"As of January 1, 2014, IBM will offer Medicare-eligible retirees and their Medicare-eligible dependents a new approach to health coverage. IBM's current medical and prescription drug coverage (dental and vision coverage as well) will end after December 31, 2013."
"Nearly all of IBM's Medicare-eligible retirees and dependents will be able to obtain quality medical and prescription drug benefits through the Extend Health Medicare Exchange that at equal to or better than what they have today, at the same or lower cost."
Premiums will no longer be deducted from your pension check. A new Health Reimbursement Arrangement will be used for those eligible to receive a premium subsidy from IBM. This contribution will be forfeit if not fully used and then a new funding will be made on Jan 1 of the next year. FHA Retirees will have their FHA balance transferred to the HRA on 12/31/13.
Let the games begin....
"You can use your HRA to reimburse yourself and your eligible dependents (as long as they also elect coverage through Extend Health) for the following expenses in a given year:
Assuming that the current stated IBM contributions are $3500/$3000 depending on when you retired under the Prior Plan, there could be substantial savings if you currently don't have significant medical expenses. For example, the cost of a Medicare Supplement High-deductible "F" plan is $50.25/month through BCBSNC, Part D is $83.90 (with no donut-hole), and Medicare Part B is $104. Total monthly premiums would be $238.15 or $2857.80/year. This doesn't include drug co-pays, dental plans (not a good investment for most) and vision plans (VSP).
The Medigap premium is age dependent and has a $2110 deductible. A no deductible Plan "F" is $131.75/month at age 65 gradually increasing to $207 at age 75+
Here's the IBM video posted on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zx73QGVT52k
Bet Towers Watson helped IBM out on this change too, just like what happened with the cash balance pension.
LIFE IS (definitely now) NOT GOOD to be or have worked for IBM.
Also quite unclear (even under the old plan) is how my (younger, non-IBM-retiree) wife will be insured when I'm cut over to this plan.
I'd like to see some CLEAR explanations/discussions of all this (and not a lot of "the world is ending and it's all IBM's fault" stuff), so we all can sort it out in a timely manner. We can sit around and have a blame fest later.
Serious question...not intended to be snarky...really...
How many of the IBM's latest benefit changes have been advantageous for the employee/retiree?
IMI, it's the precedent. Even if you get a subsidy from IBM initially, the whole thing is a switch to a DEFINED CONTRIBUTION medical plan. It seems to me that a company, once it switches to an HRA arrangement, can easily reduce or eliminate the HRA contribution for a given year, especially if the company is trying to meet earnings targets. Granted, IBM could have made changes for the old (defined benefit) medical plans, but I think this will be a lot easier to make changes...i.e., reductions.
Just look at what happened recently to the active employees' defined contribution pension --401(k)-- match.
It's the shift toward a DEFINED CONTRIBUTION approach.
Here is a description of what is allowed:
I don't think it makes a bit of difference whether the money to pay the premiums comes from an HRA or your own wallet. The insurance company doesn't know the source of the funds.
Amazon had been awarded the contract by the CIA in February, but IBM protested within two weeks and argued to the GAO that the CIA had failed to fairly evaluate a couple of IBM's bid points, and had been loose with Amazon in post-selection negotiations, and that this meant there should be another bid. The GAO upheld two rather narrow points: that the CIA had failed to evaluate prices fairly between AWS and IBM in one scenario, and that the CIA had waived one component of the Software Security Commercial Clause for AWS in its post-bid meeting.
The GAO "denied all other IBM protest challenges, including the Agency's assignment of a deficiency to IBM's proposal for IBM's inability to auto-scale and the assignment of its overall proposal as High Risk," the filing states. ...
And in a statement so heavy with irony that we had to spend some of this afternoon quietly digesting it, Amazon states, "Even if the Court should find some corrective action warranted, it should not permit IBM the undeserved windfall opportunity to make its otherwise uncompetitive, materially deficient proposal competitive now that it has AWS's price and ratings in hand." ...
In a statement sent to El Reg on Tuesday afternoon, IBM threw barbs at AWS, and echoed VMware's characterisation of the company as an inexperienced IT provider.
"Amazon had a chance to air its point of view fully and fairly at the GAO," IBM wrote. "We are confident the court in this case will uphold the GAO's ruling and the agency's follow-on actions implementing it. Unlike Amazon, IBM has a long history of delivering successful transformational projects like this for the U.S. government. IBM has been delivering trusted and secure cloud services to business and government clients for many years and developed virtualization technologies, which have led to cloud computing."
