by Chris Huckins Google+ Email 


25 November 2014

3 Easy Steps to Get Health Insurance Subsidies

Posted in Health Insurance 101

3 Easy Steps to Get Health Insurance Subsidies

Want help paying for health insurance? To meet the qualifications for free money from the government (yes, FREE, but not the sketchy kind of free), start with an insurance plan that's labeled "Covered California". It helps if you have a Certified Covered California Agent along the way. 

Covered California is a marketplace for health insurance. Like most supermarkets carry big brand foodstuffs, Covered California has recognizable plans from Anthem, Kaiser, Healthnet, and more. While most Ralphs shoppers don't need a mayonnaise broker, insurance is more complicated.

The first step to save on health insurance is to help near you in the form of a Covered California Insurance Agent. Even if you end up not qualifying for financial assistance, an agent can still enroll you or shop around for more choices. 

Secondly, start the application. Reporting the correct number of people in the household, even if one person is getting insurance, is an essential step. A good tip to accurately account for each person is to include everyone who's on your tax return.

Remember to estimate your household's gross annual income (before taxes) for the year you're getting insurance. Since it's always the future you'll be dealing with, you have to estimate your annual income to the best of your knowledge. You can adjust this amount later in the year if you lose or earn more.

Third step is a big one: discover how much you can save at the end of the application, thank your Covered California Certified Agent and walk out without paying anything. You're not stealing. Enrollment is free!

The following income levels to qualify for Covered California health insurance subsidies are approximate:

 Chart by Covered California

If you're shopping just for yourself, you qualify for subsidies if you earn a gross annual income between $16,105 and $46,680.

For a household of 2, the combined income should be somewhere between $21,708 and $62,290 to qualify for subsidies.

If there are 3, the household income must be between $27.311 and $$79,160.

A household of 4 qualifies if the reported annual income is between $32,913 and $95,400.

5 in a household must make between $38,516 and $111,640 to qualify for subsidies.

Simple, right? Now go make more babies and/or money so you can get financial aid and high quality health insurance from Covered California. Pass the mayo. 

07 November 2014

Proposition 45 Defeated, But at Least There's a New Legend of Zelda

Posted in Latest News

Proposition 45 Defeated, But at Least There's a New Legend of Zelda

It’s been 48 hours since 2014’s midterm election results. If you restarted your playthrough of Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask on Election Night like me, you know Link has 24 hours left to save Termina but it’s too late for Democrats and cheap health insurance rates.

While everyone clamored this week over conservatives taking over, Nintendo unveiled a trailer for Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask 3D, which will slowly take over fanboys’ minds until its release in 2015. What else may come in 2015? If companies take advantage of Proposition 45’s defeat on Election Night, then we’ll be seeing a whole lot of insurance rate hikes. At least they’ll be in 3D.

The death knell heard from Clock Town, the official Democrat headquarters of all 2014 campaigns, signaled the demise of Senators, Governors, and the once-popular Proposition 45. In June, 69% of Californians supported Prop 45, which if passed, would have allowed the Insurance Commissioner in California to veto unjust rate increases for health insurance like commissioners already do in 35 other states and like California does for auto and home insurance. As predicted in an earlier blog, it was only a matter of time and Giant Wallets of money to change voters’ opinions.

The last opinion polls in October showed the grim reality: 43% opposed Prop 45 versus 38% in support. Proposition 45 backers like Consumer Watchdog spent $6.2 million to retain voters but it was green rupees compared to the $52 million war chest used by health insurance companies like Kaiser Permanente, Wellpoint, and Health Net to block health insurance regulation.

Chart by Ballotopedia

Besides way too much money, what helped opponents defeat Prop 45 was consistent negative messaging. Without any clue how they got my address, even I received mailers intended to lure voters from the Light Realm into the Dark.

The most common theme used to bash 45 was the demonization of the Insurance Commissioner, who might one day become “One Sacramento politician with too much power” as mailers with a Majora's Mask watermark repeated. 

This message led voters to believe the commissioner would interfere with rate negotiations between Covered California and insurance companies, which could lead to higher costs and more bureaucracy and litigation using taxpayer rupees. In reality, Proposition 45 empowered the Commissioner to veto rates only if insurance companies proposed unjust ones in the first place.

One theory suggests Prop 45 was like a lone Skull Kid doomed to lose a power struggle of lunar proportions against insurance giants: Anthem, HealthNet, and Kaiser because voters just don't care who controls insurance costs as long as they're low. Since voters experienced relatively low rates under Covered California, at least for the first two years of Obamacare's open enrollment, they voted for the status quo and against Prop 45. 

