Need To Know

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Need To Know
Gray Easterling

Have you ever had a memory lapse where a credit card payment was forgotten and all of a sudden you realize that today is the due date? According to an article in the January 2011 issue of Kiplinger Personal Finance, there is no need to panic. You can probably get your payment credited to your account without paying an extra fee. You will need to have your credit card number and your bank’s routing number. American Express gives you until 10:00pm on the due date to make your payment, and the service is free whether you pay online or by phone. Chase gives you until 5:00pm using its free Web E-pay service, or by calling a toll free number on the back of your card. If you want to talk to a real person, it will cost you $14.95, but it also extends the deadline until midnight. Wells Fargo gives you until midnight to pay and does not charge for its services. Capital One and Citibank have 5:00pm deadlines. Capital One does not charge for its services; Citibank‘s automated service is free, but talking to a person costs $14.95.  Other card companies may offer similar opportunities, but you should check before a deadline is looming.

The November 2010 issue of Financial Advisor magazine had an article, “What to Expect”, that gave some idea of changes coming as a result of the new healthcare legislation. I have no reason to believe that the information that follows is not reliable, but, no guarantees. Follow up with your legal, tax and financial advisors. Some of the highlights are as follows. There is now a pre-existing condition insurance plan (PCIP) for persons who have been without insurance for six months or longer. To qualify, individuals must provide proof that they have been denied coverage because of pre-existing conditions. Benefits are federally mandated and premiums are to be the same as would be for a standard population, with adjustments for age limited to four times the rate for the youngest policyholders. For small businesses that offer health insurance to their workers, there is a tax credit that starts in 2010 and may be available to companies with fewer than 25 full time employees. The average wage must be less than $50,000 and the employer must pay at least one-half of the workers’ premiums. There are other criteria, so it will be important to consult with your tax advisor. There is an early retiree reinsurance program that subsidizes employers’ coverage for retirees age 55-64, reimbursing businesses for 80% of employee claims that fall between $15,000 and $90,000. 

In 2011, money from health savings accounts (HSA) can no longer be used to buy over-the-counter drugs unless they are prescribed by a physician.  Also, the penalty for using HSA funds for non-medical expenses before age 65 will increase from 10% to 20%.  Beginning in 2011, employers will be required to show on form W-2 the total cost of employer provided health insurance.  Companies with less than 100 employees may take advantage of a health care reform provision that allows them to establish cafeteria plans for workers without complying with the related strict non-discrimination rules of section 125. Also, companies with less than 100 employees can qualify for $200,000,000 in grants over a five-year period if they start wellness programs. Of course, all this assumes that the new law remains in place.

Christmas, forty years ago, I was sitting Ham Tan, Vietnam with my MACV team toasting the holiday. There was a Christmas truce and our team had made it for six months with no casualties, so I guess there was something to celebrate. I remember how lonely I felt, missing my wife and son. There was no internet in those days, no way to communicate other than by letter.  Pray for our soldiers. Pray that they come home safe and sound. Pray that someday we can find another way to solve our problems, and pray especially for those families that have an empty chair at the table.  Best wishes to all of you as we begin a new year. You are the light of the world. Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.

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