These days, they've changed their minds. Now that cloud computing is all that and a bag of chips, cloud-washing your technology can increase the value of the company, not to mention your overall cool factor. Today, it's difficult to find a technology company without some sort of cloud focus.
IBM was recently called on the carpet by the SEC for, in essence, cloud-washing in its 10-Q report, an investor document the feds scrutinize to make sure nothing misleading or false is said. The SEC has raised a question around accounting for what's cloud computing and what's not. Did IBM succumb to the temptation to spin some of its technology into the cloud category when perhaps it's not truly cloud?
It's getting trickier for IBM. As reported by Doug Henschen at InformationWeek, "IBM's cloud computing revenues are smaller and less 'cloud-intensive' than customers and Wall Street analysts might think. That's the claim of a former IBM employee who backed up more than a few critical assessments of the vendor's cloud prowess with a number of confidential internal documents shared with InformationWeek."
Since the report was tabled, the Queensland Government has brought down a total ban on agencies procuring goods and services from IBM, until it is satisfied the company has made improvements to its governance and contracting practices and has taken action against a number of its own employees.
However, with the ACA, those benefits aren't as important as they once were. For example, starting in 2014 pre-existing conditions (i.e. high blood pressure, depression, a pimple on your a**) will no longer prevent you from getting health insurance. Insurance companies can no longer drop you if you get sick. There are no longer life-time limits on covered medical expenses (getting seriously ill is the leading cause of bankruptcy today in the U.S.). There are no longer annual limits on covered medical expenses (again, reducing the leading cause of bankruptcy.)
And, given the subsidies for low- and middle- income individuals and families, coverage through the ACA health exchanges is likely to be *much* cheaper than buying insurance from IBM. (Many believe that IBM derives profits from its self-insured retiree programs.) I'm about to run the numbers and check out the programs available in my state, but my guess is that I'll save my FHA funds until I'm Medicare-eligible, and use them then for Medicare supplemental insurance.
My main point is that with the ACA, losing access to insurance through IBM (after your FHA runs out) is not the disaster it once was. In the past (and in the future, given the desire of the Tea Baggers), if you had any pre-existing condition (i.e. pimple on your a**), the *only* place you could get health insurance in early retirement was through IBM. That will no longer be the case starting in 2014.
Under the old retiree medical plan, IBM provides a subsidy of the insurance premiums that is capped at an average of $7000 per year for pre-Medicare retirees (or $7500 for pre-1991 retirees) and $3000/3500 for Medicare retirees.
Those under the FHA have a notional account that IBM contributed $2500 a year to for up to 10 years while you are employed. A typical retiree might end up with $40,000 to $50,000 in this account. The money can be used ONLY to purchase insurance from IBM at the "full" price, as determined by IBM.
For example, in 2013, the low deductible PPO plan for self-only costs $445 per month for a pre-Medicare retiree under the old plan, while it costs $904 a month for a retiree under the FHA plan.
Under the FHA plan, a retiree can choose to withdraw 0 to 100% percent of the monthly premiums from their account (assuming they have any money left to withdraw). Any remaining balance comes out of their pension check or their own pocket.
Retirees hired after 2004 can get access to IBM health insurance but don't get any FHA money. They have to pay 100% of the bill out of their own pocket.
IBM is being forced to offset its declining hardware business by focusing less on physical processing and storage equipment and more on delivering cloud software and service offerings. The company recently said it would furlough employees in its hardware Systems and Technology Group for a week later this month as a cost-cutting measure, while it works on retooling its business for cloud-based solutions. IBM recently won a $1 billion contract to provide cloud computing services to the U.S. Department of the Interior, which will rely on the company for cloud computing technologies, services and hosting, IBM said.
That's a pretty big claim. The story cites a new book, Outsourcing America: The True Cost of Shipping Jobs Overseas and What Can Be Done About It, published by the American Management Association, and penned by brothers Ron and Anil Hira, that mounts a strong indictment of a one-sided corporate view.
The authors state that there is a lot of corporate bluster, but no real pubic debate on the issue -- with non-corporate views dismissed as protectionism. In the book's forward, Lou Dobbs, CNN anchor and host of that network's Exporting America, says, "Many of our business leaders have lost all sense of responsibility for their country, communities, employees, and the public trust. These leaders have promoted the false notion that American workers are not capable or are overpaid."
The 138 laid-off IT employees will be replaced by Filipino workers in Sears Canada’s partnership with technology giant IBM. Sears Canada is also looking to new vendor Wipro Ltd., an Indian outsourcing service company, to replace the rest of its discharged force. ...
