by Chris Huckins Google+ Email 


18 August 2014

Epic California Ice Bucket Challenge to Fight Drought

Posted in Health & Wellness

Epic California Ice Bucket Challenge to Fight Drought

During California's drought, nothing raises awareness more than wasting clean water. That's why one million Californians will perform an epic Ice Bucket Challenge at, where else, the middle of the Folsom Lake Reservoir, which dropped to 17% capacity.  

The event takes place on Labor Day (September 1), the last official day to wear white. Better skip that part before getting drenched.

Unless one million Californians crave enough attention (What's the population of Hollywood?), the challenge will likely fail. The satirical Adobo Chronicles, where the story originated, imagined the event. 

Good news for the Californians who received $500 fines for posting Ice Bucket Challenges during a statewide drought. They're not real either. 

Unfortunately, the very real proposal of opening a water slide the size of 3 football fields in Los Angeles may be dead in the water. Due to justified public backlash in a state where 80% is in extreme drought conditions, registration closed for the event and dates remain TBD.

Despite the ambiguous status, interestingly, event details show participants could slide for charity. Perhaps more challenges should raise awareness of water slide cancellations. 

The Ice Bucket Challenge engulfed the internet in the summer of 2014, inspiring 2.2 million tweets from July 29 and 1.2 million shares on Facebook from June to August. Each video challenged viewers to participate and/or donate to ALS Association, which received nearly 10 times as many donations as last summer. The challenge is simple: 

1: Film yourself giving a shout out to ALS and the 30,000 of Americans with it today. Take your time with this part. It took me a while just to realize the abbreviation was for amytrophic lateral sclerosis and not Lou Gherig's Disease. 

2: Get wet (preferably with a bucket of ice water). 

3: Dare a friend or celebrity you want to see wet to do the same. Anyone can donate to ALS, but even if you turn down a challenge, the philanthropy police won't force you.   

Unlike trendier afflictions like Ebola, Lou Gherig's disease struggled to remain relevant in the modern age, having lost its spokesperson and namesake 75 years ago. There's still no cure. 

14 August 2014

Does Covered California Include Adult Dental Insurance?

Posted in Covered California

Does Covered California Include Adult Dental Insurance?

The average health insurance premium, at least for Covered California plans, will only rise 4% next year; way down from 2014's increase of 22% to 88%. That's after you factor in financial assistance. What about costs for adult dental insurance? Now that's a trick question. 

Last year adults complained they couldn't get dental coverage through Covered California. Pediatric dental was an essential benefit bundled in every plan, but anyone over 18 had to buy private insurance to see a dentist. 

According to Covered California's Director, Peter Lee, family and adult dental coverage will finally be offered through the exchange next year, albeit as supplemental insurance. 

Since the coverage will be add-on and not an "essential benefit" like pediatric dental, subsidies aka tax credits will not help pay for it. The costs haven't been determined, but will likely be disclosed by open enrollment season, which starts November 15, 2014. 

During open enrollment anyone can buy or switch insurance plans until February 15, 2015.

For now, early shoppers can see proposed rates for 2015-2016 here. Keep your eyes and mouth open for Covered California dental insurance details.  

01 August 2014

Obama Uses Executive Powers To Sue Himself and Diss Congress

Posted in Latest News

Obama Uses Executive Powers To Sue Himself and Diss Congress

Last summer, House Republicans sponsored a bill to delay the unpopular large employer mandate that would force big businesses to cover full time employees. It passed Congress but not the Senate. 

President Obama, recognizing the Senate's diss, felt sorry for the House of Representatives and wanted to make it up to them. It's the least he could do for all the times the House had his back.

In July 2013, President Obama delayed the employer mandate himself using executive powers (e.g., super strength to cut red tape, x-ray vision to see through bureaucracy, and ice breath to freeze Russian assets).

Problem solved. Except one year later Congress approved House Speaker Boehner to sue the President for delaying the same mandate his party wanted to delay first. 

In hindsight, the President could have avoided a suit from Congress if he used his executive powers and law degree to sue himself. A Kentucky man sued himself and won and he only had a boomerang, which came back, hit him on the head, and helped him win $300,000 from the insurance company. 

How did Congress drop the ball, then blame Obama for picking it up and throwing it in Congress' net? 

Originally, Obamacare's large employer mandate required compliance by 2014. Each business would be fined $2000 for each "full time" employee it didn't offer health insurance. 

At the time, "full time" workers wrote to Congress, fearing big businesses would cut their hours or force layoffs to avoid compliance. Big businesses feared keeping workers "full time" and offering insurance would shrink profits and stunt growth. 

President Obama delayed the mandate until 2015 in order to give businesses more time to prepare for the change. Despite the flexibility, conservatives argued the President was absusing executive powers to change Obamacare's dates in order for the law to work. 

On July 30th, 2014 Boehner announced the President committed executive power overreach in Congress' eyes and would be sued. The following day, he begged the President to use the same executive powers he's getting sued for to fix the border crisis. 

Of course the House delayed voting on the emergency immigration bill that would help fix the border crisis, but they did release "Immediate Steps the President Could Take to Start Solving the Border Crisis"

Who says the 113th Congress is the least productive in history? They're so productive they have to delay doing their job in order to spend time telling the President how to do his. 

If you, unlike Congress, do your job but aren't offered health insurance at work, then you qualify for insurance on the Exchange (like Covered California) or off the Exchange (private insurance). Insurance plans on the Exchange offer financial assistance known as subsidies to those who qualify. 

If your job offers employer coverage also known as group insurance, you don't qualify for insurance on the Exchange. You have the option to opt out of your employer coverage to get private insurance, but it may be more expensive.

