchased through the state health insurance exchange is likely to be an ideal solution. For more information about marketplace insurance, visit www.healthcare.gov.
4. Check Medicaid eligibility
In 38 states, Medicaid has been expanded to cover all adults with income up to 138 percent of the poverty level. In 2022, that’s $18,754 for a single individual, except in Alaska and Hawaii where the limit is higher. Medicaid enrollment is available year-round and coverage includes pre-existing conditions. In most cases, there are no premiums. For a new grad living in a state where Medicaid has been expanded, this could be a perfect solution during the weeks or months that it might take to find a job after graduation.
5. Get coverage through a new employer
College grads may be able to enroll in group coverage at their new jobs. Employer-sponsored health insurance generally offers substantial benefits, and employers typically pay a large portion of the premiums. Employee contributions are paid through payroll deductions. Participants also may be eligible to enroll in a Health Savings Account that minimizes the financial impact of out-of-pocket medical expenses.
Renters’ and Homeowners’ Insurance Policies
Before graduation, college students probably lived in a dorm room or shared housing with other students. Now, it may be time for them to relocate to their first apartment, condo, or house.
Renters need to understand that their landlord’s insurance doesn’t cover their belongings. Suppose renters experience an unforeseen situation, including burglary, stormy weather that causes a leaky roof to destroy their furnishings, or a fire that creates smoke damage. In these scenarios, they could be protected by renters’ insurance.
Homeowners’ insurance policies, available to college grads buying their first condos or houses, combine several types of coverage, including dwelling, personal property, other structures, loss of use, personal liability, and medical payments into one policy,
It’s a good idea for renters and homebuyers to create a spreadsheet with an inventory of the contents of their residences, placing approximate values on their belongings.
Upon completing college, grads may be ready to buy a new car that requires upgrading their auto insurance, especially if they had been previously covered under their parents’ policy. Personal auto insurance is a package policy providing four coverages—liability, medical payments, uninsured and underinsured motorist, and physical damage.
Unless a college grad is married or has individuals, such as a child or an aging parent dependent on their income, life insurance may not be needed right away. However, if young adults are single, healthy, and in a family with a good health history, they may be at an insurability peak and would benefit from the best rates on life insurance.
College graduation prompts a transition from a school-based existence to one replete with adult responsibilities, including the need to put insurance policies in place. By preparing for the unforeseen future, college grads who do their homework on insurance options and keep copies of policies, inventories of their belongings, and records of any claims submitted at insureyouknow.org, can begin living their lives to the fullest.
Shopping for SHOP Coverage
May 15, 2022
Signed into law in 2010, the Affordable Care Act changed many regulations affecting small businesses and insurance. The law established the Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP) for small employers —generally those with 1–50 employees—who want to provide health and dental coverage to their employees affordably, flexibly, and conveniently.
Qualifications to provide SHOP coverage
1. You have 1-50 full-time equivalent employees (FTEs)
- Use the FTE Calculator to see if you qualify. Note: To qualify for SHOP, you must have at least one FTE employee other than owners, spouses, and family members of owners and partners.
2. You offer coverage to all full-time employees—generally, workers averaging 30 or more hours per week
- You don’t have to offer coverage to part-time employees—those averaging fewer than 30 hours per week—or seasonal workers.
3. You enroll at least 70 percent of the employees to whom you offer insurance
- Employees with other health coverage aren’t counted as rejecting your offer.
- Use the SHOP Minimum Participation Rate Calculator to see how many of your employees must accept.
- Some states have different minimum participation requirements. See if this affects you.
- If you don’t meet your minimum participation requirement, you can enroll between November 15-December 15 any year. During this time, the participation requirement isn’t enforced.
4. You have an office or employee work site within the state whose SHOP you want to use
- Visit this page, select your state, and see how to access SHOP insurance in your state.
- See what to do if your business operates in multiple states.
- If eligible, you don’t have to wait for an open enrollment period. You can start offering SHOP coverage to your employees any time of year.
Reasons to offer SHOP coverage
- SHOP insurance gives you choice and flexibility to:
- Offer your employees one plan or let them choose from multiple plans.
- Offer only health coverage, only dental coverage, or both.
- Choose how much you pay toward your employees’ premiums and whether to offer coverage to their dependents.
- Decide how long new employees must wait before enrolling.
- You can get the information you need in one location. You can make an informed decision about your SHOP insurance options with the tools at HealthCare.gov where you can compare plans and prices and find out if you qualify for SHOP.
- You can use your current SHOP-registered agent or broker or find an agent or broker in your area to help you enroll in coverage.
- You may be able to get the Small Business Health Care Tax Credit. Enrolling in SHOP insurance is generally the only way for eligible small employers to take advantage of the Small Business Health Care Tax Credit. You may qualify if you have fewer than 25 FTE employees making an average of about $56,000 or less. See how much your business could save. Updated IRC guidelines for small business health care tax credit and the SHOP marketplace can inform you if you are a small employer.
Whether you are an employer or an employee in a small business, you may find it helpful to review SHOP coverage how-to guides, fact sheets, tools, and other resources. After making SHOP health insurance decisions, you can keep your records about the best plan for you and its costs, benefits, and features at insureyouknow.org.