Mr. Power said a “small contingent” of workers will remain in Canada, but the “majority of the work [IBM and Wipro] will be doing for [Sears Canada] is done overseas.” Dismissed employees will be leaving the company starting November until next spring.
Cons: There is just a shell of the former workforce remaining in the US, maybe 20%. The remainder is overseas in the 'low cost geographies', and the drain continues apace. You too will be encouraged to move to India or China and work there for the locally prevalent wage; they call it the Magellan initiative, lol. Your manager will be from one of those places in any case. Profitability is maintained by squeezing out costs; you will not ever come across a company that is so focused on not spending any money.
Advice to Senior Management: IBM is an IT company and yet management appears to be so clueless and disinterested in it. Put a value on technology for a change. Attempt to recognize it when you see it, and reward people who create it. Give people at least some kind of raise every year, if only to keep up with inflation. No, I would not recommend this company to a friend. I'm not optimistic about the outlook for this company.
Cons: Decreasing benefits over time (limited/no pay increases, steep increases in insurance rates with less coverage). The best benefits (pension, large vacation allowances) were cut for new employees 5+ years ago. The company has trouble retaining new employees for these reasons. We are constantly expected to handle more workload with fewer people and no incentive to take on more. Performance evaluation program is not very equitable, and only the very top performers see any real movement in salary. Those in technical job types in the US work long hours and are expected to be available to work weekends, holidays, nights, without additional compensation.
Advice to Senior Management: The experience of being "an IBMer" varies tremendously from job to job. Technical vitality is being driven out of the business because you are not looking after your employees. Top performers are probably happy with their incentives and compensation, but you need the "solid" employees to get the job done, too! No, I would not recommend this company to a friend. I'm not optimistic about the outlook for this company.
Cons: Global Delivery Framework (GDF), which was borrowed from Toyota's LEAN leadership and intensified upon. Now we have:
Advice to Senior Management: There is no advice to all levels of managements, after all, you don't really need us for your EPS goals. No, I would not recommend this company to a friend. I'm not optimistic about the outlook for this company.
Advice to Senior Management: Give more value to employees and look at promotions seriously. Divert the time and energy spent on trying to avoid giving promotions and use it towards better HR management. Remove HR function from managers and reallocate to people who are trained in HR functions. Manager is too powerful in this organisation and this had led to widespread corruption and blatant violations of BCGs by managers. BCG should not be applicable only to junior and senior engineers. Managers should be held in check. No, I would not recommend this company to a friend.
Cons: They have lost their way. Senior management encourages a message of "client first". Yet they have slashed staffing to WAY beyond the ability to create, deliver, market and train products of quality to their customers. Research and engineering employees who truly believe in doing a great job no longer have the ability to do so.
IBM is aggressively moving towards cloud/big data technologies, but are trying to do so with little investment.
Do more with less is fine...and sometimes a reality. But do more with less for years, and less benefits and no work-life balance is not sustainable.
Advice to Senior Management: IBM employees want to do the right thing. They are hard working, bright individuals with integrity and loyalty to their jobs. The breaking point has been reached. Slash and burn has taken too great a toll on products (that make money despite IBM) and the employees who work on them. Invest in your people. Give them the ability to succeed. No, I would not recommend this company to a friend. I'm not optimistic about the outlook for this company.
Cons: No salary hikes. Salary remains stagnant. No growth available after certain band. If progression happens, salary is not hiked as per expectation. Most of the employees are dissatisfied. Company does not share the profit with employees. The hike percentage is pretty low. No motivation among employees to perform better and stay in the organization.
Advice to Senior Management: Management should focus on to make employee friendly by sharing profits with employees, giving away bonus, hikes to retain talent. No, I would not recommend this company to a friend. I'm optimistic about the outlook for this company.
To say that the world has changed since then is an understatement. In the years since, the retirement world has changed just as dramatically: the once prevalent professionally-managed defined benefit pension plans are on the decline, while do-it-yourself 401(k) plans and IRAs are ascending in popularity.
In an effort to keep up with the changing retirement landscape, the Department of Labor is trying to modernize its investment advisor fiduciary rules. By updating these rules, the agency wants to ensure that the professionals who give investment advice to millions of everyday workers and retirees in 401(k)s and IRAs do so without conflicts of interest.
Who could disagree with that?
