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It’s that time of year again!
No, not the time to gorge yourself on turkey … wake up at 4 a.m. to battle hundreds of people for the only $100 laptop at the store … or yell at the television while your football team loses. I’m talking about open enrollment season for Obamacare!
The second such period began Nov. 15, and runs through Feb. 15, 2015. Americans can sign up for new coverage or switch existing coverage during this period. Everything from co-pays to provider networks may have changed in the past year. So if you are taking advantage of the law, you need to pay close attention to those changes.
|More Americans disapprove of Obamacare than ever before.|
The size of your government subsidy — which helps reduce your monthly premium — may have changed as well. If you got a raise, had a baby, divorced or have gone through other life events, you’re going to have to account for that, too.
All told, just over 7 million Americans are already enrolled in Obamacare. The administration wants to expand that by 2 million people this year. But Republicans are threatening to repeal parts of the law and, frankly, it seems to be getting less popular by the month.
Back in December 2012 before people actually started signing up and paying for insurance, Gallup found that 48 percent of those surveyed approved of the law and 45 percent disapproved.
Those readings have done nothing but get worse over time, with disapproval climbing to a fresh high of 56 percent this month. Only 37 percent approve.
Yes, people who make it through the somewhat confusing enrollment process are fond of their Obamacare. But even that may change for a couple key reasons: Health-care shopping is as complicated as ever, and the law is still failing to cut health-care costs.
One Washington consulting firm estimates lower-end “bronze” plans will rise 3 percent in price this year, while “silver” plans will go up by 4 percent. Individual horror stories of much bigger increases abound, too, both among Obamacare enrollees and people like me who have insurance through work.
|“I can tell you that I have seen nothing but negative impacts since Obamacare was passed.”|
Indeed, I can tell you from personal experience that insurance is getting much more expensive due to new mandates, taxes and paperwork and compliance costs. Our own Weiss Ratings research confirmed that earlier this year.
Bottom line: I’m not even going to get into the political angle of this story — whether or not the Obama administration misled average Americans and even Congressional lawmakers about program costs and benefits.
I can just tell you that I have seen nothing but negative impacts (rising premiums, rising co-pays and so on) since Obamacare was passed. And the complexity of shopping for insurance is no better now than it was a few years ago. So if you are signing up, best of luck this enrollment season! You’re going to need it!
How about you? Do you think Obamacare is helping or hurting the health care system? Have you personally benefitted? What about your co-pays, doctor networks, and family out-of-pocket costs? Are they going up or down, and if so, by how much? Please hop over to the Money and Markets comment section to weigh in on this very important issue!
|Our Readers Speak|
Yesterday’s column on JetBlue’s announcement to trim leg room and add bag fees sparked a pile of comments …
Dan H wrote, “You hit the nail on the head. It’s skyway robbery! I flew in September, and there’s no seat room to be had. Fares are sky high, and now going up while the airlines make more money thanks to cheaper fuel prices.”
Reader Kasey gave this advice: “The only solution to this airline nonsense is for us to vote with our feet; do everything you can to avoid using airlines. It is now quicker, and much less expensive, to drive from my home in West Virginia to Washington DC when you consider distance to the airport, security, wait times, delays, waiting for bags, etc., and you avoid the rudeness and poor service that comes from people who think they have a monopoly, and the nastiness of fellow passengers who are rightfully upset at the airlines. Only when demand dries up because we are not going to take it any more will things improve. Let’s all take another look at the train, the bus, driving ourselves, and using the internet for on-line meetings.”
And Donald L. had this forecast, “By their thoughtless actions, the airlines will have no one to blame but themselves when the government, in its usual ham-handed manner, re-regulates the airlines. Some politician will see an opportunity to make a name for himself and introduce such a bill. The rest of congress, fearing the voters, will go along with it.”
Thanks for sharing your experiences. There were a lot of very important comments, as usual, from Money and Markets readers. I will respond to as many as possible next week upon my return from Chicago.
Any other thoughts? Please don’t hesitate to share them here!
|Other Developments of the Day|
The markets got an unexpected surprise this morning — one from China and another from Europe. Out of China came a surprise interest-rate cut, which was that country’s first in more than two years and a clear sign that it is moving to boost an economy that is important to world growth. Meanwhile, the head of the European Central Bank, Mario Draghi, reiterated his commitment to use more aggressive measures to ensure that the euro-zone economy gets back into a growth mode. Among the measures possible: large-scale asset purchases by the ECB.
Speaking in Frankfurt, Draghi said the ECB would “do what we must to raise inflation and inflation expectations as fast as possible, as our price stability mandate requires of us.” If that doesn’t work, he added, the ECB would step up the “size, pace and composition” of asset purchases. This all harkens back to Draghi’s 2012 comments that the ECB is prepared to “do whatever it takes to preserve the euro.”
You are able to buy just about everything on amazon.com — and now it may have found another way for you to spend your money on the web site. According to skift.com, Amazon is joining up with independent hotels in the New York, Los Angeles and Seattle areas to allow customers to book through the site, with Amazon taking a 15 percent commission. According to the report, Amazon is targeting independent hotels and resorts and isn’t looking to dominate the U.S. hotel-booking market. Right …
Russia is considering cutting oil production to help alleviate the worldwide glut and support prices, the country’s energy minister said, according to the Financial Times. Those comments come a week before the OPEC cartel members meet in what should be one of the most-watched gatherings in years. Separately, Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister met with his Russian counterpart and indicated their willingness to “cooperate” on energy and oil matters.
Until next time,
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