Insurance prices could stay low without Proposition 45's help. If not, we'll have to wait for the dawn of a new proposition. It's not like we can warp back using the Song of Time and change our vote. At least, not until the release of Majora's Mask.

23 October 2014

Obamacare Poll Shows Karl Rove is Bad With Numbers

Posted in Latest News

Obamacare Poll Shows Karl Rove is Bad With Numbers

Karl Rove is bad with numbers. The man named "Bush's Brain" seemed to have just that as he gloated over the wrong Obamacare poll results in his Wall Street Journal op-ed

The ex-Deputy Chief of Staff to W. Bush claimed Gallup's poll on October 2 showed 54% of Americans believe the healthcare law negatively affected them. That's compared to 27% who believe it helped. He completely jumbled the numbers. 

The actual poll revealed 54% of Americans said the Affordable Care Act had no impact on them. 27% of Americans said it hurt them and 16% said it helped. Ironically in his attempt to undermine ACA, Rove showed more in favor of Obamacare than the survey even did. 

I'll admit, someone with color blindness may be confused by the slightly different shades of green in Gallup's Obamacare survey. But then there's the numbers beside the lines for clarity. And where exactly was the fact-checker at WSJ? Out to lunch?

It's not the first time the former adviser to President W. Bush lacked reading comprehension: something Americans more frequently applied to his boss. Apparently, Bush is more intelligent than we thought. Good thing we'll always have this montage of Bushisms for nostalgia's sake. 

In 2012, Rove threw a hissy fit when Fox News ignored his calculations that Ohio would elect Republican candidate Mitt Romney over Obama, ultimately achieving enough electoral votes to win the presidency. 

When no one believed his assessment of Ohio's election data, Rove stormed off, urging Fox anchor Megyn Kelly to chase him down backstage, where he wasn't. Instead, Rove reappeared on set to kick the dead horse as balloons rained on supporters at Obama's Chicago Headquarters. 

Awkwardly, the fiasco was live as a superimposed headline scrolled across everyone's tv screens: "Barack Obama Re-elected President". 

The next open enrollment for health insurance is November 15. According to Karl Rove, that's in 700 bajillion days. 

15 October 2014

San Fernando Valley on Highest Alert Ever for West Nile Virus

Posted in Latest News

San Fernando Valley on Highest Alert Ever for West Nile Virus

California may not have Ebola yet, but there's buzz of an equally incurable outbreak: mosquitoes buzzing with West Nile Virus in the San Fernando Valley.

The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) reported 31 human cases of West Nile Virus including 2 fatalities this week in Los Angeles county alone. So far in 2014, over 375 humans and 3,210 mosquitoes tested positive for West Nile Virus in California.

Three San Fernando Valley neighborhoods: Canoga Park, Sherman Oaks, and Encino discovered at least 9 mosquitoes with West Nile Virus, according to the Greater Los Angeles County Vector Control District (GLACVCD). 

It's the highest level ever of West Nile Virus mosquito cases in California, according  Dr. Ron Chapman, Director of CDPH. "First Ebola. Now this? Thanks, Obama!" he didn't add. 

To help prevent West Nile Virus from spreading, CDPH prepared the public with "Three Ds" to practice:

DEET - Apply bug spray with DEET or oil of lemon eucalyptus, the latter which doubles as a koala aphrodisiac. 

DAWN & DUSK - These are the times when mosquitoes are hungriest. Make sure your window and door screens are fixed to prevent unwanted mosquito break-ins while you're awakening or "asleeping". 

DRAIN - Mosquitoes love popping out of Super Mario pipes when you least expect them. They also love to lay eggs on still water. So drain any water collected in flower pots, buckets, or high-risk pools. Remember, there's no cure for West Nile Virus. Not even in the other castle. 

Certified Covered California insurance agents were as rare as a West Nile Virus mosquito, but now there's one case of each in Canoga Park. 

Covered California agents in San Fernando Valley would like to provide the "Three Ds to Prevent Paying Out of Pocket for Treatment In Case You Get Ebola and/or West Nile Virus":

DRIVE to 7345 Topanga Canyon Blvd, Canoga Park and park in the back of the Covered California enrollment office: that's us! 

DOOR - Open it and walk upstairs to your appointment. 

DON'T FORGET to get your insurance card. It comes in the mail after you pay your first bill. An insurance card can be a handy mosquito swatter, so why not apply for one today?