The financial industry, of course. Many of the financial advisors who make a fortune by advising their clients to invest their retirement assets in stocks that pay the advisors a finder’s fee have launched a lobbying blitz to stop the Department of Labor from protecting the interests of workers and retirees whose retirement security depends on these funds. ...
Janice Winston, a Verizon retiree, described her surprise upon learning that investment advisors aren’t required to act solely in the best interests of their clients: “I thought that anyone I paid to advise me would be guided only by my best interests. This is important, because I really have no good way to evaluate whether my investments are performing well or whether I am paying too much in fees.”
He's certainly been willing to do it before. One of his first executive acts was the creation of a "Deficit Commission" led by two rabid anti-Social Security activists, Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson. Social Security was included in their mandate even though it's forbidden by law from adding to the deficit. And a very senior Cabinet official told this writer and other journalists early in the Obama presidency that the administration intended to push for Social Security cuts.
And remember: These moves were made when Democrats held the White House, the Senate, and Congress.
The president was also planning to announce unilateral cuts to Social Security in his 2011 State of the Union message until, as the Wall Street Journal reported, he was pressured to back down at the last minute. And he continues to push for these cuts in negotiations with the Republicans.
CAP, a liberal think tank closely associated with the Obama White House, called the current system, which relies increasingly on worker-directed individual retirement accounts and 401(k)s,“unnecessarily costly and needlessly risky.” That cost and risk, the center said, could be reduced by adopting retirement plans that combine elements from both traditional pensions — those fast-disappearing benefits that provide retirees a fixed payment for life — and defined-contribution plans such as 401(k)s.
Such a system would feature regular lifetime payments for retirees and professional management of investments, such as a pension. And, like 401(k)s, the plan would offer portability for workers, who are changing jobs more often than ever. It also would promise predictable expenses for employers, who have been abandoning traditional pensions for decades because of what they consider excessive cost.
An analysis of the proposal found that if workers made regular lifetime payments into a pooled, professionally managed fund, they would be much better off than if they funneled the same money into a 401(k), which is the dominant retirement savings vehicle for workers in the private sector.
I'm expecting a BIG increase in medical plan costs from IBM when we have to pick our benefits in a month or so. A company that will fire the troops, furlough more workers, delay 401k matching, delay salary increases, eliminate bonus, eliminate awards, slash training...all so it can buy back more stock to magically inflate EPS, will surely want to take more from employees and make smaller contributions towards benefits. I sure wish I was protected by a union contract that kept the company from slashing my benefits and increasing the cost to me. -Blue_Flu_Lou-
“In the world according to Blue Cross, consumers are required to buy its policies, but once enrolled, Blue Cross can change the price and take away the benefits and coverage it promised,” said Consumer Watchdog staff attorney Jerry Flanagan. “When consumers purchase health plans, they carefully consider the price they’ll pay and the services they’ll receive. If Blue Cross is allowed to boost profits by reducing benefits each month, then consumers’ health plans are worthless.” ...
Blue Cross has claimed that the mid-year changes to “annual” and “yearly” out of pocket costs were necessary to protect consumers from premium increases, yet Blue Cross:
The state earlier made the call to be a clearinghouse exchange, rather than an active purchaser, and so, it has approved all 242 health plans submitted for sale on its marketplace, Connect for Health Colorado. Thirteen carriers will offer 150 plans in the individual marketplace, and 92 for small businesses. The plans go on sale Oct. 1 for coverage that starts Jan. 1. Colorado also approved 299 plans for sale outside its exchange and prices for them. ...
So where do the Colorado rates fall in the ongoing debate about whether prices on the exchanges are reasonable? It might be the rare “just right” state.
Prices range from $135 a month on the low end to almost $1,000 a month for the most comprehensive coverage with some variation depending on a person’s age, where they live and whether they use tobacco. ...
The Division of Insurance released sample rate information for the new plans earlier this week. It shows that premiums for a 27-year-old non-smoker will range from $135.57 a month for the lowest-cost catastrophic coverage plan to $566.80 for “platinum” level coverage in the individual market. Prices range from $183.72 to $662.32 a month in the small group market, which will not offer catastrophic nor platinum plans. A 40-year-old can expect to pay from $176.89 a month for a bronze plan on the individual market to $967.85 for a platinum policy in the small group market.
Back in 1990, shouts a new study just published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, the United States ranked a lowly 20th on life expectancy among 34 major industrial nations. The United States now ranks 27th — despite spending much more on health care than any other nation.
Americans, notes the AMA journal, are losing ground globally “by every” health measure. ...
