Saturday, August 30, 2008

Balance Billing

I read an interesting article from Business Week, Medical Bills You Shouldn't Pay, referring to 'balance billing'

As health-care costs continue to soar, millions of confused consumers are paying medical bills they don't actually owe. Typically this occurs when an insurance plan covers less than what a doctor, hospital, or lab service wants to be paid. The health-care provider demands the balance from the patient. Uncertain and fearing the calls of a debt collector, the patient pays up.

Most consumers don't realize it, but this common practice, known as balance billing, often is illegal. When doctors or hospitals think an insurer has reimbursed too little, state and federal laws generally bar the medical providers from pressuring patients to pay the difference. Instead, doctors and hospitals should be wrangling directly with insurers. Economists and patient advocates estimate that consumers pay $1 billion or more a year for which they're not responsible.

What's important to understand is that often times your employer will have a 90/10 or 80/20 plan where they have a fixed, negotiated fee schedule, and they will pay 80% or 90% of it, and you are required to pay the remaining. So if the doctor sends a bill of $100 to your insurance who then negotiates it to a rate of $50 and then pays $45, (90%) your doctor is allowed to bill you the remaining $5, but not the negotiated down price of $50.

McCain's VP Choice

So regardless of your politics, you just have to love the way the GOP plays the game. Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska was selected as McCain's VP yesterday, and I just couldn't help but smile.

Just when you think, "Man, the Republican party has nominated this super old guy, how are they going to win this election", they bring in a VP who can claim "I raised the taxes on the oil companies", "I distanced myself from the the old Republican establishment" and "I can make this a historical campaign for the Republicans as well."

Beautiful move, regardless of which party you affiliate with.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Your Gear Doesn't Matter

Sorry that it's been a while. I was inspired a bit today and just had to post. As most people know, I'm sort of a hobby photographer. Because photography had a certain technology aspect to it, artistic photographers and technophiles sometimes blur together. I'll be the first one to admit i'm more of the second type.

I subscribe to Ken Rockwell's RSS feed, and he's always a big proponent that people need to stop worrying about their gear so much and just start taking more pictures. Pretty good gear can take really great pictures.

To illustrate his point, he posted this link today: Man Uses Barbie Fishing Rod to Make Record Catch.

It made me laugh.

I'm back!


The $7,500 Housing Credit

So this is a quick one. People who are looking to buy a first home may have heard about legislation that is offering a $7,500 tax break to home buyers who haven't owned a home during the past 3 years.

On the surface this is really something to perk your ears. $7,500 can go a long way toward closing costs, down payment, etc. Frankly, I was almost ready to seriously consider looking. Then... i read the fine print.

In short: It's not a free money gift per se, it's really a $7,500 loan 0% loan. You need to pay back $500 a year at tax time over 15 years. Total interest on a $7,500 loan over 15 years at 6.5% is really $4,260.


So I originally was going to make a post on how a zero interest loan on $7,500 really isn't that big of a deal. However, if you view the $7,500 tax credit as really a $4,260 tax credit over 15 years ($478 the first year), it's actually not that bad.

I'm glad I did the math! We'll see what happens this spring...