1 in 5 infected with West Nile Virus develops fevers and fatigue that could last for weeks or months. 10% of people who develop neurological infection from West Nile Virus die. Unlike Ebola, 70-80 percent of people with West Nile Virus don't develop any symptoms, let alone garner any Presidential alerts, Twitter hash-trends, or South Park parodies. 

GLACVCD spokeswoman, Kelly Middleton warned mosquitoes will continue to bite through November until California's first "significant cold snap". That could easily fall on November 15, the first day of open enrollment.

Until then, we'll keep close to the sentinel chickens living in our neighbor's yard. Not to be confused with mutant-killing robots on X-Men, sentinel chickens are immune to West Nile Virus and develop antibodies that are detectable to humans and help track infected mosquitoes.

So far, our neighbors don't seem too concerned. They haven't asked to buy insurance yet. 

06 October 2014

Does Obamacare Recognize Married Same Sex Couples?

Posted in Latest News

Does Obamacare Recognize Married Same Sex Couples?

The battle over gay marriage in California is rife with blood, sweat, and tears as any West Hollywood bar crawl. But it gets better. 

Beginning 2015, insurance companies cannot discriminate against same-sex couples by denying benefits they give to straight couples. Similarly, gay couples may be eligible for financial assistance for the first time under Obamacare.

On Monday, October 6 the Supreme Court declined to review cases that would ban same-sex marriage in 5 states, affecting 6 more states in the same Court of Appeals region. That brings the total to 30 states where gay couples can be married. 

Gay Marriage in California

California became the second state to legalize same-sex marriage on June 16, 2008 only to ban it November 15 with 52% of voters in favor of Proposition 8.

On Feburary 7, 2012, three circuit judges had a second look at gay marriage in California. And boy did it look fetch. 

In a 2-1 decision, Judges Stephen Reinhardt and Judge Michael Hawkins ruled that Proposition 8, "Did nothing more than lessen the status and dignity of gays and lesbians and classify their relationships as inferior to those of opposite-sex couples". It also violated the Equal Protection Clause. 

But Proposition 8 proponents requested a "stay", freezing gay marriage ceremonies until the Supreme Court reviewed the case. 

On June 28, 2013, SCOTUS ruled that Prop 8 defenders had no legal standing to appeal the case in court, but requested arguments from both sides.

On August 14. the Supreme Court rejected Proposition 8's challenge and once again gay marriage was legal in California. 

Coincidentally on the same day it invalidated Proposition 8, SCOTUS struck down Section 3 of DOMA (Defense Of Marriage Act). "DOMA is unconstitutional as a deprivation of the equal liberty of persons that is protected by the Fifth Amendment," Justice Kennedy wrote in his majority opinion.

Gay and straight couples are therefore entitled to equal access of "Social Security, housing, taxes, and veterans' benefits", including Obamacare's tax credits.

Where States Ban Gay Marriage

If a gay couple is wed in a state where same sex marriage is legal, the federal government must recognize their marriage even if they move to a state where gay marriage is banned.

Because SCOTUS didn't strike down the entire DOMA law, gay marriage bans remained in some states, but those states must still provide the aforementioned federal benefits. 

In September, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg speculated to a Minnesota audience when SCOTUS may look into marriage equality. Watch the 6th Circuit Courts she said. The Supreme Court may be forced to rule on gay marriage she said. 

If conservative judges in the 6th Circuit of Appeals, specifically: Kentucky, Ohio, and Michigan, uphold gay marriage bans they would contradict a majority of states that ruled gay marriage bans as unconstitutional, Ginsburg asserted.

The confusion would incentivize the Supreme Court to rule on DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act) once and for all. 

Obamacare VS Gay Marriage

But there's no need to wait for court drama to sign up for health insurance with your spouse, even if you're both the same sex. 

Open enrollment starts November 15 with plans to begin January 1, 2015. Some couples are already fighting over whether to apply jointly or individually. What happened to "Till death do us file separately"? If you plan to be on the same health insurance application, you must file jointly on 2015's tax return. 

By filing jointly, both incomes will be factored into the insurance application, which may rank you out of the income bracket to qualify for financial assistance. So be mindful. Every married couple has the option to file as jointly or married and receive the appropriate benefits.

No matter what state you live in you are entitled to Obamacare's financial assistance. You simply must meet the qualifications like everyone else does. Gay or straight doesn't matter to a health insurance form.

Only 20 more states to go. 

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