To really understand America’s poor health standing globally, epidemiologists like Bezruchka posit, we need to look at those social and economic realities that define our daily lives, what scientists call “the social determinants of health.”
And none of these determinants matter more, these researchers contend, than economic inequality, the divide between the affluent and everyone else. Over 170 studies worldwide have so far linked income inequality to health outcomes. The more unequal a modern society, the studies show, the more unhealthy most everyone in it — and not the poor alone.
Just how does inequality translate into unhealthy outcomes? Growing numbers of researchers see stress as the culprit. The more inequality in a society, the more stress. Chronic stress, over time, wears down our immune systems and leaves us more vulnerable to disease. ...
Just how does inequality translate into unhealthy outcomes? Growing numbers of researchers see stress as the culprit. The more inequality in a society, the more stress. Chronic stress, over time, wears down our immune systems and leaves us more vulnerable to disease.
The United States, over the same span of time, has gone in the exact opposite direction. We have become the world’s most unequal major nation, with health outcomes among the developed world’s worst.
They can point to the National Health Expenditures report, which shows health care costs now growing at the same rate as the rest of the economy. Or, they can pull up new data out Tuesday from the Kaiser Family Foundation, showing that premiums grew 4 percent in 2013. That’s way lower than growth in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
Ask any American about what direction health costs are moving, and you’ll likely get a completely different story. Preliminary results for a forthcoming Kaiser Family Foundation poll show that most Americans think that health care costs are actually growing faster than usual right now. Fewer than 10 percent say the growth is slowing down. ...
It’s also important to look beyond premiums, to the other health care costs that Americans may incur in paying for health coverage. While monthly premiums are growing slower, the Kaiser Family Foundation data shows a steady rise in deductibles, the amount that an insurance costumer must pay out-of-pocket before their benefits kick in.
Before concluding that such luxurious plans are the sole preserve of supposedly greedy city workers, keep in mind that by the estimate of one health economist, as many as 75 percent of employer health plans could fall under the “Cadillac” umbrella over the next decade. Reasonably good insurance – you know, the kind that covers all of your medical needs, without making you pay an arm and leg out-of-pocket every time you need to use it – has stealthily become the new Cadillac. However much the reputation of General Motors may have fallen in recent years, this seems like a bit of a stretch. ...
And looking at the problem from another angle, it became increasingly appreciated that the rise in deductibles, copays and coinsurance was having significant effects on our very health. As I described in a recent article, there are clear downsides to becoming “Copay Country.” There is evidence, for instance, that cost sharing may increase the risk of death for the most vulnerable, perhaps because it reduces expenditure on both “inappropriate” and “appropriate” care. In one recent experiment that randomized patients to copays or to full coverage for prescriptions after they suffered heart attacks, those with full coverage took their medications more regularly – and had less strokes and other cardiovascular complications as result. And all told, there was still no overall increase in cost, either way.
Yet, in the face of this growing body of solid evidence, we simply continue to hear more and more about how patients (apologies, “consumers”) need to have more “skin in the game” – as if having their physical hearts, lungs or – in some instances – their skin on the line wasn’t enough already.
So don’t be surprised if you find, in the coming years, that your semi-reasonable-quality heath insurance – perhaps won through hard-fought negotiation, or maybe earned in exchange for lower pay or other benefits – somehow transforms itself into a taxed “Cadillac” plan. From the perspective of much of the health policy establishment, you’ve had it too good, for too long, already. And however nice it might sound, they say we simply can’t afford truly universal health care, with comprehensive benefits for all and with little or no cost sharing (even if other industrialized countries magically manage to do so, at a lower price, and with better results).
If only the people we elect to represent us were required to take such an oath when they're sworn into office.
Because they aren't, folks in Florida are facing having to pay far more for health insurance over the next two years than necessary. And health insurance executives will be laughing all the way to the bank.
Florida state lawmakers, in their ongoing efforts to block the implementation of Obamacare in the Sunshine State, recently passed a law that will allow health insurance companies to gouge Floridians more than any corporate boss dreamed was possible.
And if that weren't bad enough, insurers will actually be required by law to mislead their Florida customers about why they're hiking their premiums.
Republicans, who control the governor's office as well as both houses of the Florida legislature, were confident the U.S. Supreme Court would declare the Affordable Care Act unconstitutional. Not only did they vote to prohibit the state from spending money to implement a law they just knew would be overturned by the high court, they refused to accept money from the federal government that would have enabled the state's department of insurance to do a better job of regulating health insurers and enforcing new consumer protections in the law. ...
