December 2018

Caregiver Guides Detail Financial Duties

The federal government has released online brochures to give people who are thrust into a caregiving role a better idea of what they’re getting into.

“It’s a big shock at first and a big adjustment,” an Episcopal priest says in the video above. He became his mother’s caregiver after she developed dementia.

But people who anticipate they will one day be a caregiver can soften the blow by studying up on their future responsibilities with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s new guides to caring for a loved one.

The brochures are free and cover four financial responsibilities: guardian, trustee, power of attorney, and fiduciary for a Social Security or Veterans Affairs beneficiary.

They can be downloaded in English or in Spanish at the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) website, or the agency will mail them.

CFPB has also posted brochures detailing the caregiver regulations and laws specific to six states: Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Oregon, and Virginia. The state guides each cover the same four topics: guardian, trustee, power of attorney, and fiduciary for a Social Security or Veteran Affairs beneficiary.

Non-profit organizations in Michigan and Texas have also published their own brochures on caregiver issues in their states – links to these brochures are also on CFPB’s website. …Learn More

Open enrollment ad

ACA Premiums Drop in Many States

Premiums for the benchmark silver health insurance plans under the Affordable Care Act will go down 1 percent to 2 percent, on average, in 2019.

This sounds like good news to people scurrying to enroll by the Dec. 15 deadline. But a more accurate characterization is that this slight decline is a break from what had generally been a relentless pace of premium hikes in 2016 through 2018.

Cynthia Cox, director of health reform and private insurance for the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, said insurance companies in many states had previously “raised premiums more than they had to” amid the uncertainty in the program’s early years. These hikes boosted their profits, but they’ve “put the brakes on premium increases,” which they are required to justify to state regulators.

On close inspection, however, the picture is far more complex. Each state regulates its insurers, and individual state markets have gone in many different directions in the five years since the Affordable Care Act (ACA) went into effect, a Kaiser study shows. The unique developments in each state market reflect a combination of state and federal regulatory changes, insurers’ constant repricing to market conditions, and insurers’ entrances into, and exits from, the state insurance exchanges.

Here are a few examples, based on insurance companies’ rate filings with state regulators:

  • Tennessee residents will see the biggest decline in 2019 premiums, a drop of 26 percent for the benchmark silver plan, which is the second lowest-cost silver plan. Tennessee insurers initially had set some of the lowest premiums in the country. In a 2018 adjustment, Cox said they overcorrected them to the point that the policies became “particularly overpriced.” Next year, insurers will drop the premiums as they continue their efforts to find the proper pricing for the state’s insurance market.   Somewhat similar stories have played out in New MexicoNew Hampshire, and Pennsylvania.
  • North Dakota premiums are going in the opposite situation. Two years ago, Cox said, insurers there were “losing money quickly,” so they raised their 2018 rates by 8 percent. This increase apparently wasn’t enough, and the benchmark silver premium will rise by another 21 percent next year.
  • Alaska’s premiums got so high that the state stepped in. In 2017, the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services granted Alaska’s request for a waiver that allowed it to reinsure its health insurance companies to reduce their risk in hopes they would drop their prices. The reform worked. Between 2017 and 2019, Alaska’s benchmark premium has fallen 25 percent.
  • New Jersey’s benchmark price will drop nearly 15 percent as a result of a new state law. Last summer, the state instituted a mandate requiring uninsured residents to purchase coverage to replace the federal mandate, which was eliminated. …

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house roof

Home Equity Offers Big Boost to Retirees

Retirees’ primary sources of income are the usual suspects: Social Security and employer retirement plans. They rarely use a third option: the equity locked up in their homes.

The Urban Institute recently quantified how much this untapped equity could be worth to seniors in the United States and 10 European countries if it were converted to income – and the amounts are significant.

The typical retired U.S. household has the potential to increase its retirement income by 35 percent, researchers Stipica Mudrazija and Barbara Butrica estimate. In Europe, using home equity would add anywhere from 19 percent in Sweden to 100 percent in Spain.
home equity in various countriesLearn More