Ask an agent how to find the most affordable, convenient plan for you. Don't delay. We won't sue you if you do. 

23 July 2014

What Happened to Obamacare Tax Credits This Week? Pizza.

Posted in Latest News

What Happened to Obamacare Tax Credits This Week? Pizza.

Remember all those tax credits you qualified for under the Affordable Care Act, which essentially made health insurance...affordable? You may owe them back next tax season if the Supreme Court rules against Obamacare for the second time this year. 

Coincidentally on the same day, in two separate trials, in the country's second highest courts, two sets of federal judges made opposite rulings over (what else?) Obamacare. But only one judge ruled with pizza analogies. 

In both cases, a single sentence in the 955-page Affordable Care Act was scrutinized. It goes like this: Tax credits are for qualifying people who "enrolled through an Exchange established by the State under 1311". Seems straight forward. So what's the need for pizza?

Before we get to that, it helps to know the terminology. An exchange is an organization that provides health insurance. Section 1311 says that states have a deadline to establish an Exchange.

Section 1321, which will be important coming up, says if a state doesn't have a "required Exchange operational" by a deadline, then the federal government (the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)) would establish "such Exchange". 

By the deadline, only 16 states and the District of Colombia established Exchanges: California, Connecticut, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington. The remaining states relied on the federal Exchange, 

If the law is read literally, it would mean only residents in the aforementioned states with an "Exchange established by the State" would receive tax credits. In this case, it would be stupid for any state not to establish an Exchange. Clearly this wasn't the law's intent and wasn't how lawmakers communicated how tax credits would work. 

There are clear instructions to provide tax credits to states that establish an Exchange under 1311. But since there's no parallel in Section 1321 to clarify who gets tax credits for "such Exchanges", i.e. federal exchanges, opponents argue the latter are excluded from receiving tax credits.

Judge Gregory, who ruled in favor of Obamacare in the case, King v Burwell, used Pizza Hut and Domino's to compare state and federal exchanges. His point was to ignore Papa Johns, which hiked its prices to pay for Obamacare's large employer mandate and cut employee hours to limit who was eligible. 

Judge Gregory hypothetically asked a friend for a two topping pizza from Pizza Hut, but noted that he didn't mind if it came from Domino's. When his imaginary friend returned with a Domino's pizza and the correct toppings, he wasn't held in contempt. He was held in high esteem.

The judge explained his orders were followed according to his instructions: get a pizza with ham and pepperoni from Pizza Hut or get a pizza from Domino's. He didn't have to specify what toppings he wanted on his pizza if it came from Domino's. Common sense told the delivery boy to get the same toppings. 

Using common sense, the state exchanges and federal exchanges are interchangeable terms in the context of the law. They're both places to get health insurance with tax credits, only some states have "Pizza Hut" and others have "Dominos". 

Just because in 1311, tax credits are mentioned for people who sign up on an Exchange established by the state but not mentioned in Section 1321 where it discusses federal Exchanges, doesn't mean Congress wants no tax credits for these people. Similarly, just because the judge didn't mention what toppings he wanted on a Domino's pizza doesn't mean he wants no pizza. 

Congress' intent when passing this law was simple: to provide tax credits to those who qualified and enrolled through an Exchange.

In the other Obamacare case, Halbig v Burwell , the law was read without food analogies or common sense. The judges ruled tax credits were only valid in 16 states and Washington DC.

Neither ruling will jeopardize tax credits and the Department of Justice will take the case to SCOTUS as long as pizza is provided. 

Reading the law literally is dangerous, especially if the Second Amendment means we all have the Right to Grizzly Appendages: the surgery of which is covered by Obamacare. 

18 July 2014

Is Signing Up for Obamacare a Trap to Deport Immigrant Families?

Posted in Health Insurance 101

Is Signing Up for Obamacare a Trap to Deport Immigrant Families?

No wonder immigrant families are scared of being deported if they sign up for Obamacare. The health insurance law is nicknamed after a president critics call "The Deporter-in-Chief". 

For immigrants in Los Angeles, it's important to know who will get deported for getting health insurance, considering 1 in 10 residents in Los Angeles is illegally-present. The other 9 are just extras on Californiacation. 

Despite the fact that President Obama removed over 2 million immigrants in the first 5 years of his presidency, he promised no families would be separated when applying for health insurance. But who can blame skeptics when his infamous pledge, "If you like your plan, you can keep your plan" became Politifact's "Lie of the Year".

After Obamacare's first open enrollment period, no one was deported for signing up for health insurance, even if the application scarily asked for race, preferred language, and citizenship status. The Department of Health and Human Services simply collected this data to verify lawfully-present applicants, to meet  demographic enrollment goals, and to improve outreach and education for different groups of people. 

Latinos were targeted by the administration, but not for their paperwork. Latinos make up the highest number of uninsured people in the country and in order to sign them up for health insurance, special consideration went into educating the group. 

As Affordable Care Act outreach started, the Department of Health and Human Services changed the term health insurance "exchange" into marketplace because the original word didn't have a sensible Spanish equivalent. 

Exchanges refer to the organizations that sell public insurance plans, which may come with financial assistance if an individual or family qualifies.

Speaking of qualifications, it's considered a special qualifying event if you just gained U.S. citizenship or you had a change in your immigration status, meaning you can sign up for health insurance now even if it's not open enrollment season. 

Immigrant families with "mixed status", meaning some members are legally present, don't have to hide their relatives when applying for health insurance. By "Get Covered" we don't mean with a giant ceramic rock to evade ICE agents at your doorstep. Anyone who isn't on the health insurance application, illegally present or not, will not be questioned. 

The next open enrollment season starts November 15, so ready your green cards!