Their response? They passed a bill that prohibits the state's Office of Insurance Regulation from protecting consumers from unreasonable rate increases for two years. ...
Last month, McCarty's office said insurance premiums for individuals in Florida would be significantly higher than they are now. In their letter to Sebelius, the state's congressional Democrats wrote that those increases are "not a coincidence, but rather the product of a cynical and intentional effort by Gov. Scott and the Florida legislature to undermine the Affordable Care Act and make health insurance premiums on the Florida Health Insurance Marketplace more expensive by refusing to allow the insurance commissioner to negotiate lower rates with companies or refuse rates that are too high." ...
As Florida CHAIN, a state advocacy group, pointed out when Scott signed SB 1842, the law not only blocks McCarty's office from protecting consumers, a provision in the law actually requires insurers to send deceptive and misleading notices about rate increases to consumers -- and to blame Obamacare for them.
"The only 'public education' of any sort authorized by the Legislature related to the ACA (Affordable Care Act) is a requirement ... that insurers send extremely biased and incomplete notices this fall about the ACA and its effect on policyholders' rates," Florida CHAIN said in a statement.
"The sole purpose of the requirement is to create 'sticker shock' that can be blamed on the ACA. There will be no mention of the many uncertainties or any other relevant factors, such as past rate increases or how actual rates will be reduced for many by the availability of premium tax credits (to low and middle income earners.)"
Murphy is a Republican foot soldier. The kind of party activist who has worked on Republican campaigns including Casey Cagle, John McCain, and Karen Handel. The problem is, political foot soldiers like Murphy only have paid jobs during campaigns. And even in this era of perpetual campaigns, they are going to find themselves out of work from time to time. Which means that if people like him ever get one of those dreaded “pre-existing conditions”, without Obamacare’s requirements that insurance companies cannot turn you down for having a pre-existing condition, they would never be able to qualify for health insurance.
And of course, in a high stress job like politics, eventually you will get a pre-existing condition. In Murphy’s case, it was testicular cancer.
It doesn’t matter that after some chemotherapy his cancer has been in remission for over a decade. And even if the cancer didn’t count as a pre-existing condition, Murphy also has sleep apnea, a condition for which the insurance companies also turned him down. So even though Murphy is only 38, he has no health insurance.
Last week, on the same day as Newt Gingrich was speaking, Murphy made a post to his Facebook account about Obamacare:
When you say you’re against it, you’re saying that you don’t want people like me to have health insurance.
When Georgia’s health insurance exchange opens in October, as mandated by Obamacare, Murphy says he will “absolutely” sign up. Murphy also points out the irony of how repealing Obamacare could push people like him into bankruptcy, which could lead to welfare, and thus increase the cost of government.
Assuming all eligible current enrollees applied for a tax credit, the subsidy would reduce the premium for the second-lowest-cost silver plan by an average of 32 percent across all people now buying insurance in the individual market. ...
"Tax subsidies are an essential part of the equation for many people who buy insurance through the new marketplaces next year," Kaiser Family Foundation President and CEO Drew Altman said in a written statement. "They will help make coverage more affordable for low- and middle-income people."
Tax credits will be available to subsidize premiums for people who buy their insurance in the new marketplaces, do not have access to other affordable coverage, and have incomes between 100 percent and 400 percent of the federal poverty level (between about $11,500 and $46,000 for a single person, and $24,000 and $94,000 for a family of four).
An estimated 48 percent of people who currently have individual market coverage will be eligible for tax credits, according to the study. Tax credits among those eligible will average $5,548 per family, and subsidies will average $2,672 across all families now purchasing their own insurance. Many people who are now uninsured also will be eligible for subsidies in the new marketplaces, and their tax credits will likely be higher on average because they have lower incomes than those who now buy their own coverage.
How will these exchanges improve health insurance? First, they will provide individual consumers something new: one-stop shopping with a side-by-side comparison of health plans. By standardizing coverage, patient cost-sharing, pricing, quality and service metrics, exchanges make informed choice of health plans easy. ...
Mitt Romney, the Republican standard-bearer in 2012, was so smitten with this conservative policy tool that as governor he made exchanges the centerpiece of Massachusetts’s landmark health reform. It remains very popular here.
So why do most Republican politicians now oppose exchanges? Arguing that Obamacare is a fiasco and that the federal government will mismanage exchanges, Republicans plan to campaign on health reform’s failure. By blocking states from developing their own exchanges and threatening to defund the federal exchange, they hope to make their own dire prediction come true.
Republicans are obsessed with the supposed injustice being done to some healthy young people who will effectively subsidize their sicker elders when Obamacare’s individual mandate takes effect. ...
Conservatives are therefore urging young Americans to resist. “I’m burning my Obamacare draft card,” runs one theatrical riff from a group called Young Americans for Liberty, “because I’m too busy paying student loans to pay for somebody else’s health insurance.” Republican policy advisors have urged the party to make such child abuse a big part of their anti-Obamacare message.
Sounds like a sexy argument, except for one thing. Republicans seem to have forgotten where most people aged 19 to 34 get health coverage: from their employer. And at virtually every company, young people pay the same premiums as employees who are much older than they are and who get more expensively sick than they do. In other words, the evil cross-subsidy Obamacare’s foes are storming the barricades to roll back already exists, at vastly larger scale, in corporate America.
These youngsters are already in chains! They’ve been put there by the private sector! And, inexplicably, young employees have entered this servitude of their own volition. ...
How could injustice on this scale escape the GOP’s searing moral scrutiny?
After all, the president is only hoping that about 2.7 million young people will purchase coverage in the new exchanges. But 20 million Americans between the ages of 19 and 34 get coverage from their employer right now, according to an analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation.
If you’re keeping score, that makes employer-based health care’s cross-subsidy about eight times more evil than Obamacare’s.
How does it work? Compare a typical, strapping young employee of 28 to her broken- down 58-year-old colleague. These two employees have very different annual health expenses. Yet under the nefarious plot known as “group health insurance,” they basically pay the same premiums. It turns out every big company in America is essentially a socialized health care republic, in which the young subsidize the old, and the healthy subsidize the sick — all of whom pay the same premiums for the same plans.
Similar dynamics explain why, in the federal health-care plan, spry 42-year-olds like Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz subsidize 79-year-old geezers like Chuck Grassley and Orrin Hatch. ...
It would be better if all those smart GOP thinkers devoted their talent and energy to the question of how they would expand coverage to the 50 million uninsured — but to raise that question is to enter the policy cul de sac in all its delicious irony.
Because the answer to that question is RomneyObamacare, the only sound way (as Republicans rightly taught us) that a country can move toward universal coverage using private health plans. The GOP could offer a tweaked version with slightly fewer regulations. Or structure it to offer universal catastrophic coverage to save money. But if Republicans were serious, they’d offer the same basic reform architecture.
So Republicans choose not to be serious. And it shows.
The survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation and Health Research & Educational Trust found that 57% of firms offered health benefits in 2013 -- statistically unchanged from 61% last year and 60% in 2011.
The overall drop came mostly from the smallest firms -- those with three to nine workers -- which fell from 50% offering health benefits last year to 45% this year. But that drop was within the survey's margin of error. ...
More than three-quarters of workers (78%) have an annual deductible -- up from 72% last year and 62% in 2009. While the average deductible for all workers is $1,135, employees at firms with fewer than 200 workers face ones that are nearly twice as high ($1,715) as at large employers ($884).
The average annual premium for a family rose 4 percent in 2013, to $16,351, according to the survey results released Tuesday by the Kaiser Family Foundation. Annual premiums for individual policies purchased through an employer rose 5 percent, to $5,884.
The 4 percent increase for a family is relatively tame, at least compared with the roughly 10 percent annual increases experienced a decade ago. But it is still a far bigger rise than 1.8 percent increase in wages and the 1.1 percent rate of inflation in the last year, the foundation said. ...
“The critics will have a much harder time blaming big premium increases in employer insurance on Obamacare this year, because there aren’t any big premium increases,” Drew Altman, chief executive of the Kaiser foundation, said in a telephone news conference Tuesday.
Also of concern is the fact that plans requiring high deductibles have increased and the amounts of those deductibles also have continued to increase. Thus the percentage increase in the premiums can be quite deceptive if you ignore the increase in out-of-pocket expenses that workers and their families are experiencing.
Also many employers are now considering private insurance exchanges which will allow them to convert their premium contributions into defined contributions, requiring employees to pick up the additional costs for plans that have more than minimal benefits.
Also there is considerable variation in the premiums, benefits, cost sharing, and covered populations of employer-sponsored health coverage. As if the average expenses that the employees must cover weren't bad enough, many of them will find that the cost variations will be intolerably burdensome, even if some are better off.
These trends have been going on so long that they've become quite boring, but the cumulative impact on wage earners can be quite distressing. Giving a new definition to "catastrophic insurance," the costs shifted to the workers can be catastrophic. Instead of catastrophic plans leaving people precariously exposed, what we really need is prepaid coverage that removes financial barriers to health care (i.e., single payer).
Many analysts downplay the Affordable Care Act’s effect on companies such as UPS, noting that the move is part of a long-term trend of shrinking corporate medical benefits. But the shipping giant repeatedly cites the act to explain the decision, adding fuel to the debate over whether the law erodes traditional employer coverage. ...
The company told white-collar workers two months ago that 15,000 working spouses eligible for coverage at their own employers would be excluded from the UPS plan in 2014. The Fortune 100 firm expects the move, which applies to non-union U.S. workers only, to save about $60 million a year, said company spokesman Andy McGowan.
UPS becomes one of the highest-profile employers yet to bar working spouses from the company plan. Many firms already require employees to pay a surcharge for working-spouse medical coverage, but some are taking the next step by declining to include them at all, consultants say.
A middle-aged man in a red golf shirt shuffles up to a small folding table with gold trim, in a booth adorned with a flotilla of helium balloons, where government workers at the Kentucky State Fair are hawking the virtues of Kynect, the state’s health benefit exchange established by Obamacare.
The man is impressed. “This beats Obamacare I hope,” he mutters to one of the workers.
“Do I burst his bubble?” wonders Reina Diaz-Dempsey, overseeing the operation. She doesn’t. If he signs up, it’s a win-win, whether he knows he’s been ensnared by Obamacare or not.
This speaks to a point that others, particularly Jonathan Bernstein, have already made: When Americans actually interact with Obamacare, it won’t be called Obamacare at all. In Kentucky, for example, it will be Kynect, the state health marketplace. In Idaho, local residents will purchase coverage from Your Health Idaho. Covered Oregon will serve (surprise!) Oregonians, while neighboring Washingtonians will purchase coverage from WAHealthPlanFinder. If you watch the ads that states have produced to support their marketplaces, they rarely mention the federal law that has set these changes in action.
"But dependency on government has never been bad for the rich. The pretense of the laissez-faire people is that only the poor are dependent on government, while the rich take care of themselves. This argument manages to ignore all of modern history, which shows a consistent record of laissez-faire for the poor, but enormous government intervention for the rich." From Economic Justice: The American Class System, from the book Declarations of Independence by Howard Zinn.
As Eric Lipton recently explained in The Times, Financial Services has become known as “the cash committee” because interest groups donate more money to its members than to those of any other House committee. More than $10 million has been given to its members just this year, and most of it has come from the big names the committee oversees. Contributors included employees of Goldman Sachs, Bank of America, the Credit Union National Association, the Investment Company Institute, Wells Fargo and many of the biggest accounting firms and insurance companies. ...
Many Democrats on the panel are just as eager to join the feeding line, but the biggest hypocrites are the Tea Party members who claim to be populists. Tom Cotton, a rising Republican on the committee from Arkansas, recently announced that he would run for the Senate next year because he was sick of seeing favors handed out “to the politically connected and the crony capitalists who bend the power of government for their own private gain.” But that didn’t stop him from accepting $381,000 so far this year from political action committees, mostly from finance and insurance interests with business before his panel.
We're becoming a financialized economy. Never before has the manipulation of money counted for so much and the real-world economy of people and consumer goods counted for so little.
And none of it is an accident.
As it becomes more difficult to hide money offshore, rich people will actually have to pay their taxes, and there will be incentive for the wealthy to invest here at home. The days of the rich skipping out on their patriotic duty of paying taxes could soon be over, and the wealthy may have to start contributing to the care of our commons, which made their vast fortunes possible in the first place.
The events, which are organized by Americans for Tax Fairness (ATF), a coalition of more than 325 national and state organizations, are being held in advance of the expected showdown in Congress shortly after Labor Day on budget and tax issues.
"With members of Congress back in their states this August, people are demanding that Congress stop corporate tax dodging and invest in America," ATF Campaign Manager Frank Clemente said in a written statement. "Congress faces a clear choice in September when it debates how to keep the government funded: Continue to whack away at critical services that protect our families and that are needed to grow our economy, or close gaping tax loopholes so that big corporations and the rich pay their fair share of taxes."
On August 20, the ATF released a report, The High Price of Tax Loopholes, that highlights the trade-offs between deep cuts in government services and existing corporate tax loopholes. Some of the tax loopholes cited in the report include the following:
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